The AMD Radeon RX 6800 and Radeon RX 6800 XT cards launch on November 18. That's just two days before we have to revisit the best graphics cards and GPU benchmark hierarchy topics. Ahead of the official launch, AMD is letting us do an unboxing of the upcoming products. We've gone hands-on, but that also means no performance figures (other than what AMD has already shown). We'll keep this short, as the video and images cover things in more detail.
The vanilla Radeon RX 6800 box is a typical no-frills design. You get some padding, the card, a brief user manual, and that's it. Which is fine, as there's nothing else really required. In contrast, the RX 6800 XT box is larger, with a fold-up flap and red AMD branding with a message basically congratulating you on joining the red team. Either way, you're promised, "uncompromised 4K gaming" and 16GB of memory.
The RX 6800 is the smaller card, in that it's a strict 2-slot design. It has three 77mm custom fans with integrated rims that help to improve static pressure and direct airflow into the radiator fins. Otherwise, it features minimal bling with the Radeon logo that lights up in red. It's quite a hefty card, though, weighing 1389g—basically the same weight as the RTX 3080 Founders Edition (technically, it's 34g heavier than Nvidia's card). It also has dual 8-pin connectors, which means a theoretical power limit of 375W (150W each on the 8-pin, and 75W from the x16 slot). The card isn't likely to get anywhere near that limit, but it certainly has plenty of headroom in the power delivery department.
Probably the most controversial aspect of the card is the port selection. It has two DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.1 connector, and a USB Type-C connector. There may be a few people interested in the last option, but anyone looking at setting up a quad-monitor workspace will likely want to look at alternative cards from AMD's partners. As we noted earlier this year, VirtualLink is basically dead, so VR HMD support for the Type-C connector is iffy at best.
The Radeon RX 6800 XT looks nearly identical to the vanilla card, with two key differences. First, it's bigger—2.5-slots wide, roughly. That also means it weighs more (1504g). The fans remain the same, as does most of the aesthetic and industrial design, but it appears to have an RGB enabled Radeon logo.
The larger size helps accommodate the higher 300W TDP, along with higher specs in general. The GDDR6 memory is the same 16Gbps as the 6800, but this time the Navi 21 GPU has 72 enabled CUs (Compute Units) and 4608 shader cores, compared to the 60 CUs and 3840 shader cores on the vanilla 6800. The 6800 XT also has higher base and boost clocks, though it's not clear how that will pan out in actual games. Previous AMD GPUs have run at speeds pretty close to the advertised Game Clock, but things may have changed with the RDNA2 architecture.
Side by side, you can better appreciate the thicker design on the 6800 XT. It may have problems fitting in some smaller mini-ITX cases, but it will be fine for most PCs. Considering it has 20 percent more CUs and slightly higher GPU clocks for 12 percent more money, we think it's the better option of the two cards.
Of course, that's assuming you can find one in stock come Wednesday. We've been saying this for a couple of months, but all indications are that RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT will follow the same path as the RTX 3090, RTX 3080, RTX 3070, Ryzen 9 5950X, Ryzen 9 5900X, Ryzen 7 5800X, and Ryzen 5 5600X. AMD almost certainly produced more Zen 3 CPUs than it will have Radeon RX 6000 series cards, which means you'll need plenty of luck to acquire one this side of 2021.
Check back in a couple of days for the full review. In the meantime, here's everything we know about Big Navi and the RX 6000 series.