With Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor being a pretty recent release in terms of games, it has been touted as one of the most visually intensive games of late and surely has enough about it to cause serious issues to cards at high resolutions.  One kicker here however is the game itself is NVIDIA branded meaning that NVIDIA should surely have the edge?  Well, maybe not as this isn’t always the case, but it is something you would expect.

So what’s the big deal?  Well NVIDIA recently released their long awaited Maxwell GPU (GTX 9xx) series which offer impeccable performance with lower heat issues and smaller TDP aiming at being a more all rounded efficient counterpart; especially when compared to the 7xx/8xx series cards.  The AMD R9 290 has also made a name for itself as being one of the highest performing bang for buck cards on the market, coming in a cheaper price than the previous GTX 7xx/8xx series NVIDIA cards but being caught out by the release of the GTX 970.  Since then, there have been “price cuts” across the board for AMD while NVIDIA clears out their end of line Kepler stock to make way for a host of Maxwell SKUs.

Back to the topic, Shadow of Mordor; epic game to be honest with fantastic visuals, great gameplay and surely to keep you entertained.  The question is, how do a GTX 970, GTX 980 and an R9 290 cope with this game at 1440p; no it’s not 4K as I believe personally it isn’t viable enough yet.  Below are the cards on test including driver version used, clocks (including overclocks) and the test setup:

Test Setup

CPU – Intel Core i7 4770k @ 4.5GHz

Motherboard – Gigabyte Z97 SOC-Force

RAM – TeamGroup Vulcan Orange 8GB (2 x 4GB) 2400MHz CL10

Storage – Corsair Force LX 256GB SATA3 SSD

Cooling – Corsair Hydro H80i

Power Supply – BitFenix FURY 750G 750watt

Monitor – Iiyama Prolite XB2779QS-S 27″ AH-IPS 1440p

Operating System – Windows 7 Professional 64bit


Graphics Cards/Drivers on Test/Clock Speeds:

Gigabyte R9 290 Windforce x3 4GB (AMD) – Catalyst 14.9

Stock = 1040/1250MHz

OC = 1150/1500MHz

MSI GTX 970 GAMING 4G 4GB (NVIDIA) – GeForce 344.16 WHQL

Stock = 1253/1753MHz

OC = 1448/2003MHz

ZOTAC GTX 980 AMP! Extreme Edition 4GB (NVIDIA) – GeForce 344.16 WHQL

Stock = 1291/1800MHz

OC = 1350/1850MHz


Testing Method:

Shadows of Mordor has a built in benchmark which runs through a cut scene of gameplay and around a little village, with the final scene being focused on the main character.  Each pre-set was run 3 times and the average result was taken.  The 3 pre-sets ran were:

Medium – 1440p

High – 1440p

Ultra – 1440p

The results were as follows:



As you can see, the Gigabyte R9 290 Windforce x3 has the edge at 1440p in this particular title over the latest NVIDIA counterparts; even when overclocked.  Clock for clock, the AMD card performs much more efficiently and although this game is one for the NVIDIA (branding is inside the game), it certainly looks 1-0 to AMD this time round.  Although the difference might be marginal in terms of FPS, the R9 290 is £200 cheaper than the GTX 980 in some instances which gives (in this particular title) much favour to the AMD camp in not only performing ahead of its newer counterparts, but being able to refine the drivers to even compete with the new Maxwell cards.

Now I’m not saying return your GTX 970/980’s in favour of R9 290 cards as the difference is minimal, but it still shows that across 1440p, especially in Shadows of Mordor that the large 512bit bus seems to be giving AMD more grunt across the larger resolutions.  That being said, the only card to fall below the 60fps mark at ultra was the MSI GTX 970 GAMING whilst at stock; nothing to be ashamed of and roughly sits at the same price point as the R9 290 making it a direct competitor.

So to sum it up, AMD take the current Mordor kill today with the R9 290 and that isn’t just based on FPS.  It’s a combination of price, clock for clock performance and of course availability.  All 3 cards on test today are widely available and there seems to be no retaliation from AMD regarding Maxwell currently but based off todays results, maybe AMDs driver team are doing a good enough job of trying to bridge that gap back and in my opinion, they are doing a damned good job!

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is available to purchase at Steam (prices vary) and of course all the cards tested today can be purchased from Overclockers UK!  – http://www.overclockers.co.uk/index.php


Disclaimer: The results given were accurate at time of article posting and I can’t be held personally responsible for fan boy rage that may occur after reading this article; thank you!





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