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AMD vs. NVIDIA - Are they even playing the same game?

By: Sean Kalinich | Editorials in Video Cards | Posted: Nov 27, 2009 12:34 pm

AMD vs. NVIDIA - Are they even playing the same game? - Continued




Where is AMD in all of this? - Well, again it goes back to the design of the GPU. Physics (especially PhysX) is bulky code. On an AMD GPU this bulky code is limited to the number of stream processors that can execute it. This would seriously slow any game down, making it difficult to implement on AMD GPUs. Not impossible, just difficult. OpenCL and AMD's work with developers like Bullet will help to bring a PhysX alternative to the market, but it will be hard to remove the established code base, especially when NVIDIA is willing (and able) to invest money and resources in helping game developers code their new titles.


However, the game is slowly changing; AMD just received a nice 1.4 Billion dollar shot in the arm that helped them pay off around half of their debt. This means they should be able to put more cash into development and partnerships like ATI did in the old days. Once they can get back in the community you may see more games optimized for AMD GPUs over NVIDIA's. The transition to smaller code blocks should not be too hard, but it will take time to get there. I would not expect to see physics on AMD GPUs for at least another year and by then we can be sure that NVIDIA will have an answer waiting to play out, too.


- A Final Thought


This article was not meant as a detailed explanation of NVIDIA and AMD architectures. I did not go in depth into the way each implements memory or other functions of the GPU (such as image quality). It was meant more so to show that although both are GPUs, there are large enough differences at their core to make it very simple to understand how a game can play well on one GPU and poorly on another, even without cheats.


As far as which direction is the best one, well, my personal opinion is that having multi-purpose cores are better than limiting the number and type of instructions you can use with the available shaders you have.


At the same time, I also feel that AMD/ATI has always had an upper hand in terms of overall image quality. I just feel that lately their execution on ideas and new directions has been abysmally poor and is something they need to work on. They have some great minds and there is no doubt that the new 5xxx series is an incredible product, but unless they are willing to work directly with the developers on a closer basis, they will continue to find themselves behind the power curve in many cases.


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