AMD Radeon RX 6800

Launched as a part of AMD’s new Radeon RX 6000 Series of graphics cards, the AMD Radeon RX 6800 ($579) is a slightly pricier competitor to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition. Alas, despite its big ceiling for overclocking and a bevy of new features, the Radeon RX 6800 exhibits the same performance-consistency issues as the flagship Radeon RX 6800 XT we reviewed alongside it, posting uneven frame-rate results in legacy games. When the card works to expectations, it beats the RTX 3070 Founders Edition by enough to warrant the $80 premium over that card, but once legacy games are introduced to the mix, that value proposition softens. If AMD is able to work out the kinks through future firmware updates, the Radeon RX 6800 could be a great addition to the AMD pantheon of high-end GPUs. But until then, early adopters might want to hold onto their wallets to see how this whole thing shakes out over the next couple of months. (By then, RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 cards may be more readily available, too.)

AMD Radeon RX 6800 Design: Slimmed-Down Performance

At 10.5 inches long, the Radeon RX 6800 is just as long as its more-powerful big brother, the AMD RX 6800 XT. However, where the 6800 XT variant takes up a bit more space in our testbed, at 2.5 slots wide, the RX 6800 slims its profile down slightly, to a two-slot width.

AMD Radeon RX 6800 FrontRadeon RX 5700 XT, with its 225-watt needs, had the more common six-pin plus eight-pin configuration.

AMD Radeon RX 6800 Top EdgeAMD Radeon RX 6800 XT review for a full breakdown of what’s new, what’s making its return, and an evaluation of just how specialized some of the company’s “Unique to AMD” features are (or aren’t), according to reports from around the web.

Moving to the topic of the AMD Radeon RX 6800’s raw specs, the card’s Navi 21 die is the same as what we saw in the RX 6800 XT, though this time it’s branded with the “Navi XL” badge to denote that it’s been shaved down slightly on compute cores, ray-tracing compute units (CUs), and max boost clock, differentiating it from the “Navi XT” die powering its bigger, burlier brother in the RX 6800 XT.

AMD Radeon RX 6800 PCIe ConnectorIntel Core i9-10900K processor, 16GB of G.Skill DDR4 memory, a solid-state boot drive, and an Asus ROG Maximus XII Hero (Wi-Fi) motherboard. All cards below were retested on this rig with their latest drivers for an even playing field. Given our tests with the Core i9-10900K and recent Ryzen 9 CPUs, this rig is the best reasonable configuration of the moment in 2020 to cut the CPU out of the equation for frame rates. (Read more about how we test graphics cards.)

For our testing, we focused some of the effort on the esports aspect of the Radeon RX 6800 with games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and Rainbow Six: Siege. We also ran the card through the rest of our standard benchmark regimen, which tests a card’s abilities to handle AAA games at the highest possible quality settings, as well as how it rides during synthetic benchmarks that stress the card in a variety of ways.

AMD Radeon RX 6800an extreme 360Hz monitor) that esports hounds want to push to the limit.

In these tests, like all top-end cards, the RX 6800 blew out most of our testing, pushing well past that 360fps barrier in both Rainbow Six: Siege and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at 1080p. Final Fantasy results were also impressive, scoring just barely below the pricier RX 6800 XT at those same resolutions.

But yet again, at least in CS:GO, the RX 6800 still lags behind the RTX 3070 Founders Edition at the resolutions that matter most to multiplayer gamers: 1080p and 1440p. The more expensive card is slower than the less expensive option, and Nvidia’s card comes with DLSS support to boot. Oh benchmarks, when will you ever be fair to AMD?

Testing Results: Legacy AAA Titles

Next, let’s see how the Radeon RX 6800 does with some past-their-prime AAA titles. We ran some quick tests on some oldies-but-goodies that still offer the AAA gaming experience. These legacy tests include runs of Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider (2013), and Bioshock: Infinite, the last being a game that has no business still being as well optimized as it is here in 2020.

Once again, a problem spot first seen on the Radeon RX 6800 XT: legacy titles. Something about the driver set launched with the RX 6800 cards just doesn’t seem to gel with the games we test as a part of this sub-suite. Only the results achieved in Tomb Raider (2013) provide the frame rates that make sense for the money.

The rest are well under expectations. Sleeping Dogs, once again, seems to be a big pain point. Despite the RX 6800 card costing a little over 15% more than the RTX 3070 Founders Edition, it performed nearly 30% slower, and the price equation is also out of whack with the results from Bioshock: Infinite (11% slower), and Hitman: Absolution (10% slower).

As we pontificated in the RX 6800 XT review, this all looks like it comes down to drivers, drivers, drivers. Just as AMD sent us a new Radeon RX 6800 XT to test upon us first noticing these issues, the company also rush-delivered a second RX 6800 sample to see if new hardware changed matters. Like the XT, the second RX 6800 performed nearly to a T as the first, which again, leads us to the assumption that whatever the problem is, it’s almost definitely based in the drivers (which can be patched at a later date), rather than the hardware, which can’t.

Overclocking and Thermals: The Sky’s the Limit (Just About)

We ran a 10-minute stress test in 3DMark Port Royal on the Radeon RX 6800, and the card peaked at a temperature of 77 degrees C. This is just a few degrees cooler than the RX 6800 XT, which topped out at a sweaty 81 degrees C. That said, it’s still a bit hotter than the RTX 3070 Founders Edition (with its re-engineered PCB, heatsink, and cooling system), which hit a peak temperature of 74 degrees C in the same run.

AMD Radeon RX 6800 FLIR November 18, 2020

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