AMD vs Nvidia Ray tracing

The graphics card market right now is having an incredible demand and supply crunch like never before. With the global silicon shortage affecting the quantities and pricing of GPUs, it’s hard to get your hands on one. If you were to get one though, it would all come down to one fight — AMD vs Nvidia.

Nvidia enjoys the status of being the more sought-after GPU manufacturer, but AMD is no stranger to the business and is quickly catching up. For now, both offer some compelling GPU options, and it can be a tough decision to make amidst low quantities. Let’s take a deeper look at AMD and Nvidia’s GPU offerings, and which one is a better choice for GPU buyers.

See also: AMD vs Intel: Which one is better?

AMD vs Nvidia — Where they stand

AMD vs Nvidia is a long-standing rivalry, but it has had a few twists and turns. First, AMD’s graphics division was previously known as ATI. ATI started making GPUs in 1986, and AMD acquired the company in 2006. Since then, AMD continued to use the ATI badging for GPUs for a few years before dropping it, leading to the AMD graphics division as we know it today.

Nvidia started in 1993 and soon grew to match ATI’s GPU efforts. After a series of successful GPU launches, Nvidia became the other big name in graphics processors. Many other graphics card makers existed, but as ATI and Nvidia grew stronger most others failed. ATI gained a few of them and Nvidia acquired one important one — 3dfx. Other graphics makers were acquired, went out of business, or both.

ATI stayed competitive, but AMD’s flip-flop pattern unfortunately slowed the business down a while after the acquisition. Around 2012, AMD began being seen as a weak business, while NVIDIA was continuing to rise. However, with the Zen and then-Navi architecture launch, AMD climbed back up. Today, we have Nvidia with a small but significant lead with its RTX lineup and ray-tracing expertise, while AMD is catching up quickly with Radeon.

The AMD vs Nvidia rivalry right now is more interesting than ever. Both companies offer GPUs worth buying, so the decision of picking between the two can be rather tough. To help you understand the two, we broke down what they each offer. Let’s take a deeper dive.

What does AMD offer?

AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT pull apart view

AMD has a few GPU lineups to serve all segments of the consumer market and a rather lean lineup of CPUs. The latest RDNA and RDNA2 based GPUs obviously dominate the lineup, but you can still grab a few of the older cards too.

AMD Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs

AMD Radeon RX 6000 is AMD’s latest series of GPUs. Based on the brand new RDNA 2 architecture, it’s a significant improvement over the last generation. It promises a 1.65x performance boost over the last generation. Additionally, you get AMD’s Infinity Cache for higher bandwidth and better ray tracing performance.

If you’re looking for the best AMD GPU you can buy, the AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT is the way to go. It’s the highest-end consumer GPU you can buy from AMD right now. It can do decent frame rates at 4K, and respectable ray tracing for an AMD GPU. Sitting right below it are the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT and AMD Radeon RX 6800. The RX 6800 XT is more of a mid-range 4K card, while the RX 6800 is a solid 1440p performer that delivers great value for your money.

The RX 6000 series doesn’t quite fill out the mid-range and entry-level yet. We have the RX 6700 XT at the bottom of the series right now, and it’s a solid 1080p card that can do some 1440p gaming. We expect to see a non-XT 6700 card, as well as RX 6600 XT and 6600. However, given the current silicon shortage, quantities will be very limited for both existing and any upcoming GPUs.

AMD Radeon RX 5000 series GPUs

AMD Radeon RX 5000 is the last generation of GPUs from AMD. Based on the RDNA architecture, this is the series that started a new chapter for AMD’s graphics efforts. AMD played it safe with this series and didn’t quite go high-end. Instead, it offered solid mid-range and budget cards that are still decent options.

Leading the series is the AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT, with the RX 5700 right behind it. The 5700 XT sits slightly below the RX 6700 XT in terms of performance, offering acceptable 1080p performance with some 1440p possible. Below that is the RX 5600 XT, followed by the RX 5500 XT and the RX 5500. All three cards offer different levels of 1080p gaming performance and fill out the lower end of GPU price brackets. These cards are some great options for folks looking for a card for their low-budget systems. AMD also introduced an RX 5300 in 2020, which was the last 5000-series card they put out. However, the card is for specific retail channels and OEM systems – not regular retail.

See also: The global computer chip shortage explained: What it means for you and your tech

AMD Radeon RX Vega and RX 500 series GPUs

AMD still lists these two older series on its website, sold at inflated prices despite not offering enough value. Both RX Vega and RX 500 came out in 2017. The RX Vega series of GPUs use the GCN 5th gen architecture, while the RX 500 series uses the 4th gen. The Radeon RX 500 had entry-level and mid-range GPUs, while the RX Vega series covered the high-end and enthusiast markets. Radeon Vega also brought in the new generation of integrated graphics in AMD APUs that have proven to be successful.

Some of these cards are still selling. The Vega series has the Vega 56 and Vega 64, but they’re scarce and massively overpriced. The RX 500 series still sells all models, including the RX 550, 560, 570, 580, and 590. These cards are also overpriced thanks to the price gouging that has plagued the GPU market, but they have the advantage of being available. You can find these cards on sale right now. However, you should probably not get them at the inflated price tags, given the aging architectures and the alternatives on the market at their inflated prices.

See also: Apple M1 tested: Performance benchmarks and thermal throttling, explained

What does Nvidia offer?

NVIDIA Logo on wall

Nvidia’s GPU lineup right now is more focused on ray tracing, with the RTX series branded specifically for it. With the newer generation, it has given noticeable performance gains with ray tracing. This is a significant area where AMD’s offerings lag. Nvidia also offers non-RTX GPUs to fill out the lower-end price brackets.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series GPU

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series is the latest lineup of GPUs from team green. It has the most powerful set of GPUs Nvidia has ever made. With the RTX 30 series, Nvidia has finally made ray tracing a feature that works well enough to be a selling point. The RTX 30 series GPUs are based on the new Ampere architecture and bring in faster memory and improved DLSS.

At the top, we have the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090, the beefiest consumer GPU Nvidia sells right now. It is the all-out 4K gaming graphics card that can do high frame rates at the resolution and offers the best ray tracing performance you can get. It also has a whopping 24GB of memory, and the best features you can get on any GPU right now.

Below that on the high end, we have the RTX 3080. It’s a solid 4K card that doesn’t compromise on too much and offers a great value for money. In the upper mid-range, we have the RTX 3070, a perfect 1440p gaming GPU, which is the best value for money you can get from Nvidia. Below that is the RTX 3060 Ti, which is great for high-end 1080p gaming, and some 1440p gaming. Last of all is the RTX 3060, a solid 1080p performer. Nvidia may release more models in the RTX 30 series, but we expect availability to remain just as scarce.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 20 series GPU

The RTX 20 series is Nvidia’s last-gen flagship GPU lineup. Being the first generation of ray tracing-enabled GPUs from Nvidia, RTX 20 series was not too great with the feature. Apart from that, they’re still solid GPUs, even in today’s time. The 20-series uses the Turing architecture.

The flagship consumer GPU in this series is the RTX 2080 Ti, which holds up for some solid 1440p gaming even today. Slightly below is the RTX 2080, which is still good for the higher end of 1080p gaming, and some 1440p gaming. Below that are the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 GPUs, which are solid entry-level RTX GPUs.

These GPUs also have Super variants, which offer a boosted performance with slightly better hardware on board. There is also the Nvidia Titan RTX, which is the most powerful GPU in this series. However, this is better suited for deep learning and AI applications for researchers, developers, and creators rather than your average consumer.

See also: Snapdragon SoC guide: All of Qualcomm’s smartphone processors explained

Nvidia GeForce GTX 16, GTX 10 series, and Quadro RTX GPUs

Nvidia is still selling some of its older series of GPUs. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 16 series is arguably the most commonly found series right now, especially given its presence in affordable laptops and OEM systems, as well as the better availability and affordability in retail. You get the GTX 1660 and GTX 1650, as well as their Super, Ti, and other variants. With the 10-series, Nvidia isn’t really actively marketing it, but the cards still sell. They’re not great value for the money, especially given the inflated prices right now. Plus, the total lack of ray tracing at the price point and the aging architecture doesn’t work in its favor.

The Nvidia Quadro series is another thing entirely. It’s the company’s lineup of workstation GPUs that offer the most you can get out of RTX and the respective architecture. With the latest Ampere architecture, Nvidia has dropped the Quadro branding and made it the RTX A series. We now have three GPUs in this lineup – A6000, A5000, and A4000.

See also: What is Vsync and why should you use it (or not)

AMD vs Nvidia — How it will go from here and which one you should buy

acer predator orion nvidia gpu

AMD vs Nvidia is a fight that is just ramping up. While Nvidia is the market favorite right now, we have seen how quickly AMD can change the game. Just like AMD flipped the script on Intel with its CPU lineup, we can see it making a ton of progress with GPUs as well. With the latest RX 6000-series GPUs, it is offering GPUs that are very close to Nvidia’s options in terms of performance.

However, Nvidia keeps doing everything right so far. It hasn’t made a bad move in the GPU industry for a long time, and with every generation it offers noticeably better performance. With AMD’s weakness being ray tracing, Nvidia is a tough competitor. AMD will need to get ray tracing right to be able to make a mark in the market right now.

The issue plaguing both, however, is the global silicon shortage. Regardless of the GPUs that these companies put out, the stock shortage and price gouging have made the GPU market a seller’s market. With many analysts talking about the shortage continuing for a couple more years, both AMD and Nvidia GPUs are going to remain scarce for a while.

So, in AMD vs Nvidia, which one is better? Frankly, neither. The best GPU you can own right now is the one you can get at a respectable price. If you currently own a fairly recent GPU, it might be a good idea to hold on to it. For buying a new GPU, AMD and Nvidia both have very competitive offerings. Not to forget, ray tracing is not as big of a deal for everybody. So if you can get a new GPU at a reasonable price, you’d do well to go for it without a second thought.