The most cost-effective way to enter the RTX 3000-series ecosystem is still with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3050 if you want DLSS 2.0 compatibility or Nvidia’s ray-tracing solution. Nobody would describe it as a powerhouse, but it is a respectable 1080p GPU. One of MSI’s RTX 3050 GPUs’ specifications has been upgraded, offering the same basic features and performance levels but with an estimated 15 W lower power consumption.
It is believed that the GPU’s use of the smaller GA107 graphics die is what causes the drop in power consumption. Many of the older RTX 3050 machines have the 3,840 CUDA cores of the GA106 chip, which is used by the RTX 3060 series, disabled. However, when chip yields rise and the percentage of defective dies decreases, Nvidia will either have to ship fewer RTX 3050 models or use perfectly good processors in less expensive GPUs. This may allow Nvidia to reuse some of the partially flawed GA106 dies. The maximum number of CUDA cores on the GA107 die is 2,560, and it appears that this die uses a little less power than a GA106 die with the same number of cores activated.
With the exception of power consumption, the two MSI cards in question are essentially identical in terms of their specifications: they have 2,560 CUDA cores, an 1807 MHz boost clock, and 14 Gbps of memory bandwidth thanks to GDDR6 on a 128-bit memory interface. The newer iteration includes two DisplayPorts and two HDMI ports instead of three DisplayPorts and one HDMI port, a small modification that most likely has nothing to do with the GPU change. Another distinction between the two revisions is this. The card now requires a 6-pin rather than an 8-pin power connector, which is another change.
The new RTX 3050 card uses marginally less power, which is good, but it still consumes up to 115 W, which is far higher than the 75 W limit for any expansion card that may be powered over a PCI Express slot without the need for an external power adapter. GPUs without power connectors are still of interest to people updating a compact PC or a cheap HP or Dell box with a low-capacity power supply but no 6- or 8-pin power socket, despite the fact that they are becoming more and more rare.
Examples of how previous iterations are routinely phased out over time as supplies run out include the “low hash rate” (LHR) versions of the RTX 3080 and 3070 GPUs, the GDDR6 version of the GTX 1650, and the RTX 2060 with 12GB of RAM instead of 6GB, among others. The RTX 2060 with 12GB of RAM instead of 6GB has also caused this. This will eventually happen to the RTX 3050, although for the time being, most cards will still use the partially working GA106 die.