AMD has taken the wraps off its RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6900 XT graphics cards, and they might just be Nvidia-worriers.
The AMD RX 6000-series has been unveiled with three new cards, each offering more gaming performance than we’ve ever seen from a Radeon GPU. These are serious, enthusiast-class graphics cards, people. And, according to AMD’s own benchmarks, with sometimes faster performance than Nvidia’s RTX 3080 and RTX 3090.
The first two cards will be with us on November 18, 2020, and the real big Big Navi card, the RX 6900 XT, coming on December 8.
The RX 6000 series goes by many names, and it can get a little confusing at times. The architecture is officially known as RDNA 2, sometimes referred to as Navi 2X by AMD. The graphics cards themselves we now know will be branded under the RX 6000 series banner, likely as the RX 6800 XT and RX 6800 at first.
Albeit with the occasional Big Navi thrown in there in passing. Big Navi is a fan-made title thought up long before we heard tell of the official name, and has since been used by AMD’s CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, to refer to the company’s next-gen GPUs. Regardless, all you need to know is to look out for the RX 6000 branding, and if these cards can topple Nvidia’s RTX 30-series generation.
AMD has recently spent most of its time gaming around the mid-range of graphics performance, but with the RX 6000-series release this year it is making a genuine assault on the high-end.
The general belief had been that AMD had something up its sleeve for a while now, and that something has become known as ‘Big Navi’. A high-end GPU that can take the fight to the very top of the Nvidia Ampere line-up and force the green team to take a knife to its eye watering price structure.
Whether AMD will be able to compete with the RTX 30-series is the big question on everybody’s lips, but from AMD’s own benchmarks it looks like the RX 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT cards are able to trade blows with the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 respectively. And often beat them.
At a glance…
AMD RX 6000 release date
The first cards, the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT will go on sale on November 18, with the RX 6900 XT coming in later on December 8. All this year, and all with some serious promise.
AMD RX 6000 GPU specs
The real RDNA2 Big Navi big boi, the RX 6900 XT, is the 80 CU GPU we’ve been expecting, with the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT cards coming in at 60 and 72 CUs respectively. All three cards are coming with 16GB GDDR6.
AMD RX 6000 performance
We’re looking at the top card trading blows with the RTX 3090 and the RX 6800 XT taking on the RTX 3080. The RX 6800 itself is shown as being often above the RTX 2080 Ti, putting it quicker than the RTX 3070.
AMD RX 6000 pricing
The RX 6800 is tipping up with a $579 sticker price, the RX 6800 XT is going to retail for $649, and the RX 6900 XT will come in at $999.
AMD announced the first three Radeon RX 6000-series cards at its ‘Where Gaming Begins Ep.2’ livestream, with the cards actually going on sale in November and December this year.
As is usual for AMD, it’s releasing a pair of cards in the first batch. The Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT will be launched on November 18, with the more powerful RX 6900 XT landing on December 8. Just in time for Christmas.
But what about availability? These are surely going to be as hot a potential GPU purchase as the Nvidia Ampere cards were at launch, and that means they’re going to be very much in demand. AMD has already reportedly been telling retailers how to prep for the launch, but it still depends on how many it can actually get onto the shelves.
With the TSMC 7nm production process very much in demand itself, and not just from AMD’s own Ryzen 5000-series CPUs, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 consoles, there’s a lot of pressure on manufacturing right now.
At the Q3 earnings call on October 27 Dr. Lisa Su was asked about potential supply issues and did say that “demand still exceeds supply in certain segments.
“As we go into 2021, she continues, “I think we are planning for success. And so, we’re working very closely across the supply chain to ensure that we have enough wafer capacity, as well as back-end capacity. And we’re going to continue to work on that, but certainly there are areas where we would like to supply to be higher and we’re working on that.”
So, while it might be tight at launch, things should even out next year. Isn’t that ever the way?
The basic specs for the new Big Navi GPUs have been unveiled now, with the top-spec graphics card, the RX 6900 XT, being that 80 compute unit (CU) card we’ve been hearing rumours about for months. The RX 6800 XT is a little lower at 72 CUs and the RX 6800 lower still at just 60 CUs.
If we’re expecting the same 64 RDNA 2 cores per CU as with the original RDNA architecture, that would translate to 5,120 cores in the RX 6900 XT, the RX 6800 XT would come with 4,608, and the RX 6800 with 3,840.
|RX 6900 XT||RX 6800 XT||RX 6800|
|Process||TSMC 7nm||TSMC 7nm||TSMC 7nm|
|Game clock (MHz)||2,015||2,015||1,815|
|Boost clock (MHz)||2,250||2,250||2,105|
|Infinity Cache (MB)||128||128||128|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6||16GB GDDR6||16GB GDDR6|
|Release date||December 8, 2020||November 18, 2020||November 18, 2020|
There are also some new AMD-specific features in this too, such as Smart Access Memory, which will deliver a performance uplift on an all-AMD system featuring both an RX 6000-series GPU and a Ryzen 5000-series CPU.
Combined with ‘Rage Mode’ that could potentially net you up to 13% higher gaming performance simply from having a machine with all red team silicon inside it.
‘Rage Mode’? Yeah, that’s AMD’s new one-touch overclocking feature that it’s bringing to the Big Navi cards. Auto-overclocking always works out, right?
The headline grabbing features of the RDNA 2 architecture are that it will support ray tracing and be capable of gaming at 4K—at 60fps, would you believe. It will also support variable rate shading and mesh shaders, in line with the new DX12 Ultimate specification.
In order to understand what AMD has planned for RDNA 2, you have to go back to the RDNA architecture, because that represented a significant fundamental shift from the old-school GCN architecture that came before it. The architecture inside the 5700 XT et al. forms the foundation of how RDNA 2 will work, and while we expect some refinements and additions, given the naming scheme alone, we don’t expect it to change too much.
The biggest change RDNA made over GCN was in terms of wavefronts, which essentially defines how the GPU work is actually executed. GCN’s solution was 64 threads wide with four SIMD16 (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) execution units, RDNA meanwhile is 32 threads wide with a single SIMD32 execution unit. This may not seem like much of a difference, but this alignment of wavefront size to SIMD size was responsible for much of the efficiency improvements of the new architecture.
While a lot of what makes up RDNA 2 is an extension of RDNA, we also know that it will get some love when it comes to ray tracing hardware. AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, confirmed back at CES that “I’ve said in the past that ray tracing is important, and I still believe that, but if you look at where we are today it is still very early. You should expect that our discrete graphics as we go through 2020 will also have ray tracing.”
Microsoft and Sony have since backed this up, with both of them stating that their next-generation consoles will support ray tracing. Just as Nvidia has paired ray-tracing hardware with a deep learning engine, the expectation is that there will have to be something similar in RDNA 2, as ray tracing needs some form of denoising AI in order to keep the image from looking, well, noisy.
We now have some performance numbers for the three new AMD RX 6000-series cards, and they make for some scary reading if you’re an Nvidia fan, and potentially pleasing reading if you missed out on buying an RTX 30-series card at launch. Maybe you’ll be better off going for a Radeon this time around…
Though maybe not.
There are some caveats to the performance figures below, the first being that these are AMD’s own benchmarks, in very specific games, and tested in very specific scenarios.
There are also some addendums at the bottom of the RX 6800 and RX 6900 XT graphs that should cause some doubt as to where exactly those two cards will measure up when our final, independent benchmarks hit the site.
The addition of ‘+Smart Access Memory’ at the bottom means this isn’t the expected performance you’ll get out of every system. That means these benchmarks were taken from an AMD Ryzen 5000-powered PC, because the Smart Access Memory feature is something baked into a next-gen all-AMD machine using both the new CPUs and the new GPUs.
It’s meant to enhance performance, but AMD has so far only shown it in operation in conjunction with the ‘Rage Mode’ one-click overclocking option, that can net around 13% higher performance. How much Smart Access Memory will net you on its own we don’t know, but in order to consistently beat the RTX 2080 Ti, and therefore the RTX 3070, AMD has enabled it to get these numbers.
There are no such shenanigans being pulled with the RX 6800 XT numbers, and it looks like the lower-power, cheaper Radeon card is able to trade blows with the pricier, more power-hungry Nvidia RTX 3080 across the whole of AMD’s benchmarking suite.
That’s a hell of a result, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the final tests once we get our hands on the RX 6800 XT ourselves. Flick on ‘Rage Mode’ and maybe the Big Navi GPU goes in front all the way.
Then comes the big boi, the RX 6900 XT. That’s the $999 monster which is shown going at it against the $1,500 RTX 3090 from Nvidia. In some cases it’s beating the top Ampere GPU and in some cases showing up behind it.
What does need to be said, however, is that these benchmarks are running with both ‘+Rage Mode’ and ‘+Smart Access Memory’ when taking the numbers. That means this is the best case scenario for the RX 6900 XT and not necessarily representative of what you’d actually get out of another card in your own system.
It does seem that AMD has needed to give the RX 6900 XT everything in order to get it out ahead of, or at least on par with, the RTX 3090.
We now know final pricing for the reference RX 6000-series cards, and they start at $579 for the RX 6800. The RX 6800 XT will cost $649, and the stack will top out with the RX 6900 XT coming in at just $999.
How does that compare with their direct Nvidia rivals?
The RX 6800 is ostensibly set to go up against the RTX 3070 and AMD has shown it performing at around the same level. It is though more expensive than the cheapest current Ampere GPU, which comes in at $499 for the reference Founders Edition. So it’s more expensive, has a higher TDP, and performs around the same level.
But it’s got 16GB of GDDR6. So if you like memory…
The RX 6800 XT is the one that’s set to face-off against the RTX 3080, and it’s here that AMD seems to have it kinda sewn up. The $649 AMD card is up against the $699 Nvidia offering with a lower price, more memory, and lower power draw.
Finally we have the $999 RX 6900 XT which AMD claims can take on, and sometimes beat, the $1,499 RTX 3090. Again it’s cheaper and lower power, but this time AMD rocks up with considerably less memory. That seemingly consolidates the RTX 3090 as the big time creators’ card, even up against the far cheaper RX 6900 XT.