AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT aims to disrupt the middle-range GPU market, targeting high framerate 1440p gameplay. But how does it stack up compared to AMD’s previous generation of GPUs, as well as against Nvidia’s 30-series cards? And importantly, where does the 6700 XT fit within its own 6000 series GPU stack?
- Price: $479 MSRP
- Compute Units: 40
- Stream Processors: 2560
- Game Clock: up to 2424MHz
- Boost Clock: up to 2581 MHz
- Memory type: 12GB GDDR6
- Memory Bandwidth: up to 384 GB/s
- Memory Cache: 96MB L3 Cache
- Power Requirement: 230 W
Taking a trip down memory lane, my very first GPU was an ATI HD 2600 XT. This was a card that I fell in love with as it enabled me to play The Lord of the Rings Online and other games on my PC at visuals I had not seen before, running off onboard video instead. The card itself was stunning, its red shroud emblazoned with racing fire decals. I used to joke (and still do in fact) that the card went faster because of those flames and that racing red sheen.
Over the years, however, I fell out of love with AMD’s card design. That changed when Dr. Lisa Su held the 6000 series GPU on stage last year. The angles, the mix of black, steel and greys made the card pop. And the accent of red along the side, all surrounding a highlighted Radeon logo really brought it all together. Visually, the AMD 6000 series cards exude confidence.
The RX 6700 XT is no different. The three fans are down to just two on this card, each dual axial fan quietly humming away to keep the GPU cool under pressure. But the angles, the red accents, the large, confident Radeon logo slapped on the face of each fan: this is an attractive looking GPU.
The RX 6700 XT is built on the same 7nm process of its predecessors using the RDNA2 architecture that powers the 6800, 6800 XT and 6900 XT series of cards. It’s less powerful than its siblings, with fewer compute units, stream processors and a smaller L3 Cache than the more powerful 6800. Additionally, for future-facing technologies like DirectX Raytracing (DXR), the RDNA2 architecture implements Ray Accelerators on each compute unit to handle the workload.
AMD’s Infinity Cache is also present on the 6700 XT, this time with 96MB versus the 6800 and 6800 XT’s 128MB of L3 cache. In brief, the new Infinity Cache from AMD allows the GPU to essentially store data and allow for fast access by the GPU. As a result of this, the latency between GPU and the GDDR ram is lower, resulting in a more power efficient solution while lowering memory latency.
Another way AMD is leveraging the RDNA2 stack is through its use of Smart Access Memory on Ryzen-powered machines. By using SAM, AMD users will be able to access all of the memory available on the GPU versus just a fraction, removing the normal bottlenecks to increase overall performance.
AMD is targeting 1440p at high refresh rates with maximum in-game settings with the 6700 XT, pitting it squarely against the Nvidia 3070 GPU. Additionally, AMD says that the inclusion of 12GB of GDDR6 RAM is to help future-proof the GPU for titles to come, as many AAA games use a ton of RAM already. AMD cited multiple games like Watch Dogs Legion, Horizon Zero Dawn and more as titles that utilize more than 8GB of VRAM today at max settings, and the assumption is those numbers will only go up from here in the future.
It’s important to note that the figures shown in the settings menus of these specific games may not necessarily be the VRAM being used, but rather requested by the GPU. But this is incredibly hard to test and track. So take this with a grain of salt. In my opinion, better to have the RAM headroom and not need it, rather than the inverse, right?
Targeting 1440p is also a bit interesting, as is the targeting of the RTX 3070 specifically in AMD’s marketing, especially as the RX 6800 also targeted this Nvidia card when it debuted last year. The RX 6800 MSRP is $579, making it a hundred dollars more than the MSRP of the RX 6700 XT, but it does leave some questions in my mind: where exactly does the 6700 XT fit in?
AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT - Performance Benchmarks
Let’s get into what we’re all waiting for: the benchmarks. In our testing, we stacked the RX 6700 XT against the previous RDNA cards from AMD, namely the RX 5700 XT and the 5600 XT. We also included RDNA2 big brother RX 6800 in the benchmarks to see what performance differences appear between the two.
For the competition, we compared the 6700 XT against the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition, as well as the RTX 3060 Ti FE, the EVGA 3060 OC, as well as last generation’s RTX 2080 FE and an EVGA RTX 2070 Super OC. We tested both at 1080p and 1440p at max settings for each game, specifically looking at a mix of DX11 and DX12 titles.
- CPU: Intel i7-10700K @ 3.8GHz (Boost Clock up to 5.1 GHz)
- Cooling: Corsair 100i 240mm Liquid Cooler
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Aorus Z490 Ultra
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 3200MHz
- Storage: Intel 760p 2TB M.2 NVMe, ADATA Falcon 1TB M.2 NVMe
- PSU: RM 850X 850W
- Case: Lian Li 011 Dynamic
- AMD Driver: Adrenalin 20.50 (Press Driver)
- Nvidia Driver: 461.72
It is important to note that as a result of the fact that our test bench is an Intel rig, we were unable to test AMD’s Smart Access Memory. However, AMD Ryzen 3000 and 5000 users should expect to see some uplift from utilizing the feature, as AMD’s own benchmarks sent to us showed a performance increases ranging from 3% up to 18% depending on the title. (An example being Borderlands 3 going from 109 FPS to 127 FPS, an uptick of 17% in AMD’s internal testing. Take 1st party tests with a grain of salt, but it’s definitely something worth looking into if you are on a Ryzen platform. However, independent tests, like the one done over at GamersNexus, show that SAM can provide a performance uplift.)
RX 6700 XT Synthetic Benchmarks
For synthetic testing, we used 3DMark’s DX12, DX11 and Ray Tracing (which we’ll talk about in a little bit) benchmarks: Time Spy, Fire Strike and Port Royal. We tested each GPU at default settings for each test, giving a picture on how we should expect each card to perform when pushed to their limits.
As we can see in Time Spy, the DX12 benchmark, the 6700 XT hangs in there with the competition’s 3070 FE, lagging just ever so slightly in overall score. Compared with previous AMD cards, the 6700 XT provides an uptick over the 5700 XT, overall scores of 11724 versus 9836, a +19.19% increase. With DX12, it seems the RTX 3060 Ti can hang in there with the 6700 XT, with the Ampere card eking out the slight win overall against the newest RDNA2 GPU. The 6700 XT does win when compared with the Turing cards on offer, as well as against the recently released EVGA RTX 3060 OC.
With Fire Strike we see a similar story play out, with the 6700 XT hanging in with the RTX 3070 FE, with an overall score of 25942 and 26392, respectively. The 6700 XT tops the previous gen cards from both AMD and Nvidia, as well as outperforms the lesser Ampere cards on offer.
RX 6700 XT - Gaming benchmarks
For our testing, we ran benchmarks on a number of titles that ranged from DX12 and DX11, as well as some titles with ray tracing. We’ll get to DXR in a little bit, but for rasterization performance we ran the in-game benchmark when available to get as consistent a result as we could. For games like World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and Control where no in-game benchmark was present, we ran a circuit in a particularly demanding area, attempting to replicate each run as closely as possible.
For Control, this meant running the Corridor of Doom, as it’s called by Digital Foundry’s Alex Battaglia, where as in WoW we ran a circuit around Stormwind in order to create a scene with a lot going on, including shadows for its RT implementation, which we’ll talk about later.
As you can see from the numbers, the RX 6700 XT feels right at home at both 1080p and 1440p in many of these titles, seeing wins in games like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. Every other game it hangs in there, though overall behind the RTX 3070. The card that is close in performance is actually the RTX 3060 Ti, with the AMD card sitting rather close to the same performance or beating it out, as is the case in the 1080p numbers for the two in Horizon Zero Dawn. Other games, like Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers shows an edge to the Nvidia card, though the 6700 XT’s 119 FPS at 1440p Maximum is nothing to slouch at either (even compared to the 3060 Ti’s 124 benchmark).
When compared to last-gen cards from both GPU manufacturers, the RTX 6700 XT is a clear winner each time, beating out the two Turing cards we tested and proving to AMD fans who are looking to stick with Team Red a reason to look at it when jumping from the 5700 XT and 5600 XT. Gamers looking to play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1440p with maximum settings, but right now are right now gaming on a 5600XT would be happy to see the 80% increase in performance, going from 41 FPS to 74 FPS, respectively.
Other games show the uplift RDNA2 provides over its predecessor, such as a 40% increase over the 5700 XT in Watch Dogs Legion, going from 45 FPS to the 6700 XT’s 63 FPS at 1440p. Shadowbringers players don’t have much to complain about with framerates across the board, but the 6700XT does provide an improvement at both 1080p and 1440p on both the RDNA and Turing cards.
RX 6700 XT Benchmarks - Ray Tracing
The question remaining: how well does it handle ray tracing? Ray tracing is seeing more and more widespread adoption by game developers and is poised to be more and more mainstream as GPU tech continues to push forward, as well as the adoption we see with the current mainstream consoles. The 6000 series is AMD’s first crack at DirectX Ray Tracing, and the 6800 and 6800 XT came out swinging, as we documented in our previous reviews.
However, how does the 6700 XT stack up when pitted against both the Turing and Ampere cards, both generations of the competition that can handle ray tracing applications?
RX 6700 XT - Synthetics: Port Royal
In 3DMark’s Port Royal ray tracing test, we see the 6700 XT lag behind all the cards with the exception of the EVGA RTX 3060 OC. Even compared to the Turing cards, Nvidia’s first generation of cards to get hardware for ray tracing, the 2070 Super and RTX 2080 FE eke out wins compared to the 6700 XT. Closer to the 3070, which AMD is comparing the 6700 XT up against, is the RX 6800, though the Nvidia card still leads the pack.
But that’s a synthetic benchmark. How does it handle ray tracing in gameplay?
The 6700 XT with ray tracing seems to be a mixed bag overall. While it’s definitely targeting 1440p with its normal rasterization, ray tracing seems more at home at 1080p with this card. Games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and World of Warcraft: Shadowlands give some decent performance at both resolutions, but ray tracing showcases like Remedy’s Control and Ubisoft's Watch Dogs Legion sees the 6700 XT woefully behind even last generation’s competition in the space.
Admittedly, what surprised me (which we'll revisit more below) most about these numbers was how well the 3060 TI did against the 6700 XT, with games like Watch Dogs Legion seeing performance numbers at 1440p close to that which the AMD card was hitting at just 1080p.
The numbers are even more disappointing when you consider Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling technique, or DLSS for short, is enabled in quite a few ray tracing titles, providing a generous uplift in performance. With no real direct competitor to DLSS live on AMD’s FidelityFX tool platform yet, it adds some doubt as to how AMD will compete long-term in the ray tracing game, especially as more and more titles adopt the technology. We know AMD is working on its own FidelityFX Super Resolution, though the company is keeping it under wraps for the most part right now. Super Resolution operates on the promise of performance gains later on, while DLSS exists today - it definitely mires the value proposition if ray tracing is important to you.
Ray tracing on the 6700 XT will definitely be something to keep an eye on as AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution is unveiled more and rolled out to developers to implement.
Temperatures and Acoustics
Acoustically speaking, the 6700 XT was rather quiet, at least in my set up. I could hear the fans start to rise up above my case fans when under some heavy load, such as playing The Elder Scrolls Online over the weekend with some friends to test drive the card in actual gameplay sessions. However, it wasn’t annoyingly so or rather it wasn’t any louder than a normal fan-cooled GPU. Some people might find it annoying, or any sound for that matter annoying from their PC, but compared to older cards like the EVGA 2070 Super OC which sounded like a jet engine at times under load, the 6700 XT was a nice change of pace.
Temperatures are something I’m incredibly leary of, however. Living in a desert, I’m constantly concerned that my GPU or CPU will overheat if I’m not careful. AMD cards, in my experience when I’ve used them, tended to run hot compared to the Nvidia cards I’ve used, so it was nice to see that the 6700 XT didn’t get extraordinarily hot during my tests.
A question came to mind when looking over the data: who exactly is AMD targeting with the RX 6700 XT? Targeting the RTX 3070 itself seems like a miss, especially given the $20 price difference between the two and the fact that the 3070 came away ahead in almost every test we performed. AMD is likely banking on Smart Access Memory to bridge that gap with the 3070 itself, and if you’re able to leverage it you might see improved performance across the board.
However, conversely, in our testing something surprised me a bit more: how on par it was with the less expensive RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition. This is another area where it feels SAM will begin to pull away from the pack, providing a gap in performance to make the 6700 XT more compelling over the less expensive competition card.
Indeed, in AMD’s own numbers sent to us during the review, this is demonstrated. With SAM enabled, AMD’s 6700 XT looks more competitive across the board. As always with first party numbers they should be taken with a grain of salt, but the performance uplift SAM could provide can’t be discounted.
However, if you’re an Intel user, the value proposition feels less….erm...valuable. The $479 price point feels too high, especially when you consider that to take full advantage of the card you need to be invested in the right Ryzen ecosystem. SAM can only take performance so far, and if it’s the only card you can find on the market for its suggested price and you’re an Intel user, it’s going to feel pretty bad paying $80 more than a card that has similar raster performance, and ray traces better.
For Ryzen system builders though, the RX 6700 XT might make for a compelling purchase if you can’t spend the extra money to get into the RX 6800 (which also will utilize SAM in your Ryzen board).
It’s worth noting as well how much of a fan I’ve become of AMD’s Radeon Adrenalin software. Years ago, when the AMD software was integrated with Raptr, I wasn’t so much a fan, but when buying a GPU you’re just as much buying into the ecosystem of the GPU maker. The Adrenalin software provides easy one-click overclocking, displays performance metrics at the click of a button, and provides a bevy of features like image sharpening, Anti-Lag for competitive gamers and more. The app also tracks time spent in recently played games as well as gives an overall average framerate snapshot for those titles. The software felt more robust, even though the Nvidia GeForce Experience software has many of the same features (such as performance metrics display and more). Most importantly though, over the week I used it, it never felt laggy or like it was struggling to keep up, whereas I feel the opposite with the competition’s driver software.
From a ray tracing perspective, AMD is definitely coming out swinging at native performance, however I can’t help but feel as though this card should have been put on hold until AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution was ready. Launching it in the marketplace right now without an answer to the competition’s DLSS - and the performance gains it gives - feels out of place. AMD’s Super Resolution is banking on a future promise of performance, and if it turns out to be a great solution for RDNA2’s ray tracing lagging DXR performance, the 6700 XT could, over time, become more of a value.
If you’re not interested in ray tracing or the performance hit it incurs, instead you’re looking at quality 1440p gaming with max settings, the RX 6700 XT definitely fits that bill, even if it feels overpriced compared to other cards in the marketplace. However, the question of availability looms over everything. Will AMD be able to keep the cards in stock either in their store or with their board partners to ensure that gamers -and crucially not miners or bot scalpers - can actually get these cards at the $479 price point? If this generation is any indication, probably not as every hardware manufacturer has struggled with this as of late. However, if you’re looking for a good 1440p card, especially to take full advantage of your current (or planned) Ryzen rig, and ray tracing isn’t at the forefront of your mind just yet, the RX 6700 XT is a good card to look at.