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AMD's flagship Radeon RX 6800XT will take on NVIDIA's RTX 3080

By Aaron Yip - on 1 Nov 2020, 11:04am

AMD's flagship Radeon RX 6800XT will take on NVIDIA's RTX 3080

Note: This article was first published on 29 Oct 2020.

The days of NVIDIA monopolising the high-end graphics card category may be over. After years of focusing on entry-level and mid-range graphics, AMD is now ready to take the high-end fight to NVIDIA with the just-announced Radeon RX 6800XT flagship.

It’s AMD’s first RDNA 2 graphics card targeted at PC enthusiasts, though that architecture is also used to power the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles. At US$649, the RX 6800XT is meant to go head to head with NVIDIA’s RTX 30 Series flagship, the US$699 RTX 3080.

Radeon RX 6800XT (Source: AMD)

What makes the RX 6800XT enticing, based on AMD’s own benchmarks at least, is that the card seems to be able to hold up on its own against the already-impressive RTX 3080 in 4K and 1440p gaming – but for US$50 less. Built on the 7nm process, the RX 6800XT comes equipped with 16GB of GDDR6 memory, a 2015Mhz base clock, 2250Mhz boost clock, and 72 compute units overall.

But AMD isn’t done with the RX 6800XT: the company will also launch the slightly cheaper US$579 Radeon RX 6800 alongside the 6800XT on 18 November. The card is comparable to NVIDIA’s RTX 2080 Ti or RTX 3070. And of course, AMD saved their best for last with the reveal of a droolworthy super-powerful GPU, the US$999 Radeon RX 6900XT, which is slated to arrive on 8 December and challenges the RTX 3090.

Crucially, all three Radeon cards will feature 16GB of GDDR6 memory, which gives it an advantage over the RTX 3070 (8GB) and RTX 3080 (10GB). Meanwhile, the massive 24GB found on the RTX 3090 makes it more appealing to content creators looking to upgrade their Titan cards than gamers, despite NVIDIA positioning it as an 8K gaming card. AMD has stuck with GDDR6 rather than the faster GDDR6X modules, avoiding the move to more expensive modules – and pricing their cards more competitively against NVIDIA’s.

Source: AMD

With regards to these GPUs performance, AMD says it managed to increase the performance-per-watt of the RDNA 2 cards by 30 percent, compared to last year’s GPUs. In AMD’s benchmarks, the RX 6800XT managed to beat out NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 in many 4K titles, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Battlefield V. That’s particularly impressive since it’s running with lower power usage. And even in instances where it trailed behind, like The Division 2, it didn’t seem to be far off from NVIDIA’s card. Of course, I’ll reserve my final judgement after we conduct our own in-house benchmarks.

AMD is also introducing a one-click overclocking called Rage Mode to boost performance. And gamers with a Ryzen 5000 series CPU can also take advantage of Smart Access Memory to give the GPU better memory performance with the CPU. This could be an interesting game changer for AMD, and I’m really curious to see just how much of a leg up that gives AMD systems, versus putting a Radeon RX 6000 Series card in an Intel machine.

Radeon RX 6900XT (Source: AMD)

What about ray tracing? We already knew that RDNA 2 will feature ray tracing for a while now, since it’s already demonstrated on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 consoles. The new RX 6000 Series cards will offer the same hardware accelerated ray tracing, even though AMD didn’t talk much about. Nonetheless, it establishes parity between AMD and NVIDIA’s latest GPUs though it remains to be seen if the new RX 6000 Series can match the RTX 30 Series cards’ ray tracing performance.

So that’s the summary of AMD’s RX 6000 Series announcement. I think it’s great that AMD is finally pulling out the punches not just in the CPU space against Intel, but also against NVIDIA in the high-end discrete GPU segment. Gamers will be spoilt for choices, and that’s a good thing.