AMD's RX 6800 graphics card hit the public eye the day after the Nvidia RTX 3070 review embargo was lifted and the day before it went on sale, creating significant face-to-face contact between two of the major graphics card launches of the year. Both cards are the cheapest of their generations to date, but they are also exceptionally powerful and both are good choices for your new gaming PC upgrade.
However, which would be the best choice? The two cards compete in terms of price, functions and, above all, performance.
Prices and availability
Nvidia presented the RTX 3070 together with the more expensive and more powerful RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 at the great unveiling of the new generation of Ampere graphics cards on September 1st. While these two cards were released in September – albeit in extremely limited numbers – the RTX 3070 is slated to hit the market on October 29th after a slight delay to improve inventory. If it's not selling out as fast as the other cards in the RTX 3000 series, then it should be priced around $ 500, with more elaborate custom versions around $ 600.
On October 28th, AMD presented the RX 6800 alongside the 6800 XT and 6900 XT. The first RDNA2 devices to go on sale will be the next-generation Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles when they hit the market in mid-November. However, the 6800 won't lag far behind on its scheduled November 18th launch date for sale at $ 579.
After AMD's RDNA2 graphics cards lagged Nvidia for years in terms of high-end GPU performance, AMD Team Green's RDNA2 graphics cards should offer credible competition at all levels. We'll have to wait for third-party benchmarks of the RX 6800 to find out how good it really is, but the spec table and AMD's own first-party benchmarks (which are usually not as good as you might expect) suggest the RTX 3070 is could easily outperform.
|AMD RX 6800||RTX 3070|
|Process node||TSMC 7nm||Samsung 8nm|
|interface||PCI Express 4.0||PCI Express 4.0|
|GPU cores||3.840||5,888 CUDA|
|Ray tracing cores||60 radiation accelerators||49 Gen 2 RT cores|
|Tensor||N / A||184|
|Base clock||TBD||1,500 MHz|
|Music box||1.815 MHz||N / A|
|Boost clock||2.105 MHz||1.725 MHz|
|memory||16 GB GDDR6||8 GB GDDR6|
|Storage speed||16 Gbit / s||14 Gbit / s|
|Bandwidth||512 GBit / s (1,664 GBit / s effective)||448 GBit / s|
AMD has a slight edge on the process node, although Nvidia has made great strides in catching up since moving from the Turing generation 12nm node. The number of cores varies considerably. However, due to the different architectures and the way each company categorizes their INT and FP32 cores, it is not easy to make a head-to-head comparison between the two.
Where we really see a comparable difference is in core clocking and memory. Thanks to an alleged improvement in the performance of the RDNA2 architecture of 56% per watt compared to its counterpart of the first generation, AMD has succeeded in increasing the clock rates for the boost clock frequency significantly to well over 2 GHz. The more typical game clock is also almost 100 MHz higher than the 3070. With high-end cooling, however, it may be possible to reach the boost clock more regularly.
Thanks to twice the storage capacity, faster storage, and comparable storage bus, the standard storage bandwidth for the RX 6800 is almost 15% greater than that of the RTX 3070. However, with AMD's Infinity Cache technology, AMD claims that the card has an effective storage bandwidth that is more than three times as high. This may only have such a dramatic effect in certain scenarios, but it does suggest that the 6800 could have a real advantage in memory-dependent games and settings like 4K resolution.
There aren't any real-world direct comparisons between these two cards just yet, but we do have an analog with numbers from AMD that can give us an idea of how the 6800 and 3070 would compete against each other. The 3070 is typically competitive with the RTX 2080 Ti and can sometimes be shifted a few frames, especially with ray tracing and DLSS enabled. AMD claims the RX 6800 is anywhere from 5% to 20% faster than the 2080 Ti in select games.
The caveat is that AMD's performance metrics in its October 28 presentation used the new Smart Access Memory feature, which improves performance when used in conjunction with a Ryzen 5000 CPU and 500 series chipset. This could mean that these cards have higher raw performance for non-Ryzen 5000 players.
In terms of efficiency, the RX 6800 is the more demanding card for performance and thermals. Where the RTX 3080 and 3090 are huge performance hogs, the 3070 is comparatively slim, although 220 W is still nothing to smell.
Ray tracing, sharpening and more
Image enhancement has become a major selling point for modern graphics cards. The driver suites from AMD and Nvidia enable clever sharpening and upscaling of images for the new graphics cards of the last generation. Nvidia's DLSS 2.0 is certainly more powerful than AMD's existing Fidelity FX sharpening without sacrificing performance. The AMD solution doesn't look that great and has a slight performance hit, but the option is there – it's just not hardware accelerated like Nvidia's tensor cores allow.
AMD has promised to work on a new "Super Resolution" feature, which is likely a more open standard than Nvidia's DLSS, but the details remain poor. The 6800 should support it at some point, but we don't know if it will be hardware accelerated in a bespoke way. Right now, the RTX 3070 is undoubtedly ahead of the game when it comes to looks and performance.
Ray tracing is something that Nvidia RTX cards have had since the 2000 series. They use RT cores to speed up something that would otherwise cripple even powerful GPUs like the GTX 1080 Ti. AMD first introduced ray tracing support with its RX 6000 series (and next-generation RDNA2-controlled consoles). The 6800 is said to have full support for DXR-controlled games, as well as improvements to improve performance and visuals such as variables. Rate shading and denoise. It will likely support Dirt 5 and some existing ray tracing games at launch that use DirectX12 controlled ray tracing, as well as upcoming ray tracing games like Godfall, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and Far Cry 6.
The RX 6800 will have 60 ray tracing accelerators (one per compute unit), and early third-party comparisons with AMD's own numbers suggest the 3070 is better at ray tracing. Some results obtained by VideoCardz show that the RTX 3080 beats the RX 6800 XT handily. However, this is only a benchmark and not a direct comparison between the two cards in this head-to-head relationship. Therefore, more information and testing is needed to determine which card is better suited for ray tracing.
Smart Access Memory is an intriguing addition from AMD that makes All-AMD PCs much faster than Intel and Nvidia Combo PCs across the aisle. The RX 5000 CPU uses the free (and fast) GDDR6 memory on the RDNA2 card for additional performance. You do need a Ryzen 5000 CPU and 500-series chipset, however, which could make it a niche feature until these components become more common.
Too early to call
At the end of October 2020, before the RX 6800 is available or tested, it will be too early to say whether or not it is better than the RTX 3070. What is exciting, however, is that both cards should be competitive on all fronts. There is potential for the RX 6800 to be the slightly faster card, especially when combined with an AMD Ryzen 5000 CPU. However, we don't know much about ray tracing support or the potential performance impact of supporting games.
There's also no DLSS-like feature yet that gives the RTX 3070 a huge head start in gaming support. The 3070 will also be the cheaper card, at least if it stays in stock long enough that price cutting is not an issue. Given how the 3080 and 3090 have been introduced, the 3070 could become more expensive in the near future.
At the moment, both cards seem like an excellent way to play at 4K and 1440p, with and without ray tracing enabled. If you're on the fence and not sure which one to want, wait for real benchmarks and more information on AMD's ray tracing feature. The potential is to either be a standout next-gen card for your PC upgrade, but it's not yet clear which is the best.