Going from nVidia to ATI

By Darksaber11
Jan 11, 2010
  1. I've been a long-time devotee of nVidia for my graphics cards, but I've also been a long-time devotee of XFX as a GPU manufacturer, and over the past year or so they've started offering a lot more ATI cards than nVidia cards. Because of this I'm seriously considering making the switch myself.

    What I want to know is this: has anyone else out there gone through this change? What do you think if you have? Are there any particular problems or differences I should be expecting?

    I also have one specific question regarding drivers, because in the past it was always ATI's driver incompatibility issues that kept me away from their cards. Has this gotten better in the current ATI series?
  2. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,258

    If you are a keen follower of XFX products then you might have no option in future but to buy ATI, as the rumour mill has it that nVidia are dumping XFX. ATI fanboys would likely spin it as XFX initiating the split.
    Personally I have no allegiences to either manufacturer-I buy the best product I can find that will do the job within my budget. Neither nVIdia or ATI are part of my family tree (as far as I know), and I've never signed a blood-oath with one to forsake the other.
    There is very little to choose between either in my opinion-
    ATI is cheaper (and will likely remain so), has Eyefinity support (if you can afford it), has free video encoding software included within the driver bundle, natively supports 7.1 sound over HDMI and better performance at any given price point*
    nVidia has a better driver set at product launch in general terms, including better scaling of multi GPU setups (whereas ATI early adopters are the beta testers for Crossfire)-this is because nVidia pour R&D funds into development partnerships with game coders. nVidia has PhysX (if it matters to you) and 3-D vision (not relevant at this point in time)

    As you mention ATI cards can suffer prolonged driver problems.That is still the case.
    HD 5850 cards have ongoing problems with downclocking that three driver updates have yet to fix. Owners of the cards are being advised to manually edit their registry or force workable parameters in the ATI CCC.

    In gaming, nVidia enjoys a reasonable performance across most, if not all, games due to the free SDK and The Way it's Meant to Be Played programs. They invest sizeable funding to ensure a playable card at product launch and a playable game when it hits the shelves.
    ATI has not had that luxury. Financial constraints imposed by AMD (due to it's unprofitability and the funds needed to acquire ATI) mean that little funding finds it's way to game developers (or GPU R&D), so games can be released that don't work effectively with their cards (Resident Evil 5, Crysis, CoD WaW, Saboteur etc.). If AMD/ATI divert funding to game dev's then this is likely to change. The key word here is if.

    Comparing cards directly is a waste of time at present. Until the GF100/GTX360/GTX380 launches (March?) any comparison is not an apples-to-apples situation as ATI's present line-up in a generation removed from nV's.

    I personally would wait until the nVidia offerings are hittling the test benches. The moment the first reviews go up ATI will drop prices* (hence a better deal and more mature drivers in March) and start ramping faster clocked GPU/Vram refreshes into the spotlight.
    NVidia's cards may, or may not be competitively priced- but they will be more expensive.
    If you're looking at gaming exclusively then ATI is the way to go-at least till the 28nm process arrives.
    If you are likely to find nVidia's new GPGPU architecture attractive because of it's multimedia, transcoding, encoding, reduction in CPU overhead abilities, or you have an older system with a CPU you don't/can't overclock then it will probably come down to how mature the drivers are, hot much juice it sucks at the wall and how much you'll have to pay for it.

    AMD/ATI have as much admitted the nVidia's approach to the next leap in GPGPU is valid by investing heavily (albeit a little late) in the same technology. It just remains to be seen it nVidia's first generation are going to be viewed in a few years as 2010's answer to the 8800GTX or FX 5800.

    On a side note.
    XFX has enjoyed a sizeable following since it's inception, a long warranty that is transferrable to the next owner I think is only matched by BFG.
    Recent events have been a little worrying- and would probably make me think about puchasing their products. XFX has been attracting attention on it's XXX and Black Edition cards for blown capacitors and card failures in general.
    XFX used to stand along side EVGA and BFG as the enthusiasts choice in graphics cards. Unfortunately BFG (the performance brand of Galaxy) seems to be fading into the backround and XFX'x quality control gets worse by the day.Their X58 motherboard is not cheaply priced but offers little or no overclocking ability and a very basic feature set and is not likely to be followed up with another board.
    At least in the ATI camp their competition is more even as most cards at release are standard issue. XFX will enjoy an elevated position because of their previous stature as an nVidia only vendor and maker of enthusiast grade products-none of the ATI-only AIB's (Sapphire, HIS, PowerColor, VisionTek, Diamond) have the brand awareness that EVGA use to cast a shadow over their competition.
  3. Darksaber11

    Darksaber11 TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 25

    Thanks for the really detailed post! That's a lot to think about. I'm really glad you mentioned PhysX because that had slipped my mind recently, but I'm really excited for the potential of that technology.

    I remember reading somewhere a while ago (yeah, sorry I know that's really vague) that nVidia's CUDA language was open and could theoretically be adopted by ATI for the purposes of things like PhysX. Do you think there's any real chance of that?

    As to my interests, I'm a pretty avid gamer, but I also use my computer as my media station for DVDs, streaming TV, etc. and I do a lot of video transcoding.

    It will probably be a little while before my next upgrade, so I think I'll be taking a close look at the next generation of nVidia cards, and to ATI's reaction to them, before I make any decisions. Thanks.
  4. tweakboy

    tweakboy TS Guru Posts: 467

    Good Luck with the ATI/AMD buggy as heck drivers... your gonna have a nice card that BSOD's lol.
    ATI had crummy drivers with the old All in Wonder video card. Corruption on desktop issue what not on my dads ole rig from last century.

    ATI drivers suck
    I know I went thru ATI HELL with my x800 xt pe ,, u install a drivert suddenly your system is all messed up you cant uninstall just a disaster,,,,,,,

    nvidia on other hand is clean and simple. NO thick resource hogging app.. its simple and works everytime,, no matter its beta or not.. all games run on it without bugs etc....
  5. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,219   +157

    Wow! now there is the consummate contrast in post's.
    on one hand you have a well reasoned and thought out post right above you....and then we have yours which is akin to condemning the new Ford hydro-fusion car because you once had a problem with your 1973 Country Squire.
  6. slh28

    slh28 TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,706   +170

    I think ATI have had a bad reputation for crappy drivers in the past, but I think it's a little unfair to say you will get BSODs all the time, etc. I don't read the nvidia or ATI support forums and I'm not a fanboy of either - but just from personal experience, I've had a 4850 for about a year and I haven't had a single problem with it on Vista/7. Sure the performance in the latest games aren't great as they could be to start off with, but even with my 4850 I find most new games run pretty smoothly at 1080p anyway
  7. Ritwik7

    Ritwik7 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,672   +9

    @ dividebyzero - Fantastic post, I must say. Our little argument aside, I don't think anyone could have put it better. :)

    I myself made the switch from nVidia to ATI a few weeks back. I had an XFX 9800GT and bought myself a Powercolor HD 4890. A big fan of XFX, I realise that their cards (at least in my case) tend to run marginally hotter than others. I faced no issues in gaming with the HD 4890. Only in Mirror's Edge I had to disable PhysX at one point towards the end when my frames suddenly dived from 62 to 5! I seemed to experience poor frames with Assassin's Creed which I thought were due to the ATI drivers. However, it was solved after I switched to Windows 7.

    Both nVidia and ATI have their positives and negatives. Read up a little on the benchmarks available online and go get the GPU you think serves your purpose best.

    Good luck! :)
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