AMD ReLive versus NVIDIA ShadowPlay Performance

We take AMD ReLive in the AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition and NVIDIA ShadowPlay as part of GeForce Experience and find out which one is more FPS and CPU-efficient for recording gameplay. We will compare features, specifications, and find out which better suits content creators for recording gameplay.


A month ago, on December 12th, 2017 AMD launched its new Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition driver package. This update brought forth many core technology improvements and feature additions. It also introduced a couple of new core features as well.

While this wasn’t a specific "performance" driver, this package focused on adding tons of new features to already existing core technologies, as well as introducing some new core technologies. One of the core technologies that received a lot of feature and functionality updates was AMD ReLive.

AMD ReLive was introduced for the first time in December of 2016 with the AMD Radeon Crimson ReLive Edition driver. This driver package (16.12.1) introduced ReLive for the first time. AMD ReLive is a built-in video capture encoding software for capturing live gameplay for editing or streaming live gameplay to popular streaming sites.

AMD Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition has improved upon AMD ReLive in big ways. We talked about those updates in our initial Introduction article. Today, we are going to test it with version 17.12.2. In fact, we aren’t stopping there, we are going to compare AMD ReLive to NVIDIA ShadowPlay and find out once and for all which is the most performance efficient, feature packed, and overall better to use for content creators.

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AMD ReLive versus NVIDIA ShadowPlay

Let’s discuss what specifically we are testing so this is clear. We are testing to address a few different topics related to AMD ReLive versus NVIDIA ShadowPlay. The first one is to compare the software features and specifications. On page 3 you will find a very long table we have created comparing features and specifications supported. This will allow you to view at a glance which one has what, and what formats are supported. We will discuss the differences on the fourth page, following the long table. It is very important to know what bitrates are supported at what resolution and framerate etc.

Second, and the largest part of our testing today, is to find out which software is more efficient when recording gameplay while gaming. To that end we are going to compare performance with and without ReLive and ShadowPlay enabled at different capture settings. We will capture the framerate and find out which one has less impact on the framerate while gaming. Naturally we don’t want to lose a whole bunch of FPS when we start recording gameplay. In addition, we will also compare CPU utilization with and without capturing. The program which uses the least amount of CPU utilization is again more efficient, and overall preferred for gaming. We will test a gamut of resolution and capture settings to stress the system. We will use an AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 for AMD ReLive and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 for NVIDIA ShadowPlay. These video cards are performance comparable.

Third, we will discuss our findings in the conclusion and also talk about usability and ease, and which one overall just works "better." This testing is mostly geared toward content creators who are recording long periods of gameplay while gaming to publish later. Streaming is a whole other ball of wax, there are too many variables to make a consistent comparison over and over, and would take a very long time to get just right. Therefore, we don’t have performance of live streaming, but we will talk about which one supports the best streaming features. The software that is more efficient at recording is similarly going to be better at streaming, so you can draw your own conclusions.

To this end we will be using a new game for this evaluation. We are using PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS via STEAM. With the large open-world nature and dynamic gameplay of this game it presented us with a challenge, but we simply had to use this game with the popularity of it today. There are many people doing "Let’s Plays" and streaming of it.

In order to achieve a consistent run-through, which is paramount for a review like this, we utilized the game’s "Replay" feature. We recorded a real gameplay session of us playing the game for 28 minutes. We are then able to utilize the replay feature to play back the entire playthrough in real-time which renders everything (graphics and physics) the same as we were playing the game. We verified first that the replay performance matched exactly the performance we experienced as we were playing the game, which it does, and of course this is a huge benefit that is not often seen in "canned benchmarks." We used the Erangel map. The game version for testing was 3.5.7.

Encoding Settings Tested

In order to get a big picture on performance, framerate and CPU, we tested at various resolutions and encoding settings. On the graphs you will find one video card tested with either ReLive or ShadowPlay OFF versus it ON at a certain encoding setting. In this way we can see what the performance drop is when simply using ReLive or ShadowPlay.

There are three resolutions tested, 1920x1080 (1080p), 2560x1440 (1440p) and 3840x2160 (4K). These are the most common resolutions used on YouTube and the like. Then we tested at each program’s highest possible quality settings for recorded gameplay, and at lower bitrate settings. The lower you set the bitrate, say 10Mbps, the more compression the software has to do only the fly while you are gaming, I.E. more workload.

With AMD ReLive we tested at H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 100Mbps 60FPS and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 10Mbps 30FPS. We also tested at H.265/MPEG-H HEVC 100Mbps 60FPS to see if that makes any differences.

With NVIDIA ShadowPlay at 1080p and 1440p we tested at H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 50Mbps 60FPS and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 10Mbps 30FPS. At 2160p we tested at H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 100Mbps 60FPS, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 50Mbps 60FPS and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC 30Mbps 30FPS.