Extreme performance graphics cards tend to be used at higher resolutions, and 4K ultra was the only resolution we tested where the RX 6950 XT couldn't beat the RTX 3090 Ti in standard gaming performance. It does come in second place overall, beating the RTX 3090, which is perhaps one reason why Nvidia released the 3090 Ti at the end of March. Either way, these are likely to be the two fastest cards from their respective companies until the next generation GPUs arrive this fall — and we also don't expect the top Intel Arc Alchemist GPU to be able to match either one in general gaming performance.
In the individual game charts, the performance jump from the 6900 XT to the Sapphire 6950 XT mostly followed the clock speed increases. Overall performance improved by 11%, while we saw a range of improvements from 8% to 19% in the eight selected games. Against the RTX 3090 Ti, the 6950 XT was 6% slower overall, though it didn't lose every game. Forza Horizon 5 still favored AMD by 12% and Far Cry 6 by just over 3%; the other six games did give Nvidia the win, however, with a 3% (Watch Dogs Legion and Borderlands 3) up to 30% (Flight Simulator and Total War: Warhammer 3) margin of victory.
As usual, the games you play will determine whether AMD or Nvidia ends up the better selection. As a value alternative, AMD obviously wins easily, though any GPU costing over $1,000 hardly represents a good value. Still, paying nearly double for a 6% increase doesn't strike us as meaningful.
Using games with lots of ray tracing effects did change the rankings quite a bit. Where the RX 6950 XT came in second place overall in our standard suite, it dropped all the way to sixth place in our DXR test suite, and we didn't even test the RTX 3070 Ti at 4K ultra. There's a good reason for that, with 19.2 fps on average for the RX 6950 XT across the six DXR games.
Another interesting point is that the RX 6950 XT gets more than the theoretical maximum 12.5% increase in performance compared to the RX 6900 XT. Several of the games are right around the 10% mark, but Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition and Minecraft both showed 18%–19% higher performance from the new card. Some of that is thanks to the faster memory, but the combination of higher boost clocks and power limits appears to do the rest. The RX 6900 XT reference card can definitely hit power limits at stock when running certain ray tracing games.
This is where FSR would be beneficial for AMD, but Cyberpunk 2077 is the only game with FSR support out of these six. We'll have to wait and see if FSR 2.0 can make bigger inroads, but really AMD simply needs faster hardware to handle 4K with maxed out ray tracing settings in most of these games. Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition was the only game to clear 30 fps, and only barely.
We're also curious whether AMD will add tensor core-like hardware to RDNA 3 when that arrives, given that Intel has that on Arc, and AMD has similar hardware on its data center MI200 series "Aldebaran" GPU. Intel's XeSS will support the matrix engines on Arc and will use DP4a (INT8) hardware on non-Intel GPUs as far as we're aware, but maybe AMD and Intel could kiss and make up and try to make XeSS a truly open competitor to DLSS. Stranger things have happened!