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AMD vs Nvidia: Whose Driver Updates Improve Performance More?

Battlefield 1 (2016, DX12)

Battlefield 1’s October 2016 introduction takes us to the point where we’re testing games that weren’t around when GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and Radeon RX 480 launched. The game reminds us of this by detecting Nvidia’s 368.95 driver and asking for an update to 384.94 or newer. Strangely, AMD’s similarly-old 16.6.2 build didn’t trigger the same error.

Regardless, this third Battlefield entry in today’s experiment is still based on the mature Frostbite game engine, so it’s no surprise to see both GPU vendors serving up smooth performance across two years of driver updates.

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Although it’s disappointing to see the Radeon RX 480’s average frame rate decline year after year, there’s a positive story hiding deep within the data.

First, tab over to frame time chart. The two oldest driver versions—16.6.2 and 17.7.2—demonstrate big frame time spikes at similar points through our test sequence. AMD cards are especially notorious for stuttering when we start recording performance. This behavior largely ceases in 18.7.1. In fact, a lot of the frame time spikes shared between prior drivers disappear entirely with the latest one. The outcome is clear in our FPS by percentile breakdown: Adrenalin Edition 18.7.1 yields a smoother experience in the slowest 1% of frames, despite registering a lower average frame rate.

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Again, Battlefield 1 wouldn’t start with 368.95 installed, so we only have two data points to share. Performance definitely improves from 385.28 to 398.36, though. As with the Radeon, a lot of frame time spikes that plagued GeForce GTX 1060 6GB one year ago disappear using Nvidia’s newest driver. Consequently, the slowest 1% of frames in our test sequence are much smoother than they were previously.

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