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AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT Roundup: ASRock, Asus, and Sapphire Reviewed

The performance, features, power, and aesthetics for these RX 6800 XT cards doesn't do much good if you can't actually buy the product, unfortunately. That's where we find ourselves right now. Theoretically, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is a good product, particularly if you're not as concerned about ray tracing performance. It's also theoretically slightly less expensive than the competing GeForce RTX 3080. In practice, however, it's all for naught.

As bad as the supply is on GeForce RTX 30-series cards, it might be even worse on AMD's alternatives. It's difficult to ascertain exactly how many of any of the cards are actually being shipped and sold, though, and both feel like ghost products right now. Tell someone you actually saw any of the latest GPUs in stock and they're liable to put you away. Which makes reviewing these cards a bit weird, but such is the way of the tech world right now.

The problem is that it's not just one thing causing the shortages. COVID plays a big role, and that impacted worldwide shipping as well. More people working and schooling from home, or just wanting to play games, means more demand. And in the case of the AMD RX 6800 XT, AMD uses TSMC's N7 process, which is in high demand from other companies as well. In the latest TSMC news, you can see that TSMC only does about 55-60 thousand wafers per month. How many of those go to Apple and Nvidia, and how many are for AMD? And of the AMD wafers, there will be Zen 3 CPUs, PS5 and XSX console APUs, and RDNA2 GPUs.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Suppose AMD gets one-third of TSMC's N7 production. That's perhaps 20K wafers. However, the PS5 and XSX consoles probably use up 75 percent of the allotment, meaning only 5K wafers for GPUs and CPUs. And right now, the Zen 3 CPUs are more lucrative (smaller chips means more per wafer, and higher profit margins). It's entirely possible that AMD is only doing a few thousand (or less) Navi 21 wafers per month. With a 520mm square die size, that's at best around 100 GPUs per wafer. Even that might be optimistic, as based on what we've seen it seems like less than 100K RX 6800 XT cards exist. Or maybe demand is simply so much higher than the supply that even with hundreds of thousands of cards, it wouldn't be enough.

If you want an RX 6800 XT and can find one of these cards in stock at a price you're willing to pay, have at it. The same applies to most of the other recent GPU launches. What everyone really wants to know is when these cards will be readily available at anything close to the launch price of $650-$700. Sadly, we don't know. Maybe in a few months, but we heard multiple companies at CES 2021 suggest that graphics card shortages are likely to continue until June at least. And if Bitcoin and Ethereum prices stay high, that would only make the situation worse, plus tariffs are also impacting prices in the United States.

It's annoying, and that's putting it nicely. In July, I wrote that it was a terrible time to buy a graphics card and updated that article after the new cards launched and immediately sold out. In retrospect, if you bought a previous-gen RTX 20-series or RX 5700-series GPU at MSRP or below right before the new cards launched, that was a smart buy. An even better buy would have been purchasing an RTX 20-series card back in 2018 because you'd then have over two years of enjoyment from it, and you could probably still sell it at close to the original price.

The winner of the current GPU battle will be whichever company can produce the most GPUs first and ship them at reasonable prices, with features, performance, and all the other aspects being secondary concerns. If we take the RX 5700 XT and the RTX 2060 Super as $400 graphics cards for our baseline, the RX 6800 XT is around 75 percent faster than the 5700 XT and 90 percent faster than the 2060 Super. That means we could reasonably accept prices of $700-$800. Anything more than that and we recommend waiting and searching for a better deal.

We know for certain that, just as the 2017 GPU shortages eventually came to an end, the current shortages will also pass into history at some point. Hopefully, that happens sooner rather than later.

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Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.