Nvidia vs AMD: the War of the Graphics Card

Anyone that has built a desktop or has looked into the purchase of a graphics card in recent years will know that they have had two main choices, AMD or Nvidia. Year by year, the two companies have battled with each other to improve performance whilst remaining competitive, and in doing so the result is bigger and better cards which are affordable to the consumer. But with AMD being the smaller company, and with them invested in both the graphics market alongside the CPU (where they have to battle the corporate giant Intel), it seems their production and popularity is slowly in decline.

It’s not surprising that companies will do whatever it takes to get the upper hand on others in a competitive sense, but when it affects the consumer in a negative light something is going wrong. For those that don’t know, Nvidia has had connections to ‘encouraging’ certain developers to produce games whose drivers directly conflict with the drivers that AMD use, causing memory leaks and crashes until AMD release new drivers to patch the old ones. Long story short, it results in an unplayable game for the consumer until AMD patch the problem or someone mods it themselves.  If we take the latest release Fallout 4 as an example, this is painfully apparent: the god rays setting conflicts with the AMD code and various other shader settings cause huge levels of memory leak in the older AMD cards, causing reductions in FPS (frames per second; the overall performance at any particular moment). So, the most anticipated game of 2015 is virtually unplayable even on the lowest settings with cards which should be able to handle it on ultra.

“Long story short, it results in an unplayable game for the consumer until AMD patch the problem or someone mods it themselves”

In the last couple of years, Nvidia has undeniably come along in leaps and bounds in terms of performance. As an AMD fanboy, it pains me to write this but in terms of performance, sound generated by the cards and power consumption, Nvidia at the moment come off ahead every time. If you go back a couple of years things were a lot closer, with AMD even leading in terms of performance, however as it stands on specifications alone Nvidia is the better choice.  But the reason that I stick with AMD, even now, is their view on outdated hardware. They simply slash the price of slightly older cards in order for their lower performance to be more cost effective than the Nvidia counterparts. In benchmarking standards, performance is contrasted with price (essentially how much bang for your buck you are getting), and historically AMD has always been the one to set this benchmark at an ever higher level.

“…as it stands on specifications alone Nvidia is the better choice”

If Nvidia are allowed to triumph in their battle with AMD, it will result in increased prices and a laziness in improving performance. Without the AMD business model of “Our card has become slightly outdated? Let’s slash the price”, which forces Nvidia to do the same to compete, you can guarantee prices will go up. Look at it like an arms race: two countries need to generate more and better weapons, and in doing so advance technology as a side effect.  This is even the basis of capitalism: competition producing innovation. Without AMD, Nvidia would have an effective monopoly on the GPU industry, from which you can guarantee that card prices will go through the roof, and what is already an expensive hobby will become ever more so.

Anthony Conscience

Image: Carissa Rogers via Flickr

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2 Comments on this post.
  • Brian K
    26 November 2015 at 21:24
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    You’re absolutely right. I was an Nvidia fanboy until I realized competition is necessary for consumers to have choice and quality, so now I mostly buy Amd.

    Plus, their cards are more than good enough, so I can play games just fine.

  • teachermarkthailand@gmail.com
    27 November 2015 at 06:35
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    There’s a third choice… don’t bother with one.

    I build computers and I only put these stupid cards in the machine if the person using it plays heavy duty games.
    There’s no other reason to have one if you have a decent CPU.

    I do pretty heavy duty video rendering and there’s no need for a graphics card.

    So if you don’t play games but do do some heavy lifting with your PC then think hard before you waste your money.

    A good motherboard and the best CPU you can afford is probably enough.

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