Radeon RX 6700 XT, review: The mid-range “invades” the high-end

Last March, AMD introduced the Radeon RX 6700 XT, a mid-range graphics card that, however, proved right out of the box that it had high-end ways, and was directly targeting the NVIDIA RTX 3060 Ti., a mid-high-end model that I had the opportunity to analyze at the time, and that stood out for offering outstanding performance while maintaining a contained price. Yes, I know that talking about recommended prices of graphics cards with which it is falling is complicated, but it is the only official reference we have.

Due to lack of time, I could not analyze the Radeon RX 6700 XT at the time, and I must say that I was left with the desire, since in my opinion it was emerging as one of the most interesting products of the new generation of AMD. Its recommended price was 489.99 euros, a figure that placed it one notch below the Radeon RX 6800, which reached the Spanish market with a price of 599.99 euros. Those prices did not last long, due to the high demand and the lack of stock, but they are the official ones of AMD, and therefore those who should set the guidelines for any analysis.

The situation we live in right now is totally abnormal, and it has occurred as a direct consequence of the boom in cryptocurrency mining, the shortage of semiconductors and speculation. For all these reasons, the inflated prices that we see today are unreal, they are absurdly inflated, they grow in meaning, and we must record this by completely ignoring them.

With that clear, we are ready to begin our analysis of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, although before that we want to thank AMD for sending us a unit, and for letting us work with absolute peace of mind, since otherwise this analysis it would not have been possible. That said, let’s get down to business, get comfortable, there’s a lot to read.

Radeon RX 6700 XT: A look at its architecture

Radeon RX 6700 XT architecture
Radeon RX 6700 XT Architecture

The Radeon RX 6700 XT uses AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, which means that it represents a significant generational leap over the previous generation, and we can consider it as the direct successor to the Radeon RX 5700 XT. The latter has, curiously, the honor of being one of the best high-end graphics cards that AMD has released in its entire history, as it continues to offer very solid performance, has aged very well at the driver level and can move games without problem in 1440p.

When AMD presented the RDNA 2 architecture, it highlighted five great keys that summarized, in a simple but accurate way, its most important keys:

RDNA2 Architecture
RDNA2 Architecture
  • An improvement in terms of efficiency of 50%, with a performance increase of 30% compared to RDNA.
  • An infinite cache system, with a base similar to the Xbox One eSRAM, which allows you to increase the maximum bandwidth and overcome the limitations associated with a 192-bit bus combined with GDDR6 memory at 16 GHz.
  • Hardware dedicated to accelerating lightning work, based on a shared resource structure with the texturing units.
  • Full DirectX 12 Ultimate support, including variable rate shader.
  • Generous amounts of graphics memory to extend life.
Directx XII Ultimate
Direct XII Ultimate

The computing unit remains the foundation of the RDNA 2 architecture. Each computing unit, also known as the CU (“Compute Unit”), is grouped into dual configurations (Dual CU). Each has 64 shaders, 4 texturing units, and a ray tracing accelerator. This is, along with the infinite cache integration, one of the most important new features of this architecture.

The ray-tracing acceleration unit calculates the ray-triangle intersections and the box bounding, but the BVH cross intersections are handled by the shaders, which means that the shaders are not completely relieved of the associated workload to ray tracing. To this we must add, as we have indicated previously, that they share resources with the texturing units, which means that they cannot work simultaneously, nor can they work asynchronously. It is capable of calculating one ray-triangle intersection or four frame-bounding intersections per clock cycle.

If we put all of the above in context, the conclusion is very simple, the hardware dedicated to acceleration of ray tracing mounted on the Radeon RX 6000 represents an important advance compared to the Radeon RX 5000, which did not have any specialized hardware for this. kind of technology, but it is not up to par with what we can find in Ampere, the architecture used by the NVIDIA RTX 30.

AMD RDNA 2 Raytracing
AMD RDNA 2 Raytracing

The infinite cache acts as a very fast, but limited in capacity, backing memory that is used to store data and items that are not kept for long periods of time, and are frequently refreshed. These, being in constant flow of input and output, are the ones that benefit the most from the enormous bandwidth that this type of memory achieves. Thus, for example, in a scene loaded with textures with relatively stable elements, where what changes the most are the lights and shadows, the latter two would be the fundamental objective of the infinite cache.

There’s no question that the infinite cache helps improve performance by boosting bandwidth for specific tasks that depend more on speed than capacity. In this sense, AMD has shown that even certain workloads associated with ray tracing improve with the inclusion of this type of memory, but it is important to be clear that not all are advantages. The infinite cache takes up precious space on the chip, and this requires certain sacrifices.

RDNA 2 is part of the foundation laid by AMD with the RDNA architecture, in fact it maintains the TSMC 7 nm manufacturing process, and uses the same Infinity Fabric interconnection system that allows correct communication between all the components that make up each graphics core., the Navi 22 in the case of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, but at the same time introduces such important news that they confirm that we are facing something more than a simple update of the architecture that debuted with the Radeon RX 5000.

AMD infinity cache

Regarding the graphics memory subsystem, the Radeon RX 6700 XT uses a configuration that, of course, is not usual within the range in which it is located (medium-high), and in fact it is inappropriate for a model which is close to 490 euros. I say this because AMD has dispensed with the 256-bit bus that we saw in the Radeon RX 6800, and has integrated a 192-bit bus in the Radeon RX 6700 XT, keeping GDDR6 memory at 16 GHz. This significantly reduces bandwidth, but as we anticipate it is compensated with the 96 MB of infinite cache.

So that memory capacity is not an issue, in the short or long term, AMD has integrated a total of 12 GB of GDDR6 in the Radeon RX 6700 XT, a setting that exceeds the minimum level recommended today ( 8 GB for 1440p and 2160p), and that will allow us to play with guarantees to any present and future title.

Revolutionary Infinity cache
Revolutionary Infinity cache

In some games, such as DOOM Eternal, if we do not reach the graphic memory levels set for each type of graphic configuration, we simply will not be able to activate them, while in others we can keep the configuration, but we are exposed to possible jerks and stops as a result of the process download and upload that occurs when the graphics memory fills up, and new data needs to be loaded.

Another important aspect is the working frequencies. In the case of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, its huge increase in raster performance compared to the Radeon RX 5700 XT has been motivated, as we saw at the time in this comparison, by a huge increase in the working speed of the GPU. According to AMD, with the turbo mode activated it can reach 2.58 GHz, a dizzying figure that overwhelmingly exceeds the maximum of 1.9 GHz that the second could reach.

Radeon RX 6700 XT
Radeon RX 6700 XT

The frequency difference is very important, but thanks to the optimizations that AMD has introduced in the RDNA 2 architectures, the TDP of the Radeon RX 6700 XT has remained at 230 watts, only 5 watts more than the Radeon RX 5700 XT. I wanted to leave the TDP issue for last, since I think that, after seeing all the keys of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, we will be able to contextualize it better.

Performance Per watt achievement
Performance Per watt achievement

Radeon RX 6700 XT: Design and Build Quality

The Radeon RX 6700 XT that we have received is the reference model from AMD. Its design maintains the same foundations that we saw in the RX 6800 and RX 6900 series, which means that it uses a PCB with ten layers and two layers of copper, made of IT-170 material.

A cast aluminum foil is placed on the PCB that not only provides structural strength, but also facilitates and accelerates regular heat transfer. On top of that first aluminum sheet the radiator is placed, and finally we find the trim casing and with two axial fans of 70 mm each.

All the key components of the Radeon RX 6700 XT, including the VRM and memory chips, are properly cooled, as they make contact with the first sheet of cast aluminum, thanks to the presence of a whole series of thermal pads. The GPU, for its part, is in contact with the upper radiator through a copper base, and uses the classic thermal paste. At the back we find a metal sheet that provides extra protection and structural rigidity.

The build quality presented by the Radeon RX 6700 XT is outstanding, of that there is no doubt, and the design seems quite attractive, both for the combination of angular and rounded elements that AMD has used and for the combination of colors. The red touch of the side lighting gives it a classic touch that we had already seen in other models, such as the now legendary Radeon VII. On the side we have the two additional power connectors, and on the back plate we see three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs and one HDMI 2.1 with variable refresh rate technology.

Radeon RX 6700 XT
Radeon RX 6700 XT

Otherwise, this is a fairly compact dual-slot design. The Radeon RX 6700 XT is 10 inches long, a fairly reasonable size that makes it a viable solution even on relatively small computers.

Radeon RX 6700 XT Specifications

  • RDNA architecture 2. Navi 22 XT graphic core at 7 nm.
  • 2,560 shaders at 2,424 MHz-2,581 MHz, normal and turbo mode.
  • 160 texturing units.
  • 64 raster units.
  • 40 ray tracing units.
  • 192-bit bus (384 GB / s bandwidth).
  • 12 GB of GDDR6 at 16 GHz.
  • 13.21 TFLOPs of power in FP32.
  • 96 MB infinite cache with a 1,024-bit bus and 1.5 TB / s bandwidth.
  • It uses two power connectors, one 8-pin and one 6-pin.
  • Price: 489.99 euros.
  • TDP: 230 watts, requires a 600 watt power supply.

Test team: An up-to-date team

Radeon RX 6700 XT

I have used my new PC, which means that I have been able to activate the SAM technology, which stands for “Smart Access Memory”, without any problems. As some of our readers will know, such technology allows the CPU to access all available graphics memory. This is an important advance, since until now the processor could only access a small portion of it to perform certain operations.

We must bear in mind, however, that the degree of adoption of SAM is still very limited, and its impact on performance is not, as we will see, as great as one might expect. We must also remember that to activate it it is necessary to enter the BIOS, which in some cases reduces performance, and that its support is quite reduced, three keys that have led me to focus most of my tests on measuring performance of the Radeon RX 6700 XT with SAM disabled, although I have included benchmarks so you can see its impact on specific titles.

AMd smart access memory
AMD smart access Memory

That said, let’s see the specifications of the PC that we have used:

Radeon RX 6700 XT
Radeon RX 6700 XT
  • Windows 10 Pro 64-bit operating system.
  • Ryzen 7 5800X (Zen 3) processor with eight cores and sixteen threads at 3.8 GHz-4.7 GHz.
  • Gigabyte X570 Aorus Ultra motherboard.
  • 32 GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro SL 3,200 MHz CL16 RAM (four modules).
  • Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix White cooling system with three Corsair ML RGB 120mm fans.
  • RTX 3080 Founders Edition graphics card with 10 GB of GDDR6X.
  • Sound BlasterX AE-5 Plus sound card.
  • Samsung Evo 850 SSD 500GB (operating system).
  • 4TB Corsair MP400 PCIE NVMe SSD.
  • 2TB Corsair MP600 Core PCIE NVMe SSD.
  • 960GB Corsair MP510 NVMe PCIE SSD.
  • Seagate 2TB SHDD with 8GB SSD as cache.
  • Corsair AX1000 80 Plus Titanium Power Supply with 80 Plus Titanium certification.
  • Six Corsair iCUE QL120 RGB fans.
  • Lightning Node Core and Commander CORE to control fans and lighting.
  • Corsair 5000D Airflow chassis.
Radeon RX 6700 XT
Radeon RX 6700 XT

Radeon RX 6700 XT gaming performance (frames per second)

As we can see in the performance benchmarks under rasterization, the Radeon RX 6700 XT represents, as we anticipated, a great improvement in terms of raw power over the Radeon RX 5700 XT, and it has 4 GB more graphics memory (12 GB in tota), which should translate into a longer service life.

Gaming performance
Gaming performance
Gaming performance
Gaming performance

In general terms, the result obtained by the Radeon RX 6700 XT is very good, as it shows an outstanding performance in 1080p and 1440p resolutions, where it is capable of moving anything in maximum quality with total fluidity. At 2160p, it also performs well in most tests, but loses steam in titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Watch Dogs Legion, which means that it is a model that does its best in 1440p resolution.

RX 6700 XT performance with ray tracing

We went to see the performance in ray tracing, and we found some numbers that, the truth, are not all bad. In Resident Evil Village, the Radeon RX 6700 XT is able to maintain a good level of fluidity with maximum quality, and this technology activated, both in 1080p and 1440p, although I confirm that there are occasional jerks due to the occasional drops that take place at specific times. When raising the resolution to 2160p, the fluidity is acceptable, but I think it does not compensate for the graphical difference that the ray tracing makes, and that at that resolution it is better to deactivate the ray tracing to move it with total fluidity.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a tough nut to crack, so much so that it is best to disable ray tracing directly with the Radeon RX 6700 XT, or limit it to a specific setting (reflections or lighting, mainly) to lessen the impact on performance.. Finally we have Metro Exodus, a game that makes good use of ray tracing, applying it to global lighting, and that runs smoothly in 1080p and 1440p, but is unplayable in 2160p.

Temperatures, consumption and maximum frequencies

The Radeon RX 6700 XT uses a variable frequency system, which means that it is not limited to a single operating speed, but can oscillate between several levels depending on load, power and temperatures.

When we run a game, the turbo mode enters the scene, and it adjusts in real time based on everything we have said before. These are the values ​​that I have recorded in my tests:

  • Minimum: 2,226 MHz.
  • Medium: 2.496 MHz.
  • Maximum: 2,619 MHz.

The overclock is quite limited, unless we are willing to touch the power limiter, which will lead to an increase in consumption and working temperatures (we will exceed the 80 degree range). Given that the average performance improvement I’ve had at best has been 8%, I don’t recommend it. The Radeon RX 6700 XT is already quite tuned from the factory thanks to its aggressive turbo mode, and we will only achieve a significant increase if we raise the power limiter to 115%.

Radeon RX 6700 XT
Radeon RX 6700 XT

As for the working temperatures, the Radeon RX 6700 XT always remains at totally safe values, as we can see in the attached graph, although they are higher than those registered by its direct rivals, the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070. The consumption is also quite reasonable if we consider the performance improvement it offers compared to the Radeon RX 5700 XT.

Final Notes: Every Titan Has Its Achilles Heel

The Radeon RX 6700 XT is a worthy successor to the RX 5700 XT  not only for the improvements it brings in terms of power, but also for everything that refers to efficiency, its working temperatures and the support of high-speed technologies. Last generation.

Using the RDNA 2 architecture, the Radeon RX 6700 XT has full DirectX 12 Ultimate support , including cool features such as variable rate shader, mesh shaders, and ray tracing. In rasterization, its performance is so good that it surpasses in most cases the RTX 3060 Ti, and is close to the RTX 3070. Yes, it manages to surpass it in some specific cases, but it does not reach a position above is.

At 1080p and 1440p, the difference between the Radeon RX 6700 XT is small, but it widens at 2160p, mainly due to the deficiencies of its 96 MB of infinite cache when we move in such a high number of pixels. With this in mind, the conclusion is very clear, the Radeon RX 6700 XT is a graphics card designed to give its best in 1440p, as long as we do not activate ray tracing.

Under rasterization, the Radeon RX 6700 XT is a true “titan”, but in ray tracing its performance collapses, as we have seen in the comparison, and falls to levels that, depending on the game and the resolution used, are typical of an RTX 2070. What does this tell us? Well, what I have been telling you since I saw the shared resources solution that the RDNA 2 architecture adopted, that this represents a great leap in rasterization, but at the same time it is a very timid step in the support of ray tracing, and that not at the level of Ampere.

Personally, I think that the Radeon RX 6700 XT is a graphics card with a good design, well built and attractive in price-performance ratio, although at the moment it loses in added value compared to Ampere due to its lower performance in ray tracing, and because of the absence of advanced technology that can compete with DLSS 2.0. All in all, if it could be bought at its recommended price, it would be a good choice. Before finishing, I clarify that, when evaluating performance, I have taken into account its performance in general, that is, both in rasterization and ray tracing, although I have given more weight to the first due to the smaller extension of the second .

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