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AMD vs Nvidia: Whose Driver Updates Improve Performance More?

Hitman (2016, DX12)

After our look at Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Foundation engine and Hitman’s Glacier engine, we’re up to six distinct renderers.

As with RotTR, we added Hitman to our benchmark suite as a DirectX 11-based test. But after two years of patches (and the addition of features like HDR), the game is plenty stable in DirectX 12 mode.

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Hitman was part of AMD’s Gaming Evolved initiative. The company worked with IO Interactive to build in support for Eyefinity multi-display configurations, widescreen resolutions, super-sampling anti-aliasing, and asynchronous compute. Perhaps that’s why the Radeon RX 480 started strong in 2016 and gained very little over the years—one quarter of a percentage point, by our calculations.

All three of the driver builds we tested track very closely in an accounting of frames per second by percentile.

A look at frame time over the benchmark run shows why the slowest 1% of frames are so slow: frame time spikes throughout our 100-second sequence imply severe stuttering issues. However, experience and qualitative observation tell us that many of those peaks are attributable to scene changes in Hitman’s integrated benchmark.

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The GeForce GTX 1060 6GB’s frame time results are similar to AMD’s, corroborating our hypothesis that those ugly spikes are inherent to the test sequence and not a two-year-old bug suffered by both GPU vendors.

Nvidia overcomes initially poor performance, speeding up more than 15% across two years of driver updates. That’s not enough to usurp the Radeon’s advantage, though. AMD maintains a 4% lead at 1920x1080 using Hitman’s highest detail settings under DirectX 12.

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Hitman (2016)
Hitman (2016)
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.