AMD’s RDNA 2 push continues on March 18 with a newly announced RX 6700XT graphics card, starting at $479 and featuring just about the exact downscaled options you might expect from a card costing $100 less than last year’s RX 6800.
Before we talk specs, of course…
AMD chose YouTube for the announcement—and, perhaps foolishly, left the chat function on. This allowed fans to spam the livestream chat with “sold out” and “out of stock” cries for a full 15 minutes. Weirdly, the video’s host acknowledged that “demand for GPUs is at an all-time high,” only to offer about as worthless a pledge as you’ll get about availability: that the GPU will be sold both at AMD.com and at “e-tailers and retailers across the globe on day one.”
Hence, we have no idea how many RX 6700XT GPUs will be made available this month, nor whether AMD or any retailers have plans in place to deal with scalpers and buying bots. (The same goes for Nvidia, of course, with GPUs like its new RTX 3060, starting at $329, instantly selling out last week.)
A little less “Infinity”
The above gallery begins with an all-important AMD spec table, and it sees the 6700XT scaling down from the 6800 in a few significant categories. Compute units are down 44.5 percent, while texture units are down 33 percent; L3 cache (which AMD calls “Infinity Cache”) has dropped from 128MB to 96MB; and VRAM has dropped 25 percent to a reasonable 12GB GDDR6. AMD has also seen fit to crank the GPU’s core clocks a bit, listing an “up to” number of 2424 MHz, which exceeds both the 6800 and 6800XT.
Last year’s new RDNA 2 cards didn’t necessarily live up to AMD’s claims that they had released a killer 4K line, and they’re not bothering with such a sales pitch with the downscaled 6700XT. AMD talked up the fact that most PC players opt for 1080p and 1440p resolutions (without crediting services like Steam for capturing those metrics), then assured fans that the 6700XT was designed for optimal 1440p gaming at high refresh rates.
But the announcement didn’t otherwise have good counters to the feathers in Nvidia’s cap—namely, the competition’s dedicated cores for ray tracing and deep-learning super-sampling (DLSS). AMD’s potential answer to the latter, FidelityFX Super Resolution, was faintly teased in the Wednesday presentation, but we’re still waiting to hear exactly how it works, when it will launch, and how many games and software suites it will support. Until AMD implements its own clever upscaling system, it’s simply in no position to compete on the ray-tracing side of things, as our tests last year demonstrated.
In better news, AMD’s sales pitch about unifying your entire rig behind its brand to access the company’s proprietary “Smart Access Memory” feature has been updated to support the older Ryzen 3000 series of CPUs, in addition to the existing feature on Ryzen 5000 products. The idea here is to let the CPU and GPU talk to each other more efficiently and thus fork over complete GPU memory pool access as needed, and with AMD’s clear CPU gains in recent years, you’re likely in a position to take advantage. However, motherboard compatibility remains locked to 500-series boards, and the Ryzen 5 3400G and Ryzen 3 3200G are not compatible with the feature.
It’s worth noting that one of AMD’s charts compares the 6700XT to Nvidia’s RTX 2080 Super—a card whose performance has been summarily trounced by newer Nvidia releases. That’s up for us to shake out in future independent testing, so we’ll do our best to pit the 6700XT against similarly priced GPUs in an upcoming article. And yes, “similarly priced” in 2021 might require a careful scanning of auction and reseller listings, which we’re poised to do at this point.