GUIDE: Should you buy an AMD graphics card?

It used to be that the most obvious choice when buying a graphics card was Nvidia. For the longest time, the Santa Clara-based company’s GeForce GPUs were the clear leaders when it came to graphical performance. But these days, AMD has just about caught up with Nvidia with its latest Radeon GPUs. This begs the question: should you buy an AMD graphics card this time out?

The past year has been a very good one for AMD. The company’s latest line of GPUs and CPUs are now on par, or in the case of the latter, better than their competitors.

But AMD’s newfound technical prowess has made shopping for a new graphics card a bit more complicated. It used to be that the company was the “budget” option. Its graphics cards offered good price-to-performance for those who couldn’t afford Nvidia’s offerings.

Nowadays, this is not the case. Both AMD’s and Nvidia’s cards offer similar performance at similar price points, for the most part. Complicating this is a global chip shortage in the middle of a cryptocurrency boom, making it harder to get specific graphic card SKUs from both companies and their AIB partners.

For those considering “Team Red’s” offerings, here are reasons why you should and should not buy an AMD graphics card.

Nvidia still has the lead with certain technologies

For all the advancements that AMD has made with its graphics cards, Nvidia is still the clear leader in certain technologies. Its RTX line of graphics cards is still better at real-time ray tracing, for one. (Read: What is ray tracing – understanding the next big leap in video game graphics)

While AMD’s RDNA2-based Radeon RX 6000 series cards do feature ray tracing, they’re still on the first generation of AMD’s take on the technology. Nvidia, on the other hand, by launching the technology with the previous-generation RTX 20 series cards, have had the time to improve on it with their current RTX 30 line.

Ray tracing isn’t the only place where Nvidia has the lead. Arguably the biggest selling point of its graphics cards is its Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) technology. This uses machine learning to upscale a lower resolution image to a higher one.

Again, this technology was launched back with the RTX 20 cards, allowing it to mature with its latest revisions.

Meanwhile, AMD has yet to launch its FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), its answer to DLSS. This is supposed to be released only sometime later this year.

AMD has its own advantages as well

Even though Nvidia has a bit of a lead with certain key technologies, AMD also has its own tricks up its sleeve.

Perhaps the biggest one is that AMD makes both CPUs and GPUs. This means that certain technologies that synergize both tend to debut on AMD graphics cards first, and important thing when AMD’s Ryzen 5 CPUs are now the preferred processors for gaming.

The most recent example of this is AMD’s Infinity Fabric. This is a technology that allows a CPU to access as much of your graphics card’s VRAM as it needs. Prior to this, CPUs could only access VRAM in 256MB blocks.

Of course, Nvidia eventually got this same feature in the form of Resizeable BAR. That said, that AMD’s cards got it first shows that the company can and will leverage its position as a maker of PC CPUs to its advantage.

AMD still offers amazing value for older-generation GPUs

Now none of the new technologies that AMD and Nvidia don’t really matter when you can’t get their latest graphics cards in the first place thanks to the chip shortage and crypto boom.

But this may actually swing things in favor of AMD when you start looking at older-generation graphics cards.

Even as graphics card prices have gone up, the reputation of AMD’s older GPUs as the “budget option” means that their prices tend to be lower than those of older Nvidia cards. For example, a Radeon RX 580—a decent budget card for less graphically intensive games, such as esports titles—can still be purchased for less than Php 10,000. Meanwhile, a more powerful Radeon RX 5800 can be had for around Php15,000 or less.

Older Nvidia graphics cards, on the other hand, tend to command a higher price. It’s not unheard of for a GeForce GTX 1650 to rival the price of newer RTX cards.

Of course, older AMD cards are outperformed by equivalent Nvidia cards, but they’re still pretty decent for anyone who’s building a PC for the first time or is upgrading from something even older. At worse, they can be good temporary solutions for anyone waiting for a good deal on an RTX 30 or RX 6000 card.

Should you buy an AMD graphics card?

This brings us to the final point. What graphics card you should buy isn’t just a straightforward matter of picking one card or one brand over the other.

You have your own unique needs and circumstances. These will dictate what graphics card is the best one for you to buy at the moment.

So with this in mind, take stock of what you need for your PC—who knows, buying an AMD graphics card may be the right choice for you.

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Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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