It’s a war that’s been waged since the dawn of 3D graphics on gaming PCs. ATI and Nvidia went head to toe through the 1990s and early 2000s. Nvidia won that fight, but ATI got a second chance when AMD acquired the company in 2006. Since then, the struggle has continued.
Choosing between AMD and Nvidia can seem confusing at a glance, but one has several key advantages over its competitor. Here’s how AMD and Nvidia compare.
We compare AMD vs Nvidia with the following in mind:
- Overall game performance
- Ray Tracing Performance
- Gaming Laptop Performance
- Scaling up (FSR vs. DLSS)
- Adaptive Sync (FreeSync vs G-Sync)
AMD vs. Nvidia – Overall Game Performance
It’s hard to compare AMD to Nvidia in overall gaming performance due to the wide range of graphics cards available, but a few trends stand out.
The best video cards from AMD and Nvidia offer comparable performance. AMD’s best cards are represented by the RX 6800 XT, RX 6900 XT, and RX 6950XT, while Nvidia’s best cards are found in the 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’s reviews of the Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti and AMD RX 6950 XT achieved a score of 8/10. The same goes for other high-end AMD and Nvidia cards.
Mid-range performance is what makes the competition hotter. Nvidia’s cards also take the lead in this category with the RTX 3070 at the top of IGN’s list of the best graphics cards. AMD alternatives like the RX 6700 XT something behind. However, the word “light” is important. It’s hard to tell the difference without a framerate counter.
AMD is ahead of the entry-level market with its Radeon RX 6500 XT. While not as fast as many had hoped, the RX 6500 XT is available at or slightly below the $200 MSRP and can outperform the similarly priced GTX 1650.
However, Nvidia fights back if you can spend a little more, thanks to its mind-boggling array of budget cards. This includes the GTX 1650 Super, GTX 1660, GTX 1660 Ti, GTX 1660 Super, RTX 2060, and RTX 3050. AMD does it with older products, such as the RX 5600 XT and Radeon RX 580. A certain budget AMD card, Nvidia’s offering is more widely available and usually a better value.
This category is close, but Nvidia takes the win. It goes hand in hand with AMD at the top end, but still offers a better range of options through the budget and mid-range price points. AMD’s alternatives are spread too thin.
AMD vs. Nvidia – Ray Tracing Performance
Nvidia brought ray tracing to PC gaming with the launch of the RTX 20 series in 2018. AMD took 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 that’s more in line with the cheaper Nvidia RTX 3070 and RTX 3070 Ti. Nvidia’s best video cards are up to 50% faster than AMD hardware when ray tracing is enabled.
What about game compatibility? Fortunately, almost all games that support ray tracing are compatible with both Nvidia and AMD hardware. However, this is not completely universal. god drop initially only AMD supported, though it has since received an update to Nvidia RTX support. However, exclusive ray tracing products are an exception to the rule.
AMD vs Nvidia: Gaming Laptop Performance
The strengths that lead Nvidia to victories in both overall and ray tracing performance are echoed in gaming laptops.
AMD and Nvidia both offer multiple graphics solutions for laptops, and most of them compete closely with each other. However, Nvidia has a noticeable edge 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 the HP Victus 16 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G14are extremely rare.
There is more competition in the market for mid-range gaming laptops, but Nvidia remains the leader. AMD’s RX 6700M and RX 6800M are fast, but only found in a few laptops, such as the Asus ROG Strix G15.
Due to the lack of AMD hardware, Nvidia wins this category by default. There are literally hundreds of great gaming laptops with Nvidia hardware, which in turn means you can shop by price to get a better deal.
AMD vs. Nvidia – Scaling Up
Scaling is demanding, even from the world’s most powerful consumer video cards. AMD and Nvidia compensate with upscaling features that basically render games at a lower resolution and then upscale the result to your monitor’s native resolution.
AMD’s technology is called FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR 2.0). It is an open source technology available for both AMD and Nvidia hardware as well as others such as Intel. Its first incarnation was a spatial upscaler that could only use data from each frame. The new version, FSR 2.0is a temporary upscaler, meaning it can use data from multiple frames over time. FSR 1.0 is available in over 100 games. FSR 2.0 is newer and only supported by a few dozen games so far.
Nvidia’s DLSS is more advanced. It uses machine learning to scale up a game beyond the render 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. More than 200 games and apps support DLSS.
This is another win for Nvidia, as DLSS’s image quality is often superior to FSR. However, keep in mind 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 Sync
Adaptive Sync is one of the key features of modern video cards, laptop graphics, and PC gaming displays. It’s a gaming monitors and gaming TVs to refresh in sync with your graphics card’s output. This keeps the movement smooth and stops screen tearing. AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync offer adaptive synchronization in combination with a compatible display.
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 advertised.
Nvidia’s G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate are a different story. These versions of G-Sync communicate with G-Sync hardware in compatible displays. This allows adaptive sync over a wider range of refresh rates, but G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate displays only support adaptive sync with Nvidia graphics cards.
AMD and Nvidia fail to lead the way here. Nvidia’s G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate are technically superior, but only just. G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate screens are also rare and expensive. Most gaming monitors sold today will stick with AMD FreeSync, Nvidia G-Sync Compatible, or both.
AMD vs. Nvidia – The Judgment
I’ll be blunt: Nvidia beats AMD, and it’s not even close.
This is not to say that AMD is hopeless. AMD graphics do well in general performance tests, especially under the 4K resolution, and a variety of AMD cards can offer excellent bang for the buck.
However, Nvidia takes a big lead in ray tracing and has a superior scaling solution in the form of DLSS, which allows ray tracing to be played on a wide variety of Nvidia hardware. Nvidia also dominates the gaming laptop arena.
This conclusion is not a shock. The Latest Steam Hardware Survey shows that over 75% of all players on Steam use Nvidia hardware. AMD is a distant second with a hair less than 15% of the Steam user base. That’s a huge gap – and another proof that Nvidia has the crown.