The Radeon RX 7800 XT isn't much of a surprise, delivering performance right in line with what we expected to see. It's slightly faster than the previous generation RX 6800 XT, consumes a bit less power, and nominally costs $150 less than its predecessor. Nine months after the RDNA 3 reveal, we finally have mid-tier parts to fill out AMD's current GPU lineup. Does that mean AMD and its partners have cleared out most of the remaining inventory of RX 6000-series GPUs? We're not sure, but whether they're gone or not, AMD is moving on.
If the RX 6000-series parts were to disappear from the market right now, the RX 7800 XT would look and feel a lot better. Nvidia has generally been better about clearing out inventory of previous generation parts before the new stuff arrives, and we can't help but feel Navi 32 and the RX 7800 XT would have been ready for launch six months ago if market conditions were better.
But market conditions are not great, though they do appear to be improving. The RX 7800 XT does have to make a name for itself amid previous generation GPUs that have been selling right in its price range for half a year or more. It's still better than the 6800 XT, but anyone in the market for a $500 AMD GPU may have already scratched that itch.
The RX 7800 XT falls into the same quagmire we've seen with other GPU launches since last year. With only a few exceptions, most of the generational "upgrades" feel more like the proverbial two steps forward, two steps back. The 7800 XT serves a purpose, and it's not a bad card, but it's also not particularly exciting. 5% more performance and 17% less power use, for basically the same going rate, represents a small step forward.
Anyone looking to buy a new $500 graphics card should certainly consider the RX 7800 XT. But if you already have a decent gaming PC with a GPU made in the past four years, you can almost certainly sit this generation out and wait to see what happens with RDNA 4 and "Nvidia-Next" — maybe Blackwell, though that could just as well be the next data center part.
There's still Nvidia's offerings to consider as well. For rasterization performance, AMD makes a strong argument. For ray tracing performance, AI and deep learning, and extra features like DLSS upscaling and frame generation, Nvidia comes out ahead. It's the problem with Nvidia being in the driver's seat for the graphics market, but while it might sound like a good idea to support the underdog, plenty of people are just as happy supporting the market leader.
Out of the RX 7800 XT and RX 7700 XT, there's almost no reason to even consider the latter — not unless its price drops another $50 at least. Power requirements are basically close enough to be the same, and performance favors the 7800 XT by up to 20% in plenty of games, sometimes more. For the extra 11% in nominal pricing, this is the Navi 32 part to get. It feels a lot like the RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT launch, where the lesser card cut performance too far without a price cut to match. The market eventually figured things out, and that's why the 7900 XT now sells for $750 rather than $900, and something similar may end up happening to the 7700 XT.
The biggest issue is that the 7800 XT doesn't fundamentally offer much in the way of substantive improvements over the existing RX 6800 XT. Yes, it has AV1 encoding support, but if that's your use case, Nvidia's encoding quality is better. It also has DisplayPort 2.1 support, but monitors that actually use and need the new standard are still MIA, and you can do just fine with existing HDMI 2.1 and DP1.4 connectors.
If you have $400–$600 to spend right now, and you want a new graphics card, your options consist of AMD's new 7800 XT and 7700 XT, going up against Nvidia's RTX 4060 Ti, RTX 4060 Ti 16GB, and RTX 4070. You can make valid arguments for most of those cards, and they'll generally deliver a good gaming experience, but none end up as the runaway favorite. The 7800 XT might be the best of that batch, but there are still plenty of caveats and disclaimers to consider.