How to: Compare Video Cards - Quick and Easy

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Tim S. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I am upgrading the hard drive and CPU on a computer for a friend of mine. His computer does not have a dedicated video card; as such, he is using the onboard graphics built onto the motherboard, which is very outdated and slow compared to today's standards. I would like to buy him a used video card, but am not sure which model to get, as the model numbers seem to be very confusing - whether it's an AMD video card or an Nvidia card. How can I compare video cards so I know which card is better than the other? "

My response:

This is a very good question, and you are correct, model numbers don't mean anything when comparing the raw performance of one card to another.

The best way to find the answer to this question - whether you are buying a brand new video card or a used one - is to compare the model numbers with raw scores via wikipedia.com. There is a wikipedia page for just about all Nvidia graphics card ever made, and one for AMD video cards as well.

How to Compare Video Cards (AMD or Nvidia)

Comparing video cards is easy to do. Here's how:

  1. Visit either the Nvidia or AMD GPU wikipedia page, depending on the brand(s) of the card you want to compare.
     
  2. Press CTRL + F on the keyboard to bring up the "find" feature in the web browser.
     
  3. Type in the model number of the video card you're searching for, and then press Enter.
     
  4. Once you find the video card model, the numbers you want to look at are the Fillrate (MPixels/s and MTextels/s, also known as Pixels GP/s and Textures GT/s), followed by: Bandwidth (GB/s), Memory Clock, and Processing Power (GFlops). In order of importance, the Fillrate (Pixels and Texture) are the two most important numbers when comparing to another card. Note that some of these columns may not be available, depending on which video card you are looking at.
     
  5. The way to compare video cards based on these numbers is: the bigger the number, the better.
     
  6. Whichever video card has the bigger numbers wins.

Example - How to Compare NVidia to an AMD Video Card

Let's look at an example; refer to both the Nvidia and AMD wikipedia pages.

  • The Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 was released in August, 2015 and has a memory fillrate of 1652.5, a pixel fillrate of 32.7, and a texture fillrate of 49.2. Its processing power (single precision) ranks 1573.
     
  • In comparison, the AMD Radeon R9 390X video card was released June, 2015 and has a pixel fillrate of 67.2, a texture fillrate of 184.8, and the 'memory fillrate' column is missing, so we can't compare that number with the Nvidia card. Its processing power (single precision) score ranks 5913.6.

Clearly, the AMD Radeon R9 390X video card blows away the Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 based on the numbers we've looked at.

That is how you compare video cards, apples to apples. Note that you don't have to compare Nvidia to AMD; you can compare an AMD video card to another AMD video card if you wanted; the same holds true for the Nvidia cards. As I mentioned earlier, some column headings may be missing when you are comparing numbers, as the information was gathered about specific cards over a number of years and may not apply to other cards. The most important columns to look at are the texture and pixel fillrates.

If you want to make any noticeable difference when comparing your existing video card to another, a good rule of thumb is that you will want to double the texture and pixel fillrate specifications to see any difference. If your funding allows, then you can even triple or quadruple the specifications.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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Comments

dan_2160's picture

I've used both Nvidia and AMD video cards and have to say that the software for AMD is so much easier to use than Nvidia's -- especially the new AMD "Crimson" software and drivers. Of course, "Crimson" works only with newer AMD graphics cards. But even before Crimson, I found the Catalyst Control Center to be easier to use than Nvidia's video software. Now I realize that this is likely simply a personal preference and it varies for each user, but when comparing cards with chips from the two manufacturers, it might be prudent to become familiar with their software too. I am sure that there are plenty of Infopackets readers who love the Nvidia software and drivers and just hate the AMD. (Please note that several years ago the AMD drivers and software were kind of kinky. But those days are long gone.)

MONSTERTEK's picture

Really the above guidelines are not that appropriate for choosing a new video card. The first thing you need to establish is your target price. Find a few new and less new cards that fall in your price range, check compatibility, and then hit the gamer forums. Gamers will give you the best critique of any video card, just keep in mind that their scale of video card prices will undoubtedly be waaaaay higher than the average user. The raw specs of a video card aren't the best criteria, there are many other factors (drivers, reliability, heat, power consumption, etc).

kitekrazy's picture

AMD makes some power hungry cards.