AMD Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT review: A glorious return to high end gaming

Welcome back to the high end, AMD.

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is a couple of years old, but it’s packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU, especially at the higher resolution these graphics cards target. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves. 

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($300 on Amazon) overclocked to 5GHz all cores
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($105 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($355 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($352 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($70 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $579 Radeon RX 6800 and $649 Radeon RX 6800 XT against their direct Nvidia rivals, the $500 GeForce RTX 3070 and $700 GeForce RTX 3080. We’re also adding results for the last-gen GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, and RTX 2070. We included AMD’s most powerful RDNA 1 offering, the $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT. All are reference cards or Nvidia Founders Edition models. (If you want to see how the RTX Super offerings or older GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti cards perform in these games, you can find that data in our RTX 3080 review.)

We test a variety of games spanning various engines, genres, vendor sponsorships (Nvidia, AMD, and Intel), and graphics APIs (DirectX 11, DX12, and Vulkan). Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, along with any other vendor-specific technologies like FidelityFX tools or Nvidia Reflex. We’ve also enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT gaming benchmarks

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion is one of the first games to debut on next-gen consoles. Ubisoft upgraded its Disrupt engine to include cutting-edge features like real-time ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS. We disable those effects for this testing, but e with its optional high-resolution texture pack installed, Legion remains a strenuous game even on high-end hardwar. No card can maintain a 60 frames-per-second average with Ultra graphics options enabled, and the game uses more than 8GB of memory even at 1440p. Oof.

wd legion Brad Chacos/IDG

This Nvidia-sponsored title already reveals some differences in how games behave on modern GeForce and Radeon GPUs. The Radeon RX 6800 is just barely ahead of the RTX 3070 at 4K and 1440p resolution, but roars ahead of even the RTX 3080 at 1080p. The pricier Radeon RX 6800 XT, on the other hand, is a few frames behind the RTX 3080 at 4K resolution, but takes a just-as-slim lead at 1440p, which explodes into a beat-down at 1080p.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yep, PlayStation exclusives are coming to the PC now. Horizon Zero Dawn runs on Guerrilla Games’ Decima engine, the same engine that powers Death Stranding. Ambient Occlusion can offer iffy results if set to Ultra, so we test with that setting at Medium. Every other visual option is maxed out.

hzd Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD continues to flex at more common resolutions here. The Radeon RX 6800 is 8 percent faster than the RTX 3070 at 4K, 10 percent faster at 1440p, and a whopping 22 percent faster at 1080p. Once again, the Radeon RX 6800 XT winds up a few frames behind the RTX 3080 at 4K resolution, but it takes the lead by 4 percent at 1440p and leaps ahead by 10 percent at 1080p.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics puts it own brutal, fast-paced spin on the XCOM-like genre. This Unreal Engine 4-powered game was built from the ground up for DirectX 12, and we love being able to work a tactics-style game into our benchmarking suite. Better yet, the game comes with a plethora of graphics options for PC snobs. More games should devote such loving care to explaining what flipping all these visual knobs mean. You can’t use the presets to benchmark Gears Tactics, as it intelligently scales to work best on your installed hardware, meaning that “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on a weaker card. We manually set all options to their highest possible settings.

gears tactics Brad Chacos/IDG

Okay, now it’s a trend. The Radeon RX 6800 slugs it out with the RTX 3070 at 4K, but holds a 5 percent advantage at 1440p, and a whopping 23 percent lead at 1080p. The Radeon RX 6800 XT trades blows with the RTX 3080 at 4K and 1440p, but leaps ahead by 17 percent at 1080p.

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
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