It feels like so much has happened in just the few short months since the launch of Big Navi. In December, all we had to worry about was limited supply and scalpers hoovering up what few graphics cards there were, only to see cards show up on eBay at significant price premiums. Now we have to deal with all of that, plus coin mining fueled shortages and even higher prices.
If all of the Nvidia Ampere and AMD RDNA2 GPUs were available at prices close to MSRP, the RX 6700 XT would look a bit overpriced. It's basically a match for the RTX 3060 Ti, without the option for DLSS and weaker ray tracing performance, at an $80 price premium. Calling this an RTX 3070 competitor is a bit too ambitious, unless you limit testing to AMD-promoted games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Dirt 5, etc. But now? Now there are a lot of gamers who would happily pay $479 for an RX 6700 XT — and they're not likely to find one in stock.
AMD's Navi 22 chip takes over from the previous generation Navi 10 chip, packing in new features and a large Infinity Cache that results in 33% larger die. It's not just ray tracing and cache, though, as VRS, mesh shaders, and a reworked pipeline that can hit significantly higher clocks are all part of the package. If nothing else, the clocks on AMD's RDNA2 parts are certainly impressive, and the 6700 XT typically runs at clocks around 40% higher than RX 5700 XT. Combined with the other architectural tweaks and enhancements, that yields gaming performance that's around 30% faster, plus 50% more VRAM to ensure you won't hit memory limits in the most voracious of games.
Is that enough? At 'official' prices — which are basically just fantasyland right now — we'd call this a good card, but we'd point to the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT as better overall picks. More memory, more cores, better performance, and not that much more expensive. We'd also give the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 an edge over the 6700 XT, due to features, performance, and pricing (in that order). Except, right now, the Navi 21 and Ampere cards are all selling at more than double their MSRPs on eBay, and finding cards at retail continues to be a problem.
There's also the next-gen console factor to consider. We're big proponents of PC gaming, but you can get a very good gaming experience from an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. In fact, the RX 6700 XT ends up as a very close match to the Xbox Series X GPU: Fewer cores and higher clocks make it a net wash. Of course, all the next-gen consoles keep selling out as well, but at least miners aren't snapping them up, which means you can find the consoles for around $600. Given a choice between $600 for an Xbox or potentially $800 (what the RTX 3060 currently sells for on eBay) for an RX 6700 XT, sadly, we would have to say the consoles are the better deal right now from a pure gaming perspective. Unless you want to mine when you're not gaming to offset the cost of the card, maybe?
There's no question the Radeon RX 6700 XT represents a potent card at a reasonable price. Rather, the question is how many cards will actually be available for anywhere close to AMD's official launch price. We suspect that, just like with the other RDNA2 cards, the answer will be "not nearly enough." Even if mining weren't making a bad situation worse, the latest GPUs would likely still be hard to come by, and shortages on various tech components — including GPUs, memory, substrates, and even automobile and smartphone chips — are currently projected to last until 2022.
The good news is that, as a smaller chip, AMD planned for higher sales back when it ordered Navi 22 wafers. If AMD follows the usual pattern, there will probably be twice as many RX 6700 XT cards as all the Navi 21 cards combined. Maybe the less impressive mining performance will make them less attractive to miners as well. Unfortunately, we doubt that will be the case. That means if you can find one for sale at MSRP tomorrow, you should probably just buy it — even if you don't want it, you can almost certainly find someone who will buy it off of you at a decent markup. Or you could just be a good friend and trade it to someone at cost, since getting one will be more like winning the lotto than just navigating through the usual checkout procedures.
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