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Nvidia isn’t just beating AMD in graphics, it’s still gaining ground. Here’s why

Despite AMD’s resurgence in the CPU market, Nvidia still holds all the cards when it comes to the discrete GPU market. That’s according to a report from Jon Peddie Research that also showed an overall 3.4% increase in GPU shipments year- over-year.

From the second quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2021, AMD lost about 3% market share while Nvidia gained 3% during the same time period. Nvidia also continues to retain the overwhelming share of the discrete GPU market with 83% compared to AMD’s 17%. As far as the entire GPU market, Intel technically has the overall GPU crown with a commanding 68% market share compared to Nvidia’s 16% and AMD’s 15%. This is simply due to most of Intel’s CPUs containing an integrated GPU.

The more interesting story, however, is the slight decline for AMD in the discrete GPU market. AMD’s Ryzen platform on the CPU side has catapulted it to within striking distance of Intel. The company’s smart architecture engineering and move to a 7nm process has allowed to it win the price-to-performance crown for a while now. However, that savvy engineering doesn’t seem to have translated to the GPU side quite yet.

DLSS vs. FidelityFX Super Resolution

CoD Warzone running with and without DLSS enabled.
Microsoft would need to match DLSS, which remains the best upscaling option for image quality. Nvidia

AMD introduced its FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) as an alternative to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) upscaling technique. FSR renders a game lower than the native resolution and does “edge reconstruction” to upscale the image. That’s followed by sharpening, tone mapping, and anti-aliasing. By contrast, Nvidia’s DLSS uses artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning running on dedicated Tensor cores on its RTX cards to reconstruct image at a higher fidelity. FSR is definitely competitive, but is still outclassed by DLSS in image quality.

Nvidia has been able to train the DLSS A.I. model for years now, which gives it a competitive advantage. By contrast, AMD’s FSR uses an older upscaling algorithm. Nvidia also wins the numbers game with its cards. Nvidia’s Turing line first released in September 2018 and already possessed the ability for hardware-based ray-tracing. DLSS supplemented ray tracing by allowing games to maintain playable frame rates while still keeping a high resolution. Combined with the release of Ampere cards in 2020, that’s given Nvidia four years and two generations to improve its technology.

Nvidia’s massive lead in market share affords tit he ability to convince developers to support its proprietary technologies such as DLSS. As a result, many more big AAA games support DLSS despite the growing support for FSR.

We don’t know how important factors like DLSS or even RTX ray tracing are for potential buyers, but as of now, Nvidia still has quite the lead.

Next-gen hope in a chip shortage

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the GPU market. Chip shortages combined with overwhelming demand and price hikes have made it nearly impossible for many people to get their hands on newer graphics cards. That’s led many would-be PC builders to spring for prebuilt desktops and gaming laptops instead.

Gaming laptops overwhelmingly contain Nvidia discrete GPUs ,with only a select few offering AMD discrete GPUs. There are a few standout low-cost options that use one of AMD’s Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) with integrated Vega graphics. On the desktop side, manufacturers and online vendors offer Nvidia GPUs on most SKUs. In that way, the difficulty in buying graphics cards plays more to Nvidia’s advantage in laptops.

While AMD has made big strides in the performance of its discrete GPUs compared to Nvidia, it’s biggest advantage remains the console market. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X boast Zen 2 CPUs with RDNA2 GPUs. While Nvidia has the numbers in the PC market, AMD’s monopoly on the next-generation console market means that it will be able convince developers to implement AMD -pecific technologies such as FSR on the consoles.

AMD’s success in the console market could lead to a sort of “halo effect” that influences the sale of its discrete cards. The Xbox Series X and PS5 have both shown remarkable performance gains considering their price points as compared to gaming PCs. Even then, Valve’s Steam Deck runs PC games on a similar APU as the consoles.

Shortages and scalpers aside, the competition between Nvidia, AMD, and now Intel can only result in great news for gamers. We’ll have to see if the release of Intel’s Arc Alchemist graphics card provide yet another choice for consumers, and if AMD can crawl back into contention.

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