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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 Verdict

ASRock gives the RX 6900 XT a monster cooler, but plays it somewhat conservatively on the lighting and memory clocks. If this is supposed to be the Formula One of graphics cards, it should have used Navi 21 XTX with 18Gbps GDDR6 memory. It also costs way more than AMD's reference design, but at least you can find it in stock.

For

  • + Large and capable cooling
  • + Subdued design (if you like that)
  • + Top-tier AMD performance

Against

  • - Only 16Gbps VRAM clocks
  • - Heavy and needs a big case
  • - Very expensive

Tom's Hardware Verdict

ASRock gives the RX 6900 XT a monster cooler, but plays it somewhat conservatively on the lighting and memory clocks. If this is supposed to be the Formula One of graphics cards, it should have used Navi 21 XTX with 18Gbps GDDR6 memory. It also costs way more than AMD's reference design, but at least you can find it in stock.

Pros

  • + + Large and capable cooling
  • + + Subdued design (if you like that)
  • + + Top-tier AMD performance

Cons

  • - - Only 16Gbps VRAM clocks
  • - - Heavy and needs a big case
  • - - Very expensive

Formula One cars are some of the fastest things with wheels on the planet, so you'd expect the ASRock Radeon RX 6900 XT Formula OC to set some records — and it does. The AMD Navi 21 GPU beating at the heart of the Formula currently ranks third in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy while powering some of the best graphics cards. As an interesting change of pace, you can actually find the ASRock RX 6900 XT Formula in stock at Newegg right now… currently "on sale" for $1,700. That's basically scalper pricing, and we've seen it at $1,900 as well, but we're not sure if that's ASRock's MSRP or Newegg just inflating the price.

We originally thought the RX 6900 XT felt too expensive at $1,000 when it launched in late 2020, but the past year of GPU shortages requires us to reevaluate things. When RTX 2060 cards sell for $600 or more, an RX 6900 XT for $1,700 doesn't seem out of the question. Seriously, though, it's still a terrible time to buy a graphics card, and our GPU price index shows just how overpriced most models are.

Back to the matter at hand, the ASRock RX 6900 XT Formula OC takes AMD's fastest GPU and then adds a massive air cooler and overclocks the boost speed up to 2475 MHz — 10% higher than the reference model's 2250 MHz. It also cranks the power limits to 357W when you load up ASRock Tweak and select the OC mode, which increases the power limit by 10% compared to factory stock and sets the maximum boost clock to 2659 MHz. Yeah, the way AMD reports things with maximum boost clocks is a bit odd, but it's basically like Nvidia where the boost clock is more of a conservative estimate, while the maximum boost clock is only listed in software. Basically, the ASRock Formula has a very high clock speed, and the card also draws way more than 357W, even without the OC mode.

Regardless, we used the OC mode for our testing, though the extra OC only made for about a 1–2% improvement over stock performance. Here are the specs, compared to the reference AMD RX 6900 XT:

Graphics CardRX 6900 XT ASRock FormulaRX 6900 XT
GPUNavi 21Navi 21
Process TechnologyTSMC N7TSMC N7
Transistors (Billion)26.826.8
Die size (mm^2)519519
CUs8080
GPU Cores51205120
Ray Accelerators8080
Boost Clock (MHz)2475 (OC Mode)2250
VRAM Speed (Gbps)1616
VRAM (GB)1616
VRAM Bus Width256256
ROPs128128
TMUs320320
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)25.323
Bandwidth (GBps)512512
TDP (watts)325 (357 OC)300

Better cooling and a 10% overclock, combined with a 10% boost to the power limit, should all result in a decent bump to performance. We're still looking at the same Navi 21 GPU, and real-world clocks matter more than the theoretical numbers on the specs sheet. Take the power rating as an example. In our in-line power testing, we measured 383W while running Metro Exodus at the default clocks, and 415W with OC mode enabled. The GPU clocks were also about 50MHz higher than the 2475MHz figure, and OC mode increased clocks an additional 60MHz.

Of course, the same was true of the RX 6900 XT at launch. It averaged over 2300MHz during our gaming tests, despite a 2250MHz "maximum" boost clock that's not actually the maximum. But we prefer having AMD underpromising and overdelivering on clocks to the old way of doing things. ASRock also recommends at least a 1000W power supply for the RX 6900 XT Formula OC, and while a good 850W PSU should still suffice, we'd take the recommendation to heart.

The one thing we'd really have liked to get with a card like the Formula is something we rarely see: a good factory overclock on the memory. AMD released the special liquid-cooled version of the RX 6900 XT to system builders, and it comes with 18Gbps GDDR6 memory. We did poke around at overclocking on the ASRock card and were able to boost the base clock by about 140MHz (17.12Gbps effective speed), but that's basically the same speed we hit with every other Navi 21 card we've tested — even the lowly RX 6800.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

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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.

  • 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