If you’re about to choose a video card for your build, then let me be the first to tell you that you’re in for a wild ride. The debate over which GPU manufacturer is the best (AMD VS NVIDIA) is a full-fledged war that’s fierce, unforgiving, and all-around crazy.
Some gamers are so passionate about their favorite video card manufacturer that they’ll go to great lengths to sway you to choose the card of their choice. You’ll recognize them almost instantly when you come across them, as they’ll be the ones pushing one GPU manufacturer over the other with full force and they’ll be backing their reasoning up with non-factual statements.
Fan boys aside, though, there are some distinct differences between the two video card manufacturers and both of them have key selling points that you might want to consider.
In this article, I’m going to take a look at the key differences between AMD GPUs and NVIDIA GPUs so that you have a good idea over which manufacturer’s cards will suit you best.
AMD VS NVIDIA Broken Down
In order to pit AMD VS NVIDIA, I’m going to go through each feature that is important to video cards and breakdown which manufacturer does what better.
The categories for comparison are:
- Power Consumption
- Multi-Monitor Support
- 3D Gaming
One-by-one I’ll go through each category and give you a brief idea of how each manufacturer stacks up in that particular area.
You’ll hear a lot of people saying, “AMD is way better on price/performance,” or, “NVIDIA is definitely the better choice for your money.” The truth is that there’s really no definitive answer to the question of which manufacturer produces the better video card for the price.
Just judging performance alone is difficult to do. It really all depends on timing. For instance, at the time of writing this article, NVIDIA’s new GeForce GTX 700 series of video cards is clearly the more superior choice for those who can afford it. However, how long that will last is tough to say. Especially when you consider the fact that AMD’s Radeon HD 9000 series of video cards will be released at some point within the next few months.
As the manufacturers continually leap-frog each other, declaring one manufacturer as having the better price/performance ratio is impossible. And, ultimately, if you’re seeking ideal performance for your budget, your best bet is to go with a card from the most recently released series possible, regardless of which manufacturer produced it.
If, however, you’re a fan boy, by all means continue to choose cards from your manufacturer of choice… in the end, the difference in performance in in-game scenarios is so small, that for the average gamer there won’t be a noticeable difference.
Just as it’s impossible to choose which video card manufacturer has the better price/performance ratio GPUs, it’s also impossible to pick which one produces the more power efficient cards. And, the reasoning is basically the same…
Both manufacturers continually improve upon the architecture of their cards and are, therefore, able to produce more power efficient cards.
For instance, when NVIDIA first released their Fermi architecture in 2010, despite retaking the lead in performance, the new cards had serious problems with power consumption. In fact, NVIDIA cards had always taken a backseat to AMD in terms of power consumption.
However, with NVIDIA’s new 700 series, they have made great strides to make their cards more power efficient and their cards currently consume, on average, less than similarly priced AMD cards. Of course, as previously mentioned, we’re only a few months away from AMD’s new Radeon 9000 series of cards and it’s likely that those cards will give AMD the power efficiency crown once again.
So, essentially, the more power efficient card is likely going to be available from whichever of the two manufacturers have just released their latest series of cards.
One thing NVIDIA has going for them is PhysX. PhysX is an engine that provides physics simulations to help improve the overall experience of the games that utilize it. Basically, it improves game graphics by bringing more complex physics calculations into the mix.
So, for instance, in games where you can shoot guns, PhysX will improve the realistic effects of shooting something. For instance, if you shoot a gun at a wall, PhysX will try to determine what kind of realistic effect shooting a wall would have and then produce it on screen. We’ve all played the shooting gamers where shooting a wall produces a small bullet hole and nothing more. With PhysX, the idea is to make that effect as real as possible. So, instead of just a bullet hole appearing, with PhysX the wall will break apart into pieces.
You can see a few examples of PhysX in action in the following videos:
However, despite the fact that PhysX is an incredible feature, it is not currently being utilized by very many games. For the games that do utilize it, though, it does provide a lot more of a realistic experience.
And, as the technology improves and more games are developed to incorporate PhysX, it will definitely be a huge selling point for NVIDIA cards over AMD cards.
AMD’s Eyefinity has been around a lot longer than NVIDIA’s Surround. However, in the past year or so, NVIDIA’s Surround has significantly improved. Prior to NVIDIA’s 600 series, if you wanted to run three monitors on an NVIDIA card, you needed to have two video cards in SLI configuration. Nowadays you can do it with a single card.
With that being said, AMD’s Eyefinity is more established and many people feel that it’s a lot easier to setup and use. Eyefinity also has more options and allows you to add more than three screens. Ultimately, it’s tough to declare which card gives better support for multiple monitors now that NVIDIA has begun to catch up to Eyefinity. Your best bet is to check and see how the games you play fare with Eyefinity vs. Surround setups. Then go with the setup that supports your games the best.
If you’re looking to overclock your video card to get even more performance out of it, then an AMD card is the way to go. AMD cards aren’t restricted by locked voltage control like NVIDIA cards are.
It’s understandable that NVIDIA would limit the overclocking potential on their cards. By locking voltage controls on their GPUs, they can keep inexperienced overclockers from frying their cards.
However, for experienced overclocking enthusiasts, squeezing out every ounce of performance is a must. Without a locked voltage controls, AMD cards have a lot more overclocking potential and are, therefore, the better options for enthusiasts who want extreme performance.
Just as AMD has been doing multi-monitor setups for a lot longer than NVIDIA, NVIDIA has been doing stereoscopic 3D for a lot longer than AMD. As a result, NVIDIA’s 3D vision is a lot easier to use and setup than AMD’s HD3D technology.
It’s important to note that stereoscopic 3D gaming is still in its beginning stages and is not without its flaws. Many enthusiasts believe that at this point in time the benefits of 3D gaming still do not outweigh the disadvantages that it comes with. 3D gaming is a lot more expensive to set up, is more buggy, and is limited to certain games.
However, if you do want to go with a 3D setup, NVIDIA’s 3D Vision supports more titles, has less compatibility issues, and in general it runs a lot better.
AMD VS NVIDIA: It’s Really All Up to You
Both GPU manufacturers have their ups and their downs. And, choosing one over the other is not as simple as “[NVIDIA/AMD] is the much better card!” It really all depends on which manufacturer has just released the newest line of cards and on your own personal needs.
You have to take your budget and the specific requirements you have into consideration when choosing a video card. Ultimately, your best bet is to do your research and read benchmarks in order to determine what manufacturer has the best GPU for your needs.