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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT Review: Powerful and Pricey

A small step up from RX 6800 XT performance, a bigger step up in price.

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

(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 assuming that there are enough cards to meet the demand, which of course there aren't.

By the numbers, the RX 6900 XT is only 4 to 7 percent faster than the RX 6800 XT, but it officially costs over 50 percent more. Okay, sure, you can't find the 6800 XT in stock for $649 right now, but at some point (hopefully before RDNA3 arrives), 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, not to mention the large number of games with DLSS support. Yes, FidelityFX Super Resolution is now here, and it works with every GPU, but it doesn't look quite as good as DLSS 2.0 and it's not in nearly as many games, particularly games that really need it. 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, all of the Nvidia cards (except the most recent RTX 3080 Ti and RTX 3070 Ti) actually show up in the Steam Hardware Survey. We still don't know what sort of fuzzy statistics Steam might be using, as Valve has never been particularly transparent about the data 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, not a single RX 6000-series GPU shows up, while the RTX 3070 has basically caught up to the RX 580 (AMD's highest ranked GPU on the list).

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. But really, anyone wanting a new GPU is likely going to be waiting for prices to come down, whatever their GPU of choice. When even the RTX 3060 and RX 6700 XT sell for over $700, it's best to hang on to whatever you already have.

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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.

  • Makaveli
    i'm confused is this an old review that was reposted?

    It mentions AMD's need a competitor to DLSS like FSR isn't already out, then there is mention of the 3080ti like it hasn't been confirmed yet.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    Makaveli said:
    i'm confused is this an old review that was reposted?

    It mentions AMD's need a competitor to DLSS like FSR isn't already out, then there is mention of the 3080ti like it hasn't been confirmed yet.
    Yeah. For various reasons, our reviews were initially done as a single page in a different template (that doesn't show scores and other minor differences). One of the managing editors at Tom's Hardware is going back through some of my recent graphics card reviews and switching them to the review template. The text and content hasn't been changed, but I guess it posts with the new date.
    Reply
  • dunkyboy
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    Yeah. For various reasons, our reviews were initially done as a single page in a different template (that doesn't show scores and other minor differences). One of the managing editors at Tom's Hardware is going back through some of my recent graphics card reviews and switching them to the review template. The text and content hasn't been changed, but I guess it posts with the new date.
    Wow. You are a tech website and you can't work out how to change the date of a post. This really doesn't do good things for your credibility.
    You also then end up spamming my news feed with old irrelevant articles.
    Reply
  • NeoMorpheus
    Thanks for the review.

    I honestly wish that sites would stop being scared of nvidia marketing dept and place a disclaimer that all nvidia tech is really a lame way to lock the customer to their hardware, as proven by AMD FXR and the anti-consumer crap called dlss.
    Reply
  • Howardohyea
    dunkyboy said:
    Wow. You are a tech website and you can't work out how to change the date of a post. This really doesn't do good things for your credibility.
    You also then end up spamming my news feed with old irrelevant articles.
    one thing, coding and hardware isn't the same at all. Secondly, if you don't like their articles then go read another publisher's. Don't complain about it in the comments.

    Personally I like the formatting where it's divided into different pages, makes finding benchmarks easier.

    Now here's my thoughts on the 6900XT: absolute joke, just like the 3080Ti and 3090.
    If literally all you care about is gaming the 3080 and 6800XT are excellent cards (at normal pricing), and like the article pointed out, there's literally nothing different between the 6800XT and 6900XT except the cores. Memory and everything else is the same. Might save 50% price for 10% performance.

    At least with 3090 you get 24GB of VRAM so content creators will love that. Plus it's faster than the 6900XT so people looking for the "absolute best" will go for the 3090 instead of AMD.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    Yeah. For various reasons, our reviews were initially done as a single page in a different template (that doesn't show scores and other minor differences). One of the managing editors at Tom's Hardware is going back through some of my recent graphics card reviews and switching them to the review template. The text and content hasn't been changed, but I guess it posts with the new date.
    I actually went through and reread the old review, then updated sections that were no longer correct and/or relevant. So, for example, FSR is now out, the RTX 3080 Ti is also here, prices are still fubar. But the review as it stands now should be generally correct in light of the current market situation.
    Reply
  • Kamikazekerr
    Personally Nividia is hitting it's marks there simple but effective I've had a 3090,80,70oc,3060ti and a 3060 junk and Personally I only play warzone prior to the dlss for cards like the 3070 even on custom cooling it struggled badly even turning it right up.with custom cooling, the 3080 vram took a big hit and aswell my personal favorite 3090 vram gauge looked like you threw 5 bucks in a Lincoln continental. LOL......Fast forward a few months I get an ASUS LC 6900XT it ran fine but warzone cranked up his hard on any card while the 6900 remained cool with all the buttons and dials and lack of software I found the card did not perform to my liking and sold it and jumped back into a rog 3070...but then I go and buy a refence amd 6900xt because of the look and ekwb water block. Getter plugged in and bam 100 degrees at the junction while I wait for my water block I've got 3 arctic fans force feedijg this thing air and still to high 80's and 90s which I do not like not to mention artifacting outta the box using only amd oc settings...so I pull it apart today no thermal anything under backplate..add my own from ekwb....then scrape the pad off the cooler side of the chip then watch the stock thermal pads almost Disintegrate under there own weight... replace them and repaste went from
    92 temp and 95 plus junction temp down to 75 to 82 ish temp and still a steady junction temp about 92 when working but still force feeding it air all around disappointment and the artifacting concerns me it's hit or miss now hopefully it comes around with the water. BUT all in all I would not recommend anything amd gpu related at this time...I hope to change that in the future but as of right now I'd take my Rog 3070 onwater over this 6900xt in performance for my needs and user friendly software and settings
    Reply