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NVIDIA GeForce GPUs appear to be performing up to 30% worse than AMD Radeon GPUs when bottlenecked by older CPUs

High-end NVIDIA Turing and Ampere GPUs are not friends with older CPUs, according to new findings. Apparently, the likes of the RTX 3070 and RTX 3090 struggle so much when bottlenecked by a CPU that they performance worse than AMD RDNA 1 cards, such as the Radeon RX 5700 XT.

Hardware Unboxed has made an intriguing discovery relating to CPU bottlenecking with AMD and NVIDIA GPUs. The YouTube channel stresses that its results only apply in CPU heavy games like Horizon Zero Dawn, Watch Dogs: Legion and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where CPU performance affects framerates more so than in other triple-A titles. We have included the list of CPUs and GPUs that Hardware Unboxed used below. It is worth stressing that it only conducted benchmarks using DX12, albeit many because of how time intensive it was to conduct all these benchmarks.


  • AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
  • AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
  • AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
  • Intel Core i3-10100


  • AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT
  • AMD Radeon RX 6800
  • AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti

Hardware Unboxed's findings make for interesting watching and it makes its points convincingly. In short, AMD GPUs like the RX 5700 XT achieve higher minimum and average FPS with low-end CPUs than NVIDIA's high-end GPUs do when CPU limited. Hardware Unboxed has observed an FPS gulf of between 20% and 30% in some games, which all but eliminates the performance differences between older RDNA 1 cards and NVIDIA's newer Ampere ones. However, Hardware Unboxed also demonstrated that Turing cards perform unexpectedly poorly when CPU bound.

Currently, there is no full-proof explanation for what is causing this disparity between AMD and NVIDIA cards. Hardware Unboxed speculates that NVIDIA's driver requires more CPU cycles to function than AMD's driver, which results in higher CPU utilisation. This is not a problem for newer CPUs like the Ryzen 5 5600X, but it seemingly holds less powerful ones like the Ryzen 5 1600X or the Core i3-10100.

We are awaiting a response from NVIDIA about the claims made by Hardware Unboxed in the video below. Ultimately, Hardware Unboxed's findings may only apply to those who are considering upgrading their GPU but still have a mid-range CPU that is a few generations old.


Hardware Unboxed, Forbes - Image credit

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 03 > NVIDIA GeForce GPUs appear to be performing up to 30% worse than AMD Radeon GPUs when bottlenecked by older CPUs
Alex Alderson, 2021-03-12 (Update: 2021-03-12)