AMD's New 6000 Series Graphics Cards Are Putting Pressure on Nvidia

AMD's New 6000 Series Graphics Cards Are Putting Pressure on Nvidia

It looked like Nvidia was pulling far ahead with GPUs. Now, it might be neck-and-neck.

Today, AMD revealed the specs, prices, and release dates for its new RX 6000 graphics cards today, and if there's ever been a time for console gamers to sit up and take notice of what's happening with PC hardware, it's now. The RX 6000 series will be the first time PC builders are able to get their hands on AMD's new RDNA technology that's powering the new Xboxes and the PS5—not only that, the new cards look to be competitive in both price and performance with Nvidia's much buzzed-about RTX 3080 and its cousins.

The three new graphics cards in AMD's Radeon RX line of products are the 6800, RX 6800 XT, and the 6900 XT. Of the three, the 6800 XT looks to be the closest in terms of price and performance to Nvidia's $699 RTX 3080, with a few important distinctions: it's just a bit cheaper at $649 and it's ever-so-slightly more power efficient. On the lower end with the 6800, AMD is a bit pricier than Nvidia's RTX 3070, but the beefy 6900 XT beats the luxe RTX 3090 by a nice price margin.

Card Name Price Video Memory
AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT $999 16GB
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT $649 16GB
AMD Radeon RX 6800 $579 16GB
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 $1,499 24GB
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 $699 10GB
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 $499 8GB

AMD only benchmarked its new cards against Nvidia on a limited number of games and third-party reviewers haven't gotten their hands on them just yet, so it's still too early to make conclusive claims about performance. Still, if AMD's numbers hold true out in the wild, AMD's new low-end card can outdo Nvidia's previous top-of-the-line 2080 Ti by significant margins and the 6800 XT can either match the new 3080 or edge it out by a hair. Most PC builders won't bother with the price premiums of either the 6900 XT or the RTX 3090, but it looks like AMD comes in with about the same or slightly less performance at two-thirds the price.

Combined with AMD's new 5000 Series Ryzen processors, even more performance gains can be eked out of its GPU hardware. A new feature exclusive to those two AMD product lines on compatible motherboards called "Smart Access Memory" will let the CPU utilize the GPU's memory for a processing boost. As for making the GPUs work harder as-is, AMD is also introducing a one-click "Rage" overclock mode on the RX 6000s.

The biggest question marks for how these cards stack up against Nvidia's recent products are for ray tracing and upscaling. Nvidia was first on the market with affordable hardware accelerated ray tracing for PCs, and when combined with its proprietary A.I.-driven DLSS upscaling, ray tracing can actually become viable at high resolutions and frame rates on Nvidia's recent cards. AMD isn't talking much about its upscaling solution or ray tracing performance just yet. For the latter we'll have to wait for hands-on testing, and Tom Warren of The Verge confirms that AMD's DLSS competitor is "in testing" and will be cross-platform when it's finally ready, meaning it could also lead to performance boosts on PS5 and the new Xbox consoles.

Will Judd of Digital Foundry calls the new line of cards "an exciting package for AMD fans" and notes another prime audience for them: folks who haven't managed to secure an RTX 30-series card.

The launch of the 3080 and 3090 was met with overwhelming demand and all the typical ecommerce woes that accompany such a rush. Nvidia itself expects that those cards will see shortages through the rest of the year. Provided that AMD doesn't run into heinous supply issues of its own, anyone itching to build a new, future-proofed PC that can measure up to the new consoles may be compelled to go all-AMD with a Ryzen processor and an RX 6000 card.

The Radeon RX 6800 and the RX 6800 XT will go on sale on Nov. 18, followed by the launch of the RX 6900 XT on Dec. 8. That wedges AMD's new graphics cards into a spot right between the launches of the new next-gen consoles and the debut of the thrice-delayed Cyberpunk 2077. Anyone looking to upgrade to a new gaming system, be it console or PC, just got a few new variables to consider.

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Mathew Olson

Reporter

Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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