19 Aug AMD-NVIDIA Competition Is Back In Mid-Range Consumer GPUs
This year was a very interesting one in consumer technology, as AMD introduced new CPU and GPU architectures, and NVIDIA continued to cement new technologies like ray tracing. Both companies made significant progress. NVIDIA’s RTX ray tracing capabilities launched in some of the biggest titles at E3 and between Computex and E3 this year, AMD unveiled its full line of Radeon RX 5700 series GPUs.
The Radeon RX 5700 series was formally launched on July 7th, but NVIDIA pre-empted AMD with the surprise introduction of the company’s new RTX Super cards, prompting AMD to lower their prices across the board. These cards refreshed everything from the RTX 2060 to the RTX 2080 with faster speeds, stealing some thunder from AMD’s 5700 launch. NVIDIA’s new RTX 2060 Super is the only card that won’t be fully replacing the RTX predecessor that came before it. The 2070 and 2080 Super cards are both expected to replace NVIDIA’s previous RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 models. With all of these changes coming to the mid-range of the GPU segment, I thought it would make sense to test them directly against each other.
While many other reviewers already published their results, I waited to have both the NVIDIA GeForce RTX Super cards and AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT in hand. For further context, I recommend an analysis by Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy.
What was tested
We benchmarked these GPUs on AMD’s latest X570 platform with a Radeon R9 3900X CPU, which features PCIe 4.0. I figured running the latest and greatest everything would help people understand what their future performance might look like if they were to build with this platform. Also, AMD has a lot of momentum on its side with the new Ryzen 3000 series and the gaming performance should roughly be the same between CPUs like the 3700X and 3800X. My testing centered around 1440P gaming performance for a couple of reasons. First, 1080P isn’t really the resolution that most hardcore gamers are building their systems towards anymore, and the next most popular resolution on Steam after 1080P is 1440P. 1080P as a resolution is also much more CPU-bound and dependent on CPU and won’t stress a graphics card as much as 1440P Second, 1440P is where most new high-refresh gaming monitors focus right now. Third, the GeForce RTX 2070 Super, Radeon RX 5700 XT, and GeForce RTX 2060 Super aren’t really designed for 4K gaming so their framerates wouldn’t be playable. My goal was to review these cards with playable framerates at 1440P with popular games.
We ran both of the latest drivers from NVIDIA and AMD’s websites, (431.36) and (19.7.2) respectively, to maximize the possible performance of both GPUs with bug fixes and performance tweaks. In an attempt to find a balance of titles favoring either NVIDIA and AMD, I settled on Far Cry 5, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Rainbow 6 Siege, and Rise of The Tomb Raider for my benchmarks. I also ran some 3DMark synthetic and VR tests, including VRMark and SteamVR.
3DMark, by UL Benchmarks, is more or less the standard for 3D benchmarks, when you want a rough approximation of gaming performance without having to test a game. It comes in many different flavors for different types of devices, ranging from PCs to smartphones. For the purpose of this review, I tested its latest 3DMark TimeSpy and the older 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme. Both benchmarks are designed to run at 1440P. Interestingly, with TimeSpy the RTX 2070 Super scored 10,481 while the RX 5700 XT and RTX 2060 Super essentially scored within the margin of error at about 9,200 points. However, with Fire Strike Extreme, the RX 5700 XT scored 11,792—within the margin of error of the RTX 2070 Super’s score of 11,831. The RTX 2060 Super was a solid 10% slower, as expected. These results set my expectation that NVIDIA and AMD would trade punches between different games and benchmarks.
The first game I tested was Far Cry 5, which came out last year. I consider this a bit of an AMD-leaning title, so I expected AMD would do a little better in the in-game benchmark. All three GPUs ran a minimum frame rate of over 60 FPS on the Ultra setting, which is great for user experience. On the Average setting, where the overall performance is measured, the RTX 2060 Super ran an average of 88 FPS, the RX 5700 XT ran an average of 97, and the RTX 2070 Super ran an average of 100. My analysis of these results is that the RX 5700 XT performs exceptionally well against the RTX 2070 Super. This is somewhat to be expected in such a title but it also justifies NVIDIA’s decision to release the Super cards. NVIDIA is still top dog here, but AMD puts up a very good fight.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is an open world FPS game from a couple years ago that I consider to be more of an NVIDIA title. A new version of the game is due out soon, but we tested the current version. We used the in-game benchmark to test these GPUs against each other across all different types of environments. Running this benchmark at the Very High setting allows for the game to run smoothly at 1440P, with all three GPUs running at no less than 60 FPS. The RTX 2060 Super had a minimum frame rate of exactly 60, the RX 5700 XT had a minimum FPS of 64, and the RTX 2070 Super had a minimum of 69 FPS. Average frame rates showed a slightly different story, with the RTX 2070 Super showing a slight edge over the RX 5700 XT—84 FPS to 81. This was closer than I expected for an NVIDIA title. The RTX 2060 Super, on the other hand, had an average of 75 FPS. This, as expected, was around 10% slower than the 5700 XT and 2070 Super.
Rainbow 6 Siege (R6S) is an older title, but I tested it because it is one of the most-played games on Steam. Additionally, it is probably the most graphics-intensive of all the games on that top 10 list. The game is very highly liked, and though it is almost 4 years old, the developer continues to improve the game and keep it interesting. Being as old as it is, we had to test this game on the Ultra setting at 1440P resolution in order to get a good result from the in-game benchmark. This game has much higher FPS results, in the 146-243 range, due to not being as graphically intensive. The RTX 2060 Super had a minimum FPS of 146, the RX 5700 XT had a minimum of 161, and the RTX 2070 Super had a minimum of 158. These results were surprising because this is an NVIDIA GameWorks title. I was less surprised to see the average frame rate results continued in the trends of the other game benchmarks. The RTX 2070 Super’s average framerate was 198.9, the RX 5700 XT had an average of 191.4, and the RTX 2060 Super had an average of 175.5. This puts the RTX 2070 Super about 5% ahead of the RX 5700XT and 10% ahead of the RTX 2060 Super. These results fall in line with the expectations from the other tests and since maximum FPS is almost irrelevant, we can mostly ignore those numbers. What is good though is that all of these cards produce very high FPS at Ultra settings which is a great thing for gamers regardless.
Last but certainly not least was Rise of the Tomb Raider. I consider this game to be somewhat neutral, since the first Tomb Raider was an AMD title and this version was an NVIDIA Gameworks title. At this point, however, I expect game performance to be fully optimized. We ran this game’s in-game benchmark at 1440P just like the others, but with TAA and High preset for the graphics quality. We did this because that ensures a solid game experience without any frame rates below 60 FPS. Average frame rates for the RTX 2070 Super were at 96 FPS, while the RX 5700 XT hit 94 FPS. The RTX 2060 Super came in at a noticeably lower 82 FPS. Minimums were 78, 76 and 68, respectively. These results mirrored most of the results we’d already seen—while the RTX 2070 Super was slightly faster than the RX 5700 XT, it was almost within the margin of error.
Since VR is still an important growth category for the industry, we ran tests on both SteamVR and VRMark benchmarks. While SteamVR’s benchmark is a bit dated, it is still relevant because Valve and Steam are still key players in the industry. VRMark has three different tests, but I opted to forgo its Orange Room test as it is more CPU-bound than the other two.
SteamVR is a single-scene benchmark designed to stress the GPU and simulate two lenses at the native resolution of the HTC Vive headset. NVIDIA absolutely wiped the floor with AMD on this test, with both the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2060 Super. The RTX 2070 Super had a score of 20,199 frames rendered, while the RTX 2060 Super had a score of 17,480. AMD’s RX 5700 XT only rendered 15,987 frames, which made it the slowest of the three. I wasn’t entirely surprised by this result—in my last GPU test of the AMD Vega 7, the gap between AMD and NVIDIA was wider than usual in VR. It seems that AMD has not yet remedied this with the RX 5700 XT and the Navi architecture.
Next we ran VRMark’s Cyan and Blue tests. VRMark Cyan tests around 1440P, close to the resolution of where headsets today operate. As such, the RTX 2070 Super scored 10,155 points while the RX 5700 XT scored 9,140—a wider gap than in the game tests. NVIDIA’s RTX 2060 Super was not far behind with a score of 8,821, which makes me think that NVIDIA’s VR performance advantage is still there. With the Blue test, NVIDIA once again beat AMD handily—the RTX 2070 Super scored 3,225 points and the RTX 2060 Super scored 2,756 points, while the RX 5700 XT only scored 2505 points. This reaffirmed the majority of our VR testing and confirmed that AMD still has plenty of room for improvement on VR performance.
To gamers, value is ultimately a reflection of performance and price. As a result of NVIDIA’s dominance in the market, its consumer GPUs have gotten expensive (as much as $1,200 for the RTX 2080 Ti). Now, though, NVIDIA is improving its price and performance to compete with AMD’s RX 5700 series, ultimately delivering better value to consumers.
One thing to consider in this value equation is NVIDIA’s ability to do both Ray Tracing and Deep Learning on its GPUs. Because AMD’s GPUs do not yet have the ability to run Ray Tracing, we cannot compare them yet. But it’s widely acknowledged that gamers keep their graphics for 2-3 years which should figure into the buying decision. NVIDIA gets credit for offering this feature. Even though only a limited set of games offer that capability today, AAA titles like COD: Modern Warfare and others have been announced for launch in the coming months. And there’s support in Windows with DXR, all the major game engines and in the next Xbox and PlayStation so it’s clear ray tracing is gaining steam. I have seen NVIDIA’s Ray Tracing capabilities in action and they absolutely do add to the immersion and experience.
Based on my benchmark results the RX 5700 XT is absolutely the best value at $399—if non-VR gaming without Ray Tracing is your focus. However, if you are using VR or Ray Tracing, you might be better off considering an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super or 2060 Super, as AMD still needs work in these areas. NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 Super is the fastest of the three, but it costs $100+ more for a very marginal difference in performance outside of VR.
AMD and NVIDIA are once again competing with one another in the consumer mid-range GPU space and it absolutely benefits consumers. NVIDIA continues to offer faster products and deliver more value to consumers. NVIDIA’s decision to release the RTX Super series of cards was a smart play to ensure it kept the mid-range performance crown. Overall value notwithstanding, I still consider the RTX 2070 Super to be the best mid-range card available.
The current pricing for NVIDIA’s cards still seems a bit high, especially considering that the RX 5700 XT sells for the same price as the RTX 2060 Super and outperforms it consistently outside of VR. I hope NVIDIA’s prices continue to settle down to be more in line with mid-range expectations. I also hope we’ll see more competitive GPUs from AMD for higher performance segments. NVIDIA just released the RTX 2080 Super; it would be great to see AMD compete with them somewhere between the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2080 Super. I’ll continue to monitor with interest.