The AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT launched last month, along with the RX 6750 XT and RX 6650 XT, bringing 18Gbps GDDR6 memory along with boosted clocks and higher power requirements. The Sapphire Nitro+ Pure that we reviewed initially performed quite well. Today's MSI Gaming X Trio is just a hair faster, but in getting there MSI seems to have increased power draw substantially over the competition. The RX 6950 XT ranks as one of the best graphics cards, and even holds the top spot for 1080p and 1440p gaming in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy (but not with ray tracing), but MSI's variant wouldn't be our first pick.
Here's a look at the specs for AMD's reference 6950 XT alongside the MSI and Sapphire cards we've had in for review — AMD elected to not sample media with its reference design, helping to ensure slightly higher overall performance, just like Nvidia did with the RTX 3090 Ti.
|Graphics Card||RX 6950 XT MSI||RX 6950 XT||RX 6950 XT Sapphire||RTX 3090 Ti|
|Architecture||Navi 21||Navi 21||Navi 21||GA102|
|Process Technology||TSMC N7||TSMC N7||TSMC N7||Samsung 8N|
|Die size (mm^2)||519||519||519||628.4|
|SMs / CUs||80||80||80||84|
|Ray Tracing Cores||80||80||80||84|
|Boost Clock (MHz)||2454||2310||2435||1860|
|VRAM Speed (Gbps)||18||18||18||21|
|VRAM Bus Width||256||256||256||384|
|TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)||25.1||23.7||24.9||40|
|TFLOPS FP16 (Tensor)||N/A||N/A||N/A||160 (320)|
|TBP (watts)||"340" claimed||335||~370||450|
|Launch Date||May 2022||May 2022||May 2022||March 2022|
Interestingly, MSI lists a power consumption of just 340W for its RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio, but that feels more like the TDP for the GPU rather than the full card power. We've actually tested two different cards (the first died after a couple of days for unknown reasons), and both consumed far more than 340W at their default settings. In fact, the second card used a few more watts than the initial card. We'll get to the actual power measurements later, but we saw closer to 430W out of MSI's card, and enabling Rage mode (with its 10% bump in power limits) pushed that up to 440W. Basically, it was right in the same ballpark as the RTX 3090 Ti.
Core specs are mostly identical among the three RX 6950 XT cards, with GPU boost clocks and TBP being the only real difference. AMD gives a reference clock of 2310 MHz, Sapphire pushes that to 2435 MHz, and MSI tacks on an additional 19 MHz for 2454 MHz. While previous-generation AMD GPUs often listed a theoretical boost clock that was higher than you'd typically see in practice, that changed with the RDNA 2 architecture and the RX 6000-series GPUs. At default settings, we saw average GPU clocks of more than 2.5GHz, and with Rage mode the MSI card actually broke 2.6GHz.
The big concern right now with the RX 6950 XT is that we expect AMD will launch an RX 7900 XT before the end of the year, possibly as soon as October. That's not too far away, and AMD has publicly declared that it expects RDNA 3 to deliver a 50% improvement in performance per watt. It will also be the first GPU to use chiplets, and while the topology of such a design isn't entirely clear, this could be the "biggest Navi" yet. Amid falling GPU prices and the pending next-gen architectures, it's difficult to recommend rushing out to buy a soon-to-be-outdated GPU for over $1,000 right now.
Speaking of which, it's interesting that the retail prices on the RX 6950 XT have been coming down fast. Officially the GPU has a $1,099 MSRP, and at launch we saw multiple companies pushing factory overclocked models for $1,249 or more. Right now, Newegg has multiple RX 6950 XT cards (opens in new tab) selling for MSRP, and we've seen some sales come and go that dropped prices as low as $1,030. The MSI Gaming X Trio is one of the cards selling for MSRP, which does put it $150 below the Sapphire Nitro+ Pure, but when the cards launched last month, both were targeting the same $1,250 price point — MSI just happened to correct faster.
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Also, I wonder if toying around with the VRAM speed would yield better results than the core in terms of extra FPS'es and specially power for the 6950XT. I have the 6900XT and I know for sure it does, but it's capped at ~2000, since it starts artifacting heavily above that speed for me. I run it stock, but I wanted to test the limit of it, heh.
That MSI that's linked should say Sapphire.
Still, given how little benefit pushing the extreme limits of power consumption gave to MSI, I'm really curious about how much, or rather, little, performance might be lost in backing down the power and clocks... I know nobody buys a top-of-the-line card in order to be power-efficient, but I wonder if we might have a situation here that is similar to the underclocking runs for the Vega 56.
For example, and I know this is a specific use case, but the cryptocurrency mining speed of the RX 6950 XT was consistently far lower than the RX 6900 XT, regardless of what I tried. You can get ~65 MH/s out of the RX 6900 XT after tuning, but the best I ever managed on the RX 6950 XT was about 54 MH/s. "Stock" (factory) performance with a tweak to the maximum GPU clock did better than any attempted memory overclock.
Since even messing with voltages does not seem to make performance better, this is an absolute head scratcher, probably a spec-hunter card only.
That being said, other versions of this card will get some real usage with AMD's FSR 2.0 and it will make absolute sense even with zero tensor cores. Losing ~7 frames per second to nvidia is neglible at those resolutions and with comparable quality as well.
Let's see if next gen and DLSS 3.0 might be different, but DLSS 2.x is not.