NOTE FOR PEER REVIEW: I will add graphs throughout the article, but you can also review the narrative.
In the course of the Q2 2021 survey we wanted to confirm what we had already seen in the ProtonDB data, namely that AMD was seriously taking over the gaming scene on Linux both in terms of CPUs and GPUs. So, what did we actually see this time around?
- Nvidia GPU configurations are still the majority
- AMD CPU + AMD GPU is a thing. There’s very few people who use Intel + AMD GPU
- Most owners of AMD CPUs go for AMD GPUs
There’s a good chunk of people across the board who want a new GPU. This is probably linked with the shortages experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic started, making it very difficult for more than a year to purchase new GPUs at decent prices. Almost 50% of respondents would be interested to change their existing GPU!
For those who are interested in a new GPU, we did ask the question as to which brand would be their favorite going forward:
- AMD GPU users are not even thinking about Nvidia (about 90% would stay with AMD)
- Nvidia GPU users are leaning very fast to AMD for their next GPU (60% of them)
If you would like to see the main reasons driving Nvidia users to AMD, or Nvidia users staying with Nvidia for their next GPU, the following graph will give you some perspective:
As you can see, gamers moving to AMD are driven by philosophical (i.e. FOSS) and practical reasons for the most part, while gamers staying on Nvidia stay for specific features and better performance.
To give additional perspective, we picked up some of the free text comments from Nvidia users intending to move to AMD below. Quotes have been slightly modified to correct spelling and grammar):
I am using Nvidia right now. It’s not open-source but it still works better then AMD’s drivers. But I would like to buy, and I’m going to because they open their source code. I’m just waiting for the perfect driver and new card (mine is brand new :))
Currently I have a RTX 2080, but I’m thinking about buying AMD, because of the open-source drivers, better Linux compatibility, and better performance in some games. Also from I what I know AMD drivers support Wayland.
I want to switch to Wayland. If Nvidia steps up their game, I might stay with Nvidia.
AMD’s drivers fix some of the bugs I have with Nvidia and KDE.
Open-source drivers, better performance, lower CPU overhead
Now for Nvidia users who plan to stick with Nvidia (while this is a minority), here are some of the comments we could find as well (quotes again have been slightly modified here for easier reading and clarification):
Although AMD cards might be paired in raw performance, at most price points Nvidia cards are way richer feature-wise (DLSS for example). I also work as a data scientist and sometimes work/test things in my machine so CUDA is really important for me for Deep learning applications.
- I have a G-Sync only monitor (no FreeSync) 2) I use Proton a lot and, if you check the issues on the tracker or ProtonDB, you’ll see that most issues with Proton are on AMD, with the relevant exception of CP2077 3) The best GPU for pure performance is still Nvidia
Long time ago I struggled with Radeon drivers, then tried Nvidia and it was well supported. Stayed with Nvidia since
DLSS, better RT, stronger computation
Nvidia has still the best performance cards. As much as I like AMD, ideologically they are not there yet.
Machine learning due to better CUDA support. Plus power at the cost of premium :)
Blender performance, optix, DLSS
Noise to performance. AMD of course wins in sticking to the having any open-source whatsoever category, but I need the quietest components, and want to sacrifice as little performance as possible.
NVIDIA is becoming more open-source friendly, and with CoolBits and X Server Settings I get good performace. I can keep my GPU from making other components warm/hot by having the GPU fan run at 15%. Also, I tried an AMD GPU and couldn’t get the NVIDIA driver removed, which caused my CPU to run under high load.
NVENC and CUDA.
While there were very few people who intend to move away from AMD to go to Nvidia, their reasons were typically as follows:
Gaming and Blender performance
Ray-tracing is great. Also, the price of 30XX cards are great when compared to the price of AMD cards
We can kind of split the arguments mostly in two categories:
- Reasons to switch to AMD: open-source drivers, Mesa, Wayland support, and potentially better performance
- Reasons to stay with Nvidia: CUDA, Ray-tracing, G-Sync, DLSS, excellent driver yet proprietary, NVenc and perceived performance
Even though I am using Nvidia myself, I don’t really have a strong opinion either way - both sides have good arguments, and if you mostly care about gaming AMD has become a very good choice. Nvidia still wins by having more features, and is essential for anyone working with Machine Learning these days because of CUDA support.
There were rumors of a big GPU vendor opening up their drivers. If this happens to be Nvidia, this would completely change the landscape of AMD vs. Nvidia since more AMD supporters point out to open-source drivers as being a key reason for their move.
If nothing changes anytime soon, we could expect AMD to continue gaining share among Linux gamers, both for CPU and GPU choices. Nvidia is, however, a very different beast than Intel; they are still at the frontline of innovation when it comes to GPUs and you should expect them to trade blows with AMD going forward, and not just on the Linux side of things.