It’s been a war since the beginning of 3D graphics game PCs. ATI and Nvidia went toe-to-toe through the 1990s and early 2000s. Nvidia won that battle, but ATI got another chance when AMD acquired the company in 2006. The battle has continued ever since.
Choosing between AMD and Nvidia can seem confusing at a glance, but you have several important advantages over the competition. Here’s how AMD and Nvidia compare.
We compare AMD vs Nvidia with the following in mind:
- General gaming performance
- Ray Tracing Performance
- Gaming portable performance
- Upscaling (FSR vs. DLSS)
- Adaptive synchronization (FreeSync vs. G-Sync)
AMD vs. Nvidia – General gaming performance
It is difficult to set AMD against Nvidia in general due to the large selection of graphics cards available, but a few trends stand out.
The best graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia offer similar performance. AMD’s best cards are represented by RX 6800 XT, RX 6900 XT and RX 6950XT, while Nvidia’s best are found in RTX 3080, RTX 3080 Ti, RTX 3090 and 3090 Ti. All of these cards can handle 4K at 60 frames per second or higher in most PC games sold today.
IGN Reviews by Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti and AMD RX 6950 XT achieved a score of 8/10. The same goes for other advanced AMD and Nvidia cards.
Performance in midrange is where the competition heats up. Nvidia’s card also takes the lead in this category with the RTX 3070 which is at the top of IGN’s list of the best graphics cards. AMD options like RX 6700 XT fall a little behind. However, the word “small” is important. It is difficult to tell the difference without a framerate counter.
AMD has an edge in the entry-level market with its Radeon RX 6500 XT. Although not as fast as many hoped, the RX 6500 XT is available at or slightly below its $ 200 MSRP and can surpass the GTX 1650, which has the same price.
Nvidia strikes back if you can use a little more, thanks to its confusing array of budget cards. This includes the GTX 1650 Super, GTX 1660, GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660 Super, RTX 2060 and RTX 3050. AMD settles for older products, such as the RX 5600 XT and Radeon RX 580. Although you may find a good deal on a particular budget AMD cards, Nvidia’s offerings are more accessible and usually a better value.
This category is close, but Nvidia wins. It goes toe-to-toe with AMD on the high end, but still offers a better range of options through budget and mid-price points. AMD’s alternatives are spread too thin.
AMD vs. Nvidia – Radiation Tracking Performance
Nvidia brought beam tracking to PC gaming with the launch of the RTX 20 series in 2018. AMD needed a few years to catch up, but the company delivered hardware ray tracing acceleration in the Radeon RX 6000 series.
This has worked in Nvidia’s favor. AMD’s best graphics cards, such as the Radeon RX 6950 XT, RX 6900 XT and RX 6800XT, have ray tracing performance more in line with the less expensive Nvidia RTX 3070 and RTX 3070 Ti. Nvidia’s best video card is up to 50% faster than AMD hardware when ray tracing is on.
What about game compatibility? Fortunately, almost all games that support ray tracing are compatible with both Nvidia and AMD hardware. However, this is not entirely universal. Gudfall initially only supported AMD, even though it has since received an update for Nvidia RTX support. Nevertheless, ray tracing-exclusive exceptions are an exception to the rule.
AMD vs. Nvidia: Performance for portable games
The strengths that lead Nvidia to victory in both overall performance and radiation tracking are repeated in gaming laptops.
AMD and Nvidia both offer several portable graphics solutions, and most compete closely with each other. However, Nvidia has a noticeable lead in the budget and thin-and-light market, where the GTX 1650 mobile and RTX 3050 are widely available. Laptops with AMD discrete graphics, such as HP Victus 16 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G14are extremely rare.
There is more competition in the mid-range portable gaming market, but Nvidia remains the leader. AMD’s RX 6700M and RX 6800M are fast, but only available on a few laptops, for example Asus ROG Strix G15.
The lack of AMD hardware means that Nvidia wins this category by default. There are literally hundreds of great portable gaming machines with Nvidia hardware, which in turn means you can shop based on price to get a better deal.
AMD vs. Nvidia – Upscaling
Upscaling is demanding even on the world’s most powerful consumer video card. AMD and Nvidia compensate with upscaling features that basically render games with a lower resolution and then upscale the result to the screen’s original resolution.
AMD’s technology is called FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR 2.0). It is an open source technology that is available for both AMD and Nvidia hardware as well as others, such as Intel. The first incarnation was a spatial upscaler that could only use data from each frame. The new version, FSR 2.0is a time-upscaler, which means it can use data from multiple frames over time. FSR 1.0 is available in over 100 games. FSR 2.0 is newer and is only supported by a few dozen games (so far).
Nvidia’s DLSS is more advanced. It uses machine learning to upscale a game beyond the rendering resolution. This technique is more capable because it adds new data to each frame. This is not open source and only works on Nvidia hardware. Over 200 games and apps support DLSS.
This is another victory for Nvidia, as the image quality of DLSS is often superior to FSR. Keep in mind, however, that this is only relevant if you enjoy playing games with ray tracing enabled. The vast majority of games available today, including new games, do not support ray tracing, FSR or DLSS.
AMD vs. Nvidia – Adaptive synchronization
Adaptive Sync is one of the most important features of modern video cards, portable graphics and PC game monitors. It allows one game monitors and game TVs to update synchronized with the output from a graphics card. This keeps the movement smooth and stops screen tearing. AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync offer adaptive synchronization when paired with a compatible monitor.
The two standards are more similar than they are different. All versions of AMD FreeSync, and Nvidia’s “G-Sync Compatible” version of G-Sync, are built on VESA’s open AdaptiveSync standard. In fact, most monitors that are compatible with one will work with the other – although this is not guaranteed unless support is announced.
Nvidia’s G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate are another story. These versions of G-Sync communicate with G-Sync hardware on compatible monitors. This enables adaptive synchronization over a wider range of refresh rates, but G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate monitors only support adaptive synchronization with Nvidia video cards.
AMD and Nvidia are unable to take the lead here. Nvidia’s G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate are technically superior, but just right. G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate monitors are also rare and expensive. Most game monitors sold today stick to AMD FreeSync, Nvidia G-Sync Compatible or both.
AMD vs. Nvidia – the verdict
I’m going to be straight out: Nvidia beats AMD, and it’s not even close.
This does not mean that AMD is hopeless. AMD graphics can do well in general performance tests, especially below 4K resolution, and a variety of AMD cards can provide excellent value for money.
However, Nvidia takes a major lead in ray tracing, and has a superior upscaling solution in the form of DLSS, which makes ray tracing playable on a wide range of Nvidia hardware. Nvidia also dominates the portable gaming arena.
This conclusion is not a shock. The latest Steam hardware survey shows that over 75% of all Steam players use Nvidia hardware. AMD is in a distant second with a hair of less than 15% of the Steam user base. There is a huge gap – and further proof that Nvidia has the crown.