AMD RX 6700 XT review
- Capable of pushing high framerates at 1440p in modern games
- Provides an attractive alternative to Nvidia's RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070
- Good thermal management leaves headroom for overclocking
- Poor ray-tracing performance
- Still no counter to Nvidia's DLSS tech
- More power-hungry than its Nvidia counterparts
For the first time in a long time, AMD is producing high-end graphics cards that legitimately give competitor Nvidia a run for its money. With the Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, AMD delivered compelling alternatives to Nvidia's RTX 3070 and RTX 3080, capable of playing the latest games in all their glory at 4K and 60fps.
However, recently there's been a significant uptick in folks gaming on high-refresh-rate 1440p monitors, trading image resolution for the competitive edge and the smoother responsiveness of higher Hz. This is where the Radeon RX 6700 XT comes in. By scaling back the memory, ray-tracing and compute capabilities compared to the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, AMD is able to hit a more accessible price point – or it would were it not for the scarcity-driven price gouging currently dominating the market.
Supply problems aside, does the RX 6700 XT deliver suitable 1440p performance for the price? Let's take a look.
Test PC specs
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800X
- Motherboard: MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk Wi-Fi AM4 ATX
- RAM: 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 3200MHz
- SSD Storage: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD
- HDD Storage: 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM HDD
- CPU Cooler: Cooler Master ML240R RGB
- PSU: be quiet! Pure Power 11 700W
- Case: Tecware VXR Dual Chamber Mid Tower
- Priced and specced to compete with Nvidia's RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070
- Dual axial fans provide better cooling than old blower design
- Consumes more power than its Nvidia counterparts
After focusing on 4K gaming with the Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT graphics cards, AMD has shifted its sights to the increasingly-popular 1440p market with the Radeon RX 6700 XT.
Promising performance that takes full advantage of high-refresh-rate 1440p monitors, the RX 6700 XT occupies a space somewhere between Nvidia's RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070. Its rough MSRP of $700 is pricier than the 3060 Ti's MSRP of $688 but more attractive than the $809 MSRP of the 3070.
From a quick glance at the specs of the three cards, it might seem like the RX 6700 XT has the edge over its Nvidia counterparts. Take the clock speeds, for instance. The 6700 XT holds a base frequency of 2.321GHz, with standard gaming lifting it to 2.424GHz and topping out at 2.581GHz. In comparison, the 3060 Ti clocks a base frequency of 1.41GHz and a Boost frequency of 1.67GHz, with the 3070 hitting 1.5GHz/1.73GHz.
Those numbers can be pretty misleading, however. Clock speeds don't necessarily translate to real-world performance; instead, the more useful metric is FLOPS, or Floating Point Operations Per Second. As the name suggests, this is a measure of how capable a graphics card is at performing floating point calculations, one of the more common calculations involved in gaming and graphical activities. Here, Nvidia is the victor. While the 6700 XT boasts peak single-precision performance of 13.21 TFLOPS, the 3060 Ti is capable of 16.2 TFLOPS and the 3070 ramps that up to 20.3 TFLOPS.
The memory comparison is similarly deceptive. With 12GB of GDDR6 compared to the 8GB on both the 3060 Ti and 3070, the RX 6700 XT would seem to have a significant advantage. Capacity is only part of the equation, however. Memory bandwidth is important too, and it's here that the RX 6700 XT's 192-bit memory bus suffers compared to the 256-bit buses on both Nvidia cards. Maximum bandwidth on the 6700 XT tops out at 384 GB/s whereas both the 3060 Ti and 3070 can hit up to 448 GB/s.
Historically, AMD graphics cards tend to deliver greater power efficiency than their Nvidia counterparts, offering more performance per watt despite lagging behind on the raw power front. The 6700 XT challenges this tradition with a higher typical board power draw of 230W than both its Nvidia contemporaries: the RTX 3070 is rated at 220W and the 3060 Ti at 200W. That said, I never saw the RX 6700 XT draw down more than 190W during my testing, even under heavy load.
AMD recommends a 650W PSU for the 6700 XT, requiring both an 8-pin and a 6-pin connector to supply power to the card. Nvidia also recommends a 650W PSU for the RTX 3070, though it only needs a single 8-pin connector. One 8-pin connector is all the 3060 Ti needs as well, with Nvidia lowering the PSU recommendations to 600W.
Looking at the physical reference board, the RX 6700 XT sticks close to modern graphics card design conventions. It's a two-slot card measuring in at 267mm in length, longer than the 242mm of both the 3070 and 3060 Ti. Like the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, AMD has abandoned the old blower cooling design in favour of dual axial fans which are typically quieter and better at managing heat.
I/O is standard fare. The RX 6700 XT reference board packs three DisplayPort 1.4 ports and a single HDMI 2.1 port.
- Smart Access Memory can offer significant performance boosts when paired with a Ryzen 3000/5000 series CPU
- AMD Infinity Cache enables faster memory access than comparable Nvidia cards
- Real-time ray-tracing support is here, but it's not great
Like the rest of the RX 6000 series graphics card line, the RX 6700 XT is built upon AMD's RDNA 2 architecture. RDNA 2 promises dramatic performance improvements over the original RDNA architecture, with AMD citing up to 65% more performance per watt when comparing the RX 6900 XT with the previous-generation RX 5700 XT. RDNA 2 also incorporates a suite of new technologies designed to give AMD a leg up in the modern gaming space, allowing it to compete with Nvidia on a level it hasn't been able to in a long time.
One of the most interesting RDNA 2 features is AMD Infinity Cache. This dedicated chunk of high-speed memory performs a similar function to the L1 and L2 caches common to most GPUs and CPUs. It identifies frequently-accessed data and copies it into its banks so that subsequent requests can be satisfied faster than directly accessing the card's slower GDDR6 VRAM.
Where the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT featured 128MB Infinity Caches, the RX 6700 XT cuts this back to 96MB. This reduces its potential slightly, with AMD claiming effective bandwidth improvements of up to 2.5 times that of an equivalent non-Infinity-Cache solution. In contrast, the 128MB Infinity Cache promises performance improvements of up to 3.25 times that of vanilla 256-bit 16Gbps GDDR6.
One point worth noting regarding the impact of AMD Infinity Cache: like all caching solutions, its performance hinges on how often data is re-used. If a game makes frequent requests to the same pool of assets, it will likely benefit greatly from Infinity Cache; conversely, a game that is constantly pulling in fresh assets will see less of a boost to its performance.
Smart Access Memory
Another intriguing facet of RDNA 2 is its support for AMD Smart Access Memory (SAM). Exclusive to PCs with an AMD Ryzen 3000 or Ryzen 5000 series CPU as well as an RX 6000 series GPU, SAM removes the bandwidth limitations that normally restrict how much GPU memory the CPU can access at any given time.
This lets the CPU access the entirety of GPU memory at its maximum speed, enabling increased performance across the board. AMD cites titles like Borderlands 3, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, touting performance gains of up to 16% or more in some cases.
In my testing – with the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT as well as the RX 6700 XT — I've found the impact of SAM to vary dramatically from game to game. Some titles do benefit greatly with it activated, upping their average framerates by 20% or more. Often, though, enabling SAM has little to no effect on a game's performance. When it does have a noticeable difference, it's more of a nice surprise than the norm.
For a time, SAM gave all-AMD PC builds a leg up over those with Intel or Nvidia components. However, now, Nvidia has added support for the same technology (known as Resizable BAR) to its RTX 30 series graphics cards when used with compatible AMD and Intel CPUs. This makes SAM less of a standout feature than it once was.
If there's one technology that Nvidia has held a monopoly on in recent years it's hardware-based ray-tracing. Only now with the RX 6000 series has AMD finally added support for the popular feature, incorporating dedicated Ray Accelerator hardware responsible for handling calculations of real-time lighting, shadows and reflections.
The 6700 XT features 40 Ray Accelerators, significantly less than the 60 on the RX 6800 and the 72 on the RX 6800 XT. Considering both those cards struggle to deliver ray-tracing performance comparable to Nvidia's RTX 30 series or even some of its older RTX 20 series cards, it's no surprise that the 6700 XT fails to offer a satisfying experience in any of the ray-tracing titles I tested.
Add to this the fact that AMD still has no answer to Nvidia's powerful Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and the significant boost it provides to ray-tracing performance, and there's no arguing that AMD has a long way to go to compete on Nvidia's level.
DirectX 12 Ultimate
Along with plenty of AMD-specific technologies, RDNA 2 adds support for Microsoft's DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics API.
DirectX 12 Ultimate is itself an umbrella for a whole host of different features and technologies. Among them is DirectX Raytracing which directs the Ray Accelerator hardware on the RX 6700 XT to produce real-time lighting, reflections and shadows at a greater level of realism than is possible through more-common pre-baked solutions. DirectX 12 Ultimate updates DirectX Raytracing to version 1.1, promising increased performance that AMD's graphics cards sorely need to compete with Nvidia.
Speaking of performance, DirectX 12 Ultimate introduces a technology known as Variable Rate Shading (VRS) that allows a game to control how frequently different parts of a scene are updated. For instance, a game like Dirt 5 can reduce the shading rate for parts of a scene that don't change significantly from frame to frame such as the rear of your car or the barriers surrounding the track. Since these elements are relatively static, updating them less frequently often has no perceptible difference on the scene in motion. At the same time, cutting back on the rendering rate can considerably improve performance, allowing for higher, more-consistent framerates.
On the more esoteric side, DirectX 12 Ultimate introduces the concept of Mesh Shaders for improving the performance of the geometry pipeline. It does this by eliminating much of the overhead involved in current shader implementations and enabling batch processing that makes better use of the parallel computation capabilities of modern GPUs. Without getting too technical, this can increase the rendering performance of larger, more-detailed open worlds, though it does require a game to be built from the ground up to take advantage of Mesh Shaders.
Sampler Feedback is another notable addition in DirectX 12 Ultimate, and it too promises enhanced performance in open-world games. In a nutshell, Sampler Feedback provides a game with more-detailed information regarding textures and texture streaming. Armed with this information, the game can better optimise the shading of in-game objects at varying distances from the player. Ideally, this leads to smoother performance when navigating large open worlds with less stutter and texture pop-in.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of DirectX 12 Ultimate is the one that we can't actually take advantage of yet. Due out some time in 2021, DirectStorage is a separate storage API designed to fully leverage the increased speeds of NVMe SSDs – it will, in fact, only work with NVMe SSDs. By reducing the overhead involved in the many thousands of I/O requests made by modern games and enabling batched, parallel execution of those requests, DirectStorage promises to drastically reduce loading times and allow for more-complex, more-detailed game worlds. Whether it delivers on this promise remains to be seen, but the potential is undeniably tantalising.
- Able to hit high framerates in modern games at 1440p
- 4K gaming isn't out of the question if you're happy to dial back a few settings
- Struggles to deliver a playable experience with ray-tracing turned on
The RX 6700 XT might not have the powerhouse appeal of its two 6800 series siblings, but it's a capable card nonetheless. As you can see in the charts below, it delivers on the promise of high-performance 1440p gaming, and it can even dabble in the 4K domain if you're prepared to make a few sacrifices. It's just too bad that AMD's ray-tracing tech doesn't hold a candle to Nvidia, otherwise the RX 6700 XT and its 6000 series cohorts might have finally unseated Nvidia from its throne for the first time in generations.
Despite its focus on 1440p, the RX 6700 XT fares surprisingly well at 4K. Titles like Forza Horizon 4 and Wolfenstein Youngblood easily hit 60fps at max settings, delivering a smooth experience coupled with high-fidelity visuals. Other games will require some tweaking to the settings if you're looking to hit a stable 60fps. Control, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Gears Tactics all wavered between 30fps and 60fps at the highest graphics settings, though it's worth noting that both the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT struggled to maintain 4K 60fps in those titles as well.
1440p is the sweet spot for the RX 6700 XT. It hit the all-important 60fps average in every game I tested, with only early access title Chernobylite ever dipping below 60fps. Your high-refresh-rate monitor won't go to waste, either, as average framerates approached and exceeded 100fps in many of the titles tested. Forza Horizon 4 and Wolfenstein Youngblood are once again the standouts, pushing performance high enough to take full advantage of 120Hz and 144Hz monitors.
If you're all about framerate over fidelity, the RX 6700 XT's performance at 1080p makes it an attractive choice. It delivered averages of over 100fps in every game I tested excluding Chernobylite, a game that runs rough on any hardware you throw at it. Without turning down some graphical settings, you're not going to fully max out the 240Hz and 360Hz monitors that have started hitting the market, but there's more than enough power here to flex the muscles of a 120Hz or 144Hz monitor.
The RX 6000 series is AMD's first stab at real-time, hardware-based ray-tracing, and the results haven't been great. Both the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT struggled to match the ray-tracing performance of Nvidia's older RTX 20 series cards, much less their current RTX 30 series counterparts.
It's no surprise, then, that the RX 6700 XT has even more trouble producing a playable experience with ray-tracing turned on. In Control – one of still relatively few games that support ray-tracing on AMD graphics cards — the RX 6700 XT buckled under the weight of ray-tracing at 4K, barely holding double digits with ray-tracing set to High and topping out below 20fps with ray-tracing set to Medium.
Dropping the resolution to 1440p helped, but even then the RX 6700 XT couldn't hit the 30fps average you'd want as a bare minimum playable experience. Only by dropping the resolution again to 1080p did it maintain a reasonably consistent framerate, albeit far from the 60fps you'd want from a high-end PC gaming set-up.
If you've got a Ryzen 3000 or 5000 series CPU, enabling Smart Access Memory (SAM) can give the RX 6700 XT some pretty significant performance gains in select titles. Forza Horizon 4 is the showcase here, seeing average framerate jump by between 20% and 35% at different resolutions after activating SAM. That's a staggering improvement, especially for a feature that costs nothing to turn on – assuming you have the compatible hardware, of course.
Forza is the outlier, however. While Shadow of the Tomb Raider saw meaningful gains of 5% - 10% with SAM enabled, the rest of the titles I tested maintained comparable performance with only minor deviations likely due to the nature of real-time benchmarking.
As with the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, the benefits of SAM depend on the specific game, resolution and graphics settings. It's a neat feature, but its impact isn't consistent enough to elevate an all-AMD system over one built with Intel or Nvidia components.
Dedicated benchmarking software isn't the best tool for gauging the real-world performance of a graphics card, but it does provide a simple and convenient means of comparing the general capabilities of different cards. To that end, I've run the RX 6700 XT through popular benchmarking suite 3DMark with the following results:
|Test||Graphics score||Average framerate|
|Time Spy||11,988||Test 1: 79.39fps / Test 2: 67.79fps|
Time Spy is the flagship test within 3DMark, leveraging DirectX 12 to stress GPU performance. The RX 6700 XT achieved an overall graphics score of 11,988 here, placing it between 3DMark's reported averages of 12,600 for the Nvidia RTX 3070 and 10,994 for the RTX 3060 Ti. That makes sense given the RX 6700 XT's basic specs and pricing.
The comparison moves in Nvidia's favour once we get to the ray-tracing-focused Port Royal test. The RX 6700 XT scored just 5,846, trailing the average scores of both the RTX 3060 Ti (6,973) and the RTX 3070 (8,265). It's another clear indicator of how far behind Nvidia AMD is with its ray-tracing tech.
The RX 6700 XT shakes up AMD's history of power-efficient design by sporting a higher typical board power rating than its equivalent Nvidia counterparts. At 230W, it's also only slightly lower than the 250W rating of the markedly more-powerful RX 6800. I never saw it go that high during testing, though, topping out at a maximum power draw of 187W even under heavy load.
Shifting from the blower cooling design of previous generations to dual axial fans helps the RX 6700 XT maintain a safe and stable temperature while gaming. Throughout the course of my testing, it never got hotter than 74 degrees Celsius, leaving plenty of headroom for folks who might want to overclock the card to squeeze out more performance.
Should you buy the AMD RX 6700 XT?
- Buy it if you want to enjoy the increased responsiveness of high-refresh-rate monitors at 1440p and 1080p.
- Don't buy it if you're looking to play at 4K or want decent ray-tracing performance.
The Radeon RX 6700 XT promises high performance at 1440p and that's exactly what it delivers. At this resolution, it's more than capable of exceeding 60fps in modern games, making it an excellent choice for folks wanting to make the most of their high-refresh-rate monitors.
In both price and power, the RX 6700 XT provides a compelling middle ground between Nvidia's RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070. Its ray-tracing performance is lacklustre and the absence of an AMD counter to Nvidia's Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) tech remains sorely disappointing, but it's still a capable card worth considering – assuming you can get it for near its MSRP, that is.
Pricing and availability
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