Can you use an Nvidia Graphics Card with an AMD Processor?

Mehak Sohail | Last Updated On December 19th, 2021

Currently there are two GPU vendors in the game: Nvidia and AMD. Now, with both of these two manufacturers in the way, people tend to worry about compatibility. So, this begs the question: can you use an Nvidia graphics card with an AMD processor?

The short answer is: Yes, an Nvidia GPU will always work, regardless of an AMD processor, as long as you have the appropriate PCIe slot.

But there are several more details that will help you in the long run, especially if you want to be more hands-on, and be able to take full advantage of the components at your disposal.

I’ll explain more in-depth details in the upcoming section, which will include topics such as:

  • PCIe slots
  • How to utilize multiple GPUs
  • Bottlenecking, the actual reason you should be worried about.
  • AMD APUs, a momentary abatement.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

PCIe Slots

Close up PCI Express slots on motherboard

GPUs are the first thing that gamers think of when setting up their new CPU, without it you won’t be able to see anything or achieve decent enough framerates. Getting a high-performance GPU is necessary but, getting a compatible GPU is crucial. And the first lesson of “GPU compatibility 101”, is learning about the PCIe slot and what they look like.

Without the proper PCIe slot, you can’t fix your GPU to the motherboard. It’s just not feasible to have bluetooth GPUs because the data transfer rate is so slow and there could be a lot of interference while transferring over the airwaves. I’m just kidding, there’s no such thing as bluetooth GPUs.

For those of you that don’t know, PCI slots are used by the motherboard to attach a variety of hardware components, such as network cards, sound cards, SATA expansion cards, and the obvious: Graphic cards. (Along with many more, of course)

PCI ports differ by their version, where the newer versions can transfer data faster. There are also different sizes of PCI ports. For modern GPUs, you need the largest PCIe x16 slot. Depending on the GPU, you can even attach it to a PCI port with fewer lanes but these have reduced efficiency. So always make way for a PCIe x16.

How to utilize multiple GPUs

Macro shot of nvidia graphics card GPU

So now, you know what a PCI slot is, you might be wondering if you could add multiple GPUs to your system, because the current GTX 560 on your budget build won’t let you run Crysis at 4K 60 FPS. Well yes; you can have multiple GPUs, but actually no; it depends on the GPUs and your current setup.

If you’re hoping to build an extremely high-end gaming rig that could handle 4K and be able to run 144Hz at 1440p without any hassle, I’d wholeheartedly recommend a multiple GPU setup, it will get you through those rare intense moments where a single GPU could just not cut it.

Now before you start dusting off that GT 710 to pair up with your new RTX 3080, you should know that it’s A: stupid and B: it will never work. The GT 710 is what your great-grandfather used to play the “The Oregon Trail”, and RTX 3070 doesn’t even have SLI support.

Two different GPUs won’t work together because of something called the “SLI” support for Nvidia GPUs and “Crossfire” for AMD ones. These are the names given to the spec that defines if a certain line of similar GPUs can be coupled together in a multi-GPU configuration.

Multi GPUs used to be the rage back in the day and in the proper circumstances a second GPU can help increase performance by upto 50%, but recently, NVIDIA has started dropping their SLI support, as their newer entries have become more powerful and more capable of supplying the graphical demands of most modern video games, therefore, we can expect to see a dying trend in future multi-GPU builds.

Another downside that contributes to this situation is that a multiple GPU configuration is more power consuming. So users will have to buy a PSU with a higher capacity along with a case that can support water cooling for increased cooling efficiency.

If you still persist in choosing to go this route, the main components you need to look out for is the PSU, make sure you size up the PSU so that it can provide enough power for your dual RTX 3080s. (I’m kidding, the 3080s also lack SLI support. I’m hoping that you can see a pattern here)

Along with that make sure the motherboard has enough PCI slots and supports a Multi-GPU configuration. Since some motherboards only support Crossfire; and not SLI; take note of that as well. You don’t wanna get two NVIDIA GPUs and later realize that the current motherboard only supports Crossfire.

So, if you’re hoping to integrate a Multi-GPU setup I’d advise you take these facts into consideration. There are a lot of options out there and on rare occasions a dual GPU configuration could make more sense, so I’m not taking sides here, but in my humble opinion: I believe that sticking to a single GPU is the better choice, quality over quantity, good for the environment and all that.

Bottlenecking, the actual problem

So here in my garage, you’ve gathered some actual “knowledge” regarding GPUs and their compatibility. Let me drive this point home one more time: An Nvidia GPU will work perfectly fine on a PC that utilizes an AMD processor. There are no secret subroutines implemented in the GPU that would make it perform “slower” when it’s paired with its competitor’s CPU.

Now, with that out of the way, let us face the real enemy: bottlenecking. This is what you should expect to be an issue when you don’t pair the right CPU specs with those of a matching GPU.

Pairing the right CPU with the right GPU is one of the important “compatibility” aspects you want to keep an eye out for, especially beginners making the mistake of going too extreme with the GPU while getting a mediocre CPU.

In preparation for your build, I’d highly recommend taking the time to use online tools such as a bottleneck calculator to determine if your desired combination of GPU, CPU (along with RAM) are good enough for each other. These tools also provide alternatives if your current setup is considered to be highly bottlenecked. This is the best way to optimize your build and ensure that either one of these components won’t lag behind the other.

AMD APUs

If this whole bottleneck thing seems too big of a pill to swallow and something you might want to put on the backburner for now; getting a good CPU with integrated graphics is the remaining option. Most recently, AMD has kicked up a storm with their recent APUs that are decent enough for light-gaming sessions and these, might just be worth your money.

As you already know, there are two big boys in the GPU game: Nvidia and Intel. Nvidia had been the most well-known and reliable manufacturer, and they still are. However, AMD has been catching up.

AMD really rubbed it in Intel’s face when they introduced the new line of AMD APUs (APU is just a fancy term for ‘integrated graphics’). These integrated GPUs, called “Vega” (no it’s not the A.I in Doom Eternal) are more powerful than current Intel’s integrated GPUs.

To give you an example of how powerful Vega graphics are: the Ryzen 5 2400G utilizes Vega 11 as it’s APU, and this can run the Witcher 3 at 30 fps with low graphic settings, along with that our most renowned first-person shooter: CS:GO performs amazing, with 140+ FPS on low settings. This is something most entry level gamers could definitely take advantage of.

However, I still wouldn’t recommend getting these APUs because they are very expensive, (compared to their normal CPUs) and despite their impressive performance, they still cannot replace a good external GPU.

Conclusion

GPUs work in any PC regardless of the CPU’s vendor, what matters most is that the motherboard supports the GPU by providing the necessary PCIe x16 slots and that the CPU and GPU specs complement each other and doesn’t run into bottleneck territory. The alternative, especially for light gamers, is to get a Ryzen APU.

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