AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT Evaluation

The Radeon RX 6800 XT is AMD's new high-end gaming graphics card for the GeForce RTX 3080. We have had the card in our labs for a while and today we can finally show you how the new GPU works. Essentially, AMD got a performance of 3080 on the 6800 XT at a $ 50 discount and, at 16GB, offers significantly more VRAM than the GeForce's 10GB.

The 6800 XT is based on the new RDNA2 architecture using the 7 nm process from TSMC. The GPU contains 4608 cores, 288 TMUs and 128 ROPs on 72 CUs. The cores clock with up to 2250 MHz and with 16 GB GDDR6 memory with 16 Gbit / s on a 256 bit wide memory bus have a memory bandwidth of 512 GB / s for gaming. It has a nominal output of 300 watt TBP and of course supports PCI Express 4.0.

There are also some new features like ray tracing support, 128MB AMD Infinity Cache, and Shared Access Memory. But we've covered all of this on paper so we don't repeat ourselves with the details.

GeForce
RTX 3080
Radeon RX
6900 XT
Radeon RX
6800 XT
Radeon RX
6800
Price (RRP) $ 700 1000 dollars $ 650 $ 580
Release date September 2020 December 2020 November 2020
process Samsung 8N TSMC N7
Transistors (billions) 28.3 26.8
Die size (mm2) 628.4 519
Core configuration 8704/272/96 5120/320/128 4608/288/128 3840/240/96
Core clock frequency 1440/1710 MHz 2015/2250 MHz 2015/2250 MHz 1815/2105 MHz
Storage capacity 10 GB 16 GIGABYTE
Storage speed 19 Gbit / s 16 Gbit / s
Storage type GDDR6X GDDR6
Bus type / bandwidth 320 bit / 760 GB / s 256 bit / 512 GB / s
TGP 320 watts 300 watts 250 watts

AMD is showing off a new Radeon reference card design that looks significantly better than anything we've seen from the company before. So let's go to our test notes and then jump into the blue bar charts.

We're using our Ryzen 9 3950X test system, which we plan to update to the 5950X soon. It will take a few weeks to update all of our benchmark data, but we plan to work on it as soon as possible. Even so, the 3950X has little impact on the 1440p performance and doesn't limit the 4K results at all, so switching to the 5950X would change very little for the most part.

Benchmarks

A brand new game to try out to get us started. Godfall with 1440p shows a very strong performance of the Radeon RX 6800 XT, which exceeds the RTX 3080 by 14% and is directly behind the RTX 3090.

Compared to the 5700 XT, we see a 92% increase in the frame rate from 52 fps to 100 fps, which is an immense leap. Of course, the 6800 XT is a more expensive GPU, but the 5700 XT was seen as AMD's flagship previous-generation gaming GPU.

If you jump to 4K, the 6800 XT loses a bit of ground versus the 3090, although it managed to keep up with the RTX 3080. In this visually stunning title, we also see a performance of 60 fps at 4K.

While Godfall is an AMD sponsored title, Watch Dogs Legion is the opposite and is sponsored by Nvidia. Nevertheless, the Radeon RX 6800 XT impresses with 1440p and corresponds to the RTX 3080 with an average of 85 fps at the highest visual quality settings the game offers.

At 4K, the performance drops a bit, or rather, the 3080 scales better at higher resolutions. For example, the 6800 XT scales as expected and is the same as the 2080 Ti, to name just one example. The end result is an 11% loss over the 3080 at 4K, placing the 6800 XT between the 3080 and 3070.

The Radeon RX 6800 XT does exceptionally well in Assassin's Creed Valhalla and even beats the RTX 3090 by 14% with 1440p. It is possible that Nvidia can improve performance in this title with future driver updates, but AMD currently enjoys a serious performance advantage.

The amp GPUs can catch up at 4K, and now the 6800 XT sits between the RTX 3080 and 3090, which is still an impressive result, just less than at 1440p.

Dirt 5 is another new AMD sponsored title and this is where the Radeon GPUs clean up. The 6800 XT was 18% faster than the 3090 and 30% faster than the 3080. That's an amazing difference, and we expect Nvidia to be able to make up some of the difference with driver tweaks at some point. It remains to be seen how long this will take, considering that it took them a while to fix the lower than expected performance in Forza Horizon 4.

At 4K, the ampere GPUs shift into gear and manage to gain ground on the 6800 XT. The RDNA2 GPU was still 5% faster than the 3090 and 16% faster than the 3080.

Next up we have Death Stranding and we are again seeing impressive results from the 6800 XT at 1440p. Here it can keep up with the 3090 and push it ahead of the 3080. Even at 4K, the performance is very good, and although the 6800 XT falls behind the RTX 3080, we see a 5% deficit and over 100 fps on average. We doubt anyone will complain with this performance at 4K.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020's results at 1440p are good, with a performance improvement of nearly 60% over the 5700 XT averaging 51 fps, putting it on par with the RTX 3080.

However, the performance drops significantly at 4K, and now the 6800 XT is 18% slower than the 3080. Compared to the 5700 XT, it is 74% faster.

On Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the 6800 XT followed the RTX 3080 by a few frames at 1440p, although it's basically the same level of performance where you won't notice the difference between 151 and 154 fps.

Even if we see that the 6800 XT falls short at 4K, this time it is 8% behind the RTX 3080.

The frame rates in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege are very competitive. The 6800 XT offered RTX 3080-like performance and rose 3% at 1440p to get an average of 337 fps.

The 6800 XT stayed strong even at 4K. It was able to render an average of 168 fps, which makes it only 3% slower than the RTX 3080 and delivers roughly the same level of performance.

In F1 2020, the 6800 XT delivers RTX 3080-like performance and was 55% faster than the 5700 XT with 1440p at an average of 197 fps.

By increasing the resolution to 4K, the 6800 XT was able to outperform the older 5700 XT by a whopping 72%, despite being a bit slower than the RTX 3080, but still a great result overall, and we'd argue that 120+ fps at 4K in F1 2020 is enough.

Moving on to the Gears 5 tests, we again see strong 1440p performance from the 6800 XT as it can even get the RTX 3090 out of the way. We seem to be running into a CPU bottleneck here with the Ryzen 9 3950X.Finally, we will test again with a 5950X.

At 4K, the ampere GPUs with higher core count come to life, causing the 6800 XT to slip. The end result is a 12% performance deficit in favor of the RTX 3080.

Horizon Zero Dawn runs well on the 6800 XT at 1440p and delivers performance on par with the RTX 3080, which seems fine now, but only two months ago that performance blew us away.

We see that the 6800 XT lags the RTX 3080 by 10% at 4K, making it less impressive at this resolution when compared to the GeForce competition. We are talking about an improvement of almost 80% compared to the 5700 XT.

The results of Assassin's Creed Odyssey differ significantly from those of Valhalla. At 1440p, the 6800 XT in Odyssey renders fewer frames per second, while the Ampere GPUs render more. As a result, the 6800 XT was 5% slower than the RTX 3080 at 1440p and only 29% faster than the 5700 XT.

Then we see the 6800 XT, quite unexpectedly, overtake the 3080 at 4K, so the scaling is at odds with anything we've seen before. The 6800 XT is slightly faster than the 3080 and 71% faster than the 5700 XT.

During World War II, the 6800 XT is between the RTX 3090 and the 3080 at 1440p and beats it by 9% with an average of 207 fps.

And here's another example at 4K where the 6800 XT can pull ahead of the 3080. This time it beats it by 14% and is just behind the RTX 3090.

With these high-end GPUs, we're running into a slight CPU bottleneck at Metro Exodus at 1440p and although we plan to upgrade to the 5950X as soon as possible, testing will take a long time.

The 4K data isn't CPU limited in any way and there the 6800 XT falls 15% behind the RTX 3080, which is a significant difference, although 105 fps is still pretty good on average at 4K.

Tests with Resident Evil 3 show that the 6800 XT lags the RTX 3080 by 3% at 1440p, which corresponds to a comparable level of performance. This is an incredible 92% increase in performance over the 5700 XT and a 27% increase over Nvidia's flagship previous generation.

At 4K, the 6800 XT is 6% slower than the RTX 3080. Not a huge margin, but this is further proof that the RTX 3080 is more suited to 4K gaming.

In Doom Eternal, the 6800 XT pumps out over 300 fps at 1440p for RTX 3080-like performance. This means that it was 72% faster than the 5700 XT and Radeon VII GPUs.

This massive 16GB VRAM buffer comes in handy at 4K with the ultra nightmare texture quality as the 6800 XT was able to outperform the 5700 XT by 127%. Performance compared to the high-end amp GPUs was also good, with the 6800 XT lagging only 30% behind the 3080.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood at 1440p sees 241 fps from the 6800 XT, making it 4% slower than the RTX 3080. This is another title where we see a performance increase of over 90% over the 5700 XT.

The Radeon RX 6800 XT is just as impressive at 4K, though it has lost ground to the RTX 3080, which, as we've seen time and time again, is usually brought to life at this higher resolution as it can load its cores. The 6800 XT was 9% slower in Youngblood with an average of 137 fps.

The last game we tested was Hitman 2, and like Metro Exodus, we encountered a CPU bottleneck at 1440p on the 3950X. The 4K data is not limited by the CPU and the 6800 XT was 8% slower than the RTX 3080.

Average gaming performance

Here's a look at gaming performance in the 18 games we tested. Even though we skipped over 1080p data, we collected it. Here's a look at the average 1080p data. As you can see at this lower resolution, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is well positioned. It just displaced the RTX 3090 to beat the 3080 by 6%. Overall, pretty similar performance for all three GPUs.

Compared to the RTX 2080 Ti, the 6800 XT was 23% faster and that's an interesting margin as we increase the resolution.

At 1440p, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is just 3% ahead of the RTX 3080. In other words, the performance is roughly equivalent to the performance within a 5% margin, which we consider undecided. Compared to the 5700 XT, we expect an average increase in performance of 67%, which is good but not surprising given that the new Radeon costs a little more than 60% more.

At 4K, the RTX 3080 is a little better. Overall, the 6800 XT was only 5% slower and the margin on the 5700 XT opens up quite a bit. Here the new RDNA2 GPU was 86% faster and that is obviously a significant increase in performance, even when you consider the price increase.

Cost per frame

Speaking of price increases: Here's a look at the cost per frame. The 1080p data is used first. Compared to the RTX 3080, the 6800 XT costs 12% less per frame while offering an 8% markup over the RTX 3070, although this cost analysis does not take into account that the Radeon GPU contains twice as much VRAM. We're seeing a similar price premium compared to the 5700 XT, but again twice as much VRAM and a higher performance level.

The cost per frame for the 6800 XT compared to parts like the 5700 XT improves at 1440p for two reasons. It's a double blow, as the higher resolution means we're seeing fewer CPU-limited scenarios with a higher chance of loading all of those cores on high-end GPUs.

As a result, the 6800 XT is one of the most affordable GPUs on the market alongside the RTX 3070. It costs 9% less per frame than the RTX 3080 and is a significant improvement over previous generation products with similar prices such as the RTX 3080 Super.

At 4K, we see a similar performance and value in the Radeon RX 6800 XT and the GeForce RTX 3080 as in the neck and neck. You wouldn't necessarily choose one over the other based on performance or price.

Ray tracing performance comparison

Features that you could affect one way or another include things like ray tracing, although supporting ray tracing is very close to my heart at the moment as there are almost no games that are worth turning on. In this case, we didn't spend a lot of time testing ray tracing performance for this review, and we'll explore this in future content.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was one of the first RTX titles to receive ray tracing support. It's no surprise to learn that RTX graphics cards perform much better, although the RTX 3080's ~ 40% performance drop at 1440p is totally unacceptable for slightly better shadows. The 6800 XT fairs are even worse and have lost nearly 50% of their original performance.

Another game with rather pointless ray-traced shadow effects is Dirt 5, although we only see a 20% performance drop here and say "only" when we compare it to the performance drop in other titles.

The performance drop is similar for the three tested GPUs, the 6800 XT is just starting much further ahead. Right now we're not sure what to make of the 6800 XT's ray tracing performance, and we expect we'll end up being as under-challenged as we were with the GeForce experience.

Testing the performance improvement of Smart Access Memory

A new function that we find far more exciting than ray tracing, at least in the short term, is Smart Access Memory or SAM. AMD uses a PCI Express function here called the base address register, which defines how much VRAM should be allocated to your graphics card.

Typically, systems are limited to 256MB of dedicated VRAM. With RDNA2 and Ryzen 5000 processors, AMDs have activated this function and granted the CPU full access to the VRAM buffer of the graphics card.

We should note that this feature does not improve performance in all games and that the margins vary from title to tile. Nvidia has also announced that SAM will soon be enabled with a driver update and that it will work on both AMD and Intel platforms in its labs.

First, let's look at the performance with the Ryzen 9 5950X.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla shows pretty incredible results with SAM enabled. At 1080p, we expect a 17% increase in performance. That's a remarkable increase and means that the 6800 XT is now 53% faster than the RTX 3080 at this resolution. At 1440p we are still seeing a good increase, the frame rate is improved by 14% and that means the 6800 XT Was 40% faster than the RTX 3080. 40% faster at 1440p, that's insane.

We also expect a 15% performance improvement at 4K. Previously, the 6800 XT was roughly the same as the RTX 3080, but now it's 13% faster with SAM enabled.

The effects of SAM are far less significant in Rainbow Six Siege. With activated 1080p performance, we get an additional performance of 5%. The margin has been reduced to 4% at 1440p, and then we only see a 2% increase at 4K.

The winnings in Shadow of the Tomb Raider are similar to those in Rainbow Six Siege. At 1080p, we see a 6% increase, although that was enough to pull the 6800 XT ahead of the RTX 3080. Then we see a 6% increase at 1440p and only 3% at 4K.

power consumption

The RTX 3080 from Nvidia offers a total output of 320 watts, while the 6800 XT is a bit more conservative with 300 watts. When comparing the AMD reference model with the Nvidia Founders Edition, we see a reduction in overall system usage of 40 watts in favor of AMD. The 6800 XT remains a power hungry GPU, but appears to be more energy efficient than previous AMD GPUs.

With the PCAT from Nvidia, the 6800 XT consumes around 9% less power than the RTX 3080, which results in a similar performance per watt, depending on the resolution. It's also interesting that while the 6800 XT used 19% more power than the 5700 XT, it was often well over 50% faster, which is an impressive improvement in terms of energy efficiency.

Here we see that the 6800 XT is just over 50% more efficient than the 5700 XT in terms of performance per watt and a slight improvement over the RTX 3080. As we found with ampere GPUs, performance is despite their high performance High performance hunger is strong enough that they look very good in terms of performance per watt.

Another area where AMD has made massive improvements is in reference design. We've basically asked them to sort this out … for about a decade.

Unlike previous Dustbuster designs, the Radeon RX 6800 XT reference card runs cool and quiet. After an hour in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 4K, the card hit a high of only 75 ° C with a fan speed of 1600 rpm. That's a really good performance, and AMD has set the bar very high for its partners. Given that the card isn't 3090 Founders Edition massive, we think they should all be able to handle the occasion.

Overclocking

We'll briefly discuss overclocking. By default, this 6800 XT reference card works after one hour at 2200 MHz in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. With the frequency increased to 2500 MHz in the Wattman software, the in-game clock speed increased to an average of 2365 MHz, which is a 7.5% increase, which generally gave us a 5% fps increase in games . This is pretty uneventful and hopefully AIB models have higher performance limits for more OC headroom.

What we learned

The Radeon RX 6800 XT offers great performance. Just two months ago, the RTX 3080 blew us away with its performance, and we weren't particularly confident that AMD could do it. But for the first time in a long time, the latest Radeon's newly released high-end GeForce GPUs can catch up. As is so often the case, depending on the game and even the quality settings used, the RX 6800 XT and RTX 3080 trading hits fail, making it impossible to pinpoint an absolute winner. Both are so evenly coordinated.

The benefits of the GeForce GPU may include more mature ray tracing support and DLSS 2.0, which we don't think are major selling points unless you're playing a certain selection of games. DLSS 2.0 is amazing, there just aren't enough games. The best RT implementations we've seen so far are Watch Dogs Legion and Control, although the performance hit is massive, but at least you can see the impact in these titles.

The advantages of the Radeon RX 6800 XT include a much larger VRAM buffer, SAM support, and a slight drop in price. The 16GB VRAM buffer will almost certainly prove beneficial later, think 1-2 years. Support for SAM may be great, but since it's limited to Ryzen 5000 CPUs on a 500-series motherboard, its impact is less significant. Nvidia claims they are working to get this to work with Ampere GPUs as well and for all platforms. This is a good thing as AMD is forced to offer support to all users.

In this sense, PCIe 4.0 doesn't seem necessary either. We ran some testing in Assassin's Creed Valhalla while enforcing PCIe 3.0 on our X570 test system and we saw no performance degradation compared to PCIe 4.0. So that's interesting. The testing has been limited, however, and it's something we need to research further with a little more time up our sleeves.

It's also great to see AMD finally nailing the reference design, although we should have full access to AIB's custom models by next week. You may be able to buy an even cooler and quieter model with higher performance limits for overclocking.

In terms of availability, all indications point to a terrible availability for this first wave of reference models. The release date for custom cards is November 25th, one week after this review. We hear that stocks are better for these models, but there is no way they will sell out in seconds. Expect availability issues until at least December. This is a matter of course for common GPU versions. We expect AMD to exceed demand within two months. Otherwise, it will be another Ampere-like disaster.

AMD has been given the rare opportunity to steal Nvidia customers who have been desperately looking for RTX 3080 performance for months. You probably have a narrow window to throw yourself in here. So it will be interesting to see if they miss this opportunity. There's almost no chance that those who sold their RTX 2080 Ti in anticipation of the RTX 3080 and have been on the cutting edge since its release won't buy an RX 6800 XT faster than you can say, "Just Buy It " Availability.

That will do it for our first look at the Radeon RX 6800 XT. You should also definitely check out our detailed RX 6800 review, which is a lighter version of the same board that sells for less than $ 600. Next week we plan to take a look at the first board partner cards and then a test of the Radeon RX 6900 XT next month.

Purchasing links:
  • AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 6800 on Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 on Amazon
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 5950X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 5900X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 5600X on Amazon

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