AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT & Radeon RX 6800 16 GB Graphics Cards Review – Here’s Big Navi!
If RDNA was a small step in the right direction then RDNA2 is a GIANT LEAP. I cannot overstate the improvement upon all previous generational launches Radeon has delivered here with the Radeon RX 6800 Series. Extensive software support, multiple clocking profiles (despite us only having been able to test in default Balanced Mode for now), their best cooler design ever, but there is a big thorn in its side at this price and performance tier, we'll get to that in a moment.
The cooler that Radeon designed here is simply fantastic. If you can get past the big ol red ring you'll see a beautiful card that will match almost any build and is quite traditional yet carries quite the flare to it. The fit and finish are bar none the best they've ever delivered with a solid metal design and a nice powder coat finish that feels as premium as it looks. The triple fans are adorned with a support ring to maintain their shape and the silver accents are quite a nice touch. Hot and Loud? Far from it this time, after running through tests with the RX 5700 XT then switching back to the 6800 Series for some follow up I garnered a whole new appreciation for its fan-stop addition and much lower sound signature under load. You'll still hear it but think more like you would with a good AIB card and nowhere near what the ear-bleeding Radeon VII did. On that note, subjectively speaking, the RX 6800 XT sounded a bit quieter than the RX 6800 thanks to its much larger heatsink and more open sides.
Straight traditional performance is simply off the charts at times for the RDNA2 powered RX 6800 XT. It goes toe to toe with the others in its price class and tier while the RX 6800 really is in a class of its own based on its pricing. At the end of the day, while the RX 6800 is a solid card, I can't help but feel that it will certainly be overshadowed by the brute power of the RX 6800 XT, even with its lower thermals and power draw. I imagine the RX 6800 might find itself favored by the small form factor community that should be able to stuff it into the small sandwich-style cases with ease.
I can't go over performance without mentioning DXR and the likes of Ray Tracing performance. Ray Tracing is only gaining traction and is far from going away. In this ultra enthusiast space, the customers typically demand their purchases deliver on every front. RDNA2 is capable of supporting ray-traced effects, but it's also the Achilles heel of these cards. They've come out swinging on their first go at hardware-accelerated ray tracing support and for the most part, it works, there are issues with Watchdogs Legion and some oddities in Boundary. The issues in Legion are known and they're working to correct it but the overall performance, outside of shadows where the accuracy is less important, is quite lacking against the current RTX 30 Series with often the RTX 3080 overtaking the beastly RX 6800 XT. And with no firm release window for FidelityFX Super Resolution you see the RTX 3070 take a commanding lead when NVIDIAs own DLSS is enabled.
One area that the RDNA2 cards certainly deliver on is power draw. They stay within their rated total board power at all times and that was verified by using the PCAT hardware provided by NVIDIA. So strong power performance and that translated straight to excellent thermals. AMD alerted us that up to 109C was normal and within spec for the Hot Spot but we stayed far from that in our testing.
If you've been waiting for Big Navi, you'll be quite glad you did. They delivered, but there's still a long road ahead on matching up with ray tracing performance