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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT Review: Powerful and Pricey

AMD Radeon 6900 XT
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT is officially AMD's new halo product, surpassing the Radeon RX 6800 XT and RX 6800 by offering the fully-enabled Navi 21 GPU with 80 Compute Units. The latest generation GPUs sit atop our GPU Benchmarks hierarchy and rate as some of the best graphics cards currently available (if we use the term "available" loosely). The 6900 XT is also the most expensive AMD graphics card we've seen in quite some time — the last time AMD sold a GPU priced at $1,000 or more was the Radeon Pro Duo (2016), a very limited quantity dual-GPU card. With RX 6800 XT taking on RTX 3080, the goal is clear: AMD wants to offer competitive performance to the GeForce RTX 3090 while undercutting Nvidia's price by $500.

That's all well and good, but there are a couple of problems when comparing the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 to the Radeon RX 6800 XT and 6900 XT. First, RTX 3090 more than doubled the VRAM of the 3080. It also has a wider memory bus and 20 percent more shader cores. Finally, it increased the power target by 10 percent and often delivered superior performance in professional workloads. In contrast, the RX 6900 XT has 10 percent more shader cores than the 6800 XT. And that's it.

Let's get straight to the point. On paper, the RX 6900 XT doesn't look like a good deal. We're not saying the RTX 3090 is a better deal for gaming purposes, but at least it offers some tangible benefits over the RTX 3080. If rumors of a 20GB RTX 3080 (aka, RTX 3080 Ti) prove true, that would be a better comparison point. Of course, all of this is somewhat academic right now, as supplies of the latest generation graphics cards have proven woefully inadequate. If you can find an RX 6900 XT in stock for $999, have at it! But we expect it will sell out just as quickly as its lesser siblings — faster, in fact, since we anticipate supplies of RX 6900 XT will be even more limited considering it requires a fully-enabled Navi 21 chip. We doubt yields of that quality of chip will be higher than the partially disabled chips in the 6800 XT, which were still nowhere near sufficient to meet demand. 

GPU Specifications
Graphics CardRX 6900 XTRX 6800 XTRX 6800
ArchitectureNavi 21 XTXNavi 21 XTNavi 21 XL
Process TechnologyTSMC N7TSMC N7TSMC N7
Transistors (Billion)26.826.826.8
Die size (mm^2)519.8519.8519.8
CUs807260
GPU Cores512046083840
Infinity Cache (MB)128128128
Ray Accelerators807260
Base Clock (MHz)182518251700
Boost Clock (MHz)225022502105
VRAM Speed (Gbps)161616
VRAM (GB)161616
VRAM Bus Width256256256
ROPs12812896
TMUs320288240
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)2320.716.2
Bandwidth (GBps)512512512
TDP (watts)300300250
Dimensions (mm)278x107x50278x107x50278x107x39
Weight (g)150515041389
Launch DateDec-20Nov-20Nov-20
Launch Price$999 $649 $579 

There's really not much to say about the specs that we haven't already covered. The RX 6900 XT has the full 80 CUs and 5120 shader cores that the Navi 21 GPU offers, and the remaining specs, including memory speed and TDP, are the same as the RX 6800 XT. Which isn't to say that there aren't differences in the silicon.

Binning and sorting chips from silicon wafers is nothing new, but the best chips often come from closer to the center of the wafer, where there are fewer defects. Since the 6900 XT requires a fully functioning Navi 21 chip, it almost guarantees other characteristics like power and voltage requirements will be better as well. How much does that matter in practice? If you're hoping to overclock and reach maximum performance, the silicon lottery can get you an extra few percent. Considering the 6900 XT already costs 50 percent more than the 6800 XT, however, that's a big jump in price for a likely minor improvement in overall performance.

AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT: Unboxed and Unwrapped 

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AMD Radeon 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon 6900 XT

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The Radeon RX 6900 XT looks identical to the RX 6800 XT, except for the product label. The packaging isn't quite the same, however. Inside the main box, the RX 6900 XT comes wrapped in a mouse pad. It's a nice little extra if you need a mouse pad or AMD swag. It's a relatively large pad as well — not big enough to cover your entire desk, but much larger than a basic pad.

The RX 6900 XT is a dense graphics card, weighing slightly more than the RTX 3080 while sporting similar dimensions. It's a bit thicker, occupying 2.7 slots, but it's also about 2cm shorter. You could potentially fit it into a smaller build, but we recommend exercising some caution as ejecting 300W (or more) or heat into a small case will hurt performance. Actually, if you're doing a smaller case, just save yourself some money and buy the 6800 XT — we'd bet once thermals level out, the two cards will perform nearly the same.

Like the RX 6800 cards, the 6900 XT includes a single HDMI 2.1, two DisplayPort 1.4, and one USB-C video output. If that doesn't meet your needs, keep an eye out for third party cards. We've heard there will be RX 6900 XT cards from AMD's AIB partners (contrary to some earlier rumors), which makes sense as anyone making an RX 6800 XT could use the same design for RX 6900 XT. We're not sure when those cards will be available for purchase, however.

There are two 8-pin PEG connectors for power, rated for 150W each. Combined with the 75W from the PCIe slot, power should be more than sufficient for normal operation. We did see slight power spikes when starting up certain workloads (FurMark, specifically), but these shouldn't pose a serious problem to any quality power supply that can deliver 850W. We do recommend using a single rail PSU if possible.

Radeon RX 6900 XT Overclocking 

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MSI Afterburner still doesn't support RX 6000 series GPUs at present, leaving us with AMD's built-in overclocking tools. We could just use Rage Mode, but all that seems to do is raise the power limit, so we set about doing some manual tuning.

Memory seemed easy enough to max out, and cranking the power slider to maximum as well doesn't generally pose any problems. That leaves the GPU clock, voltage, and fan speeds, the latter of which we tuned to favor cooler temperatures over quieter operation. We set the RAM to 2150 MHz, dropped the GPU voltage to 1125 mV (down from 1175 mV), and set about testing.

We started by looping the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark in a window at 1440p extreme, then bumped up the GPU clock to 2600 MHz to check for stability. We found that the power limit becomes a factor long before the maximum boost clock comes into play. With a 115 percent power limit in place, that gives the GPU up to 345W of power, and that's pretty close to where it landed. Clock speeds then fluctuate according to the demands of whatever game or workload is running, with average clocks in the 2400-2550 MHz range.

While Heaven proved stable in our initial tests, we did encounter some issues in a few other games, which eventually led to the slightly revised overclocks you can see above. We dropped the RAM 10 MHz to 2140, bumped the voltage back to 1150 mV, and that seemed to fix the problems. Additional time spent tuning might eke out a few more MHz, but for most users, simply enabling Rage Mode would do most of the dirty work — or set the RAM speed to 2100 and max out the power slider for a slightly higher result.

It's worth noting that while AMD lists the official boost clock of the RX 6900 XT as 2250 MHz, in AMD's own drivers, the boost clock shows up as 2519 MHz. You won't normally see clocks quite that high, but you could with Rage Mode. In that sense, AMD has taken a page out of Nvidia's book by advertising a lower boost clock than what you'll get in many games. We appreciate this, and the combination of increased power limits and a minor bump to the maximum boost clock gave us a decent result.

Overclocked results are present in our benchmark charts, but not in the DirectX Raytracing (DXR) suite. The net improvement was around 5 percent, and 7 percent at 4K, which isn't that much of a boost to performance. There's a decent chance third party cards may come with better factory overclocks than what we achieved.

Radeon RX 6900 XT — Test Setup 

As with the recent Radeon RX 6800 XT and RX 6800 review, we have multiple test suites we'll be running. Our new suite consists of 13 games and is a superset of the old suite, so we figured this round we'd just go with that. We also have ten DXR tests (DirectX Raytracing) to assess ray tracing performance.

Several of the latest additions to our tests suite (specifically, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Dirt 5) clearly favor AMD's latest GPUs. On the other hand, nearly all of the DXR suite favors Nvidia's RTX cards, so it sort of balances out. We didn't have time to run the RX 6900 XT on both the Core i9-10900K and Ryzen 9 5900X PCs this round, but we may add those results in the coming days. If you check the recent GTX 3060 Ti review in the meantime, you can see that the other CPUs are only slightly faster at 1080p and 1440p, likely due in part to our choice of RAM on the various platforms. That's something else we're hoping to address in the future, maybe after the New Year.

We've run all of the tests at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K ultra. We're not using DLSS on the Nvidia cards, which, as noted in the 3060 Ti review, can boost performance by 50 percent or more in games that support DLSS 2.0. We also ran Cyberpunk 2077 benchmarks with DLSS and saw increases of 60 percent or more in some cases. Needless to say, AMD could really benefit from a working and shipping alternative to DLSS. We'll have to wait and see how FidelityFX Super Resolution compares some time in 2021. 

Radeon RX 6900 XT — Extended Test Suite 

Our new suite of gaming benchmarks includes all of the games from previous years, plus four newer games from 2020. We're grouping all three resolutions for each game into a single gallery, with 4K results listed first. This is a $1,000 GPU, so we have to assume potential buyers are at least thinking about using it with a 4K display. Barring that, 1440p 144Hz displays remain the gaming sweet spot, and we recommend against spending this much money on any GPU intended for 1080p gaming (even though we're including those results).

Swipe through the galleries to check out the 1440p and 4K results, as well as the fps percentile line charts. We'll provide limited commentary on the individual games, letting the charts speak for themselves.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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We've trimmed things down to just the latest generation Ampere and RDNA2 GPUs, though you can refer to our other reviews and GPU hierarchy for additional results. Given the specs, the RX 6900 XT performs just as we expected. It's generally around 5 percent (give or take 2 percent) faster than the RX 6800 XT. The drivers used for testing the RX 6900 XT are slightly newer as well and seem to have helped boost performance even more than the expected amount in a few games (Horizon Zero Dawn, specifically).

Overall, across the entire test suite, the RX 6900 XT is slightly faster than the RTX 3080, and it can beat the 3090 in a few cases. There are games where it falls behind, however, especially if a game supports ray tracing. How important is that? You'll have to decide. We generally like the RT effects in single player games but would leave them off in multiplayer where the fps drop is tough to take.

From a value perspective, of course, the 6900 XT doesn't make any sense. Would you pay hundreds of dollars extra for five percent more performance with otherwise equivalent features and design? We wouldn't recommend that. Unless you really want that custom mouse pad. Or maybe if you use professional software where the boost in performance makes it worth your while (see below).

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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We'll go through the individual gaming results in alphabetical order, which means Assassin's Creed Valhalla is up first. As a recent release promoted by AMD, it's perhaps not too surprising to see the RX 6900 XT at the top of the charts. Still, that's a significant lead for AMD at 1440p and 1080p. We're not sure what exactly is going on within the game code that would make it favor AMD's architecture this much, but as a DX11 game, it's entirely possible Nvidia will have updated drivers that improve performance with RTX cards. For now, AMD wins this one easily.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Borderlands 3 is another AMD promotional game, and the 6900 XT basically ties the RTX 3090 at 4K ultra. Dropping down to 1440p and 1080p, it even comes out ahead of the top Nvidia chip. We see a similar trend down through the other GPUs, with the 6800 XT leading the 3080, and the 6800 beating the RTX 3070. If BL3 is a game you care about, AMD takes this one as well.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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A huge caveat here: Dirt 5 is an AMD promotional game, and we're using a beta / early access DXR patch. Given what we'll see below, either it's possible for game developers to do ray tracing in a way that dramatically favors AMD, or — more likely — the DXR implementation is very suboptimal on Nvidia right now. There are only three games currently being promoted by AMD that feature ray tracing effects, and two of those won't run on Nvidia GPUs right now, so again, these results aren't perhaps the best.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Even though this is yet another AMD promoted game, The Division 2 has been around a while and doesn't actually favor Team Red with the latest GPUs. Both the RTX 3080 and 3090 come out ahead of the 6900 XT at 4K ultra, though the gap narrows as resolution shrinks thanks to CPU bottlenecks.  All of the top GPUs can do 60+ fps at 4K ultra as well, and over 120 fps at 1440p ultra.

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Far Cry 5 puts the 6900 XT and 6800 XT between the 3090 and 3080 at 4K, while CPU limits become a factor at 1440p and 1080p. Even though this is yet another game originally promoted by AMD, Nvidia delivers higher fps at CPU-limited resolutions right now. Given this is one of the oldest games in our test suite, we wouldn't put too much emphasis on FC5 — we'll be looking at replacing it with Far Cry 6 when it comes out.

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Final Fantasy XIV is our first Nvidia promoted game, or at least a game that specifically makes use of some Nvidia GameWorks libraries. Nvidia's 3090 and 3080 take the top two spots across all three resolutions, though the biggest lead is still only 12 percent at 4K. With 4K fps in the triple digits and 1440p easily breaking 144 fps on the RX 6800 and above, this is another game that's not very representative of the latest releases.

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Forza Horizon 4 wasn't promoted by AMD, but it definitely favors AMD GPUs. At 4K ultra, the 3090 technically has a higher average fps, but the minimum fps on the AMD side has enough weight to give AMD the lead. Dropping to 1440p, both the 6900 XT and 6800 XT lead the top Nvidia cards, again with significantly higher minimum fps, and at 1080p, even the RX 6800 tops the RTX 3090. This definitely isn't one of the better showings for the green team.

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Horizon Zero Dawn is a port from PS4, so potentially the console roots help AMD a bit, plus it's a DX12 engine (the same game engine as Death Stranding). Performance is mostly a tie at 4K, but the 6900 XT pulls away at 1440p and 1080p. This is also the one game where the latest AMD drivers seem to have given RDNA2 a shot in the arm. We didn't get a chance to retest the 6800 XT, but right now, the 6900 XT is nearly 20 percent faster at 4K, and that's far more than the extra shader cores should provide.

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Nvidia redeems itself a bit in Metro Exodus, with the 3080 basically matching the 6900 XT (though with slightly lower minimum fps) and the 3090 taking the top spot. This is also one of the first games to support ray tracing, and we'll look at it again with DXR enabled below. As with most of the other games, even though the 6900 XT and 3090 are higher on the charts, the 6800 XT and RTX 3080 are the better values (provided you can find them at MSRP — or in stock at all).

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We didn't max out every setting in Red Dead Redemption 2, leaving the advanced options mostly at their minimum values. Still, as our first Vulkan API game, it's nice to see multiple cards now clearing 60 fps. The 3090 leads the 6900 XT again, though not by enough to warrant a 50 percent increase in price if gaming performance is your primary concern.

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Another Nvidia game, the RTX 3090 leads at 4K in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. However, the 6900 XT delivers better minimum fps at 1440p and 1080p, with CPU bottlenecks becoming pronounced at the latter. This is another DXR enabled game that we'll look at again below.

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Strange Brigade is our other Vulkan API game, and it strongly favors Nvidia's GPUs, even though it was originally an AMD promotional game. Not that it matters too much, as it's not a particularly popular game, and all of the GPUs hit very high fps at 4K. If you have a 4K 144 Hz display, perhaps Nvidia's GPUs are the better choice. At 1440p and 1080p, where we see frame rates approach and then cross the 300 fps threshold, however, there are better tests of a GPU's capabilities these days.

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Our final game is the second with ray tracing. AMD's launch drivers for the 6800 series didn't render DXR effects properly in Watch Dogs Legion, but public drivers and 6900 XT launch drivers have fixed at least many of the rendering errors. As a result, performance has dropped by around 30 percent for the AMD GPUs, giving Nvidia it's biggest lead yet. The 3090 is 70 percent faster than the 6900 XT at 4K, 55 percent faster at 1440p, and 45 percent faster at 1080p — and that's without enabling DLSS! Even the RTX 3080 crushes AMD's top GPU by 30-45 percent in this game when using ray tracing. Turn on DLSS Quality mode, and the Nvidia GPUs can extend their lead by another 20-30 percent. 

Radeon RX 6900 XT — Ray Tracing and DLSS Performance 

Given what we've seen so far, it's a safe bet that Nvidia will maintain its lead in ray tracing benchmarks. The RX 6900 XT may close the gap a bit, but 10 percent more shader cores can only go so far. For these DXR tests, we'll mostly be looking at the RTX 30-series and the RX 6000-series GPUs, though we do have RTX 2080 Ti results as well. For reference, the RTX 2080 Super is just a bit slower than the RTX 3060 Ti, while the remaining 20-series GPUs scale down from there.

Our format is the same as above, just with eight additional games (tests) — and we'll forego any further commentary on Dirt 5 and Watch Dogs Legion since we already covered those. Considering Nvidia was the only ray tracing solution in town up until the RX 6800 launch, most of these games are Nvidia promoted titles. Any ray tracing effects are also inherently targeted at Nvidia's hardware. 

10 Game Average

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Ray tracing continues to be extremely demanding, especially at higher resolutions without something like DLSS to help reduce the complexity. The RTX 3090 only averages 41 fps across the test suite, while the 3080 averages 36 fps. The 3080 ends up being 20-30 percent faster than the RX 6900 XT, and the 3090 is 35-50 percent faster than AMD's top GPU. If you're hoping to go all-in on ray tracing games in the next couple of years, you can actually make a pretty good argument for just going whole hog and buying the 3090. We also took an early look at Cyberpunk 2077 performance, which even in not-quite-final code looks great. The RT effects do add something to the game world, but you pretty much need DLSS to get 60 fps with most RTX cards. 

3DMark Port Royal

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3DMark Port Royal ends up on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of the performance gap between Nvidia and AMD GPUs. The RTX 3090 is consistently around 35 percent faster than the 6900 XT, while the 3080 is about 18 percent faster. 3DMark isn't a game, though it's a very common benchmark, so we wanted to at least use it as a point of reference. 

Boundary

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Boundary is a benchmark of an upcoming game, and it uses Unreal Engine with a bunch of ray tracing effects. The result is very taxing on even the fastest GPUs, especially without DLSS. At 1080p, the 3080 is 47 percent faster than the 6900 XT, and that lead grows to 51 percent at 4K. The 3090 is 67 to 75 percent faster than the 6900 XT. With DLSS Quality mode, performance can improve another 40 percent or more. If this is what the future of ray traced games holds, AMD will absolutely need Super Resolution if it hopes to compete. 

COD: Black Ops Cold War

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War only uses ray tracing effects for shadows and ambient occlusion, and honestly, it doesn't make that big of a difference visually. Even so, it's extremely taxing, and AMD's RX 6000 cards all struggle to keep up with their RTX counterparts. The 3090 is 'only' 46 percent faster at 1080p, but that lead balloons to 88 percent at 4K, where the 3090 maintains a still decent 58 fps while the 6900 XT just barely averages 30 fps. 

Control

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Control remains one of our favorite examples of what ray tracing can add to a game, thanks to the office environment with lots of vertical glass surfaces that are partially reflective. Ray tracing is also used for diffuse lighting and ambient occlusion, and the result is once again a significant win for Nvidia's GPUs. The 3080 is 53-59 percent faster than the 6900 XT, depending on the resolution. AMD's top GPU can basically match the RTX 3060 Ti.

Crysis Remastered

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Crysis Remastered's hybrid DirectX 11/DXR solution is a bit unusual, both in what was done and how it ends up performing. The 6900 XT ends up with a victory of sorts at 1080p, thanks to better minimum fps results, but then it falls behind the 3080 at 1440p and 4K. There's no DLSS support to boost Nvidia’s lead further, but the overall rendering quality in Crysis Remastered isn't particularly impressive compared to some of the other games.

Dirt 5

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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We already discussed Dirt 5 with DXR above, so we'll skip the commentary here. 

Fortnite

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Turning on RT effects in Fortnite basically demands DLSS or some equivalent. The 3090 manages to break 60 fps at 1080p, but it's the only card to do so. AMD's 6900 XT is relatively close behind the 3080 this time, but it starts at 46 fps at 1080p and drops to sub-30 fps at 1440p before ending in the low-teens at 4K. Fortnite may look cartoony, but with RT enabled, it's one of the most demanding games around — based on its performance, at least. 

Metro

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Metro Exodus was the first game to do global illumination via ray tracing, but the latest GPUs tend to run okay even with maxed-out settings. The 6900 XT hits 78 fps at 1080p and 57 fps at 1440p, then drops to 31 fps at 4K. The RTX 3080 is still 25-30 percent faster, but that's less than in some of the other games. Alternatively, AMD's 6900 XT and 6800 XT are just a bit faster than the RTX 3070 in this game. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider is another one of the early RT-enabled games, using the tech for shadows only. It's actually not even that big of a visual change in many areas, but it's also not as big of a hit to framerates. Even at native resolution (without DLSS 1.0 on the Nvidia cards), most of the GPUs break 100 fps at 1080p, and the 6900 XT still puts up a solid 85 fps at 1440p. 4K trails off a bit at just 46 fps, but that's still playable, particularly if you have a FreeSync monitor. 

Watch Dogs Legion

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Again, we covered Watch Dogs Legion above, so we'll skip the commentary here, other than to note that the 6900 XT comes in just behind the previous-gen RTX 2080 Ti and basically ties the RTX 3070. That's not a great result for a card that has twice as much memory and costs twice as much as well. 

Radeon RX 6900 XT: Blender and SPECviewperf 13 

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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We weren't able to run the full suite of Proviz benchmarks like we did on the RTX 3090, but we did run the same Blender test along with SPECviewperf 13. The results are interesting, to say the least. Many of the Blender tests have the 6900 XT ranked last, but it does a bit better in the classroom and koro scenes. (It also repeatedly failed on the victor test scene in Blender Benchmark.) We're looking into this and may update these results if we can get Blender to perform better.

SPECviewperf 13 also shows a mix of high performance and low performance, but AMD's RDNA2 card looks competitive overall. It matches the Titan RTX in catia-06 and places first in the energy-02 and medical-02 tests. It also has strong results compared to the RTX 30-series in snx-03 and sw-04. On the other hand, it doesn't do as well in maya-05, creo-02, or 3dsmax-06. If you use any of these professional applications, AMD's GPUs might be worth a look.

Radeon RX 6900 XT: Power, Temperatures, and Fan Speeds  

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The RX 6900 XT has the same 300W TBP (Total Board Power) rating as the RX 6800 XT. Using our Powenetics equipment, we've logged power, GPU clocks, temperatures, and fan speeds while looping Metro Exodus at 1440p ultra five times (without ray tracing or DLSS). We also test with FurMark running at 1600x900 in a window using the stress test mode.

Separate from the power testing, we also check noise levels at a distance of 15cm from the graphics card (in an open case). At idle, our PC’s noise floor is 46.0 dB — that's with the GPU fans not spinning, in Zero dB mode. After running Metro for 15 minutes, the RX 6900 XT noise levels were 47.7 dB. That's actually slightly quieter than the RX 6800 XT, which, as we'll see in a moment, appears to be due to differences in the default fan curve.

Clock speeds, temperatures, fan speeds, and power are all interrelated. Drop the clocks, and you reduce the power and temperature. Raise the fan speed, and you reduce the temperature and maybe even power use, potentially allowing for higher clocks. We used AMD's built-in Radeon Settings utility to adjust the fan speeds and other settings on the overclocked card, for example, producing the results seen here.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Like several of Nvidia's latest GPUs, the RX 6900 XT uses just a bit more power than the official TDP rating. Overclocked, it's right up with the RTX 3090 and actually surpasses it in FurMark (by a whole 4W). It's not a big deal, and we suspect a lot of users buying the 6900 XT will end up using Rage Mode since it's basically a free overclock that just raises the power limits.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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As we saw with the RX 6800 and 6800 XT, AMD has now started to be a bit more conservative in its official boost clock figures. All of the RX 6000 GPUs have exceeded their boost clocks in our Metro Exodus testing, and we definitely noticed other games going above 2250 MHz. Overclocked, the card even managed a cool 2.5 GHz, which is pretty freaking awesome. We can't wait to see what the extreme overclockers fare with liquid nitrogen.

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT

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Temperatures for the RX 6900 XT are okay, though it does end up at the top of our range in stock operation. What's interesting is that the fan speed is actually lower than the RX 6800 XT (see below), so AMD has apparently applied a different fan profile here that favors low noise levels over temperatures. Our overclocking tosses that out the window, of course, and the 6900 XT goes from being one of the quietest but warmest GPUs to having the highest fan speed and lowest temperatures.

Nvidia Radeon RX 6900 XT: Fast but Expensive

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

After the more recent Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 and GeForce RTX 3060 Ti cards, jumping up to a $1000 graphics card feels ludicrous. Sure, it's fast and can sometimes even beat Nvidia's top-shelf RTX 3090. Overall, however, the RX 6900 XT fails to impress relative to the RX 6800 XT. It's such an incremental bump in performance that it hardly seems worth the trouble. That's even assuming that there will be enough cards to meet the demand, which if recent history has taught us anything, there won't be.

By the numbers, the RX 6900 XT is only 4 to 7 percent faster than the RX 6800 XT, but it costs over 50 percent more. Okay, sure, you can't find the 6800 XT in stock for $649 right now, but at some point in 2021, that will no longer be the case. If you want the best high-end AMD graphics card, our pick still goes to the RX 6800 XT. But if you're open to other options, AMD has a tougher time of things.

Toss out ray tracing performance, and the RX 6900 XT looks very competitive, chalking up several wins against the RTX 3090. But if you're willing to spend over a grand on a new graphics card for gaming purposes, we simply can't overlook the ray tracing performance and current lack of a DLSS alternative. Yes, Super Resolution is coming, possibly by the time most of these GPUs are actually available for purchase, but DLSS 2.0 is here already and works great in quite a few games. However, even without DLSS, the RTX 3080 already leads the 6900 XT by an average of 25 percent at 1440p in ray tracing games.

It's also interesting to note that, for all the complaints about the lack of RTX 30-series GPUs, the RTX 3080 actually shows up on the November Steam Hardware Survey. Sure, it only has 0.23 percent of the total Steam GPU market right now, but that actually matches the RX 5600 XT. Okay, maybe we're reading too much into things because Valve has never been particularly transparent about the statistics behind the HW survey. If it's not fully random and instead sent out queries to anyone with a new 'unknown' GPU during the past month or two, that could explain things. Still, it's something to keep an eye on in the coming months, as the RTX 3070 and 3060 Ti should both start showing up as well if the statistics aren't totally bunk.

As a professional card, the RX 6900 XT again has some potential. There are certain applications where AMD is more generous than Nvidia when it comes to optimized drivers. If you happen to use one of those apps, this could be the best overall value, but again the 6800 XT has the exact same features and specs, only with a few fewer shader cores.

That's the real difficulty with the top of the pecking order. You often get radically diminishing returns going from the second- or third-tier GPU to the fastest card. The RTX 3090 has the same problem, and we don't recommend it as a general gaming solution for the same reasons. However, there are still rumblings of an RTX 3080 20GB card (possibly called RTX 3080 Ti), which could offer both a memory and performance advantage over the 6900 XT when/if it comes out. If Nvidia releases that card in the next few months and prices it at $849, that could be worth waiting for. Which is fine, since anyone wanting a new GPU is likely going to be waiting regardless.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: GPU Benchmarks

MORE: All Graphics Content

  • cknobman
    You said in the beginning you benchmarked Cyberpunk 2077 but then failed to show any of them.

    But overall, this card seems to be pointless.
    Reply
  • King_V
    cknobman said:
    You said in the beginning you benchmarked Cyberpunk 2077 but then failed to show any of them.

    But overall, this card seems to be pointless.

    Only insofar as the 3090 is also pointless.
    Reply
  • jgraham11
    So why did you put games with Ray tracing in the standard gaming mix when you have a dedicated section for ray tracing. By your numbers the 6900XT beats the 3090 except the ray tracing games brought it down below. Pretty shaddy skewing the numbers like that... Another Toms review eh.
    Reply
  • DonGato
    Most of the reviews have been shadey AF. "Let's compare vs DLSS but turn SAM off because reasons" let's focus on raytracing even tho it's only 0.5% of new games... even better let's omit the games where it crushes nvidia because reasons.

    Coreteks and hardware unboxed had good reviews everyone else is an obvious mess. Ya it's worse than 3070 sometimes... Face+palm.
    Reply
  • thepersonwithaface45
    To anyone who got any piece of tech this year:

    HOW?

    I was on walmarts site every drop of the ps5, I was there on the drops for 3080s, and now I was there for the 6900xt refreshing sites on my phone and computer.
    Add to cart button to out of stock.
    Every. Single. Time.
    Is it really just luck? Browser dependent? I've never had so many issues trying to secure something online.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    The review only made the 6800 XT look more appealing to me. I feel like the difference between the 6800 XT and 6900 XT is too small to justify the higher price.
    thepersonwithaface45 said:
    To anyone who got any piece of tech this year:

    HOW?
    You must be a 1) streamer or youtuber, 2) scalper, 3) miner, 4) game developer, or 5) friend of 1-4. Just being a gamer or PC enthusiast is not enough anymore.
    Reply
  • Jim90
    "A small step up from RX 6800 XT performance, a bigger step up in price. "

    - If that's what you think about AMD, you ain't gonna like Nvidia....

    Nvidia 3090: a small step up from 3080 performance, a MASSIVE step up in price.
    Let's remind everyone exactly who Nvidia themselves are - right now - marketing the 3090 to (straight from their front page) :-
    "The GeForce RTX™ 3090 is a big ferocious GPU (BFGPU) with TITAN class performance. It’s powered by Ampere—NVIDIA’s 2nd gen RTX architecture—doubling down on ray tracing and AI performance with enhanced Ray Tracing (RT) Cores, Tensor Cores, and new streaming multiprocessors. Plus, it features a staggering 24 GB of G6X memory, all to deliver the ultimate gaming experience. "
    --> The 3090 is clearly marketed PRIMARILY as a GAMING CARD...!!!
    -->a small step up from 3080 performance, a MASSIVE step up in price. Indeed...!!!
    Reply
  • saunupe1911
    thepersonwithaface45 said:
    To anyone who got any piece of tech this year:

    HOW?

    I was on walmarts site every drop of the ps5, I was there on the drops for 3080s, and now I was there for the 6900xt refreshing sites on my phone and computer.
    Add to cart button to out of stock.
    Every. Single. Time.
    Is it really just luck? Browser dependent? I've never had so many issues trying to secure something online.

    3 reasons....
    I took advantage of queue systems. I've purchased 2 EVGA 3080s because I signed up early that AM and got in the queue system.
    Preorders...it's just that simple. I work from home so I was ready and waiting during all console preorder days for retailers to go live. Then I followed popular twitter accounts who tweet when the retailers go live.
    Just being lucky. For example I was able to get an order in with AntOnline for 5900x on release day. I try to pay attention to the smaller companies for stuff like this because they get less site traffic and have less bots sitting on them.
    See I'm a sneakerhead so we go through stuff like this all the time for popular shoes...fighting with bots and all. So grabbing these consoles and tech items was difficult but I'm used to the grind. I'll be honest and say grabbing multiple consoles since the first preorder days have honestly been quite easy. GPUs and CPUs on the other hand was nightmare but I got what I wanted. Patience is key too
    Reply
  • madmatt30
    'That's all well and good, but there are a couple of problems when comparing the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090 to the Radeon RX 6800 XT and 6900 XT. First, RTX 3090 more than doubled the VRAM of the 3080'

    That comment almost made me stop reading the rest of the review.
    Simply because it's a ridiculous comment, the simple fact is the 3080 should have shipped with 16g vram anyway imo.

    To commend nvidia for the extra 14gb vram on the 3090 is completely nonsensical when the 3080 is actually lacking makes no sense at all.

    The 6800, 6800xt and 6900xt all have 'enough' vram for any scenario, the 3070 and 3080 arguably don't.
    Reply
  • Londovir
    DonGato said:
    Most of the reviews have been shadey AF. "Let's compare vs DLSS but turn SAM off because reasons" let's focus on raytracing even tho it's only 0.5% of new games... even better let's omit the games where it crushes nvidia because reasons.

    Coreteks and hardware unboxed had good reviews everyone else is an obvious mess. Ya it's worse than 3070 sometimes... Face+palm.

    It's not entirely "shadey" (sp) at all. Turning SAM off makes sense because that is something which, currently, is AMD specific in a very specific set of circumstances, namely using a Ryzen Zen 3 CPU and a 500 series motherboard. If you take that 6900xt and drop it in an intel motherboard, SAM is a non-factor. However, DLSS on an nVidia card will operate regardless of the CPU/mboard combo in use. Also, SAM is a feature of the motherboard/CPU/PCI interface, and not of the GPU itself necessarily, so it is reasonable to not include that when trying to compare perf of GPUs. It may be fair to say that DLSS shouldn't be included, but it's not nVidia's fault that AMD was unable to prepare their equivalent technology in time for their launch, and I do not feel it's an unfair comparison to measure the perf of each company's jewel cards together notwithstanding that face. If AMD can produce their version of DLSS, then by all means the benchmarks should be recalculated for a fair comparison to see if it matches.

    As for comparing ray tracing, that's again on AMD, not on nVidia. AMD is trying to offer a competitive product, You cannot treat them with kid gloves when their own offering currently simply cannot perform to the same level as their competitor. The fact that it's in only 0.5% of new games (a made up number, to be sure, so not really defensible here) is irrelevant in much the same way that you could look at Steam's measurements that show how the vast majority of current gamers typically play at resolutions lower than 4k and claim it's silly to focus on 4k game benchmarks. Considering that AMD's own brag page about RDNA2 Architecture discusses "Hardware Accelerated Raytracing", I think AMD deserves to have raytracing be a focus of benchmarks since they themselves are using it as a selling point. If you're going to talk it up, you have to be prepared to handle the comparison, after all.
    Reply