AMD makes both CPUs and GPUs. We have followed AMD’s CPU journey, from competitive, to underdog, and back to competitive. Now, with the launch of the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, it looks like AMD wants to get back to being competitive with GPUs as well.
A History of Battle
AMD’s previous reign on the GPU throne was a long time back, in 2008 and 2009. In those ancient days, Columbus was still trying to sail around the world, and AMD was releasing their cards under the ATi brand name. The best cards from the ATi Radeon 4000/5000 series could beat nVidia’s best cards, and thus AMD was king!
Now, the author of this article is extremely old (I used to listen to Beethoven… live), and watching these large companies compete has taught me something: Big companies survive the bad days by hiring smart, persevering employees. nVidia had underperfoming cards, but did not give up. They continued trying. nVidia had cards running so hot that people tried cooking with them, making nVidia the source of endless mirth on the forums:
Despite the laughter and the ridicule, nVidia still did not give up. nVidia had smart, persevering employees! In 2013, after about 5 years of being the underdog, nVidia launched their 700 series with the GTX Titan at the helm. You do not call a card a “Titan” frivolously: nVidia could not afford any more memes! No, it was named Titan because it was more powerful than anything else, and nVidia was the new king. And this new king intended to stay king by launching better hardware annually.
The long years from 2013 to 2020 marked a steady decline in AMD’s GPU performance. Every launch by nVidia would beat what AMD had to offer, and AMD would retreat a little. From competing at the enthusiast tiers, to competing at high tiers, to being relegated to the mid/low tiers and iGPUs. Very sad times for them.
AMD is a big company, though, and we know with absolute certainty that they have smart, persevering employees. They had their own run with producing producing hot and loud cards, and the forum fans had their fun teasing AMD’s choice to produce Fermi-clones (that includes us, but politely)… yet AMD kept trying. We all know what happens when you keep trying: Eventually, you may succeed.
A Breakdown of the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT
AMD have just launched the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT cards, priced at $580 and $650 respectively. AMD boldly took aim at nVidia’s RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, which are both well-reviewed, high-performing cards. And? AMD did a very good job with producing competitive cards! In detail:
1. The cards perform competitively
The RX 6800 is a bit pricier, and performs a bit better than the RTX 3070.
The RX 6800 XT is a bit cheaper, and performs a bit worse than the RTX 3080.
ALL of the above cards are fantastic for 4K gaming! Yes, even for current-year AAA titles.
2. They are power-efficient
AMD stated that they are aiming for power efficiency, and TechPowerUp says that these two new cards are the most power-efficient cards available today. Well done!
3. They run quiet
With power efficiency comes a smaller power draw, which means less heat, and thus less need for loud fans.
Alright! AMD is back in the high-end GPU market! The list should end right there, with us talking about all the good new things and signing off. But you know that is not the full list, as there are some negatives that we need to mention:
4. Raytracing performance is far behind nVidia
Make no mistake: At this point in time, raytracing is still only an option with 7 or 8 major titles (including Minecraft), and raytracing makes an enormous dent in your framerates. It is not widespread, nor is it (performance-wise) well-implemented, and as such it should not be the determining factor when purchasing a card for gaming. Nevertheless, it is a feature that makes games look nicer, and there will be people who want it. AMD’s new cards are far behind in raytracing performance, and thus are not the recommended choice for those who want raytracing.
5. You cannot buy these cards (yet)
One of the most infuriating aspects of hardware launches in 2020 has been the consistent phenomenon of the products selling out within minutes of launch. For nVidia’s 3xxx cards and AMD 5xxx CPUs, and for the new AMD 6800 cards you either bought the item within a few seconds of launch, or you got an “out of stock” error message. Fun, fun, fun.
That wraps up the news of this launch.
The two new cards easily earn their spots in our charts, at the Outstanding (RX 6800), Exceptional and Enthusiast tiers (RX 6800XT). You will need a deep wallet and heavenly luck to buy them, but they are great cards!