The Radeon RX 6600 XT theoretically inherits the mainstream target from the previous-gen RX 5600 XT, and it delivers clearly better performance than that card. The problem is that it also has an official launch price that's clearly higher than the 5600 XT — in fact, it basically matches the launch price of the RX 5700 XT and only delivers fractionally better performance. But when every decent GPU can sell at inflated prices, what's AMD supposed to do?
If AMD officially launched the RX 6600 XT at $279, like the RX 5600 XT, we'd get the same shenanigans that we've seen with Nvidia's ostensibly $329 RTX 3060. Maybe a handful of cards actually get sold at MSRP, just to 'prove' that such things exist, but scalpers and other profiteers have a better chance of getting such cards than mere mortals. Everything else, which ends up in the hands of the add-in board partners, will sell for whatever the market dictates.
It's not hard to see that right now, a card delivering RTX 3060 levels of performance will easily sell for $500 or more — possibly a lot more. The reduced memory bandwidth should make the RX 6600 XT less attractive to miners, so maybe it will end up selling for closer to $500 on places like eBay, at least for the near future. But if people can sell it for $500 on eBay, then ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire, XFX, etc., aren't going to sell cards at $379. Basically, the MSRP has no meaning right now, and that applies equally to AMD and Nvidia GPUs.
It's damn frustrating, but other than complaining and wringing our hands, there's not much we can do but wait for things to sort themselves out. That seems to be happening slowly, but most analysts (including myself) think we won't see 'normal' graphics card prices until some time in 2022, at best. Hopefully, that proves overly pessimistic, but the impact of the pandemic is still being felt across the globe.
Setting aside the price and availability for a moment, which will both inevitably suck, the Radeon RX 6600 XT delivers pretty much exactly what we expect from a new generation mainstream GPU. Of course, there's a bit of wiggle room, but every new architecture generally boosts performance by one product tier. RTX 3060, for example, performs very similarly to RTX 2070, and the RX 6600 XT performs about the same as the RX 5700 XT. Eventually, we expect prices to correct, meaning the RX 6600 XT should cost more like $250–$300 instead of $400 or more, but by the time that happens, we could very well be looking at RX 7000-series and RTX 40-series GPUs.
Architecturally, it's still impressive how much performance AMD was able to wring out of a 128-bit memory interface. That's thanks to the Infinity Cache, which even with 'only' 32MB clearly does a lot for performance and helps avoid massive GPU bottlenecks. That AMD was able to match and even exceed the performance of the RX 5700 XT — at 1080p and 1440p, anyway — with a bit more than half the bandwidth proves how much a larger L3 cache can help GPUs. But the resulting chip isn't much smaller, though the board complexity and power use are also lower.
What sort of performance should you expect from the RX 6600 XT? We've only included more recent graphics cards in our charts, but the full GPU benchmarks hierarchy has several more generations of GPUs. Despite the massive cut in memory bandwidth, the RX 6600 XT ends up tied with the old GTX 1080 Ti, and it uses about two-thirds as much power while doing so. It also nearly ties the Radeon VII and outperforms the RTX 3060 and RTX 2070 — at least in games that only use rasterization. So how much should a card like that cost in the latter part of 2021? Considering the old GTX 1080 Ti still sells, used, for $500 or more on eBay, with an average price of $575 over the past month, people will obviously be willing to pay a lot more than $300 or even $380 for a brand new RX 6600 XT.
If you stick to 1080p, maybe 1440p gaming, the RX 6600 XT performs fine. It will also blast through lighter esports fare — no surprise, considering basically everything can run games like CS:GO, LOL, and Fortnite. We really hope the availability of the RX 6600 XT will eclipse that of the RX 6700 XT, which in turn seems to have outsold all of the other RX 6000 GPUs combined, despite launching months later. But when Sony talks about shipping 22 million PlayStation 5 consoles by the end of the year, and Microsoft wants its share of Xbox Series S/X consoles, it's hard to imagine AMD having a surplus of unallocated wafers from TSMC sitting around.
If you can't find a graphics card upgrade at a price you're willing to pay, just keep waiting, and maybe lower your resolution and detail settings in the meantime. The best way to get prices to come down is for PC gamers to simply refuse to pay the current high asking prices. Which obviously isn't working, because some people are apparently willing to do so. Are those people miners, gamers with deep pockets, or just impatient people? Yes. Yes, they are. Unfortunately, boycotts only work if a sufficient number of people are willing to abstain.
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