A Closer Look At MSI's GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB
Because there is no reference design, our review necessarily covers a partner card. In this case, we have MSI's GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB to take apart and test for power/acoustics. In addition, we have the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4G OC and GeForce GTX 1050 2G OC boards in our performance charts.
It might actually be good that there's no Founders Edition this time around (especially after the pricing experiments Nvidia tried with its higher-end models). But there's a clear drawback, too: we only have one specific implementation of the GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti at our disposal, and other versions will behave differently.
Moreover, the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB is MSI's flagship in the 1050 Ti series. We have a couple of the simpler and less expensive cards as well, and there will others too. In light of this, the Gaming X card represents the opposite of a baseline in that it’s the most powerful manifestation of GP107.
External Design & Connectors
The card’s cover is made from relatively thin plastic, just like MSI’s other Gaming X family members. It sits on the board's cooler, which is in turn fastened to the PCB. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB weighs in at a hefty 526 g, which is mostly due to the large cooling solution.
The length of the card is fairly normal in the performance segment. It measures 22.9 x 12.5 x 3.5 cm (L x H x D required for installation). Of course, that means it occupies two expansion slots. The blades on both fans measure 8.7 cm long, putting them into the 9 cm category.
There is no back plate on the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB. Not only does this help lower cost, but it's also because a backplate would be pointless for cooling or stabilization.
A peek underneath reveals a single nickel-plated 8 mm composite heat pipe bent in the shape of an S. Its purpose is to spread the GPU’s waste heat to both sides of the cooler’s body.
A back-lit MSI logo sits up top, and the other side of the heat pipe is visible as well. The six-pin power connector is turned 180° and found at the end of the card. You can bet we'll determine if it's even needed here shortly.
The card's back is completely open and the cooler's fins are positioned horizontally, so some airflow is directed toward the I/O slot cover. This means a significant amount of waste heat is blown out the back, which is a clear advantage compared to models that recirculate warm air.
The slot cover hosts three display outputs that you can use simultaneously in a multi-monitor configuration. There’s a dual-link DVI-D connector (without an analog signal), an HDMI 2.0 port, and a full-sized DisplayPort 1.4 connector.
The parts of the slot cover not occupied by display outputs have air vents. This design works well since all of the connectors are positioned in a line right next to each other.
MSI doesn't bother actively cooling its memory modules. The two modules above the GPU contact the heat sink through two small thermal pads, while the other two (and the voltage regulators) are cooled by air passing over them.
The cooler’s body is a lot simpler than the one we saw on MSI's 6 GB GeForce GTX 1060. Then again, it doesn’t have to handle as much waste heat. MSI’s larger Gaming X graphics cards have nickel-plated sinks. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Gaming X 4 GB employs a simple aluminum design instead.
The 8 mm heat pipe is flattened on one side and pressed into the sink on the other. This design is advantageous when it's used with small GPUs that don't get particularly hot like Nvidia's GP107.
Board & Power Supply
MSI's PCB isn't particularly crowded, which makes it easier to keep neat. The company could have made this board much smaller (and indeed our MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4G OC and GeForce GTX 1050 2G OC boards are quite compact).
The GPU power supply’s three phases are controlled by a uP9509 manufactured by uPI Semiconductor Corp. Voltage regulators for both the high and low side consist of highly integrated Dual N-Channel MOSFETs. The M3816 that MSI uses doesn’t need separate gate drivers, and it includes the Schottky diode. What results is a simpler layout.
The memory modules are fed by a single power phase controlled by uPI Semiconductor's smaller uP1537. MSI uses two different voltage regulators here: an M3116 for the high side and a stronger M3106 on the low side. The gate driver and Schottky diode are separate components this time.
The days of using an INA1221 for current monitoring are long gone. A simple and discrete solution is in its place. MSI's favorite coils do make another appearance, though. They are of average mass-market quality with sufficient encapsulation. They are certainly better than Foxconn’s magic coils, but have the drawback that they need to be assembled manually.
The card we're taking apart is a 4 GB GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, though of course we have two other boards for performance testing. The memory modules on this particular model, however, come from Samsung, have a capacity of 8 Gb (32x 256 Mb) each, and bear the model number K4G80325FB-HC28. Operating voltages depend on clock rate, and range from 1.305 to 1.597V. There should be some room for a manual overclock, though we don't want to exceed 85 °C.
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