AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT review


The Radeon RX 6900 XT is AMD’s latest effort to loosen Nvidia’s stranglehold on high-end graphics cards. Attempting to follow on the stunning success of the Radeon RX 6800-series that battles with the GeForce RTX 3070 and 3080, the 6900XT aims even higher, setting its sights on the extravagant $1,500 GeForce RTX 3090 despite packing a price tag a full $500 less.

AMD largely manages to achieve its goals. The Radeon RX 6900 XT meets or outright beats the RTX 3090 in more games than not, and essentially draws even overall at 1440p resolution. This is one blistering-fast GPU, and it can get even faster when you pair it with a new Ryzen 5000 processor thanks to AMD’s Smart Access Memory technology. If you’re all-in on AMD and want the ultimate Team Red gaming experience, or simply want best-in-class frame rates in modern games while spending a whole lot less than you would with Nvidia, the Radeon RX 6900 XT could be a viable option.

Still, at $1,000 the Radeon RX 6900 XT isn’t cheap, and “better value” isn’t what many deep-pocketed gamers look for when they’re investing this much into a graphics card. AMD’s latest GPU also lacks the bespoke software support that makes the GeForce RTX 3090 so appealing for content-creating prosumers—the real audience for that card. AMD stressed to reviewers that this card was made for gamers. Through that lens, it’s a much better value for gamers than the RTX 3090 and easily the most competitive enthusiast-class GPU that AMD has fielded in years. Most people would be best off buying a Radeon RX 6800 XT or GeForce RTX 3080, though.  

Keep reading for more details. If you want a quicker take, check out our summary of the 5 things you need to know about the Radeon 6900 XT. Let’s dig in.

Radeon RX 6900 XT specs, features, and design

The Radeon RX 6900 XT packs the full-fat version of the “Navi 21” GPU that debuted in the Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT. This is the real “Big Navi,” with 80 compute units (versus the RX 6800 XT’s 72 CUs) and a bump up in the stream processor (AMD’s CUDA core equivalent), ray accelerator, and texture fill rate counts that coincide with that. We covered what’s new in AMD’s next-gen architecture in our RDNA 2 deep-dive.

AMD

AMD stuck to the same rated clock speeds as you get with the 6800 XT, meaning it has a 2,250MHz Boost lock and an average 2,015MHz Game clock. In practice, however, AMD’s automatic boosting algorithms go far beyond that in most games as it scales higher if the graphics card has power and thermal headroom to spare. The Radeon RX 6900 XT also packs the same 300-watt total board power rating as the 6800 XT despite packing eight more CUs, which AMD attributes to the pushing the best chips toward this part. The company provides extra current for the 6900 XT so it can respond to demands for brief bursts of power. To be safe, AMD recommends you pair this GPU with an 850W power supply, rather than the 750W units recommended for the 6800 XT.

infinity cache solution AMD

Secret sauce

The memory configuration remains the same, but that’s no issue since it’s so potent. All of these high-end Navi 21 GPUs get paired with an ample 16GB of GDDR6 memory—well below the RTX 3090’s whopping 24GB of GDDR6X, but more than enough for the gaming tasks this card targets (as well as 4K video editing workloads). That memory communicates with the GPU over a 256-bit bus. That bus width may seem paltry at first blush, but it’s offset by a surprisingly effective new 128MB “Infinity Cache” that can store a lot of a given scene’s frame data directly on die. The Infinity Cache lets the GPU tap the memory much less often, benefiting memory speeds and latency as well as power efficiency. Again, we covered Infinity Cache in-depth as part of our RDNA 2 deep-dive.

The Radeon RX 6000-series marks the debut of real-time ray tracing on AMD hardware, and RDNA 2 also powers the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles. AMD built a dedicated “ray accelerator” for improved ray tracing performance into each RDNA 2 compute unit. As the ultimate form of “Big Navi,” the Radeon RX 6900 XT has the most ray accelerators and the best ray tracing performance. The graphics card can play Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Metro Exodus well at 1440p resolution, as you’ll see in our benchmarks. Because AMD lacks a rival to Nvidia’s spectacular DLSS 2.0 feature, the Radeon RX 6900 XT can’t play ray-traced games at 4K with acceptable frame rates. That’s a major strike against a $1,000 graphics card designed for 4K gaming. AMD is working on a more open DLSS rival dubbed “Fidelity FX Super Resolution,” which it hopes will be used by PC and console developers alike. Public details are nonexistent, however, and the technology isn’t available for Radeon gamers yet.



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