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AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT Review: The Emperor's New GDDR6

Sapphire RX 6950 XT Nitro+ Pure tested

AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Graphics cards aren't just about performance, or efficiency, or price. There are many factors at play. For a lot of gamers, it doesn't even matter how fast the RX 6950 XT might be because — much like the RTX 3080 Ti and above from Nvidia — there's no way in Hades that they're going to spend more than $1,000 just on a graphics card. You can put together a complete midrange gaming PC for about the same price. Sure, the 6950 XT might be 75%–90% faster than an RX 6700 XT, but if you're only playing at 1080p or 1440p with high settings, doubling the cost of your GPU would only improve performance by 50% on average.

Compared to Nvidia's recently launched RTX 3090 Ti, the RX 6950 XT delivers some interesting results. Throw out the DXR gaming and Blender 3D rendering results, and AMD's GPU looks great. The Sapphire RX 6950 XT Nitro+ Pure costs 40% less than the Asus RTX 3090 Ti, for example, and nearly matches it in traditional gaming performance at 4K, and even comes out ahead at 1440p and 1080p. Even if you include DXR performance, it would be difficult to justify the price of the RTX 3090 Ti. Still, it's doubtful anyone looking at the RX 6950 XT was ever really considering the RTX 3090 Ti, and vice versa.

The bigger issue is the wider graphics card market. GPU prices continue to fall, and some graphics cards are even selling at or below MSRP — AMD GPUs, in particular. The RX 6950 XT might be 10% faster than the RX 6900 XT on average, but it costs at least 10% more, and the Sapphire card costs more like 32% more than the least expensive RX 6900 XT. You can drop down another notch to the RX 6800 XT (opens in new tab), which can be had starting at $800 right now, in which case the new 6950 XT delivers 18% higher performance at 4K for 56% more money. That's better than Nvidia's $500 upsell on the RTX 3090 Ti, but that's hardly worth mentioning.

AMD does have a new Raise the Game Bundle happening as well, coinciding with the RX 6950 XT, RX 6750 XT, and RX 6650 XT launch. The new bundle will include the 2022 Saints Row reboot, which is slated to arrive in September. There will be other games revealed as well, in case Saints Row isn't on your list.

If you're after the fastest graphics card around and you want to stick with AMD, perhaps the RX 6950 XT is worth getting. A 10% increase over the 6900 XT for a nominal 10% increase in cost isn't terrible. But we're now over a year and a half since the RX 6900 XT launched, and AMD RDNA 3 GPUs should arrive before the end of the year. Huge spoonfuls of salt with regards to potential specs, but it's certainly possible AMD will boost performance by over 50% with its next-generation GPUs before the end of the year. They certainly won't be slower than the current RX 6000-series for the same price.

As for the Sapphire Nitro+ Pure, there's a lot to like with this design. Yes, you need a bigger case that can accommodate a 3.5-slot cooler and a 332mm length, but we wouldn't want to try fitting something like this into anything less than a standard ATX case. It worked great in our Cooler Master HAF500, if you're wondering. Sapphire also offers a lower-spec RX 6950 XT Pulse or the even more audacious Sapphire RX 6950 XT Toxic that uses hybrid cooling. For $50 more, the Toxic increases the boost clock by another 130MHz, potentially improving performance by another 5%. Maybe you can sell it and trade up for an RX 7900 XT at the end of the year. 

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.

  • -Fran-
    Thanks for the review as always.

    I'm a bit puzzled with these refreshes... AMD wants just a little bit more money for them with equally little bit of extra performance, but in the case of the 6950XT and 6750XT, they are not replacing the "equivalent" card, so the potential "value" crumbles down horrendously. The 6650XT is a strange bug as it is meant to replace the 6600XT in the stack (or so I've read/seen) which, fair enough, seems like an "equivalent" replacement, maybe marginally better; just maybe. And still, overall, they don't seem like a refresh that had any significance of being launched right at this time.

    The only silver lining I can totally see is the 6900XT and 6800XT going down the price stack significantly, maybe even pushing the already great 6800 closer to the 6750XT, making the latter completely pointless! Well, maybe not quite, but I'd say the 6800 is the go-get card in that price range if the prices adjust downward for the 6800. I wonder if this will push nVidia prices down? Historically it hasn't been the case, but maybe there's still a chance. I mention it, because the 3060ti is the sweet spot of this gen IMO, but if the 6800 goes down in price a bit more, its supremacy will be challenged. We all win regardless xD

    Anyway, puzzling release to say the least after seeing the performance of the cards.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • VforV
    -Fran- said:
    The only silver lining I can totally see is the 6900XT and 6800XT going down the price stack significantly, maybe even pushing the already great 6800 closer to the 6750XT, making the latter completely pointless! Well, maybe not quite, but I'd say the 6800 is the go-get card in that price range if the prices adjust downward for the 6800. I wonder if this will push nVidia prices down? Historically it hasn't been the case, but maybe there's still a chance. I mention it, because the 3060ti is the sweet spot of this gen IMO, but if the 6800 goes down in price a bit more, its supremacy will be challenged. We all win regardless xD
    RX 6800 was from the beginning and still is the least sold RDNA2 GPU in the entire line-up by AMD and now with the release of 6750 XT close to it's price and perf you can almost bet it will be MIA and never to be seen again.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    VforV said:
    RX 6800 was from the beginning and still is the least sold RDNA2 GPU in the entire line-up by AMD and now with the release of 6750 XT close to it's price and perf you can almost bet it will be MIA and never to be seen again.
    Because the 3060ti and 3070 are just better cards at the price point; well, at MSRP. The 6800 I like because of the VRAM and its potential longevity, but for the "right now", the 3060ti is just the card to get around that price range IMO. That can change with the 6800 going down as I said. If that happens, then the 6750XT will be rendered irrelevant.

    If you have the option to buy a 3070, 3060ti, 6750XT or a 6800 at around the same price, I'd be willing to say* rational thinkers would take the 6800.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • VforV
    -Fran- said:
    Because the 3060ti and 3070 are just better cards at the price point; well, at MSRP. The 6800 I like because of the VRAM and its potential longevity, but for the "right now", the 3060ti is just the card to get around that price range IMO. That can change with the 6800 going down as I said. If that happens, then the 6750XT will be rendered irrelevant.

    If you have the option to buy a 3070, 3060ti, 6750XT or a 6800 at around the same price, I'd be willing to say* rational thinkers would take the 6800.

    Regards.
    I did not contradict you on the appeal of the RX 6800, I just said you mostly never found this GPU available compared to others and from now on it will be even less available to non-existent... That's all that I said.

    It does not matter how good a product is if you can't buy it.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    VforV said:
    I did not contradict you on the appeal of the RX 6800, I just said you mostly never found this GPU available compared to others and from now on it will be even less available to non-existent... That's all that I said.

    It does not matter how good a product is if you can't buy it.
    Well, since you started by saying it was the "least sold RDNA2 card" it confused me slightly. But I will disagree that is not found anywhere. At least now it is available in a lot of places at a more reasonable price. Kind of. Maybe in the USA it is selling rather too well or they provide less of them, but in the EU it is sold and in stock almost everywhere and has been for a good while. Looking back when they launched, the 6800 and 6800XT where the ones always out of stock and the 6900XT overpriced to the moon, then the 6900XT went to 6800XT territory (when I bought it) and now they're all close to their respective MSRPs over here, where the 6900XT is down juuuust a tiny bit.

    I will agree with the 6800 is going to become really scarce now, maybe more than before, when it drops further in price if it gets squeezed from above.

    All in all, I find it strange you said it's the least sold card form the line up. I would say the 6700XT is the least sold? I've never seen it out of stock xD

    Regards.
    Reply
  • artk2219
    Huh, this is the first time in a long time that AMD has almost held the gaming performance crown, were it not for those 4k or ray tracing results this would be a bit of an upset, I want to say the last time they held the crown was with the R9 290X? Personally I don't care about the ray tracing results since in my opinion the performance in general just isn't there to actually have it enabled all the time, and 4k needs more cache to work well. In general RDNA2 has impressed me, and it really shows the potential that RDNA3 holds, next year should be pretty exciting times in the GPU market, well, so long as you can continue to pick one up at least somewhat affordably.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    -Fran- said:
    Well, since you started by saying it was the "least sold RDNA2 card" it confused me slightly. But I will disagree that is not found anywhere. At least now it is available in a lot of places at a more reasonable price. Kind of. Maybe in the USA it is selling rather too well or they provide less of them, but in the EU it is sold and in stock almost everywhere and has been for a good while. Looking back when they launched, the 6800 and 6800XT where the ones always out of stock and the 6900XT overpriced to the moon, then the 6900XT went to 6800XT territory (when I bought it) and now they're all close to their respective MSRPs over here, where the 6900XT is down juuuust a tiny bit.

    I will agree with the 6800 is going to become really scarce now, maybe more than before, when it drops further in price if it gets squeezed from above. All in all, I find it strange you said it's the least sold card form the line up. I would say the 6700XT is the least sold? I've never seen it out of stock xD
    In the US, the RX 6800 has been in relatively short supply and the price has been significantly marked up for basically ever. At present, retail prices are roughly as follows:

    RX 6700 XT: $500
    RX 6750 XT: $550
    RX 6800: $760
    RX 6800 XT: $800
    RX 6900 XT: $950
    RX 6950 XT: $1,100 (but sold out everywhere)

    In terms of performance, the RX 6800 is 25-30% faster than the RX 6700 XT, because it has 50% more CUs and 33% more memory and memory bandwidth. Again, if it were in stock at the $580 MSRP, it would be quite compelling, but when the 6800 XT is only $40 more it's the better choice: 5% more money for 15% more performance.

    Based on sales on eBay, the RX 6700 XT has been one of AMD's most popular RDNA 2 GPUs. In the past year, nearly 10,000 have been sold on eBay, compared to only 2,250 RX 6800 cards, 3,700 RX 6800 XT cards, and 2,800 RX 6900 XT cards. The 6600 XT is catching up, having sold over 6,300 since launch, but it hasn't gotten there yet. I know eBay isn't the retail market, but that's as good as I can do with the data that's out there.

    Alternatively, the Steam Hardware Survey (DirectX 12 API page) shows 0.30% for the RX 6600 XT, 0.25% for the 6700 XT, 0.15% for the 6900 XT and RX 6600, 0.13% for the RX 6800 XT, 0.09% on the 6500 XT, and 0.05% for the RX 6800. So in that case the 6600 XT has surpassed the 6700 XT in total sales to gamers, maybe.

    I don't think AMD will totally halt RX 6800 sales, but it has always been a GPU that only exists to take care of yields. If a Navi 21 isn't at least 90% functional on the CUs, and fully functional on the cache and memory controllers, it can't be sold as a 6800 XT. I do wonder if some Navi 21 chips end up as RX 6700 / RX 6750 XT, just because there will inevitably be flaws in the Infinity Cache or memory controllers. But perhaps AMD just doesn't bother with such chips.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    In the US, the RX 6800 has been in relatively short supply and the price has been significantly marked up for basically ever. At present, retail prices are roughly as follows:

    RX 6700 XT: $500
    RX 6750 XT: $550
    RX 6800: $760
    RX 6800 XT: $800
    RX 6900 XT: $950
    RX 6950 XT: $1,100 (but sold out everywhere)

    In terms of performance, the RX 6800 is 25-30% faster than the RX 6700 XT, because it has 50% more CUs and 33% more memory and memory bandwidth. Again, if it were in stock at the $580 MSRP, it would be quite compelling, but when the 6800 XT is only $40 more it's the better choice: 5% more money for 15% more performance.

    Based on sales on eBay, the RX 6700 XT has been one of AMD's most popular RDNA 2 GPUs. In the past year, nearly 10,000 have been sold on eBay, compared to only 2,250 RX 6800 cards, 3,700 RX 6800 XT cards, and 2,800 RX 6900 XT cards. The 6600 XT is catching up, having sold over 6,300 since launch, but it hasn't gotten there yet. I know eBay isn't the retail market, but that's as good as I can do with the data that's out there.

    Alternatively, the Steam Hardware Survey (DirectX 12 API page) shows 0.30% for the RX 6600 XT, 0.25% for the 6700 XT, 0.15% for the 6900 XT and RX 6600, 0.13% for the RX 6800 XT, 0.09% on the 6500 XT, and 0.05% for the RX 6800. So in that case the 6600 XT has surpassed the 6700 XT in total sales to gamers, maybe.

    I don't think AMD will totally halt RX 6800 sales, but it has always been a GPU that only exists to take care of yields. If a Navi 21 isn't at least 90% functional on the CUs, and fully functional on the cache and memory controllers, it can't be sold as a 6800 XT. I do wonder if some Navi 21 chips end up as RX 6700 / RX 6750 XT, just because there will inevitably be flaws in the Infinity Cache or memory controllers. But perhaps AMD just doesn't bother with such chips.
    I like the eBay numbers with one asterisk: if they've moved more 6700XTs than the rest of the line up, then maybe they made way way more Navi 22's than Navi 21's... Then again the combined number of 6800-series (Navi 21) and 6700XTs sold are not that far away from each other, so it could very well be that the total amount of each Navi chip sold was similar, but Navi 21 had worse yields (which makes total sense, as it is a bigger die), so the 6800-series were selling on all fronts about the same amount as AMD was able to put them in the market. I think that's a reasonable conclusion to draw from that data?

    As for the Steam Survey. I mentioned this in the news report where the 6900XT finally appeared in it. I've had it for a good while now and I've never seen the Steam Survey pop. Same with my laptop and its 6800M. I've swapped my CPU 3 times now and I've only been survey'd once; before I even got my Vega64 to replace my RX480. All of this to just point out and reinforce the point that the Steam Survey is weird.

    Interesting information none the less, so thanks for it.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • jacob249358
    Man AMD is going to take over intel and Nvidia it seems. $1100 6950xt matching or beating the $2000 something 3090ti? WOW Ryzen 7000 is supposed to slap, rx 7000 is supposed to be absolutely insane with better efficiency than rtx 4000. It is a good time for the PC world.
    Reply
  • exploding_psu
    Of course they have a new model right after I bought a 6800XT.

    Well, at least I hope this will help push the price down even more.
    Reply