Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 2GB Review

Once upon a time, Nvidia’s GeForce GT 730 was the lead-off hitter for our list of Best Gaming Graphics Cards. It sold for right around $70 and offered 384 CUDA cores. As AMD’s Radeon R7 300s started dropping below $100, though, their superior performance made a slightly higher price tag worth paying. For a while there, our least expensive recommendation started somewhere between $90 and $100.

Now, after more than a year of dominance at the high end with its Pascal-based 10-series cards, Nvidia is ready to challenge AMD’s entry-level position with GeForce GT 1030.

Gigabyte sent over its GeForce GT 1030 Low Profile 2G to represent Nvidia’s latest addition. The card ships with a full-sized slot bracket in place, but it includes a half-height bracket for slim enclosures as well. Although our sample is actively cooled, Gigabyte also sells a passive model sporting the same clock rates. Low-profile and passively-cooled? Yup.

GeForce GT 1030’s TDP is a mere 30W, so we can already guess that power consumption, thermals, and acoustics will be some of this board’s advantages over the competition. But can it keep up in our benchmark suite? After all, that’s what determines whether the GT 1030 succeeds GT 730 in our list of gaming graphics cards.

Meet GP108

GeForce GT 1030 utilizes an all-new graphics processor called GP108, composed of 1.8 billion transistors. It’s a teeny thing at just 70mm², thanks to the same 14nm FinFET process used to manufacture GP107. Compare that to GeForce GT 730’s GK208 chip with 1.02 billion transistors in an 84mm² die. Or how about the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, which we’re making the GT 1030 battle in today’s benchmarks? That card’s GM107 GPU has a similar transistor count as GP108, but in a 148mm² die, owing to its 28nm manufacturing process.

Here’s the thing, though: whereas GeForce GTX 750 Ti employs five Streaming Multiprocessors, GT 1030 comes equipped with three. Given 128 CUDA cores per SM/SMM in the Pascal and Maxwell architectures, that’s 384 cores for GT 1030 and 640 for GTX 750 Ti. Both designs also expose eight texture units per SM, totaling 24 on GeForce GT 1030, while GTX 750 Ti gets 40. The two GPUs feature a pair of ROP partitions, giving you up to 16 32-bit integer pixels per clock. However, those partitions are aligned with 256KB slices of L2 cache on GP108 and 1MB slices of L2 on GM107. That means GeForce GT 1030 includes 512KB L2 total—a big reduction from GTX 750 Ti’s 2MB. And whereas GeForce GTX 750 Ti utilizes two 64-bit memory controllers, GT 1030’s specs break the memory bus down into a pair of 32-bit controllers, adding up to a 64-bit interface. That’s a lot of lost resources for a ~4% difference in complexity.

Nvidia goes a long way to overcoming those deficits in GT 1030 with higher clock rates. Our sample employs a 1227 MHz base frequency and a typical GPU Boost rating of 1468 MHz. In contrast, GeForce GTX 750 Ti starts at 1020 MHz and boosts just slightly to 1085 MHz. Of course, a 64-bit aggregate memory bus cripples GT 1030’s peak bandwidth to 48 GB/s using 6 Gb/s GDDR5; GTX 750 Ti’s wider interface facilitates up to 86.4 GB/s.

GeForce GT 730: The Real Competition

But remember that GTX 750 Ti launched as a $150 card, and even now sells for $100 and up. We’re only fascinated by the comparison to GT 1030 because of their similar transistor counts. In reality, GeForce GT 1030 is the spiritual successor of GT 730 since Nvidia never created a 900-series product below the $160 GTX 950. Spec-wise, the Kepler-class GeForce GT 730 is a much closer match with 384 CUDA and 16 texture units across two SMXes, eight ROPs, 512KB of L2 cache, and a 64-bit interface. Also, GT 730’s 38W lands a lot closer to GT 1030’s 30W specification. GeForce GTX 750 Ti is a 60W card, and we haven’t seen evidence that it can be passively cooled in a low-profile form factor.

So why is GP108 so much more complex of a GPU than GK208? The two GPUs do span a couple of different architectures, so they’re organized differently, for starters.

GP108 utilizes a single Graphics Processing Cluster with three Streaming Multiprocessors. Again, each SM includes 128 CUDA cores, eight texture units, 24KB of L1/texture cache, and 64KB of shared address space. Meanwhile, GK208 employs two larger SMXes, each with 192 CUDA cores, eight functional texture units, 64KB of shared memory and L1 cache, and a separate texture cache. GP108 also sports 16 ROP units to GK208’s eight.

In the end, GP108 offers a much higher pixel fill rate than GK208 (19.8 GP/s vs. 7.2 GP/s). Its texture rate is much greater, too (29.8 GT/s vs. 14.4 GT/s). Further, Nvidia says that the work it did to enable Pascal’s aggressive clock rates and proper asynchronous compute support via dynamic load balancing added to the transistor budget. GeForce GT 1030 uses a complete GP108 processor—there are no disabled resources waiting to be switched on. It’s just a much denser GPU than GK208.

The competition from AMD lands somewhere between GM107 and GK208. Its Radeon RX 550 is a little more expensive (~$85) and slightly more power-hungry (50W). We’ve seen low-profile and “single-slot” versions, but not both. Nothing with passive cooling, either. On the other hand, you get 512 Stream processors, 32 texture units, and 16 ROPs in a 2.2 billion-transistor Polaris 12 GPU. That translates to a pixel fill rate of 17.6 GP/s and a texturing rate of 35.2 GT/s. Faster 7 Gb/s GDDR5 modules on a wider 128-bit memory bus give AMD a 233% theoretical bandwidth advantage, too.

And yet, Nvidia tells us its GeForce GT 1030 should trade blows with AMD’s pricier solution. If that turns out to be true, it’d be quite an achievement for a smaller and simpler graphics card able to fit into PCs that might not accommodate a Radeon RX 550.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

MORE: All Graphics Content

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  • turkey3_scratch
    This is a fantastic chip! Seeing as it performs nearly on-par with the 750Ti, it has approximately double the performance/power ratio. It is also perfect for a noiseless PC, the passively cooled one is.
  • takeshi7
    Does this card work with 4K Netflix? From what I've read Nvidia requires 3GB VRAM for it which seems stupid and arbitrary. 2GB is enough to buffer several seconds of 4K movie frames.
  • King_V
    Definitely interesting. Going through the initial tests, I actually started wondering why the RX550 was lower in the hierarchy charts than the 750Ti.

    Then, when they switched positions in some other tests, it became more clear. And, I concluded that even putting certain cards in tiers relative to each other is not that easy.

    I was very glad to see this test, though, as I'd previously considered getting the GT1030. My need for it is no longer there.

    Overall, I think the 750Ti, RX 550, and RX 460 are closer to each other than I anticipated. It does seem the 1030 is behind them all, but not too far behind.

    Thanks for this review. I can't wait to see where it ultimately falls in the hierarchy chart(which, oddly, is missing the RX 560 but I suspect that is in the same tier as the RX 460)
  • Boom_4
    TAKESHI7
    yes it's enough, IDK where you heard that you need 3gb or VRAM.
  • hendriksnyder
    Will this work with a core I7 7700k? And would it be able to run games like FO4 and TitanFall 2 on ultra settings?
  • takeshi7
    Anonymous said:
    TAKESHI7
    yes it's enough, IDK where you heard that you need 3gb or VRAM.


    Multiple sources say you need 3GB VRAM
    http://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4457/~/preview-of-4k-uhd-netflix-content-on-nvidia-gpus
    http://www.pcworld.com/article/3193566/components-graphics/nvidia-quietly-opens-4k-netflix-streaming-on-geforce-gtx-10-series-graphics-cards.html

    It's pretty stupid because that means you have to spend twice as much to get a 1050 Ti minimum.
  • zcat
    Can't wait to swap out my miniITX's old 750Ti with a true successor that's twice as powerful at the same bus-powered max of 60W.
  • mikegrok
    I am going to be installing a bunch of these into a dental office as soon as stocks get better. Dental offices have 2 monitors per computer (usually using the gti 720). One for work, and one to show Netflix, and distract the patients. The computers have CPUs that don't accelerate h265, and the 1000 series nvidia GPUs accelerate the current video codecs.
  • Kuo Ping
    got this card for months and really love it for LOL.
  • caamsa
    Wow things must be slow in the world of computer hardware.
  • Wisecracker
    Almost makes me wish I had a shelf full of 750 TIs ...

    I know I'm going way out on a limb here, but I'm thinking the Raven Ridge APUs are going to slide rather nicely into these charts -- except for that sometime-ugly DX11 thing that bites 'em in the rear.

    I'm also thinking that's why the RXs haven't dropped in price, or in some cases, gone up. It gives room to slash prices (they do like to brawl at certain price points) before they blow-up the low-end product stack with the RR APU.

    It also seems to me that the 'stars' may finally be aligning for dual graphics (after all these years!) ... DX12, Vulkan, fast DDR4 with specific addressable memory space, Free-Sync, CCX fabric, and all those 'nCUs' pulling together (with decent drivers!) could be knockin' some slobber ...

    Or ... maybe not :lol:
  • ledhead11
    I'd actually be interested in a comparison between one of these and a 7xxx high end Intel CPU w/ integrated. Seems to me the gap is getting much smaller.
  • 10tacle
    "CONS -
    Trails AMD's Radeon RX 550 in DX12/Vulkan-based games"


    The RX 550 also starts at $90 and can run up to $120 (USD) depending on variant, putting it right into the pricing bull's eye of the faster 750Ti and even faster yet 2GB RX 460 on the used market. Also someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the 550 not available in small form factor?
  • Mojazz
    Anonymous said:
    Will this work with a core I7 7700k? And would it be able to run games like FO4 and TitanFall 2 on ultra settings?


    Lol
  • IInuyasha74
    I'm fairly disappointed this this GPU. I just feel Nvidia crippled the card too much by sticking it with a 64-bit memory bus. I in general hate to see components held back by RAM limitations, because it is an artificial limitation placed on the core due to inadequate bandwidth.

    GDDR5 isn't as expensive as it used to be, however, so hopefully an OEM will produce one with faster vRAM.
  • SteelCity1981
    i don't know what some of you are seeing but the 1030 is not better than the 750 Ti. in fact it trails behind the 750 Ti in everything and in some things by a nice margin.
  • caamsa
    Anonymous said:
    i don't know what some of you are seeing but the 1030 is not better than the 750 Ti. in fact it trails behind the 750 Ti in almost everything and in some things by a nice margin.


    I was thinking the same thing. It is on par with the 750 but not the 750 Ti. If you go on YouTube there are a lot of benchmarks of these low end cards pitted against other low end cards. Not to knock Toms but I have found a lot of great review sources on YouTube.
  • 80-watt Hamster
    Anonymous said:
    "CONS -
    Trails AMD's Radeon RX 550 in DX12/Vulkan-based games"


    The RX 550 also starts at $90 and can run up to $120 (USD) depending on variant, putting it right into the pricing bull's eye of the faster 750Ti and even faster yet 2GB RX 460 on the used market. Also someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the 550 not available in small form factor?


    There's at least one low-profile variant of the 550 available (from MSI), though it's got a double-slot cooler on it. You're right about pricing, though; it was supposed to trade at $80, and really needs to be closer to $70 to compete with the 1030. As it stands now, there's hardly any reason to choose a 550 over a 560 or GTX 1050, which can both be had for not much north of $100. Putting it up against used pricing is a little unfair, though.
  • King_V
    Agreed. The R7 250E/7750, which is a 55W part, was made available in single-slot low profile, there's no excuse for the RX 550, which draws a few less watts than that, to have a similar solution.

    EDIT: Also, given that the GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti have a TDP of 55 and 60W respectively, likewise, there doesn't seem to be any good reason for a single-slot cooling solution on a low-profile card for them, either. Had there been, I likely would've purchased one of those cards in lieu of the somewhat difficult to find 250E/7750 single-slot-low-profile.


    Also agreed that the higher end Intel Integrated graphics (is it called the 630?) might make an interesting comparison, though I can't argue with the fact that it's unlikely that someone with a high-end modern Intel CPU would be playing in the low-end graphics market.

    I'm really looking forward to the update in the hierarchy chart, not just to see where exactly they place the 1030, but to see if other's in surrounding tiers get shuffled slightly. Based on its current position in the chart, I would've assumed the RX550 would've performed worse than it did here.
  • daglesj
    I think its time the 64bit bus was done away with.