Digital Foundry says Starfield is 'bizarrely worse experience' on Nvidia and Intel GPUs

The game reportedly runs better on AMD CPU and GPUs given the company's exclusive partnership with Bethesda.

A new test found that Starfield ran 46% better with AMD GPUs.
A new test found that Starfield ran 46% better with AMD GPUs.

It's been a week since Starfield came out and PC players have been noticing a major differences in the game's PC performance depending on what kind of rig they run, even if raw specs balance out. Bethesda's space RPG seems to run a tad bit better with AMD GPUs - unsurprising, considering Bethesda's partnership with the company.

The Verge shared new findings by Digital Foundry that reveals Starfield runs smoother on AMD GPUs compared to its Nvidia and Intel counterparts. According to the report, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is 46% faster when compared to the RTX 3080 on an Intel Core i9-12900K system when running Starfield.

This is a huge performance gap when comparing the two GPUs that have been positioned to compete with each other. The RX 6800 XT did overtake the RTX 3080 in benchmarks when it was released but only by a few percentage points in certain games. Having a 46% performance margin is far bigger than the norm in most head-to-head comparisons between both cards.

"If you're on Intel and Nvidia you're getting a bizarrely worse experience here in comparison to AMD GPUs in a way that's completely out of the norm," Digital Foundry's Alexander Battaglia said in a 32-minute detailed technical review of Starfield on PC.

Frame rates on Nvidia GPUs also suffer from occasional spiking.

Digital Foundry reports that the RTX 3080 had a lower average frame rate and frame times (the time it takes to render a frame) had regular spiking. "Frame times in this game are poorer on ultra settings on Nvidia GPUs, and it gets worse the slower the GPU is, " Battaglia shared.

Tests comparing the two GPUs also showed that "AMD GPUs are really destroying Nvidia ones in this game in a way that's not seen normally in rasterized titles, really far out of the norm." It is clear that AMD benefitted greatly from its partnership with Bethesda in Starfield.

Engineers from the GPU maker worked directly with Bethesda developers to optimize the game for their graphics cards. On the other hand, Nvidia and Intel may have had less access to the title given the game's exclusive partnership with a competitor.

Over on the CPU side of things, Digital Foundry also found that the same thing is happening with Intel CPUs. Testing showed that enabling hyperthreading on Intel chips resulted in worse performance than having it turned off. However, AMD's Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) does not have a negative impact on frame rates when turned on but did cause frame times to be spikier.

Intel CPUs also performed worse when compared to their AMD counterparts.

Digital Foundry concludes that Starfield "seems optimized for AMD systems, but not so much so for Intel and Nvidia ones," Battaglia said. "I would say Bethesda needs to do some work in optimizing better for those platforms, and Intel and Nvidia also need to put out some new drivers over time."

Bethesda's Todd Howard was recently asked about the optimization of Starfield for PC given the performance issues. "We did, it's running great," Howard responded. "It is a next-gen PC game, we really do push the technologies. So you may need to upgrade your PC for this game."

Howard's answer doesn't explain why a PC with AMD's gaming-oriented Ryzen 7800X3D CPU paired with an RTX 4090 is hitting just 60 FPS at 4K resolution with all settings maxed out. We think Starfield has replaced Crysis as the new benchmark game in terms of maxing out PCs.  

Starfield is out now on PC and Xbox Series X|S. 

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  1. The more news that comes out about this game with the PC version, the happier I am that I decided to get it on console. I dodged a bullet to say the least.

Darryl Lara

Darryl Lara // Articles: 1110

Darryl has been gaming since the early 90s, loves to read books and watch TV. He spends his free time outside of gaming and books by riding his motorcycle and taking photographs. You can find Darryl on Instagram. Check him out on Steam and Xbox too.
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