AMD GPUs have this unknown advantage over Nvidia
AMD graphics cards have been getting a lot of the limelight lately, especially as the new RX 7900 XTX undercuts Nvidia’s RTX 4080 in performance. But as AMD has continued to improve its GPU performance, another major area of improvement has been bubbling under the surface – AMD Software.
There have been AMD Software, Radeon Software, Adrenalin and various other names in the past, but regardless of the name, AMD has continued to iterate and improve the software experience for its GPUs. And the version we have now is a big reason why AMD can go up against the best graphics cards.
Everything, everything in one place
The biggest advantage of AMD Software is that all your settings are in one place. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you actually want to take advantage of the many software features available for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
Nvidia has a much different approach. You can view your games and some quick account settings in the GeForce Experience app. However, your critical game and display settings are only available in the dreary Nvidia control panel. On top of that, Nvidia’s features like Freestyle filters and Ansel are available in GeForce Experience, but not in the desktop app. You can only find them in the overlay.
I’ve been using Nvidia GPUs exclusively for close to a decade, and I’ve never used features like FreeStyle and Ansel in daily use, simply because I didn’t bother to track down where to find them. I actively avoided GeForce Experience on my personal machine – the app would constantly kick me out and I’d have to log back in to do something as simple as check for a driver update. The situation is even more complicated now with Nvidia Broadcast. I had three Nvidia apps running on my PC at any given time.
You don’t have to bounce through multiple apps and overlays to find features with AMD’s software.
AMD Software has everything in one place, both in the desktop app and in the overlay. On the desktop I can tweak game settings and check for graphics drivers, and in a game I can adjust my image settings while playing instead of using custom color settings in a dated app and hoping they stick (I’m looking at you, Nvidia control panel). Or I can do everything on the desktop or everything in the game, and that flexibility is great.
Overall, AMD and Nvidia have very similar software features available. There are a few exceptions, like Nvidia’s AI-enhanced camera features available through Broadcast, but AMD and Nvidia let you easily optimize your game settings, record and stream games, capture highlights, and configure advanced graphics and display settings. The difference is that you don’t have to bounce through multiple apps and overlays to find these features with AMD’s software.
A smoother, more robust experience
AMD Software has a few features that make it even more useful than GeForce Experience. For geeks like me, something as small as the ability to reset the shader cache can make a world of difference. However, a big plus for AMD Software is the built-in GPU overclocking tool.
You don’t get an advanced overclocker, but most GPUs don’t require advanced overclocking in the first place. You can quickly increase your clock speed or memory speed with a slider, and AMD also includes a few one-click overclocking profiles. There’s even a built-in stress test to confirm your overclock is stable. Nvidia supports one-click overclocking as well, but only through MSI Afterburner. It’s among the best GPU overclocking software out there, but it’s one more tool you’ll need to add to your Nvidia stack to get all the features AMD has in a single app.
You have many options with this tool as well. The one-click settings are great, but you can also tweak your GPU manually, and even associate specific overclocking profiles with games. IN destiny 2, I noticed Overclock VRAM the profile helped smooth out my framerate a lot, so I only use it when I play that game. And every time I load a game, AMD Software shows a little overlay of what I’ve enabled so I don’t have to bounce back to the software to double check.
Beyond overclocking, AMD is expanding its software with more quality-of-life features. For example, there’s a smart built-in browser, so you can quickly look something up if you need to. There is a search bar so you can find a setting without going through menus. And once you’ve configured your settings to your liking, you can export them as a profile and import them later in case you switch machines or need to do a clean install.
You also do not need to log into AMD Software. GeForce Experience requires an Nvidia account, and you must sign in to use some of its features. I’m not a privacy fanatic where a login screen will drive me crazy, but it’s annoying to constantly log back into my Nvidia account just to use the features of a graphics card I’ve paid for (especially when Nvidia’s social sign- on process is inclined to fail).
Built-in overclocking, a web browser, the lack of a login screen, and various little extras like a search bar help AMD Software feel like a smoother and more robust tool compared to GeForce Experience. That’s even before we factor in features like the AMD Link streaming tool, which looks like a big plus now that Nvidia is ending its GameStream service.
Not without problems
However, AMD software is not perfect and it is important to point out the bugs. First, it is prone to error. On several occasions the settings menus would simply not appear or the software would hang on a tab for a while. Restarting the app always fixed the problem, but these errors still pop up from time to time.
Additionally, the recommendations for adjusting your game settings are missing. Nvidia includes a one-click optimization feature in GeForce Experience that automatically adjusts your settings based on your hardware. It’s not perfect, but it provides a good starting point for tweaking performance. AMD Software gives very general suggestions like “reduce image quality” and “reduce screen resolution”, which are far less useful.
My biggest problem is the overlay. Over and over the overlay would slow my entire screen down to around 15 frames per second (including my game) and slowly bring up my settings. The AMD software is robust, but the byproduct of doing so much is that it causes the machine to slow down to a crawl when you’re cramming so many features into a gaming overlay.
I have found it by using Alt + Tab is the best way to go if I need to tweak the settings (AMD Software is very friendly on that front). Otherwise, I’ve mainly used the keyboard shortcuts to do things like save a recording or take a screenshot. On the plus side, you can customize your hotkeys, and it would be interesting to have everything set up through something like an Elgato Stream Deck in the future.
An unsung hero
There’s a lot to talk about on the performance front between AMD and Nvidia, and ultimately that’s what matters most when choosing a GPU. However, AMD Software doesn’t always get the attention it should. It’s packed with features that unlock so much more for your graphics card beyond just gaming.
Nvidia also has these features, and in some cases Nvidia goes further. Admittedly, I’ve missed the smooth background blur and auto-framing provided by Nvidia Broadcast, as well as the ray tracing filter available through FreeStyle.
Still, I’ve enjoyed how much AMD Software has to offer and how much I’ve experimented with it. Instantly save GIFs from my games, adjust overclocking settings per title, adjust color settings to make my games look just right… the list goes on. AMD and Nvidia both have their pros and cons, but I’ve undoubtedly used AMD Software far more than I’ve ever used GeForce Experience.
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