AMD have returned to the GPU market well and truly, with a 6800 card that looks to take on the 3070 and 3080 in one swoop. We’ll be testing the 6800, to see how well it stacks up for the prospective GPU buyer in 2021 and beyond.
It would be safe to say the last 8 months or so have been a touch crazy in the land of GPU releases – Nvidia released 5 cards in their 3000 series, while AMD returned with a bang, announcing 3 cards, including the RX 6800… and both vendors are far from done it seems.
The 6800 sits in a really interesting place in the market – both in terms of its MSRP and its performance figures. Cleverly, the card looks to directly take on the 3070, with performance that is superior to its 30-series competitor. People often forget to mention that the 6800 has a higher RRP than the 3070, but with more performance it may well be the worthy winner of the two.
The 6000-series launch from AMD is far more than just about competing with Nvidia, though. The 6000 series launch is about showing gamers, the industry and Nvidia that AMD is once again competitive in the GPU market, but at all levels – not just amongst the budget-oriented gamer. We’ll look at the nuances of the 6000 architecture in a second, but it is also about bringing AMD equivalent Ray Tracing features to the table, showing Nvidia that AMD are ready to compete on all counts.
Built upon AMDs latest RDNA 2 architecture, the 6000 series is poised towards high end gaming, at high frame rates and high visual fidelity settings. AMD aren’t just talk though, in fact there’s a lot of action being made to satisfy this market.
The RDNA 2 architecture brings a new feature, called AMD Infinity Cache, to the table – a special type of cache on the GPU itself and between the standard L1 and L2 caches, all with the aim of streamlining performance. This brings some really big gains to memory bandwidth, crucial to GPU performance, and impressively has been integrated in a way that doesn’t require direct integrations with games and game developers.
That means that Infinity Cache is effective from the word ‘go’ in terms of providing performance gains, whatever you want to play. It’s an exciting prospect to see new tech like this having an impact out of the doors, and as developers optimise titles more and more for use with AMD cards, we could see some really great performance gains.
One area AMD seem to have out-manoeuvred Nvidia, right across the line-up, is in terms of GPU memory. This card comes with a hefty 16GB of GDDR6 video memory, that’s double the amount found on an RTX 3070, and 6GB more than on the higher end RTX 3080.
This has become more important as of late, with games looking to leverage more video memory than ever before. The age old phrase ‘build it and they will come’ also comes into play (within reason) – game developers are likely to relish at the opportunity for far more video memory when gaming on an AMD card. To be clear, we haven’t seen a great deal of bottlenecking, if any, with Nvidia’s VRAM configuration on our test suite, but as far as future proofing goes, making sure your GPU is ready for the years of gaming ahead – it’s a win for AMD here.
AMD also take the fight to Nvidia on Ray Tracing for the first time ever, though their implementation, while a huge stride forward, is very much so iteration number 1. To be clear, I’m very pleased AMD have implemented Ray Tracing functionality – it’s just got some way to go before catching up to the RTX alternative.
One area worth considering, too, is the lack of a DLSS equivalent on these cards. DLSS is an AI-driven resolution scaler that comes as standard on Nvidia RTX graphics cards. Resolution scalers can be controversial, but Nvidia’s has proven very popular and great for increasing FPS, while limiting visual impact. We’re hearing noises that AMDs response is imminent, it’s jut not quite here yet, and as such, we can’t test it.
In terms of this card’s design, it has to be said it’s a good looking thing! We’ve got AMDs in-house design in for review, which looks to take on Nvidia’s own Founders Edition. With a metal backplate that wraps around to the front shroud of the card (much like the last gen Founders Edition cards) and a triple fan cooler, it looks awesome. The dashing red accent around the GPU won’t be to everyone’s liking, but team Red fans are sure to absolutely love it!
The Radeon logo also lights up, which is cool, and temperatures on this cooler were great, as tested below.
Alongside the in-house cooler design, we have seen designs coming from AIBs including XFX, MSI and ASUS – though we know very few people who have actually managed to get hands on, amid a huge global GPU shortage – one that seems to be affecting AMD even worse than Nvidia.
The power cables are thankfully the standard type, and located in a logical location at the right hand side of the card. IO is also solid, with a combination of Display Port, HDMI and a USB C connector – we really like the return of USB C, a connection standard seemingly dropped by Nvidia at this point.
Performance is most certainly the most important variable in any RX 6800 equation, and there a few key takeaways. In short, this is a great card for straight rasterization, with legs at 4K as well which is immense. Throw Ray Tracing into the picture and the results get more messy, while the lack of DLSS, or an AMD equivalent, is a let down, at least for now. Let’s break that down, though, with some graphs and performance figures:
Games such as Apex Legends, a title where DLSS and Ray Tracing aren’t really variables to consider, show how immense the RX 6800 can be. The card knocks on the door of the higher end 3080 and leaves the 3070 for dust.
Games like COD Cold War show a similar picture, until you throw DLSS in to the mix. This tech allows the more affordable 3070 card (at MSRP at least) catch up and overtake the more pricey 6800 here. Is DLSS a software boost? I guess so. But who cares if it improves the end user experience and FPS…
Titles that support AMD Ray Tracing go to show the importance of both more mature Ray Tracing technology, and the power of DLSS at offsetting a Ray Tracing-related performance hits.
To be clear, the straight rasterization performance of this GPU is immense, and for many that will be more than enough. Personally, though, I just worry that the market is evolving and that the lack of mature Ray Tracing tech, or a DLSS alternative (at least at present), may leave some with a slightly bitter taste in a couple of years time.
Either way, AMD show in our performance figures the true power of this new RDNA 2 architecture, and that a gap to Nvidia (if any) is far smaller than many would have anticipated just 12 months ago.
You can also check out the video recordings of all benchmark runs in the playlist below, on our benchmarking channel called ‘Benched!’, to judge for yourself just how good an RX 6000 card looks and performs!
If you’d like to specifically see the AMD Ray Tracing On an Off visual and performance impact, take a look at our Watch Dogs comparisons and testing below!
Where to Buy
The AMD RX6800, and by extension the whole 6000 series, show that AMD is well and truly back in the game when it comes to 1440p and 4K, high end performance figures. The step change in performance that AMD have achieved, when compared to their own previous high-end line-up, is one that demonstrates an enormous amount of progress.
The 6800 is a truly powerful card in its own right, that shows its legs for high frame, high resolution gaming. There is a choice to be made, as to whether DLSS or Ray Tracing matter to you as a consumer, but all in all this is one impressive release, from a brand who were so far behind, not so long ago.
Now it’s AMDs job to shake off claims of a ‘paper launch’ by producing more of these cards, and selling them to gamers, so that more people can experience the great strides made my team AMD.