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Nvidia Uses Expensive GA106 for Cheap RTX 3050, But What's The Point?

GA106 (Image credit: Inno3D)

Being in control of a whopping 79% of the desktop discrete graphics cards (many of which are among the best graphics cards around) has its perks. Amid supply glut, Nvidia can play with silicon parts it uses. It may have its advantages with the availability of relatively inexpensive components, and we will try to explain why.

Nvidia introduced its GeForce RTX 3050 graphics card (the list of boards is here) at a formal MSRP of $249 earlier this week. Many observers thought that the company was using its relatively inexpensive and relatively low-power GA107 graphics processing unit (GPU) for the solution. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to Inno3D, the Green company uses a far more expensive GA106 silicon for this entry-level product. Yet this could be a good sign. Let’s try to analyze.

(Image credit: Inno3D)

Inno3D sent a high-resolution render of its GeForce RTX 3050 as part of a press release without a cooling system, revealing that the PCB uses the GA106 silicon. Unfortunately, we cannot say anything about other graphics cards with the GeForce RTX 3050 badge on them for obvious reasons. Still, our humble experience with GPU companies tells us that everyone uses the same silicon at launch, but it might change over time. Anyway, Nvidia’s GA106 and GA107 are entirely different, so let’s examine these differences.

Comparison of Nvidia's GPUs

ChipChip Configuration (CUDA)Memory InterfaceDie SizeMSRP
GeForce RTX 3050 desktopGA1062560128-bit276mm2$249
GeForce RTX 3060 desktopGA1063584192-bit276mm2$329
GeForce RTX 3050 notebookGA1072048128-bitSmaller than 276 mm2?
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti notebookGA1072560192-bitSmaller than 276 mm2?

The GA106 is a reasonably large (272 mm2) chip with up to 3,584 CUDA cores enabled and an up to 170W TDP (the desktop version). The cut-down version has 2,560 CUDA cores, which overlaps with the fully-enabled GA107 graphics processor with 2,560 CUDA cores used for laptops and has a TDP range between 35W and 80W.

(Image credit: Jon Peddie Research/Compiled by Tom's Hardware)

It is a question for Nvidia, which it is not inclined to answer publicly. However, big OEMs want one software driver, and once a company wins a contract, it lasts for a cycle, which happens to be a year in our modern world. So we can speculate that amid winning the high-performance early 2021 notebook cycle, Nvidia has reasons to have two GPUs that overlap rather than having no GPUs to ship. 

The good news for PC gamers is that Nvidia has two entry-level GPUs in production. The bad news, there are miners, scalpers, and another bunch of people that will not let you get a GeForce RTX 3050 at its MSRP.