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AMD vs Nvidia: Whose Driver Updates Improve Performance More?

Battlefield 3 (2011, DX11)

Introduced five years before either AMD’s Radeon RX 480 or Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, Battlefield 3 was an afterthought by the time we wrote our reviews of both cards in 2016. Back then, even Battlefield 4 was hardly relevant. As such, we don’t expect either AMD or Nvidia put much effort into optimizing for this game, and it’s even less likely that the company revisited it since.

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AMD’s Radeon 16.6.2 driver handled Battlefield 3 well right out of the gate, serving up low frame time variance and high frame rates at 1920x1080 using the Ultra graphics preset.

Interestingly, the Crimson ReLive Edition 17.7.2 driver package, published a year later, tightened frame time variance overall, but introduced some spikes that hurt the last percentile of our measurements.

Fast-forward another year and Adrenalin Edition 18.7.1 smoothed everything back out again, nudging average performance up just a bit. That’s a 1.8% improvement over two years in a game that everyone forgot about.

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Microsoft’s DirectX 11 API afforded Nvidia plenty of opportunity to optimize its drivers for better performance, and it was no surprise when GeForce cards turned in higher frame rates than comparable Radeons in DX11-based games.

In Battlefield 3, the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB started faster than Radeon RX 480 and sped up an additional 2.7% over the next two years (even though we suspect Nvidia didn’t spend much time, if any, tuning for this title specifically).

Today, Nvidia’s card is about 12% faster than AMD’s in Battlefield 3 at 1920x1080 using Ultra settings. Of course, that only matters if you want to play the campaign: EA’s multiplayer servers are now offline. Still, a trip back to 2011 gives us a historical baseline to compare newer games against.

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Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3
Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.