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My current laptop has a fairly old Intel integrated GPU which was good enough for following simple tutorials.

I am now keen on getting to grips with advanced techniques and newer APIs, and so I am looking for a new discrete GPU.

I want to ignore the usual price/performance metric for GPUs, as I assume that's going to be irrelevant for a hobbyist programmer.

Is there a pragmatic reason to prefer AMD over Nvidia or vice versa?

A cursory search shows that some tools are exclusive to one vendor (e.g. Nvidia Nsight), but is one significantly better than the other or are the differences minor?

Will drivers make a difference here also? And finally will I run into a lot of example code specific to one vendor?

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If you want to learn OpenGL X.Y or DirectX A.B then shop for hardware that supports that specification.

If you're using other software (Blender, Maya, 3DSMax, etc) you'll want to make sure it's supported.

If your OS has a history of issues with a particular vendor, adjust accordingly.

Beyond that, it's not going to matter much, especially at the hobbyist level. Price / performance metrics are still relevant, it's just that the definition of performance is different.

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  • $\begingroup$ What about debugging tools? Do you have any experience with Nsight vs CodeXL? Which has the quickest/easiest edit -> run -> debug cycle? $\endgroup$ – usm Nov 14 '17 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Although CodeXL is currently being developed by AMD, you can debug NVidia cards with it as well. I think just OpenCL won't work on Nvidia cards. I can't say which is better though, and there are more tools (like RenderDoc) out there. $\endgroup$ – Tare Nov 14 '17 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Tare OpenCL support is included in the latest NVIDIA GPU drivers. $\endgroup$ – Pikalek Nov 14 '17 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Pikalek Okay, but is the debugging of OpenCL automatically supported in CodeXL? I haven't used it for a while, but I always got a warning about that. $\endgroup$ – Tare Nov 14 '17 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Tare Offhand, I don't know either. My general point is to focus on the big picture, not the small details. To me, casual hobbyist dev means low stakes, casual research. $\endgroup$ – Pikalek Nov 14 '17 at 15:17

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