AMD vs Nvidia: Which graphics card should you get?
It all depends on your personal use cases.
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Nvidia’s graphics cards had a comfortable lead on AMD’s cards for years, but AMD’s Radeon RX 6000-series lineup put the two brands in a competition like never before. Both manufacturers are constantly adding new features and updating their graphics architecture in their cards to keep the competition hot, but Nvidia’s key features like ray tracing and supersampling have been around for longer, whereas AMD has the lead on frame rates (for now). Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you prefer the best frame rates or the best ray tracing.
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When it comes to raw performance, both AMD and Nvidia make spectacular graphics cards. For 1080p gaming, you can’t go wrong with either company. A mid-tier Nvidia RTX 3060 or AMD RX 6600 XT, for instance, push over 60 frames per second (fps) regardless of the game. For example, using Cyberpunk 2077, a graphically demanding game, set to the ultra graphics preset at that resolution, nets 65 fps with the RTX 3060 and 70 fps with the RX 6600 XT.
1440p gaming on ultra graphics is a bit tougher on graphics cards, but an upper midrange card will get you around 60 fps in Cyberpunk 2077. The Nvidia RTX 3070 squeaks by with 62 fps, while the AMD RX 6700 XT comes close at 56 fps. Of course, turning the graphics preset down will net you higher framerates.
For 4K and ray tracing performance, Nvidia scores a notable lead over AMD. Let’s look at 4K performance first; with the ultra graphics preset on, Nvidia’s RTX 3080 runs Cyberpunk 2077 at 40 fps, and the RTX 3070 runs it at 30 fps. Meanwhile, AMD’s RX 6800 XT (the 3080’s equivalent) runs it at 37 fps and the RX 6700 XT tops out at 25 fps.
At 1080p ultra graphics with ray tracing set to the ultra preset, the RTX 3080 runs at 58 fps, the RTX 3070 at 44 fps, the RX 6800 XT at 38 fps, and the RX 6700 XT at 23 fps.
If you’re curious about graphics card performance beyond gaming, Nvidia wins here, too. Its cards have space dedicated to encoding and decoding media, and that hardware acceleration brings faster performance to multimedia tasks like video production or online streaming. AMD relies on firmware encoding and decoding.
AMD and Nvidia are close when it comes to 1080p and 1440p gaming, but Nvidia’s the clear winner for 4K and ray traced gaming.
Our pick: Nvidia
AMD and Nvidia take different approaches to software features. While AMD tends to make software that works for all devices, Nvidia tends to lock its software in proprietary systems. However, they’re very close in the breadth of features they offer.
AMD’s most notable enhancements are FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and FreeSync. With AI algorithms, FSR upscales the image resolution, or it sharpens lower resolution images and then enlarges them rather than natively rendering images at a higher resolution. This results in much higher in-game frame rates. For example, the RX 6800 XT’s framerates in Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K ultra graphics settings jump from 37 fps to 91 fps.
Nvidia has similar technology, or what it calls Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS). It’s been around longer than FSR, and in our experience, DLSS consistently produces upscaled images that look more accurate to the original image than FSR, but the framerate gains are not as extreme as with FSR. The RTX 3080, for instance, runs Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K ultra graphics settings with DLSS enabled at 58 fps (an 18 fps average gain).
For ray tracing, however, Nvidia’s DLSS takes the lead over AMD’s FSR. At 1080p ultra graphics with ray tracing enabled in Cyberpunk 2077, FSR boosts the AMD RX 6800 XT’s framerate from 38 fps to 74 fps, and DLSS boosts the Nvidia RTX 3080’s framerate from 58 fps to 101 fps.
AMD’s FreeSync helps match the framerate of the graphics card to your monitor. (It’s like AMD’s own version of Variable Refresh Rate (VRR).) Nvidia’s G-Sync does the same. The determining factor here is whether your monitor or TV has G-Sync or FreeSync—but these days, it’s common for monitors and TVs to support both.
As for some other features, if you have an Nvidia GPU, you can use GeForce Experience to stream games or to play games remotely on an Nvidia Shield streaming box (you can use third party software to stream to other devices). Radeon cards have similar software called AMD Link, which includes support for multiplayer games and remote play on multiple devices.
AMD bundles all its features into one overlay menu, but Nvidia chose to split its features into several programs and menus. If you want a streamlined experience, AMD will have resolution, HDR, FSR, refresh rate, and other settings all in the same place.
Our pick: AMD
Both AMD and Nvidia do a good job of ironing out compatibility issues and performance issues for games. It’s impossible to declare a winner—both graphics card drivers break and unbreak as software gets updated and patched. However, while both GPU manufacturers release consistent firmware updates, software developers do not prioritize both manufacturers evenly.
Because more people own Nvidia graphics cards than AMD graphics cards, software developers are more likely to focus on performance for Nvidia graphics cards first. For most software, this doesn’t cause issues, but it’s important to check compatibility for specific software in applications critical to your productivity. (In our experience testing graphic cards, we’ve run into some issues with AMD’s drivers, depending on the card being tested, while Nvidia’s drivers haven't given us trouble during testing.)
Additionally, professional 3D software like 3DSMax and Maya currently support more Nvidia cards than AMD cards. In Autodesk Maya 2023, for instance, many Nvidia GeForce RTX and GTX cards have worked in testing, but the same cannot be said of the Radeon RX 6000-series cards. (Note that this does not mean they don’t work with Maya. It just means they have not been tested by Autodesk).
For casual use, the difference between AMD and Nvidia support is most apparent in ray tracing. For applications that support ray tracing, there is usually better optimization for Nvidia drivers than AMD drivers. It’s becoming less common to run into ray traced games that only support Nvidia cards, but AMD cards still feel like an afterthought. Compounded with AMD’s worse ray tracing performance overall, Nvidia is the obvious pick for ray tracing enthusiasts.
Our pick: Nvidia
If we’re comparing frame rates per dollar, AMD wins; if you don’t plan to use ray tracing and you don’t see yourself doing much beyond gaming, AMD has a better value depending
For instance, the RTX 3070 gets 10 fps more than the RX 6700 XT running Cyberpunk 2077 (1080p ultra, no ray tracing), but it’s also about $100 more expensive than the RX 6700 XT and $0.50 more per frame. Ten frames are also such a small difference, especially when you factor in how much AMD cards can bump frame rates with FSR turned on. You can get the RX 6700 XT for $400 to $500, while you’ll have to pay $500 to $600 for an RTX 3070. (It’s not uncommon to find AMD cards selling under retail price currently.)
For high-end cards, AMD’s are slightly cheaper. The RTX 3090 Ti we've seen go for as low as $1,100 and the RX 6950 XT as low as $935 at Amazon. Meanwhile, the RTX 3080 goes for about $740 and the RX 6800 XT goes for about $600 on Amazon—that’s $1.38 cheaper per frame in Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p Ultra without ray tracing.
Our pick: AMD
And the winner is…
Both Nvidia and AMD make great graphics cards, but Nvidia is still in the lead.
If you care about ray tracing, streaming, video production, or professional applications, Nvidia graphics cards are the better choice. Its cards’ ray tracing performance is leagues ahead of AMD’s, and more Nvidia cards are compatible with 3D modeling software than AMD cards. However, if you’re not interested in ray tracing and just want to push frame rates, AMD will offer better performance at the same price point.
The difference between Nvidia and AMD is much, much smaller than it used to be. AMD has a better user interface experience, and it’s constantly adding new features and updates to improve performance and match Nvidia’s feature set. Both manufacturers support monitor syncing, upscaling, ray tracing, online streaming, and noise reduction.
Nvidia’s implementation of said features is smoother, but most of us don’t need these features to begin with. If you want to save some money, AMD cards make more sense, and you should think more about what tier of card you need rather than which manufacturer you’ll choose.
For 1080p gaming, the Nvidia RTX 3060 and the AMD RX 6600 XT are excellent choices. For 1440p gaming, it’s worth upgrading to the Nvidia RTX 3070 or the AMD RX 6700 XT. If you’re planning to push 4K frame rates or take advantage of ray tracing, the RTX 3080 is worth the splurge. The AMD RX 6900 XT can keep up with 4K gaming, but it will have a much worse time with ray tracing and it won’t save you much money over similar Nvidia cards.
You should also keep an eye on the RTX 3090 and 3090 Ti, which have both been spotted for as low as $1,100 and are likely to keep dropping in price (this RTX 3080 Ti is just $740, which is $40 more than the base RTX 3080).
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.