What's so great about Nvidia's graphics cards

Don't buy a high-end graphics card now - the reason

Birgit Götz, Brad Chacos

The next generation of graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia can be expected soon. So maybe you should wait a little longer before buying a new graphics card.

EnlargeThe Nvidia Geforce RTX 2080 Super is the last upgrade of the RTX-20x0 series

In this article I would like to explain why now is a bad time to buy a high-end graphics card. My rule of thumb is: Only upgrade components of a PC when they no longer function satisfactorily. Waiting for new hardware is rather pointless, because new, better and faster components are presented at breakneck speed.

Graphics card comparison 2020: The best gamer GPUs in the test - with ranking

However, if you are looking for a new high-end graphics card, you should consider putting off buying it for a few months. The time is not right to buy. Don't get me wrong: Current enthusiast-class GPUs like the Geforce RTX 2080 Super (the test can be found here) and 2080 Ti (the test can be found here) are just great. But although AMD and Nvidia have not yet announced any new consumer graphics cards, there is every reason to believe that we will see new high-end hardware from both manufacturers in the next few months. If you are satisfied with a graphics card for less than 500 euros, there is a high risk that you will regret this purchase in a few weeks.

AMD's RDNA 2 and "Big Navi"

Radeon graphics cards based on AMD's updated RDNA-2 architecture will be launched before the end of the year. "The market for graphics cards, especially in the high-end area, is very important to us," said CEO Lisa Su at a CES round table with selected journalists, including us. "So you should expect that we will have a high-end GPS, although I normally don't say anything about products that we haven't announced yet".

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In this video you will learn why now is not the right time to get a new graphics card. Finally, with Ampere and RDNA 2, new architectures from Nvidia and AMD are just around the corner - if you are thinking about updating your graphics card, you should watch this video. We tell you why you should wait a little longer ...

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The RDNA-2 architecture brings real-time ray tracing to AMD for the first time. It also offers a massive 50 percent improvement in performance per watt compared to the first generation Navi RDNA GPUs found in the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5500 XT series (the tests can be found here). AMD currently does not compete with the 4K-capable GPUs from Nvidia, especially the Radeon RX 5700 XT for around 350 euros. It's great for 1440p gaming, but it requires visual tradeoffs if you want to achieve higher resolutions.

AMD CFO Devinder Kumar touted Big Navi's potential at the Bank of America Securities Global Technology Conference in early June by saying, "Big Navi is a Halo product," and "Enthusiasts like to buy the best, and we work with confidence to offer them the best ". Kumar also confirmed that Big Navi will be the first RDNA-2 based product for AMD. Since the next generation consoles with AMD will be on the market this year and the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 are (probably) planned for November at the latest, this mysterious high-end Radeon graphics card has to come onto the market beforehand.

Nvidia's next-generation ampere GPUs

Meanwhile, Nvidia has presented its next-generation "Ampere" graphics architecture in the form of a data center. Although some details are still unclear, it looks like a hammer upgrade. AMD's current Navi GPUs are much more powerful and efficient than their predecessors, and in part that is due to the move to smaller 7nm manufacturing. Nvidia's Ampere processor does the same. The current Nvidia graphics cards with the "Turing" architecture were built on a 12 nm process, so that a generation leap in performance can be expected. Nvidia's transition from the 28 nm production of the Geforce GTX 900 series to the 16 nm production of the GTX 10 series resulted in enormous increases in performance.

By moving to a smaller process, Nvidia can add many more graphics cores than before, and more cores mean more performance. The Moore's Law is Dead channel on Youtube claims that Ampere-based Geforce consumer graphics processors will get a whopping 4x increase in ray tracing performance, citing confidential sources. Don't take rumors literally. It is not up to this channel to deliver GPU news. But it makes sense that Nvidia would use that extra space to try to keep the lead in ray tracing, now that high-end Radeon GPUs and next-gen consoles with AMD ray tracing are on the horizon.

I assume that a decent to substantial jump can also be expected in traditional rendering performance. Nvidia's 20-series Geforce RTX graphics cards from Nvidia got off to a sluggish start despite their innovations in ray tracing, and the lack of improvements in traditional games was a big reason for that. "Compared to an overclocked GTX 1080 Ti out of the box, you pay a significant price premium for the Geforce RTX 2080 today without increasing the conventional performance," says our report on the market launch. Nvidia doesn't usually make the same mistake twice.

Read coffee grounds and buy smartly

Again, neither AMD nor Nvidia have specifically announced new high-end graphics cards. But Phoronix recently discovered patches for an unknown "Sienna Cichlid" graphics card from AMD in the Linux source code, and industry service Digitimes says that "AMD and Nvidia will launch their next generation graphics cards in September". Digitimes wasn't exactly exactly on iPhone leaks, but has an ear on the market when it comes to PC suppliers. The timing is also right compared to previous Nvidia maneuvers. Typically, you will see new consumer versions of Geforce a few months after the announcement of a new GPU architecture in an expensive data center. The Geforce RTX 20 series will be two years old in September. It is ripe for an update.

Enthusiast-class graphics cards are a significant investment. You don't want to have a guilty conscience when you have spent between 400 and 1000 euros on a PC component. But a new generation of GPUs that appear to be much more powerful could hit the market anytime soon. If you spend your money now instead of waiting a few months, the joy of new hardware could be over quickly.

Of course, if you want to build a great new gaming PC from scratch, you'll have to buy a graphics card. But if you want to upgrade your gaming machine, wait if you can. Switching back the graphics settings from "Ultra" to "High" can often result in a significant increase in frame rates, as can lowering the resolution of the game. Overclocking can also help (CPU Unleashed: Overclocking Made Easy) if you don't mind using more power. If you have a solid internet connection, streaming your games from the cloud with Geforce Now is another option if the titles you choose are supported. There is a surprisingly robust free tier.

If you're looking for something less than the absolute best gear, this warning probably doesn't apply. Mainstream and low-end graphics cards with more modest versions of new GPUs typically don't appear until months after Nvidia and AMD showed themselves at their best with enthusiast-class options.

This post was first published by our American colleagues on pcworld.com