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AMD vs. Nvidia: Battle of Five-Year Graphics Cards in 14 Modern Games

Table of contents

  • Introduction
  • Test bench and test conditions
  • Performance testing
  • Assassins Creed Odyssey
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Borderlands 3
  • Hitman 2
  • F1 2019
  • Strange brigade
  • Shadow of the tomb raider
  • Red dead redemption 2
  • Division 2
  • Metro exodus
  • World war z
  • Gears 5
  • World of tanks
  • Far cry 5
  • Conclusions
 AMD vs. Nvidia: Battle of Five-Year Graphics Cards in 14 Modern Games

We are not talking about successful and relatively recent solutions like the Radeon RX 480 and GeForce GTX 1060, which still cope well with most games, at least in Full HD resolution. But how do older graphics accelerators, such as models from the Radeon R9 3xx and GeForce GTX 9xx series, show themselves in modern games? This is a rather important issue because when buying new video cards, many buyers pay special attention to the potential and prospects of the solution acquired over the next few years. And if you can pretty easily find out how the GPU is managing games right now, then what will happen in five years is not easy to say, one can only speculate.

For example, it has long been clear that the requirements for the amount of video memory are constantly growing, especially if after a while new-generation game consoles enter the market. Their characteristics directly affect the requirements for PC-based gaming systems, because all multi-platform games take as the basis the capabilities of game consoles in the form of a minimum configuration. And the same amount of video memory in PC versions of games often requires no less than what Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation have, or even more.

According to AMD, using the example of the Battlefield series of games mentioned above, you can see that three years ago the recommended VRAM was 4 GB of its own graphics memory, but by 2018 the recommendations had doubled to 8 GB. The same applies to many other modern projects that like to take up all the available video memory so that frequent loading of game resources from the drive is not required. And if the amount of video memory is not enough, then it becomes uncomfortable to play, the frame rate drops sharply and unpleasant jerks are observed during the game.

But not only the amount of local video memory is important in order for the video card to remain relevant for several years, showing acceptable performance in future games. There are other important features, such as bandwidth, computational performance, and even architectural proximity to console video cores. After all, everyone knows that console GPUs are very close to PC counterparts based on the same graphics architecture, and they differ from each other mainly quantitatively. Long gone are the days when consoles used their own CPU and GPU architectures, now they put the same thing in them as in a PC. But there are important nuances.

For example, since the main game consoles, Microsoft and Sony now use the AMD GCN graphics architecture, the corresponding multi-platform projects, not to mention games ported from the consoles, most often work better on the corresponding Radeon than on the GeForce. After all, most of the optimizations on consoles and PCs will be quite similar, and this may well help the relatively old desktop GPUs show better performance in the next few years.

These things are not always directly connected, the reverse cases are known when the console game after porting works better on the competitor’s GPU, and not on the seemingly familiar GCN. This happens much less often, but it does happen. For example, if the Unreal Engine was used for a console game. And the requirements for the amount of video memory do not always closely correspond to console ones, especially considering the possibilities for intra-chip data compression in modern graphic processors.

In general, we became interested in how AMD and Nvidia solutions of five years ago will show themselves, and not top models, but the most popular mid-range video cards and pre-top accelerators among players. In this case, we took a pair of Radeon R9 380 (4 GB) and GeForce GTX 960 (4 GB), as well as Radeon R9 390 (8 GB) and GeForce GTX 970 (4 GB). By the way, the solutions of the first pair on the secondary market now cost about 4,000 rubles, and the second - about 7,000. But this is just for reference, you don’t need to buy them now, it’s better to pay attention to the news.

Test bench and test conditions

  • AMD Ryzen processor-based computer :
    • processor AMD Ryzen 7 3700X ;
    • cooling system Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 ;
    • motherboard the MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium (AMD's X370);
    • RAM GeIL Evo X DDR4-3200 (16 GB);
    • drive the SSD the Corsair the Force the LE (480 GB);
    • Corsair RM850i power supply (850 W);
  • Windows 10 Pro operating system (64-bit);
  • Samsung U28D590D monitor (28 ″, 3840 × 2160);
  • MSI Afterburner 4.6.2 Utility
So, to check how the performance of five-year-old GPUs corresponds to the modern level, we tested two video cards manufactured by AMD and Nvidia from two price levels: AMD Radeon R9 380 (4 GB) versus Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 (4 GB), as well as AMD Radeon R9 390 (8 GB) vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 (4 GB). For all video cards, the latest drivers that were released at the time of the tests were used.

Since our “oldies” are not very good in performance by modern standards, and the rendering speed will almost always be limited by their power, we tested the presented video cards only in the most widespread (by a wide margin from others) resolution of 1920 × 1080, excluding lower resolutions, which few people use in reality.

But we decided to use two profiles of settings: medium quality settings and ultra-settings - in some games these are maximum quality settings, and in others - very close to maximum. To look at the performance of outdated GPUs precisely in the current state of affairs in the graphics industry, we tried to use the latest versions of the DirectX 12 and Vulkan graphics APIs where possible. Separately, it will be interesting to see if the older Radeon gives the advantage twice the amount of video memory.

Performance testing

So, we start testing. We checked almost a dozen relatively fresh games in which there is a built-in ability to test performance. The requirement of the built-in benchmark in our case seemed very desirable since, with a small difference in performance, the measurement accuracy and repeatability should be ensured as much as possible. This time we focused solely on average indicators of frame rate since in practice their ratio for different video cards was slightly different from the ratio of minimum indicators.

Assassins Creed Odyssey

The first game on the list obviously works a little better on Nvidia's graphics cards, especially with regard to mid-budget GPUs - this pair has a very noticeable advantage. Perhaps the fact is that this (not the latest) game uses the DirectX 11 API, which most often plays in favour of GeForce, judging by experience. However, despite its relative antiquity, the game turned out to be quite demanding on the power of GPUs in principle.

So demanding that none of the tested video cards of five years ago can show average 60 FPS even with average image quality (we are talking only about Full HD, we recall), providing at best a little more than 30 FPS, which is clearly not enough. Therefore, those still playing on the GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 390 will have to limit themselves only to high settings. And the middles in the form of Radeon R9 380 and GeForce GTX 960 provide playability and even with average settings. Well, if you take the battle of AMD against Nvidia, then the last game won in the first game.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

The last game from the Deus Ex series also came out a long time ago, and this is a project that AMD had a hand in creating and optimizing, and therefore it uses DirectX 12 and clearly works better on Radeon and slightly worse on GeForce. The rendering performance in the case of our old video cards is completely dependent on the GPU, and all of them were able to provide acceptable playability, albeit in different conditions.

The older pair easily provides 60 FPS and higher with average settings, and the Radeon R9 390 became the only one that is close to this in ultra-settings, noticeably overtaking its rival in the form of the GTX 970. The difference between them is such that you can play on the R9 390 with ultra-settings, and GeForce will force you to set just high. As for the mid-budget pair, the difference is also in favour of AMD, but it is noticeably smaller - both video cards give acceptable performance only at medium settings. But on average, a pair of Radeon wins.

Borderlands 3

This is another game with AMD support from its developers, which also supports DirectX 12. We used this version intentionally, as we check the relevance of five-year GPUs in modern conditions. The game, although not the hardest for the GPU, is also not too light, and again there is some advantage of AMD solutions.

The oldest pair of video cards showed excellent performance with a frame rate above 60 FPS at medium settings, but playing with ultra-settings, if possible, only on the Radeon R9 390 (preferably still lowering a couple of settings additionally) - AMD is clearly ahead. Ultra-settings are not suitable for the youngest couple at all, but on mid-range, it is quite possible to play, and the Radeon R9 380 will do it with some advantage in smoothness. We leave a small gain for AMD.

Hitman 2

The last game in this series, though, already loads the GPUs harder, but the rendering speed in it still often rests on the CPU capabilities even when using D3D12, which we chose for tests, of course. This probably explains the small difference between the frame rate in the medium settings mode and with ultra-quality. As well as the lack of clear advantage in Radeon or GeForce.

The resulting frame rate on older GPUs five years ago is quite enough to play with ultra-settings - even though they do not provide 60 FPS, but the difference between FPS in the two modes is clearly insufficient to select an average picture quality. As for the Radeon R9 390 and GeForce GTX 960, then we see approximate equality, and the choice of mode remains with the player. 30 FPS is enough for some, while 42 FPS will not be enough for others. As a result, the score is approximately equal.

F1 2019

Codemasters games under the official Formula 1 license are released annually, but the graphics in them change from year to year rather weakly. The game of this season is different in that it already has official support for Direct3D12, we used this version. It seems that the choice of API in favour of a more modern one predetermined the balance of power - both Radeon were clearly stronger than their respective GeForce.

The game makes average demands on the power of GPUs, and with average quality settings, even the Radeon R9 390 and GeForce GTX 960 make it possible to play with maximum smoothness at more than 60 FPS constantly. In ultra-high quality mode, Radeon is clearly ahead - at 44 FPS it will be much more comfortable to play than at 36 FPS. The same applies to the older pair: R9 390 provides more than 60 FPS, while the older GeForce does not reach this level. A clear advantage with AMD solutions in this game.

Strange brigade

Another game developed as part of a cooperation program with AMD, and it supports two modern graphics APIs at once: Vulkan and DirectX 12 - we decided to use the latter, although both of them are approximately equally optimized, and are able to use the capabilities of modern multi-core CPUs so as not to bother in their capabilities. The game does not load too much with the GPU, so even the outdated mid-range models GeForce GTX 960 and Radeon R9 380 showed a very decent result.

A mid-budget pair of GPUs five years ago makes it possible to play this game with ultra-settings. True, the R9 380 is clearly faster than the GTX 960 and almost provided 60 FPS in such conditions when the GTX 960 reached only 44 FPS. In the older pair, the difference is also impressive: the R9 390 is noticeably faster, although the difference between 90 FPS and 71 FPS will be more difficult to catch my eye, especially on monitors with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. But again, we see a clear victory for AMD Radeon.

Shadow of the tomb raider

With the last game from the Tomb Raider series, the situation came out very funny. The game received an advanced D3D12 renderer, which we used in our work, and it works perfectly on all Radeon and GeForce video cards. But, although the developers this time were already helped by Nvidia’s specialists, which has become a rarity lately, a small advantage (at least when using the new API) got ... AMD solutions.

The game is clearly more complicated for old GPUs, and the mid-price Radeon R9 380 and GeForce GTX 960 cope with it only with average image quality, and the AMD graphics card turned out to be a little faster. The older pair of R9 390 and GTX 970 provides acceptable performance in both modes (and it is better to play with ultra-settings since the difference in average FPS is small), and Radeon again has some advantage. In general, AMD solutions win again.

Red dead redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a very recent game that got a choice of renderer from D3D12 and Vulkan. Vulkan is used by the project by default, we did not change it. It seems that the game is not well suited for Nvidia graphics solutions, which are inferior to the rival's video cards, but the difference is slightly less than when comparing modern GPUs.

The GPUs we took for comparison from the average price range of five years ago were not powerful enough for this resource-intensive game, and even lowering the settings to average did not allow us to get an acceptable smoothness. However, the Radeon R9 380 did a little better, and 37 FPS will be nicer than 33 FPS. If we talk about the older pair, then the ultra-settings are also not available to them (33-35 FPS will not be enough) and you will have to lower the settings to at least just high. With average quality, they are close to 60 FPS, and the Radeon R9 390 is again a little faster here. Another victory for Radeon, though not so obvious.

Division 2

The second part of The Division was developed with the participation of AMD and gives a choice between Direct3D11 and D3D12. Moreover, the second option in this game is best suited immediately for all AMD and Nvidia GPUs. But it is not surprising that Radeon is again gaining an advantage in comparing GPUs five years ago, and here it is even more obvious.

The game is demanding on the power of the GPU, and the old middlers pull out only the average settings, and the Radeon R9 380 was able to go beyond the 60 FPS bar, and the GeForce GTX 960 did not reach it. As for the comparison of the older pair, it is surprising that they are not that big an advantage over the younger pair. Nevertheless, they give the opportunity to play with ultra-settings in Full HD, and playing on the Radeon R9 390 will be clearly more comfortable. AMD's clear victory without question.

Metro exodus

Another noteworthy case is the Metro Exodus game, which was released not so long ago. In addition to the trendy support for ray tracing via the DXR API, it also has the usual D3D12 renderer, which we used. Although the game was developed with support from Nvidia, rival Radeon graphics cards in it again turned out to be slightly faster than GeForce.

The game is very demanding on GPU power, and the mid-price pair of outdated video cards could not show an acceptable frame rate even with average settings, although the Radeon R9 380 was clearly closer to ensuring playability compared to the GeForce GTX 960. Ultra-settings are not available for older five-year GPUs prescription, but with medium Radeon R9 390, only a little was not enough up to 60 FPS, and the GTX 970 was clearly inferior to the opponent. In recent games, AMD has a clear advantage.

World war z

This is another game of our choice with the built-in benchmark, using the modern Vulkan graphics API and ... support from AMD (yes, there really are a lot of such games). It is not surprising that both GeForce is pairwise behind their respective Radeon video cards. The game is not too demanding on the power of GPUs, and the difference between medium and ultra settings was not very big.

With average settings, all video cards showed 60 FPS and higher, but the inclusion of ultra-quality leaves only the Radeon R9 380 in the top league of the middle peers. The GeForce GTX 960 is inferior to it, although it can also be played on it. With older video cards, everything is clear - they could be played in higher resolutions, but the Radeon R9 390 is clearly a little faster than the rival from the Nvidia camp. Another victory for AMD video cards.

Gears 5

And here ... right, another game with AMD support, using a modern graphics API (this time - DirectX 12) and an integrated benchmark. It is very interesting that in it we did not see the advantage of Radeon over GeForce, this also applies to the older and younger pairs of our comparison. It is probably a matter of using the Unreal Engine, which usually benefits Nvidia's graphics cards, but additional AMD support levelled this advantage.

The game has average requirements for GPU power, but 33 FPS in the two younger video cards of five years ago is clearly not enough for playability. The average settings do not give stable 60 FPS on the middle peasants, but it's quite possible to play. The older Radeon and GeForce also do not provide 60 FPS with ultra-quality, but only at medium settings, but they are approximately the same in terms of playability. This time it's a draw.

World of tanks

A well-known network multiplayer game, which neither Nvidia nor AMD had a hand in (but only Intel, which so far does not have enough powerful GPUs to interest us in this section of the site). As you can see from the three-digit numbers of the average frame rate (almost up to 300 FPS for older GPUs), the performance is completely limited by the power of video cards, and the game is not too demanding on the system as a whole.

It is not surprising that even the mid-price GPUs of five years ago showed acceptable performance here in ultra-quality, and the Radeon R9 380 and the GeForce GTX 960 are almost equal, only the latter got a little ahead. In a pair of older solutions, the GTX 970 outperforms the R9 390 a bit more, but players are unlikely to feel the difference between 110 and 97 FPS. However, victory is victory - we can say that this time Nvidia solutions have a very small advantage.

Far cry 5

This is one of the oldest games presented in our comparison today. It is not surprising that it uses exclusively DirectX 11, although it was also developed under the patronage of AMD, like most other projects in our material. Also, the lack of an advantage in Radeon has already become customary even with the support of AMD game developers in the case when D3D11 is used, and not more modern graphics APIs.

Since the game is not too demanding on the GPU, even the mid-price pair of Radeon R9 380 and GeForce GTX 960 make it possible to play comfortably with ultra-settings, albeit not with 60 FPS. More powerful graphics solutions of five years ago provide 60 FPS or more, even with the highest image quality possible in this game, and GeForce has some advantage here. It is Nvidia that we give back the victory here, but again with only minimal superiority


We tested games of different genres and release times, developed with technical support from AMD and Nvidia, using different APIs, and the average comparative performance in them makes it possible to draw some conclusions. We were pleased that the five-year GPUs of medium power in the form of GeForce GTX 960 and Radeon R9 380 in Full HD resolution still provide minimal comfort when playing at least at medium quality settings. And in some games, the graphics settings can be increased to high, and sometimes ultra-high.

The more powerful solutions of the Radeon R9 390 and GeForce GTX 970, despite all their differences (both architectural and memory), often feel pretty good with ultra-settings, albeit only in a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels, above which we today did not rise. And with the average picture quality, we hardly noticed any performance problems. That is, relatively powerful video cards released five years ago are still relevant today - under certain conditions and without fanaticism, of course.

Nevertheless, the architectures of AMD and Nvidia GPUs are quite different from each other, as well as the quality of driver code and optimizations in games for them, and these GPUs have not always proved to be equally good. We must immediately admit that most often the Radeon cards won in comparison, and this is due to the fact that most games come out with their support now, and therefore they introduce the use of new graphics APIs like Direct3D12 and Vulkan, and in these conditions, AMD solutions most often turn out to be a little faster, especially in the presence of specific optimizations similar to console ones (there is only one architecture - GCN).

Well, in order not to judge everything entirely unfounded, let's look at the difference in average performance for all games. First, for the youngest pair of AMD and Nvidia video cards tested today:
Radeon R9 380 vs GeForce GTX 960Medium SettingsUltra settings
Assassins Creed Odyssey−14%−38%
Borderlands 3+ 14%+ 4%
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided+ 18%+ 11%
Division 2+ 25%+ 22%
F1 2019+ 17%+ 22%
Far cry 5+ 2%0%
Gears 5+ 2%0%
Hitman 2−5%−3%
Metro exodus+ 20%+ 5%
Red dead redemption 2+ 12%+ 14%
Shadow of the tomb raider+ 15%+ 8%
Strange brigade+ 28%+ 34%
World of Tanks RT−3%−5%
World war z+ 18%+ 24%
Average+ 11%+ 7%
As you can see from the table, the average advantage of the Radeon R9 380 over the GeForce GTX 960 seems to be not so great: 11% with average quality settings and only 7% with ultra-settings. But the average values ​​for that and the average, to show only the big picture - the so-called "average temperature in the hospital", and in particular for us is much more important.

And if you look at individual games, then only in three of them Radeon clearly lost, even in a couple the video cards were approximately equal, and in the remaining nine the AMD video card had a clear advantage, which sometimes exceeded 20% or even 30%! And although AMD’s solution had a similar loss in the first game of our comparison, in general, we give a clear victory to the Radeon R9 380 graphics card. What happened to the older pair?
Radeon R9 390 vs GeForce GTX 970Medium SettingsUltra settings
Assassins Creed Odyssey−9%−3%
Borderlands 3+ 6%+ 21%
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided+ 17%+ 53%
Division 2+ 19%+ 24%
F1 2019+ 18%+ 16%
Far cry 5−7%−8%
Gears 5−1%−2%
Hitman 2−2%+ 4%
Metro exodus+ 15%+ 3%
Red dead redemption 2+ 16%+ 6%
Shadow of the tomb raider+ 13%+ 9%
Strange brigade+ 18%+ 27%
World of Tanks RT−10%−12%
World war z+ 8%+ 10%
Average+ 7%+ 11%
Immediately, we say that the Radeon R9 390 received some advantage from twice the amount of video memory even in Full HD resolution - this is indicated by the fact that its superiority over the GeForce GTX 970 with ultra settings turned out to be higher than with average quality. Otherwise, everything is about the same as in the previous pair, and even a little worse for the Nvidia video card, which already won only in a couple of games. In two projects, a draw turned out, and in the rest - a clear advantage of the AMD solution.

The architectures of AMD and Nvidia GPUs have important differences and require different optimization, the quality of the code for D3D12 is also different, but on average Radeon video cards are better at managing modern games that use D3D12 and Vulkan. But when using D3D11, and especially when limiting rendering performance by a universal processor, the situation is already different: the AMD driver is clearly not very well optimized for multi-threaded operation, while Nvidia has better optimization, and therefore, GeForce D3D11 games look better.

It turns out that AMD GPUs, released about five years ago, are generally better suited for modern loads - well, or current games lack quality optimization for Nvidia video cards. Direct3D12 and Vulkan are being used more and more often, especially in multi-platform games, and there will be more and more games with support for the new APIs. A lot also depends on game developers and support from GPU manufacturers who help optimize the code specifically for their decisions.

Although all games and engines are optimized in different ways for different APIs and graphic architectures, the fact remains: on average, both Radeon video cards based on five-year-old chips turned out to be slightly better prepared for changing the nature of GPU loads in subsequent years and won the battle. Well, or with the game developers, the AMD team worked better, which does not detract from the unequivocal victory of the Radeon R9 3xx video cards over the GeForce GTX 9xx in modern conditions.

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