For all the hype building around HDR for gaming and video, you might expect to find the feature well-established in the PC space. Instead, the opposite has been true. There are only a handful of games that support HDR on PC, including some games that support it on consoles but fail to do so on PCs. On consoles, HDR has been essentially a free upgrade, with no performance impacts we’ve heard of. On PCs, however, it seems to be a different story. Here, there are perf hits — and they’re hitting Nvidia a lot harder than AMD.
First, a few caveats. This data is from ComputerBase.de and covers the bare handful of titles on PC where HDR is can be enabled. It also focuses on 4K rather than 1440p or 1080p. You can check the site for the full set of rankings, but the overall chart is shown below:
Both graphics cards lose a bit of headroom when moving to HDR, but the Radeon Vega 64 is in far better shape overall. In fact, the impact of gaming in HDR is significant enough on the whole to flip the performance metrics, with AMD outperforming Nvidia by a full 10 percent. Given that the gap between the two cards typically favors Nvidia, the jump is significant.
The gap is mostly in the 10-11 percent range, except for Destiny 2, which drops 23 percent with HDR enabled on an Nvidia card. AMD also takes a heavier hit in Destiny 2, with a 10 percent fall. Some games, like Far Cry 5, however, see almost no penalty. Mass Effect Andromeda similarly doesn’t penalize either vendor — AMD and Nvidia both perform identically in that title.
It’s not clear why these drops are occurring or what the cause is. Generally speaking, AMD and Nvidia move in the same directions, but with drastically reduced frequency on AMD’s part. In other words, if Nvidia loses 10 percent performance, AMD might lose 2-4 percent. If Nvidia drops 23 percent (as it does in Destiny 2), AMD also takes a 10 percent hit. If Nvidia sees no drop, AMD is also likely to see no drop.
Hopefully, this is an issue that can be quickly resolved with a driver update. HDR support in games is so new, we’re not surprised at the limited support for it. But hopefully this is an issue that can be quickly rectified, so some of the sexiest visual improvements around — improvements that are supposed to arrive without a performance hit — can actually do so. If it can’t be fixed, AMD just picked up a major performance boost in HDR games. We’ve sent an email to Nvidia and will update this story if we hear back from them.