The RX 6900 XT is the flagship of AMD’s new RX 6000 “Big Navi” line. This ultra-powerful graphics card seeks to compete with Nvidia’s RTX 3090 for less. Is AMD successful in delivering the ultimate card for a fair price? This is what we will see in this test.
A battle of titans is taking place in the PC world at the end of 2020. On the one hand, we have Nvidia with its RTX 3000 series and on the other, AMD with its RX 6000 series. The first one recently released its RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, powerful cards, but affordable while AMD then drew with the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, at the equivalent power. The two manufacturers also offer their ultra high-end flagship for gaming in 4K / 60 FPS, or even 8K (this is in any case the promise at Nvidia). Nvidia is thus marketing the RTX 3090 at 1,549 euros. AMD wants to hit the spirits with an ultra-powerful card for a price revolving around 1000 euros: the RX 6900 XT we are testing today. The promise is big and we at least expect a product to outperform the RTX 3080 in terms of horsepower. This is what we will verify in this test.
We have already tested the other two AMD graphics cards released this year, the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT. If the power was there, the products were however slightly less powerful than the equivalent cards and struggled in terms of ray-tracing management. A small disappointment that still hides a good compromise for 4K / 60 FPS gaming. What about the RX 6900 XT?
It should be noted that in addition to promising a certain power, the RX 6900 XT (like the other cards in the range) wants to bring major novelties to AMD products in order to catch up with the delay taken on Nvidia. We are obviously talking here about the ray-tracing (DXR) possible thanks to the RDNA 2 architecture (also present on the Xbox Series X and the PS5) of the card. Ray-tracing was the big lack of AMD cards, while the technology has been used for video games since Nvidia’s RTX 20XXes, released in 2018. Another interesting new feature is the use of AMD Smart Access technology. Memory (SAM). It increases in-game performance if your RX 6000 is paired with a latest generation Ryzen processor. Indeed, the exchanges between the CPU and the GPU are improved, since it goes directly through the PCie 4.0 interface. On the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, we saw a gain of 10% on average with the SAM enabled. We’ll see if it works as well here. It remains to be seen whether the proposed experience is worth its 1000 euros and whether it is more interesting to fall for this product rather than the RTX 3090, or even the RTX 3080.
Read also – Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT test: AMD wakes up, but can it overtake Nvidia?
Note that our test is carried out with our partner Igor’s Lab. The measurements as well as the photos are therefore common. The tests have been done with an AMD model of the RX 6900 XT. Custom versions of third-party brands will emerge and should logically bring more power, even if we should stay in the same range.
Price and availability
The AMD RX 6900 XT graphics card was released on December 8, 2020 at a price of 999 euros. Its price is very interesting on paper, since it costs 500 euros less than Nvidia’s RTX 3090, its direct competitor, and almost 300 euros more than the RTX 3080, which it must logically surpass. For comparison, AMD’s RX 6800 is sold in Europe for 589 euros, while the RX 6800 XT version is sold for 659 euros.
We could have hoped for cards that were easy to buy, as AMD could take advantage of the stockouts that Nvidia is currently experiencing with its RTX 30XXes. However, the RX 6000 are also hard to find for the same reasons. So it will take patience to get one. Pity.
AMD bases its new RX 6000 series on the RDNA 2 architecture, the same that we find in new generation consoles. This architecture with a chip engraved in 7 nm promises more power, of course, but also the addition of ray-tracing. If this technology is still far from being vital for the video game, it is for the marketing, the various manufacturers praising its merits.
|Radeon RX 6800 XT|
|Base frequency||2015 MHz|
|Boost frequency||2250 MHz|
|Cache “Infinity”||128 MB|
|GDDR6 memory||16 GB|
|Release date||December 6, 2020|
The technical characteristics of the RX 6900 XT are very similar to the RX 6800 XT. However, we find 80 processing units here, more than the aforementioned card which has 72. For the rest, we remain on the same basis, with 128 MB of “Infinity” cache and 16 GB of GDDR 6 memory. the card offers a base frequency of 2015 MHz as well as a Boost frequency of 2250 MHz. Its power is 300 Watts and AMD recommends a power supply of 850 Watts to use it.
What’s new for the RX 6900 XT?
The RX 6900 XT doesn’t just add more power, it also offers some exciting new features that we already touched on above. The RDNA 2 architecture therefore allows the user to activate Direct X Ray-tracing (DRX) on compatible games. This feature allows the map to calculate reflections and light in real time. For example, in a game like Control or Battlefield V, glass, marble floors, or puddles reflect what is in front rather than a precomputed rendering. The technology doesn’t really change the gaming experience, but adds a nice little graphic touch. However, it is very resource intensive and drastically drops the framerate when activated. It is available on compatible games, such as Metro Exodus, Control or Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Old games have also been made compatible like Minecraft, Quake or World of Warcraft.
We also have mentioned SAM, Smart Access Memory, which significantly improves in-game performance (at least on some, as we saw with the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT). Once the card is coupled to a Ryzen 5000 processor, also designed by AMD, the CPU communicates directly with the GPU to access all of its memory, so it is no longer limited to 256 MB. 10%, is good and is a reason to go for an RX if you go for a Ryzen processor in your tower.
Finally, Variable Rate Shading (VRS) used by the RX 6000 allows you to dynamically manage the quality of the shadows on the screen. In a nutshell, this means that the shadows in the background or on the sides of the image are of lower quality, which helps to grab FPS. To use it, the target game must be compatible. This is the case with Borderlands 3, for example.
A more usual than visual design
AMD RX 6900 XT graphics card adopts a design similar to the other products in the range. We therefore have an identical visual which is more usual than beautiful. Nvidia has taken great care in the visual design of its RTX 30XX Founders Edition while AMD’s philosophy is different. The RX 6900 XT is a product that fits into a tower that is most likely to be closed. AMD had unveiled the design of its RX 6000 range in a very original way, since it happened in the game Fortnite. Players had the opportunity to walk around the graphics card and discover its small details as well as its overall design.
We immediately note the presence of three huge fans hollowed out of an aluminum plate. This allows the card to release heat from below, and only from below. This is because the RX 6900 XT does not have any rear ventilation, as it does on the RTX 3080, for example. This leads to a bit higher heat, hovering around 80 degrees in full play, but acceptable. It is especially well balanced by an average noise of 35 decibels with rare peaks at 48 decibels, all measured from the outside of a closed tower.
The dimensions of the RX 6900 XT are 267 x 120 mm, which is classic for a graphics card. Note that the product takes two slots on your PC, unlike the RTX 3090 which takes three. On the back side we find two DisplayPort 1.4 ports, a USB Type-C port as well as an HDMI 2.1 port. On the side of the board, at the back, is an 8-pin connector for power.
AMD promises the RX 6900 XT a serious competitor to the RTX 3090 for a lot less money. We will see that it is much more complicated than that, sometimes AMD’s placement is justified, sometimes not. If the card does very well in 1440p and 4K, we still remain hungry for the management of ray-tracing, clearly below the competition. Note that we tested the card on a configuration with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X processor (with the possibility of activating SAM), 32 GB of RAM (2 × 16) as well as games installed on an NVMe SSD.
Full HD games with ray-tracing
We tested the RX 6900 XT with our usual three sets for ray-tracing, namely Control, Watch Dogs Legion and Metro Exodus. The first is an interesting case to study, because it intelligently uses this technology and activating it brings a real plus to the experience. By activating the DXR in full HD, we obtain an average around 70 FPS (with SAM enabled or not), much less than the competition, more comfortable. We will still note a 6900 XT slightly above the RTX 3070 and the RTX 2080 FE, which is two years old.
The results are in the same range on Watch Dogs Legion, the RX 6900 XT being overtaken by the competition, even the RTX 3070. If the sacrosanct 60 FPS cap is not reached, it is just like. Note that activating SAM does not change performance.
Finally, the Metro Exodus game is more in favor of the RX 6900 XT on this one, since we have a card above the RTX 3070, but still below the RTX 3080. In fact, Nvidia is doing much better in managing ray-tracing.
If we take into account the average of our entire range of games (including Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Wolfenstein New Blood, World War Z or Horizon Zero Dawn), the 6900XT looks poor in Full HD, especially in titles with ray-tracing enabled, compared to the competition. We are indeed far from the performance of the RTX 3080 and 3090.
Games in 1440p
The finding is not quite the same by disabling ray-tracing and putting the games in 1440p. On Control, the RTX 3080 and 3090 still dominate the race, but the RX 6900 XT shows much more encouraging performance and the SAM reveals its efficiency by gaining 4 FPS in a given sequence.
The result is still more interesting about Watch Dogs Legion, with an RX 6900 XT neck and neck with the RTX 3090 (Sam enabled or not). Here, the card proves its worth by holding the dragee high at the spearhead of Nvidia.
On Metro Exodus, the 6900 XT is found behind the 3090, but stay above the 3080 FE, recording 10 more FPS in the same game segment.
Finally, on Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Borderlands 3, we have a 6900 XT which does wonders, especially with the SAM activated, exceeding the RTX 3090 by a few FPS.
In fact, the RX 6900XT can be a very interesting card if you play on a 1440p screen with a high refresh rate (like Samsung’s Odyssey G7). In this specific segment, our gaming panel average delivers a map that sits between the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090, which is in line with AMD’s pricing placement, but not what it promises.
On the game in 4K, we find a bit the same observation. On Control, we’re still below the RTX 3080 and 3090. While the game doesn’t hit 60 FPS, it performs very well, if not spectacular.
On Watch Dogs Legion, we are here neck and neck with the RTX 3080, both showing 53 FPS during our test segment. The RTX 3090 remains well above it at 60 FPS.
Same case on Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, where the RTX 3090 still dominates the race, but where the RX 6900 narrowly exceeds the RTX 3080.
Finally, Borderlands 3 delivers amazing results, the RTX 6900 XT far exceeding the competition. Performance which can be explained by the fact that the game was designed to be optimized for AMD cards, especially at the VRS level.
Finally, regarding the overall average in 4K, we see that the RX 6900 XT is just ahead of the GeForce RTX 3080, but well behind the RTX 3090.
Overall, the RX 6900 keeps its promises, even if the results fluctuate greatly depending on the game. Nevertheless, it can be seen that despite its much higher price tag, the RX 6900 XT does not provide a significant improvement over the RTX 3080 in this definition. Likewise, we are still very far from having a direct competitor to the RTX 3090. Good performance, therefore, but a curious placement on the part of AMD.
The RX 6800 and 6800 XT cards surprised with their controlled consumption compared to the competition. This 6900 XT delivers the same results. For the power provided, the energy demand is indeed very acceptable. Thus, during the games sessions in 4K, which consume more energy, we observed a card consuming 300 Watts on average, and revolving around 380 Watts coupled with the processor. We are well below the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 which they easily exceed 400 Watts coupled to the same SoC. AMD recommends an 850 Watts power supply in your config equipped with an RX 6900 XT for a safety margin. However, a 650 Watt power supply should be enough to accommodate it.