AMD vs Nvidia Graphics Cards (GPUs) in 2019: Who comes out on top?
AMD and Nvidia are some of the biggest names in gaming-- PC gaming especially, but don’t think they don’t have a hand in consoles as well-- and today we’re going to tell you all you need to know about the two titans and who comes out on top. Whether you’re Team Red or Team Green, be prepared: we aren’t going to soften our blows for either side here.
What is AMD?
AMD, or Advanced Micro Devices, is the second-biggest name in the world of personal computing. Serving as Intel’s singular rival in the CPU space, both are constantly pushing the limits of x86 and x64 processors across the industry, with the recent launch of Ryzen bringing AMD back into earnest competition with Intel. This is a battle that’s been going on for decades, and it is looking as heated as ever.
So where do graphics come into it? Well, that is where Radeon enters the picture.
What is AMD’s Radeon?
Radeon started as an ATI brand, not an AMD brand. ATI, or Array Technology Inc., served as Nvidia’s chief rival in the PC graphics space from the 90’s to the mid 00’s; so originally it was Nvidia vs ATI. In 2006, AMD acquired ATI and the Radeon brand. The newly-branded AMD Radeon became Nvidia GeForce’s competitor, and now AMD was the smaller rival in both the CPU and GPU markets.
Radeon GPUs are consumer-oriented gaming graphics cards. In recent years, they are branded with R3, R5, R9, and RX variations.
What is Nvidia?
Nvidia emerged in the 90s as one of many competitors in the PC graphics space, alongside 3DFX and ATI. While the GPU wars of the 90s were an interesting time, it led to many acquisitions and bankruptcies until only two competitors remained: Nvidia and ATI.
We obviously know what happened to ATI, but since then Nvidia has steadily climbed the market. Transitioning into the PS3/360 eras, they acquired market dominance over ATI just before they were acquired by AMD.
In addition to PC graphics, however, Nvidia is also making itself known in other spaces… most notably, self-driving cars and AI. Yeah, I bet that’s not where you thought I was going, huh? While both companies are interested in mobile and consoles, Nvidia seems to have gotten more adventurous with its non-graphics outings, likely due to their position in the market.
What is Nvidia’s GeForce?
GeForce is simply the brand that Nvidia uses for their graphics cards. Unlike with AMD, there isn’t really a story behind the brand name here.
GeForce GPUs are branded with GT, GTX, and RTX. As of the most recent Titan cards, Titan has splintered off into its own brand.
The Competition So Far...
Since the merging of ATI and AMD, Nvidia and AMD have been the last remaining discrete GPU manufacturers for the PC gaming market. Similar to their standing with Intel in the CPU market, AMD occupies a smaller portion of the market overall and is generally seen as the underdog in the two’s fighting.
Make no mistake: AMD definitely has a lot less money than Nvidia does. Nvidia’s cash pool allows for the more frequent creation of new GPU architectures and more diversifying in areas like self-driving cars and AI. With the debut of the SHIELD hardware, Nvidia has even made a big move into mobile technologies that AMD has yet to mirror.
Gaming-wise, both companies have played prominent parts in the console wars. The Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii both packed ATI (AMD) GPUs, while the PlayStation 3 was made using a modified Nvidia GPU. In the current generation of consoles, AMD has manufactured custom APU/SoCs for both PS4 and Xbox One, while Nvidia has adapted their SHIELD tech for usage with the Nintendo Switch.
Economically and overall, Nvidia is probably winning. However, AMD is unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon, and if you look at their actual GPU offerings, the two are a lot more competitive than you might think. With frequent price and performance wars across multiple generations, you can pretty much assume that while Nvidia will always rule the highest tier of performance, AMD will put up one hell of a fight in the budget and midrange.
For more on how the two are currently competing, keep reading for our breakdown of their GPUs at different pricing tiers.
AMD vs Nvidia: The Syncs and Software
Before we get to the meat of the matchup-- the hardware-- let’s take a moment to talk about the Sync technologies and the software offerings.
Nvidia’s G-Sync vs AMD’s FreeSync
Fundamentally, the two technologies are trying to do the same thing: remove screen-tearing from the equation, ensure consistent frame pacing, and provide an overall smoother gaming experience. They do this through a technology called “Adaptive Sync”, which dynamically adjusts the refresh rate of a monitor to match the current framerate of what you’re playing. This makes lower average framerates smoother to play with, and helps alleviate the screen tearing that often comes with higher framerates, without the input latency that comes with V-Sync.
In general, both will do great… but Nvidia’s implementation is more expensive since it requires dedicated hardware inside of the monitor to function. FreeSync, by comparison, only needs an up-to-date DisplayPort port and supported AMD GPU to function properly.
In terms of overall software offerings, Nvidia used to have a fairly significant advantage here. Nowadays, if there’s an Nvidia feature-- like Share/Shadowplay-- then AMD has something to match. There are still games that come out with specific optimizations and graphical effects for one of the two manufacturers, but these have become much rarer over time due to negative reception and perceived anti-competitive behavior.
AMD vs. Nvidia: The Matchup
Now let’s get down to it!
We’re going to pit these two GPU manufacturers against each other in five key price ranges-- using AMD vs Nvidia comparison charts!-- to determine who comes out on top. When it comes to this category it’s more GeForce vs Radeon than anything else. In addition to performance, we’ll also be taking value into consideration, so raw graphical horsepower won’t ensure wins in each category if it comes at a severe cost to value.
AMD vs Nvidia - The Enthusiast
- Nvidia Titan V
- GTX 1080 Ti
- RX Vega 64
In the Enthusiast tier, we took the three top-performing GPUs on the market and pitted them against each other.
In terms of raw performance, the Titan V beats the other cards on this list pretty handily. Against the 1080 Ti, it wins by 24%! Against the RX Vega 64, it wins by 67%! So it should win overall, right?
Absolutely not. The price discrepancy between the 1080 Ti and the Titan V is in the thousands of dollars for a mere 24% performance difference! That isn’t worth it by any stretch of the imagination, especially if you’re just a gamer.
Don’t bother with the Titan V. If you want Enthusiast-level performance, just get the 1080 Ti.
AMD vs. Nvidia - The Flagships
- RX Vega 64
- GTX 1080
Beneath the absurd performance levels of the Titans and the 1080 Ti’s, the AMD vs GTX
battle continues with the GTX 1080 and RX Vega 64 and they tell a much different story. While UserBenchmark does indicate a slightly higher effective speed in favor of Team Green, the two cards actually trade blows in real-life benchmarks. At the time of writing, the RX Vega 64 is also coming in at a better price, so we’re inclined to choose Vega 64 for this matchup.
If you want to pay the extra money for a variable and marginal increase in performance, you can get the 1080. But if you want to play it smart… get the Vega 64. A non-stock version, if you value your case temps.
AMD vs Nvidia - The Midrange
- RX Vega 56
- GTX 1070 Ti
- GTX 1070
Originally, the two competitors in this category were the GTX 1070 and RX Vega 56. By a thin margin, RX Vega 56 managed to pull out ahead of the GTX 1070 in the Radeon vs Nvidia battle… but that didn’t sit well with Nvidia. Just a few months later, the 1070 Ti released and took back the lead in this category, even if it started looking an awful lot more like a GTX 1080 than a 1070…
AMD vs. Nvidia - The Budget Range
- RX 580
- GTX 1060 6GB
- GTX 1060 3GB
- RX 570
The GTX 1060 dominated this category for a long time, but then the RX 580 came along in mid-2017. While it technically took the lead right around then, this is also when the GPU shortage started… so for a long time, the prices simply didn’t line up for GPU purchases in this category at all.
Now that it has calmed down, the 1060 boasts a slight advantage in synthetic benchmarks on UserBenchmark, but the RX 580 has a significant advantage in gaming performance (especially at higher resolutions) and price. It’s actually the best value, by a considerable margin, on the GPU market right now.
The win goes to… the RX 580.
AMD vs. Nvidia - The Entry-Level
- GTX 1050 Ti
- GTX 1050
- RX 560
The GTX 1050 and RX 560 retail for roughly the same price...and the 1050 performs better in both synthetic and real-world benchmarks. The 1050 Ti leaps over the 1050 by another ten percent. Following the list downward, there’s essentially a 10% performance difference per leap.
The winner in this category and the champion of entry-level GPUs for 1080p gaming… is the GTX 1050 Ti. Anything less and you’re pretty much wasting your money.
Who wins overall?
Depends on what matters to you.
If it’s purely based on who has the strongest graphics cards on the market right now, it’s Nvidia. The 1080 Ti and Titan V are stronger than any AMD cards currently available, and the RTX series will only continue this trend.
If it’s who wins in the most price brackets, it’s Nvidia. While AMD’s RX series have put in some pretty strong performance across-the-board, they aren’t competing with the 1080 Ti or Titan V, and won’t be competing with RTX unless AMD releases a new generation of comparable cards to match.
If it’s who wins from a value standpoint, it’s AMD. AMD dominates value in two key tiers-- Budget and Flagship-- and if you want to get the most bang for your buck, the RX 580 or RX Vega 64 are both amazing picks for two different segments of the market. Most people buying a GPU today value the budget range the most, so the RX 580 is easily one of the best cards you can buy right now.
Ultimately, AMD and Nvidia will always be fighting. AMD may be depicted as an industry underdog in both CPU and GPU manufacturing, but the fact is they’re quite profitable and their presence helps prevent Intel and Nvidia from stagnating prices and performance. We don’t recommend buying on company loyalty, but as long as AMD is providing competitive options in your price range, you should consider buying from them.
We hope this article helped show you where the current standings on the AMD vs Nvidia battle are. What GPU are you currently using? What do you plan on upgrading to? Comment below and let us know!