AMD is waking up, but can it overtake Nvidia?

AMD wants to strike hard with its new graphics cards: the RX 6000 “Big Navi” series. If the RX 6900 is aimed at the high-end market, the RX 6800 and 6800 XT we’re testing today want to bring ray-tracing and 4K / 60 FPS gaming for less than the competition, namely Nvidia. Successful bet for the eternal second in the market?

The end of 2020 is the scene of two titanic fights on the video game scene. On the console side, we have Microsoft’s Xbox Series X taking on Sony’s PS5. On the PC side, these are the new graphics cards that are the center of attention.

On the one hand, we have the market leader Nvidia, which has released its new line of GeForce RTX 30XX cards: the RTX 3070, 3080 and 3090. On the other, we have AMD. Eternal second, the Californian manufacturer has decided to strike hard this year with its RX 6000 range, which accompanies the release of its new Ryzen 5000. Three Radeon cards were presented: the RX 6800, the RX 6800 XT and the RX 6900. These are the first two that we are testing today.

With its cards, AMD seeks to catch up with its direct competitor notably by introducing ray-tracing (DXR) with its RDNA 2 architecture. This technology was popularized in the gaming world two years ago via Nvidia’s RTX 20X series, but was not yet available from AMD. The manufacturer also wants to offer new things, such as Smart Access Memory (SAM). This technology makes it possible to increase the performance of the card if it is coupled with a Ryzen 5000 processor, by improving the exchanges between the CPU and the GPU passing directly through the PCie 4.0 interface. Consumption promises to be reduced compared to competing cards, which are very energy-intensive.

RX 6800

AMD’s main argument compared to the competition, it is also the price of its products. The RX 6800 XT is cheaper by 50 euros compared to the RTX 3080 for the same power. At least in theory. But is the economy worth it? This is what we will see.

Note that our test was carried out in partnership with Igor’s Lab. The benchmarks as well as the various measures are therefore common. Here we are testing AMD models and custom versions from third-party manufacturers will also come onto the market. Logically, they should provide more power, while remaining in the same range.

Price and availability

Both graphics cards are available from November 18. The RX 6800, which is theoretically placed a little above the RTX 3070 (519 euros), is sold 589 euros. The RX 6800 XT, the improved version of the card, wants to compete with the RTX 3080 (719 euros) in terms of power. Its price is extremely interesting, since it is sold 659 euros. Both cards are sold on partner sites.

RX 6800

It should be noted that AMD could take advantage of the glitches of its direct competitor. Nvidia is indeed experiencing breaks in its new products until 2021, and the purchase of a Radeon card, which may be more readily available, could be considered. All this on the condition that AMD does not experience the same concerns, of course.

Technical sheet

AMD promises cards as powerful as the competition, especially thanks to to its new RDNA 2 architecture with a chip engraved in 7 nm. This architecture allows more power, of course, but also the management of ray-tracing, a first for the manufacturer. Note that it is used on new consoles, be it the Xbox Series X or the PS5, which bring this innovation to their segment.

Radeon RX 6800 Radeon RX 6800 XT
Compute Units 60 72
Base frequency 1815 MHz 2015 MHz
Boost frequency 2105 MHz 2250 MHz
Cache “Infinity” 128 MB 128 MB
GDDR6 memory 16 GB 16 GB
Power (W) 250 300
Release date November 18, 2020 November 18, 2020
Price € 579 649 €

Both cards are similar in design and only certain features change. Both are for example equipped with 128 MB of cache “Infinity” and 16 GB of GDDR 6 memory. On the power side, the RX 6800 is equipped with 60 calculation units, a base frequency of 1815 Mhz and a boost frequency up to 2105 Mhz. Its power is 250 Watts.

The RX 6800 XT is logically a little more efficient, since we have here 72 calculation units with a base frequency of 2015 MHz as well as a boost frequency of 2250 MHz. Note that its power is here indicated at 300 watts, which is logical.

RX 6800

Solid characteristics that allow, at least on paper, to play serenely in 4K by reaching 60 frames per second. Likewise, we can hope for a smooth game with ray-tracing activated in 1080p. This is what we will determine in this test.

Major novelties to seduce

AMD offers several interesting things to make the user buy in their dairy rather than another. This generation marks the arrival of the DirectX RayTracing, management of light and reflections in real time. This resource, very greedy, is still marginal in the world of video games. It arrived only two years ago on the RTX 20XX generation of Nvidia cards and made its debut on consoles with the Series X and the PS5.

This technology allows display reflections in real time, and not precomputed as was done before. In a title like Control, this drastically changes the artistic direction, and even the playing experience. The reflections “live” by themselves and on a puddle, a window or a marble floor, you will see the surrounding decor. ‘reflects it. We mentioned Control, but other titles like Battlefield V, Metro Exodus or even Shadow of the Tomb Raider are benefiting from it on PC. Note that some existing games offer compatibility, such as the august MMORPG World of Warcraft or even Minecraft.

Control
Control with ray-tracing enabled

AMD offers the technology of Variable Rate Shading with his cards. To explain this innovation very quickly, it is a matter of dynamic management of the quality of the shadows on the screen. The map thus “cuts” the image in real time and improves this precise point on the areas of interest. For example, it is often the shadows close to the player’s avatar and in the center of the image that are enhanced, to the detriment of those far and in the periphery of the field of view. This technology, already used by Nvidia, is far from being a gadget, since it saves resources. The game must support it, however.

RX 6800

Finally, AMD introduces SAM, the Smart Acess Memory. This is technology that we only find on AMD cards. If you have a Ryzen 5000 processor from the same manufacturer, the CPU communicates directly with the GPU in order to blow the 256MB limit to access all of the memory. The goal is thus to improve performance. On paper, AMD promises up to 10% more power in-game with this technique. Note that Nvidia has indicated that it is working on a similar solution in the future with Intel processors.

RX 6800

A raw design of formwork

The Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT cards are completely identical in design, since only their performance changes. AMD has long teased the look of its products, even going so far as to partner with Epic Games to include a giant 3D model of its RX 6800 in the game Fortnite. Players then had plenty of time to walk on the object and discover its small visual details.

On its RTX 30XX Founder’s Edition, Nvidia surprised with a sleek, eye-pleasing design. AMD takes the opposite view of its competitor by delivering a card with a design that is more practical than aesthetic, showing the main lines of the Radeon VII. After all, we are talking about an object that will fit inside a tower that is most likely to be closed. Additionally, not all PCs have a plexiglass plate to admire the interior.

RX 6800

The RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT feature a design that doesn’t mark. We notice of course the three huge fans hollowed out in an aluminum plate that allow optimal heat release from the bottom. However, hot air is released exclusively in the tower, since the back of the map has no vents. The three fans ensure a GPU temperature of around 80 degrees while rotating at more than 1600 revolutions per minute. Optimal silence should be noted. We did not indeed notice any alarming noise, since the fans give off an average of 38 decibels with rare peaks at 48 decibels in play. This means that you will not hear your card hiss most of the time, and rare moments of noise will remain acceptable if your tower is completely closed.

RX 6800

The RX adopt dimensions of 267 x 120 mm, which is quite classic for a graphics card, even if their design gives them a little “massive” side. We find the 8-pin connector for the power supply placed on the side, at the back of the board. An intelligent placement, more than on the RTX 3080 which placed it right in the middle. Obsessed with cable management can blow.

RX 6800

The cards obviously take two slots on your tower and at the back, we find a complete connection. Thus, the RX 6800 and 6800 XT have an HDMI 2.1 port, two DisplayPort 1.4 ports as well as a USB Type-C port.

RX 6800

Ultimately, the Radeon RX 6800 and Radeon 6800 XT weren’t designed to look good, these three huge fans on the front show, but to be efficient. An understandable and proven choice. The only question now is whether in play our cards keep all their promises.

Performance that brings great playing comfort

The RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT are a huge evolution from previous AMD models. The RDNA 2 architecture now makes it possible to enable ray-tracing, as we said, but also to play in 4K serenely. At least, this is AMD’s promise that delivered promising first benchmarks. This is what we are going to check our games panel. Before starting, we must specify our test configuration. The benchmarks below were performed with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900 X processor (therefore with the possibility of activating the SAM), supported by 32 GB of RAM (16 x 2) as well as the games installed on an NVMe SSD.

RX 6800

On the whole, we notice that the results are very fluctuating depending on the game. On some titles we have better performance than on competing cards, while on others we are below. Gaming with Full HD definition and DXR (ray-tracing) enabled does not always achieve 60 frames per second with the RX 6800, it is the case with Control, for example, but we really are. not far away. Finally, it should be noted that the SAM provides a real boost to in-game performance, allowing the number of frames per second to be increased by 10% in some cases. A real asset. We are obviously above previous cards from AMD, such as the RX 5700 XT or the Radeon VII.

Full HD games with ray-tracing

Control is one of the most interesting games on our panel. It is indeed a title designed for ray-tracing and optimized for. In Full HD with DXR activated, we exceed 60 frames per second with the RX 6800 XT. Nevertheless, we remain at or below the RTX 3070 under the same conditions. The RX 6800 offers a rendering of less than 60 FPS on average, but this is still very appreciable. There is a significant performance gain with the SAM activated.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Regarding Metro Exodus, in Full HD with DXR activated, the results are very different. With SAM enabled, the RX 6800 XT outperformed the RTX 3070 FE on our test sequence. Likewise, the latter is neck and neck with the RX 6800. Again, it’s the SAM that makes the difference, but in any case, the game in 60 FPS is assured.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Finally, on Watch Dogs Legion, our latest ray-tracing compatible game, the RX 6800 XT leaves the RTX 3070 FE on the tile, SAM or not. However, we still remain below Nvidia’s flagship card, namely the RTX 3080. The RX 6800 revolves around 56 FPS, which provides appreciable comfort in the middle of the game.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Games in 1440p

If you have a QHD screen, that is to say with a definition in 1440p, the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT can be a good compromise. On Control, with DXR disabled, all AMD cards are on top of the RTX 3070, SAM enabled or not. Without ray-tracing, AMD’s products deliver much better performance, which can be appreciated in-game.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Same observation on Metro Exodus. The RX 6800 keeps its promises, overtaking the RTX 3070 FE. It is the RX 6800 XT that surprises the most, passing (slightly) ahead of the RTX 3080. Note that in this game, activating the SAM does not change much.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

On Watch Dogs Legion, the 6800 XT is still above the 3080 FE. The SAM brings there a little painless boost, but still interesting to note.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

On Horizon Zero Dawn, the RX 6800 XT is neck and neck with the RTX 3080, SAM or not, while on Shadow of The Tomb Raider, AMD’s innovation brings a real boost in power. Again, the RX 6800 is above the RTX 3070 FE.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.
RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

4K games

If you are lucky enough to have a 4K screen, you should know that the RX 6800 XT gets beaten by the RTX 3080 in this segment, Nvidia seems to have a better handle on this aspect. This is the case with the Control game, where we also note an RTX 3070 better than the RX 6800.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

On Metro Exodus, same observation for the RX 6800 XT. However, the classic RX 6800 performed better than the RTX 3070 FE on our 4K footage.

Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Watch Dogs Legion brings us the same results as on Metro Exodus, with all the same a game that runs above 40 frames per second in this definition.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Finally, on less demanding games, like Horizon Zero Dawn and Shadow of The Tomb Raider, the two RXs are placed between the RTX 3070 and the RTX 3080 in terms of power. In any case, it is possible to play in 4K and 60 frames per second (or almost).

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.
RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

The average results, obtained on the ten games of our panel (those mentioned above but also Far Cry 5, Borderlands 3, Ghost Recon Breakpoint or even Wolfenstein Youngblood), are not surprising. In Full HD (with or without ray-tracing depending on the game), the RX 6800 XT is below the RTX 3080 and the RX 6800 below the RTX 3070. However, the results are still good in all cases and there is a real gain in performance if you pair the card with a Ryzen processor.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

In 1440p, the RX 6800 XT is even above the RTX 3080 if you activate the SAM, and slightly below without. The classic RX 6800 is on top of the RTX 3070.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

Finally, the game in 4K is a little less well mastered by AMD, with results below the RTX 3080 for the RX 6800 XT. On the other hand, the RX 6800 remains well above the RTX 3070.

RX 6800 bench
Benchmarks carried out with the help of Igor’sLAB.

In practice, therefore, we have results which fluctuate from game to game. But we can still conclude that ray-tracing technology is not as well mastered on RX cards as on Nvidia’s RTXs. Likewise, the game in 4K is a bit worse on the RX 6800 XT compared to the RTX 3080, while it is the reverse with the RX 6800 compared to the RTX 3070. Nevertheless, we note a real gain. performance with SAM enabled and overall we are still in the same range for cheaper cards. A successful bet for AMD, therefore.

Controlled consumption

Finally, with regard to the energy part, AMD has made efforts to guarantee lower energy consumption. Note, for example, a consumption (coupled to the CPU) of around 310 watts for the RX 6800. This is a little more than the RTX 3070, but not by much. The RX 6800 XT obviously consumes a little more. However, the energy demand remains very correct, running between 370 and 380 watts with the CPU, or well below the RTX 3080. The latter is indeed very energy-intensive and has been pointed out on this point.

In fact, depending on your configuration, you must therefore provide an adequate power supply. With an RX 6800 XT, 650 watt power supply should be more than enough, even for 4K gaming. A good point for the Californian manufacturer.

Read also – Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 review: a powerhouse for demanding gamers

Easy to use software

With its cards, AMD offers software to install on your PC in order to properly manage its configuration: Radeon Software. Like a GeForce Experiment for Nvidia cards, this software allows you to keep an eye on all the games installed on your machine and easily download updates. However, it goes even further. In terms of user experience, Radeon Software allows you to launch all its games via software. No more searching for titles in different launchers and opening Steam or the Epic Game Store. Everything is grouped together and each game sheet is provided with interesting information such as the number of hours played or the number of images per second on average on a particular title. Of course, it also allows you to automatically adjust the graphics of a title, as on GeForce Experience.

RX 6800

The Boost option is available on many compatible titles. This technology, which you have the choice to activate or not, allows reduce the definition of an image when there is a lot of movement. This helps to fight against framerate drops in mid-action and crunches on passages where beautiful graphics are not necessarily necessary.

AMD is banking on other interesting little things with its software, such as the ability to start streaming directly through the application. Just select the streaming tab, choose the platform we want to stream on and the thing will go, without a hitch or difficulty. Finally, Radeon Software promises to be able to play streaming. By downloading a companion application on your smartphone, it is possible to stream content from your PC to your Android terminal. Here, the touch keys are available automatically on your screen. A cool gadget that shows that AMD is also interested in this streaming gaming system, as it has been with Nvidia for many years.

This software is not new, but will necessarily be used if you opt for an RX 6800 or RX 6800 XT graphics card. Well thought out and intuitive, it represents a real plus in use and allows you to easily manage your game library. The Boost mode is particularly appreciable.

RX 6800

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