Friday, October 26, 2018

Nvidia vs AMD: Which is truly better?

Millions of virtual soldiers have fought and died in the forum wars arguing over the relative merits of AMD and Nvidia GPUs. Gamers are a passionate group, and no other piece of hardware is likely to elicit as much furor than graphics cards. But really, what are the differences between AMD and Nvidia graphics processors? Is one vendor truly better, who makes the best graphics card, and which should you buy?

This is our take on the subject, which sets aside notions of brand loyalty to look at what each company truly offers.

A brief historical overview

PC Gamer is going back to the basics with a series of guides, how-tos, and deep dives into PC gaming's core concepts. We're calling it The Complete Guide to PC Gaming, and it's all being made possible by Razer, which stepped up to support this months-long project. Thanks, Razer!

A quick history of both companies is a good place to start. AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) has been around since 1969, nearly 50 years now. Based out of Santa Clara, California, the company got its start making microchips, often for other vendors. Over the years, AMD has acquired other companies and sold off portions of its business. The two most noteworthy of these are the purchase of ATI Technologies in 2006, which became AMD's GPU division, and the sale of its manufacturing foundry division in 2008 into GlobalFoundries. This is the AMD most people are familiar with today, a company that designs both CPUs and GPUs, and has those parts manufactured at one of several places—TSMC, GlobalFoundries, or Samsung. AMD's primary products today are sold under the Ryzen (CPUs) and Radeon (GPUs) brands.

Nvidia hasn't been around quite as long. Founded in 1993 and also based out of Santa Clara, Nvidia focused on graphics from the beginning. Its first major product was the Riva TNT in 1998, followed by the TNT2 later that same year. These were arguably the most successful all-in-one 2D and 3D graphics solutions up to that time. The GeForce 256 in 1999 became the first GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) thanks to its inclusion of hardware support for T&L (Transform and Lighting) calculations. Nvidia's GeForce brand has stayed in place for nearly 20 years, and is currently (depending on how you want to count) in its 17th generation. Nvidia is also a fabless company (meaning it designs chips, but doesn't manufacture them itself), relying primarily on TSMC for GPU manufacturing, though Samsung also makes some of the chips.

Thanks PC gamer