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ASRock RX 6900 XT Formula Review: Pushing the Limit

Big Navi in an even bigger package

ASRock RX 6900 XT Formula
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our test configuration for the hardware and software remains unchanged from other recent reviews. We're using an 8-core/16-thread Core i9-9900K running stock clocks, but with DDR4-3600 memory and the XMP profile enabled. The CPU generally runs at 4.7GHz during our gaming benchmarks, though the slightly older Coffee Lake architecture can be a bit of a bottleneck at lower resolutions.

We're also still running Windows 10 21H1; we plan to update to Windows 11 in the near future and see how that impacts performance — which will also require retesting a bunch of GPUs, so we're not looking to jump on the preview builds just yet.

We limit testing on third-party cards to our standard 13-game test suite, running at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p at ultra (or equivalent) settings. We compare the review card, ASRock Formula in this case, against reference design GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia. Since we just reviewed the Asus ROG Strix LC RTX 3080 Ti and it goes after a similar extreme performance market, we've included results from that card as well.

Each test setting gets run multiple times, to ensure the consistency of our results. We're also skipping ray tracing benchmarks, though you can see a full suite of tests for the reference models in the AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT review. We expect to see similar performance scaling relative to the reference RX 6900 XT, with or without ray tracing, which means the ASRock RX 6900 XT Formula should still fall behind the RTX 3080 in ray tracing performance, particularly in games that use multiple RT effects.

The supply of AMD's Big Navi GPUs has been pretty bad since the launch last year, and the RX 6900 XT tends to be even more difficult to find. This is the first custom RX 6900 XT card we've received for review, and based on what we've seen in our GPU price index as well as the Steam Hardware Survey, there simply aren't that many cards to go around. At least according to Steam, RX 6900 XT currently makes up 0.08% of all surveyed PCs from last month — slightly more than the RX 6800's 0.05% but less than the RX 6800 XT's 0.10% and the RX 6700 XT's 0.13%. It's also less than every RTX 30-series GPU, including the RTX 3080 Ti that only launched in June and already accounts for 0.16% of surveyed PCs. 

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Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton's (Senior Editor) love of computers dates back to the dark ages, when his dad brought home a DOS 2.3 PC and he left his C-64 behind. He eventually built his first custom PC in 1990 with a 286 12MHz, only to discover it was already woefully outdated when Wing Commander released a few months later. He holds a BS in Computer Science from Brigham Young University and 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.

  • husker
    For some the "sanity check" on this card might be the price. But for me, it's the power draw. Prices are set at the whim of market forces, but the huge power draw on this card is something built in by the engineers at ASRock. To me that was one advantage AMD had over Nvidia in this go-round: lower overall power draw which then leads to lower amounts of heat to dissipate, quieter cooling, etc.
    Reply
  • Kridian
    Priced too high. Big nope!
    Try again!
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    48dB at 52% fan speed and 60dB at 75%!

    Any GPU which requires headphones because it's so loud at NORMAL fan speeds is not even a consideration in my book. Tack on a 400w power draw and an insane pricetag and that's an easy three strikes.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    48dB at 52% fan speed and 60dB at 75%!

    Any GPU which requires headphones because it's so loud at NORMAL fan speeds is not even a consideration in my book. Tack on a 400w power draw and an insane pricetag and that's an easy three strikes.

    Yep that is crazy.

    If these cards ever come back into MSRP which may take a year or more I would only look at an AIO model. I'm liking the temps and noise level you would get with that Asus 3080ti.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Makaveli said:
    Yep that is crazy.

    If these cards ever come back into MSRP which may take a year or more I would only look at an AIO model. I'm liking the temps and noise level you would get with that Asus 3080ti.

    I never knew what I was missing until after I got my Fury Nano and now my 2070 Super, being able to game and still hear yourself whisper is amazing, especially with an AIO CPU cooler.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    I never knew what I was missing until after I got my Fury Nano and now my 2070 Super, being able to game and still hear yourself whisper is amazing, especially with an AIO CPU cooler.

    That is my plan already on AIO cpu cooler then want to go AIO gpu then nice quiet rig even at full load. I cannot stand fan noise and more specifically it ramping up.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Makaveli said:
    That is my plan already on AIO cpu cooler then want to go AIO gpu then nice quiet rig even at full load. I cannot stand fan noise and more specifically it ramping up.

    The only thing which kept me from going AIO on my GPU was the finite lifespan of the AIO system between the pump failing and the very slow but steady loss of coolant though evaporation.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    The only thing which kept me from going AIO on my GPU was the finite lifespan of the AIO system between the pump failing and the very slow but steady loss of coolant though evaporation.

    True is a trade off vs a full custom loop.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    48dB at 52% fan speed and 60dB at 75%!

    Any GPU which requires headphones because it's so loud at NORMAL fan speeds is not even a consideration in my book. Tack on a 400w power draw and an insane pricetag and that's an easy three strikes.
    The noise level is insane. 60 decibels is not funny at all and definitely something to recommend against buying this card. Even RTX 3090 with 450W power limit don't get fans that sound this loud. I've used a Sapphire RX 6800 XT Nitro+ with a 350W power limit, and the fans are nowhere near this loud even with it running at 70%. It is only when it hits 100% fan speed when I thought some siren went off in my computer.

    Price wise, I think AIB partners can price what they want, but chances of moving large number of units is slim to none, unless its a desperate miner. While GPU shortage is still a thing now and in the near future, I feel the RX 6900 XT's price have been pushed way off what its worth now. Which is why it is not uncommon to see RX 6900 XT and 6700 XT sitting on shelves with inflated prices.
    Reply
  • Yuka
    I have the 6900XT Nitro+ SE in my HTPC for VR and it's silent while operating and I've capped it to 280W. I torture tested it a while ago and never went over 85°C junction and 80°C GPU while using 300W. I was probably throttling regardless. I have it in a small-ish case, under the TV paired to a 5600X.

    Anyway, point is these cards can do pretty well in "hot" environments, which is something I can't say about the Ampere generation as I've had friends told me their cards run too hot even with full fans pointing at them and open cases. That's bonkers. Some of then throttle hard or just shut down at times.

    As for this card... I don't think it's worth it, just because the Sapphire 6900XT Nitro+ SE exists. And that card is close to vanilla 6900XT MSRP all the time. I bought it close to MSRP at least, so I'm quite happy with that. Could I have just gone for a 6800XT? Yes, but the Nitro+ was better to all alternatives, including 6800XTs, for a few extra shekels.

    Regards.
    Reply