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AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT Review: The Memory Compromise

Navi 23 only has 8GB GDDR6 on a 128-bit interface

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

The Radeon RX 6600 XT theoretically inherits the mainstream target from the previous-gen RX 5600 XT, and it delivers clearly better performance than that card. The problem is that it also has an official launch price that's clearly higher than the 5600 XT — in fact, it basically matches the launch price of the RX 5700 XT and only delivers fractionally better performance. But when every decent GPU can sell at inflated prices, what's AMD supposed to do?

If AMD officially launched the RX 6600 XT at $279, like the RX 5600 XT, we'd get the same shenanigans that we've seen with Nvidia's ostensibly $329 RTX 3060. Maybe a handful of cards actually get sold at MSRP, just to 'prove' that such things exist, but scalpers and other profiteers have a better chance of getting such cards than mere mortals. Everything else, which ends up in the hands of the add-in board partners, will sell for whatever the market dictates.

It's not hard to see that right now, a card delivering RTX 3060 levels of performance will easily sell for $500 or more — possibly a lot more. The reduced memory bandwidth should make the RX 6600 XT less attractive to miners, so maybe it will end up selling for closer to $500 on places like eBay, at least for the near future. But if people can sell it for $500 on eBay, then ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire, XFX, etc., aren't going to sell cards at $379. Basically, the MSRP has no meaning right now, and that applies equally to AMD and Nvidia GPUs.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

It's damn frustrating, but other than complaining and wringing our hands, there's not much we can do but wait for things to sort themselves out. That seems to be happening slowly, but most analysts (including myself) think we won't see 'normal' graphics card prices until some time in 2022, at best. Hopefully, that proves overly pessimistic, but the impact of the pandemic is still being felt across the globe.

Setting aside the price and availability for a moment, which will both inevitably suck, the Radeon RX 6600 XT delivers pretty much exactly what we expect from a new generation mainstream GPU. Of course, there's a bit of wiggle room, but every new architecture generally boosts performance by one product tier. RTX 3060, for example, performs very similarly to RTX 2070, and the RX 6600 XT performs about the same as the RX 5700 XT. Eventually, we expect prices to correct, meaning the RX 6600 XT should cost more like $250–$300 instead of $400 or more, but by the time that happens, we could very well be looking at RX 7000-series and RTX 40-series GPUs.

Architecturally, it's still impressive how much performance AMD was able to wring out of a 128-bit memory interface. That's thanks to the Infinity Cache, which even with 'only' 32MB clearly does a lot for performance and helps avoid massive GPU bottlenecks. That AMD was able to match and even exceed the performance of the RX 5700 XT — at 1080p and 1440p, anyway — with a bit more than half the bandwidth proves how much a larger L3 cache can help GPUs. But the resulting chip isn't much smaller, though the board complexity and power use are also lower.

What sort of performance should you expect from the RX 6600 XT? We've only included more recent graphics cards in our charts, but the full GPU benchmarks hierarchy has several more generations of GPUs. Despite the massive cut in memory bandwidth, the RX 6600 XT ends up tied with the old GTX 1080 Ti, and it uses about two-thirds as much power while doing so. It also nearly ties the Radeon VII and outperforms the RTX 3060 and RTX 2070 — at least in games that only use rasterization. So how much should a card like that cost in the latter part of 2021? Considering the old GTX 1080 Ti still sells, used, for $500 or more on eBay, with an average price of $575 over the past month, people will obviously be willing to pay a lot more than $300 or even $380 for a brand new RX 6600 XT.

If you stick to 1080p, maybe 1440p gaming, the RX 6600 XT performs fine. It will also blast through lighter esports fare — no surprise, considering basically everything can run games like CS:GO, LOL, and Fortnite. We really hope the availability of the RX 6600 XT will eclipse that of the RX 6700 XT, which in turn seems to have outsold all of the other RX 6000 GPUs combined, despite launching months later. But when Sony talks about shipping 22 million PlayStation 5 consoles by the end of the year, and Microsoft wants its share of Xbox Series S/X consoles, it's hard to imagine AMD having a surplus of unallocated wafers from TSMC sitting around.

If you can't find a graphics card upgrade at a price you're willing to pay, just keep waiting, and maybe lower your resolution and detail settings in the meantime. The best way to get prices to come down is for PC gamers to simply refuse to pay the current high asking prices. Which obviously isn't working, because some people are apparently willing to do so. Are those people miners, gamers with deep pockets, or just impatient people? Yes. Yes, they are. Unfortunately, boycotts only work if a sufficient number of people are willing to abstain. 

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

MORE: GPU Benchmarks and Hierarchy

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Jarred Walton

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.

  • Zarax
    I know this is a lot to ask but given the ridicolous MSRP you might want to design a benchmark of discounted games (you could use isthereanydeal to see which ones have been at least once 50% off) that would be good to use with lower end cards or ones available used for acceptable prices.

    Something like "Budget gaming: how do the cheapest cards on ebay perform?" could be a very interesting read, especially given your high standards in writing and testing.
    Reply
  • salgado18
    I like the decision to lower memory bus width to 128 bits. It lowers mining performance without affecting gaming performance, and can't be undone like Nvidia's software-based solution.
    Reply
  • ottonis
    Due to production capacity constraints, AMD's main problem is they can't produce nearly as many GPUs as they would like and are thus being outsold by Nvidia by far.

    It's pretty obvious that AMD had one goal in mind with Navi23: increase production output as much as possible by shrinking die size while maintaining competitive 1080p gaming performance.
    Apparently, they accomplished that task. Whether or not the MSRP will have to be adapted: we will see,but I guess not as long as the global GPU shortage lasts.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    salgado18 said:
    I like the decision to lower memory bus width to 128 bits. It lowers mining performance without affecting gaming performance, and can't be undone like Nvidia's software-based solution.
    Still having a 128bits on a $400 GPU is outrageous, especially if VRAM bandwidth bottleneck is a major contributor to the 6600(XT)'s collapse at higher resolutions and DXR.

    With only 8GB of VRAM, the GPU can only work on one ETH DAG at a time anyway, so narrowing the bus to 128bits shouldn't hurt too much. A good chunk of the reason why 12GB GPUs have a significant hash rate advantage is because they can work on two DAGs at a time while 16GB ones can do three and extra memory channels help with that concurrency.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    salgado18 said:
    I like the decision to lower memory bus width to 128 bits. It lowers mining performance without affecting gaming performance, and can't be undone like Nvidia's software-based solution.
    Sorry, but you're not entirely correct there. It does affect performance. This is a very "at this moment in time" type of thing that you don't see it being a severe bottleneck, but crank up resolution to 1440 and it falls behind, almost consistently, against the 5700XT; that's not a positive look to the future of this card, even at 1080p. There's also the PCIe 3.0 at x8 link which will remove about 5% performance. HUB already tested and the biggest drop was DOOM Eternal with a whooping 20% drop in performance. That's massive and shameful.

    I have no idea why AMD made this card this way, but they're definitely trying to angry a lot of people with it... Me included. This card cannot be over $300 and that's the hill I will die on.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    The 6600 XT looks like a good Linux gaming card for Steam.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    Yuka said:
    I have no idea why AMD made this card this way, but they're definitely trying to angry a lot of people with it... Me included. This card cannot be over $300 and that's the hill I will die on.
    Were it not for the GPU market going nuts over the last four years, increases in raw material costs and logistics costs, this would have been a $200-250 part.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    InvalidError said:
    Were it not for the GPU market going nuts over the last four years, increases in raw material costs and logistics costs, this would have been a $200-250 part.
    I would buy that argument if it wasn't for the fact both AMD and nVidia are reeking in the cash like fishermen on a school of a million fish.

    Those are just excuses to screw people. I was definitely giving them the benefit of the doubt at the start, but not so much anymore. Their earn reports are the damning evidence they are just taking advantage of the situation and their excuses are just that: excuses. They can lower prices, period.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • ottonis
    Yuka said:
    I would buy that argument if it wasn't for the fact both AMD and nVidia are reeking in the cash like fishermen on a school of a million fish.

    Those are just excuses to screw people. I was definitely giving them the benefit of the doubt at the start, but not so much anymore. Their earn reports are the damning evidence they are just taking advantage of the situation and their excuses are just that: excuses. They can lower prices, period.

    Regards.

    The market has its own rules. As long as there is larger demand than the amount of GPUs AMD can produce, they will keep the prices high. That's just how (free) markets work.
    You can't blame a company for maximizing their profits within the margins the market provides to them.
    For a bottle of water, you usually pay less than a Dollar. Now, in the desert, with the next station being 500 miles away, you would pay even 10 Dollars (or 100?) for a bottle of water if you are thirsty.
    This will not change as long as global GPU shortage is lasting.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    ottonis said:
    The market has its own rules. As long as there is larger demand than the amount of GPUs AMD can produce, they will keep the prices high. That's just how (free) markets work.
    You can't blame a company for maximizing their profits within the margins the market provides to them.
    For a bottle of water, you usually pay less than a Dollar. Now, in the desert, with the next station being 500 miles away, you would pay even 10 Dollars (or 100?) for a bottle of water if you are thirsty.
    This will not change as long as global GPU shortage is lasting.
    You're misunderstanding the argument: I do not care about their profit over my own money expenditure. I understand perfectly well they're Companies and their only purpose in their usable life is maximizing profit for their shareholders.

    So sure, you can defend free market and their behaviour all you want, but why? are you looking after their own well being? are you a stakeholder? do you have a vested interest in their market value? are you getting paid to defend their scummy behaviour towards consumers? do you want to pay more and more each generation for no performance increases per tier? do you want to pay a cars worth for a video card at some point? maybe a house's worth?

    Do not misunderstand arguments about AMD and nVidia being scummy. You should be aware you have to complain and not buy products at bad price points or they'll just continue to push the limit, because that's what they do.

    Regards.
    Reply