AMD vs Nvidia: Whose Driver Updates Improve Performance More?

Metro: Last Light Redux (2014, DX11)

Technically, Metro: Last Light was introduced in 2013. But the Redux version we’re testing today came out a year later. Its built-in and highly configurable benchmarking tool makes Metro popular for generating repeatable data. Case in point: tests run two years apart on entirely different platforms fall within 1 FPS of each other thanks to a heavy dependence on graphics performance.

Based on our average frame rate results, the Radeon RX 480’s profile did change over time in Metro, improving 1% from 16.6.2 to 18.7.1.

Those 99th percentile numbers are far more interesting, though. Breaking frame rate down by percentile also shows that the slowest five percent of frames are quite different from one driver build to another. AMD’s newest package isn’t even the best. As we saw in the Battlefield games, last year’s 17.7.2 version offered the best performance. But 17.7.2 and 18.7.1 are both dramatic improvements over 16.6.2.

Need proof? Check out the frame times across our test sequence. All of those red spikes correspond to frames that take tens of milliseconds longer to display than the thicker trendline down below. The resulting animation appears less smooth. Fortunately, AMD addressed the issue through its drivers. The 17.7.2 line, in black, suffers the least amount of variance, while 18.7.1 isn’t quite as tight.

Flip right over to Nvidia’s frame time chart and observe the difference. Three thick trend lines convey fluid animation. A handful of spikes from the 385.28 build stand out, but only because the other two versions demonstrate ideal behavior.

Back to GeForce GTX 1060’s average frame rate, there's a mere 0.7% improvement from 368.95 to 398.36, and no real drama to speak of in the slowest 1% of frames.

Despite minimal improvement over time, Nvidia’s card still ends up 14% faster than the Radeon in Metro: Last Light Redux at 1920x1080 using the Very High preset.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: Desktop GPU Performance Hierarchy Table

MORE: All Graphics Content

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  • Peter Martin
    i still go for AMD to keep a competitor alive
  • Tmanishere
    If you compare the cost of Freesync monitor vs G-sync monitor, AMD usually edges over Nvidia in terms of performance vs cost.
  • bloodroses
    A comparison of cards a couple generations old would be a good article as well since these cards are still considered current. It's a pretty common myth that AMD has better support long term whereas Nvidia either drops decent (or even cripples) support on any hardware that isn't current gen. It would be interesting to see the validity in it.
  • jimmysmitty
    1781000 said:
    i still go for AMD to keep a competitor alive


    Only if the price is right. I can't even understand anyone who bought an AMD card when the crypto-currencies were inflating the price to insane levels.

    258339 said:
    If you compare the cost of Freesync monitor vs G-sync monitor, AMD usually edges over Nvidia in terms of performance vs cost.


    True but then the monitor isn't part of the GPU nor is affected by drivers. If thats an important metric for someone then yes it helps. However it doesn't help AMD perform better.

    1069610 said:
    A comparison of cards a couple generations old would be a good article as well since these cards are still considered current. It's a pretty common myth that AMD has better support long term whereas Nvidia either drops decent (or even cripples) support on any hardware that isn't current gen. It would be interesting to see the validity in it.


    I don't think there is any validity to it. Its probably came about when new GPUs get released newer drivers sometimes rarely have updates for older hardware. This isn't exclusive to nVidia. I ran ATI then AMD GPUs for 10 years and plenty of times new drivers would come out and performance gains would only apply to new GPUs and not my 1 or 2 gen old GPU.

    I do think nVidia has more driver releases than AMD. However driver updates and performance gains all depend. It depends on which games each company focuses on. That might be why some gains are better for each in some games.
  • Peter Martin
    oh yeah, I only buy on good deals.. lol, I don't understand anyone always having to have the latest either. I can wait a few yrs to play video games affordably.
  • Johnny Baker
    I will always favor AMD over Nividia any day. I am not impressed at all by what people claim to be facts. All I can tell you: I'm and AMD freak, always will be, and proud of it.
  • derekullo
    This article reminded me of a quote in another article from a decade ago.

    "AMD and Nvidia release numerous driver builds every year. If each of these drivers were to increase 3D speed by 10 percent, the graphics cards would double their performance in a few months. "

    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/GeForce-Catalyst-overclocking,2037.html

    They backtrack a little bit, but I still laugh when I see Nvidia/AMD report an increase of 10% on every little driver update.


    For a trip down memory lane and a display of how the chart making skills at Tom's has improved let me reintroduce;

    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/GeForce-Catalyst-overclocking,2037-14.html
  • Matt_550
    Should've opted just for the 580X vs 1060 comp since the 480X had to be nurfed because of the failure of its power delivery system that was upgraded for the 580X.
  • jimmysmitty
    212804 said:
    This article reminded me of a quote in another article from a decade ago. "AMD and Nvidia release numerous driver builds every year. If each of these drivers were to increase 3D speed by 10 percent, the graphics cards would double their performance in a few months. " https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/GeForce-Catalyst-overclocking,2037.html They backtrack a little bit, but I still laugh when I see Nvidia/AMD report an increase of 10% on every little driver update. For a trip down memory lane and a display of how the chart making skills at Tom's has improved let me reintroduce; https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/GeForce-Catalyst-overclocking,2037-14.html


    Those 10% though ar enot for the same game every time. If you read driver notes they typically state what performance gains you might see on what game and what hardware.

    There is very rarely a just generic across the board performance improvement for all games. Now if the companies could focus on say just the API and improve the performance on DX12 then that could apply to DX12 titles but it still does not work that way unfortunately.
  • codo
    not hard to tell which is the cheapo melt box dollar store card by looking at the two.
  • djquecke
    "If you compare the cost of Freesync monitor vs G-sync monitor, AMD usually edges over Nvidia in terms of performance vs cost."

    I saw the same thing. Why is this? Can the monitors really be that different?
  • androbourne
    2749813 said:
    "If you compare the cost of Freesync monitor vs G-sync monitor, AMD usually edges over Nvidia in terms of performance vs cost." I saw the same thing. Why is this? Can the monitors really be that different?


    They are very different. Gsync monitors requires an additional chip to be installed that specifically handles GSync feature. However, with Freesync monitors that chip isn't required.

    So manfucturing is cheaper hence monitor is cheaper.

    I have two AOC 144hts 1ms monitors. One for my AMD rig and one for my Intel rig. I spent an additional $100 for my Gsync version of the exact same monitor.
  • Martell1977
    I know that people often have different experiences, but my experience has been flawless with AMD and nothing but a headache with nVidia. Neither company has perfect drivers, but I've had multiple issues with nVidia drivers, from installation issues to overheating.

    At this point, I always wait at least a week before updating to the latest driver for AMD. For nVidia, I usually skip several updates and then wait at least 2 additional weeks before getting their latest.
  • Tmanishere
    2512889 said:
    They are very different. Gsync monitors requires an additional chip to be installed that specifically handles GSync feature. However, with Freesync monitors that chip isn't required. So manfucturing is cheaper hence monitor is cheaper. I have two AOC 144hts 1ms monitors. One for my AMD rig and one for my Intel rig. I spent an additional $100 for my Gsync version of the exact same monitor.


    And that's being pretty generous. I recently purchased 144Hz 27" VA Freesync monitor for close to $200. Similar monitor in G-sync would probably be around $600. They are way more pricey when it comes to mid-upper end monitors.
  • norune
    Personally I'd expect the 580 8 GB to be here as well since you can't buy the Rx 480 anymore and the 580 does not have the same issues as the 480.
    Should also include the tricky 1060 versions with 3gb and some with lowered speeds.
    My impression with Nvidia is not good, lots of tricks which often confuse the consumer and gets them to buy inferior products based on the performance of the more expensive ones.
  • cinergy
    What happened to RX580? Typical that Tom's compares old AMD card to latest from nvidia.
  • redgarl
    RX 480... the 480 is older than the 1060 GTX.

    Also, we all know that AMD has better DX12 support and some of those games are still DX11.

    You guys obviously need to go out and get some new benchmarks. We all know that GTAV run like garbage on PC and is a dinosaur of technology and software achievement.

    You have Tekken 7, Metal gear Solid V, Evil Within 2, Star Wars Battlefront, Shadow of War... Update your stupid library! Who gives a damn about... Battlefield 1... seriously...

    Your site have become a joke when it comes to gaming review/article.
  • TheScrubofNick
    AMD turned off a lot of people when they dropped support for APUs with Terascale GPUs. Many laptops were sold with those APUs and much better discrete video options (like the M290x) that found themselves without driver support entirely. Google the GX60/GX70 debacle. Suddenly, a two year old laptop has no drivers available.
  • Calculatron
    I was just wondering when someone might do an article like this, as the situation with drivers have changed a lot over the last couple years. (It wasn't that long ago that AMD look months to release driver updates; now they are releasing game-ready drivers.) It was just recently that I saw an article that AMD scored best for driver stability, as well.
  • GeoffCoope
    Of fthe top of my head I would also like to see:

    SLI vs CrossFire vs Multi-GPU (non SLi) support for rendering or real-time path tracing.

    OS support for drives, e.g. Linux, Mac, PC

    Long term hardware compatibility, yes this strays into CPU territory too but if somebody goes all out Intel vs AMD then there could be future cost savings. Or not pending initial outlay etc.

    Professional GPU comparisons.
  • cangelini
    423227 said:
    Personally I'd expect the 580 8 GB to be here as well since you can't buy the Rx 480 anymore and the 580 does not have the same issues as the 480. Should also include the tricky 1060 versions with 3gb and some with lowered speeds. My impression with Nvidia is not good, lots of tricks which often confuse the consumer and gets them to buy inferior products based on the performance of the more expensive ones.


    This idea for this piece was less about finding two cards that are still available and more about the opportunity to compare two similarly-performing boards released within weeks of each other that have each had two years of driver updates behind them. Selecting an RX 580 would have meant eliminating 10 months worth of updates from the AMD data.
  • jimmysmitty
    251426 said:
    RX 480... the 480 is older than the 1060 GTX. Also, we all know that AMD has better DX12 support and some of those games are still DX11. You guys obviously need to go out and get some new benchmarks. We all know that GTAV run like garbage on PC and is a dinosaur of technology and software achievement. You have Tekken 7, Metal gear Solid V, Evil Within 2, Star Wars Battlefront, Shadow of War... Update your stupid library! Who gives a damn about... Battlefield 1... seriously... Your site have become a joke when it comes to gaming review/article.


    Older? The RX 480 launched on June 29th 2016. The GTX 1060 6GB launched on July 19th 2016. 20 whole days of separation. If you even go by that as "older" then no Pascal is older than GCN 4 as Pascal officially launched in May of 2016 with the GTX 1080 and GCN 4 launched in June of 2016.

    I would say they are the same age. 20 days is nothing to even consider.

    And DX12 is all good and great but it also tends to perform worse in some titles and most games are still pushing DX11.

    And a lot of the games use the same engines. Do you think Star Wars Battlefront 2 (I assume 2 as 1 is older than Battlefield 1) uses a different engine? It doesn't. It uses Frostbite 3. Same game engine.

    There are a few reasons to use the games they use. For one, you may not like GTA V but it is still one of the heaviest played games out there. The game engine may be old but they know how to make it last. Same with some of these other games.

    Second, newer games don't always have the benefit of an older game performance wise. I think the whole idea of the article was to take games with much older drivers and to install the latest drivers to see what if any gains are made by maturing drivers for existing hardware.
  • ingtar33
    the AMD "fine wine" myth was based on one card. the HD7970. A beastly sucker, which got faster and faster every year it was out as AMD perfected their drivers for those Tahiti beasts. What fried people's minds was how it mysteriously started to compete with the GTX 780 and even aproached the 780ti in performance just a year after the release of them after nvidia launched the gtx900 series. This lead to complaints that nvidia was nerfing old card performance while others joked about AMD "Fine Wine" as a 4-5 yo card dating from 2011, was pacing nvidia cards which on paper were far superior to it (and at release certainly were).


    FYI: this card is still moderately competitive 7 years later producing performance roughly in between the gtx1050ti and gtx1060
  • nibir2011
    I also have a feeling that AMD worked better in my case. I bought a R7 260x from sapphire (cheap one) It worked perfectly and very smooth for the framerates it provided until one of its power MOSFET burnt. So last year I bought a gtx 1050 ti (also a cheap one) in the middle of that mining craze great framerates and all but a stuttering mess. Huge spikes and framedrops all over the place. I would have bought a ASUS AMD card if it was affordable. One thing I understood from this very very well is that low framerates are better if it is consistent. I read a lot of comments saying the similar issues in Nvidia cards. Hopefully they fix it. However I Will buy an ASUS or Gigabyte AMD card next time. Smoothness is very important to enjoy games.