As we head into 2021, the graphics card landscape is looking very interesting indeed. Nvidia shook things up back in 2018 when it released its 20xx range of GPUs, which introduced the groundbreaking ray-tracing technology. But in late 2020, AMD finally hopped aboard the ray-tracing train.
Now that both hardware makers have launched their latest high-end products, here’s everything you need to know about AMD and Nvidia GPUs. See which are best in 2021.
FreeSync vs. G-Sync
Both AMD and Nvidia now use their own forms of adaptive sync, which pretty much wipes out screen-tearing while not sacrificing response times. (Here’s our guide telling you all you need to know about v-sync, G-Sync and FreeSync.) The annoying thing about this is that you need to get a G-Sync-capable monitor to benefit from G-Sync on an Nvidia GPU and a FreeSync monitor for this to work with AMD cards.
The good news is that many FreeSync monitors are now G-Sync-compatible, and seeing as FreeSync monitors tend to be cheaper due to not requiring dedicated hardware, they may be a better option for people on a budget.
For the most part, differences between FreeSync and Gsync are negligible. Nvidia offers some guarantees with G-Sync, like ULMB blur reduction, but functionally the two are much the same. There are some incremental perks with G-Sync, but they come at a price.
Latest GPUs – AMD 6xxx vs. Nvidia 30xx
There’s no denying that Nvidia pulled ahead of AMD in the discrete GPU race over the past couple of years. Ray-tracing has been a huge breakthrough in video-game graphics, and pricing has been more competitive from the traditionally more expensive of the two graphics card makers.
At the top end, the Nvidia RTX 3090 and 3080 stand comfortably above AMD’s latest 6000 series GPUs. The Radeon RX 6900-XT has comparable (or marginally better) performance to the Nvidia RTX 3080, but at $1000 compared RTX’s $700, it doesn’t quite stack up.
At the mid-high range, things feel much more even. The AMD 6800-XT beats the RTX 3070 by a good 25 percent across most modern games but comes in pricier at $650 versus $500. The regular 6800, meanwhile, offers comparable performance to the 3070 but for $80 more at $580.
In addition, Nvidia has already had a whole generation to work with ray-tracing, which is vastly superior. Just check out this benchmark from Mark PC to get an idea across multiple games.
Based on previous generations of ray-tracing, it’s not likely that ray-tracing performance will significantly improve with driver updates in a single generation, and it’s fair to suggest that we may need to wait until the next generation of AMD cards before they truly catch up in the ray-tracing department. AMD doesn’t yet have its answer to Nvidia DLSS either, which is an ingenious way of cranking out more performance out of games.
It’s not all bad news for AMD. If you’re on a lower budget, then the previous generation’s AMD Radeon RX 5700-XT probably remains the best value you can get for the money and will still run most games at excellent framerates on 1440p resolutions.
And let’s not forget that AMD provides the GPUs housed inside the new PS5 and Xbox Series X. So while it was a tough 2020 in terms of PC GPUs for AMD, it’s been strong in other areas. But based on the current generation, AMD has quite a bit of catching up to do to Nvidia.
If you have an AMD GPU, then you should always keep your drivers up to date to ensure top performance. Here’s how to do it. If, on the other hand, you’re an Nvidia owner, then you should take a look at the excellent Nvidia Inspector tool to monitor your graphics card.