AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT review roundup: a niche purchase

AMD has released the newest member of its Radeon RX 6000 series: the Radeon RX 6900 XT. The card is based on the same Navi 21 silicon as the rest of the RX 6000 series so far and is being billed as the fastest Radeon card yet. According to reviews, it’s a step up from previous generations when it comes to performance, but not worth its $1,000 price tag for most consumers.

Reviews agree that this card is a racehorse. “This is one blistering-fast GPU,” concludes Brad Chacos of PCWorld, while Hot Hardware’s Marco Chiappetta dubbed it “the most powerful Radeon ever.” In Tom’s Hardware’s testing, the RX 6900 XT averaged 85fps across its 13-game testing suite at 4K resolution and ultra settings and 136.1fps at 1440p.

Reviewers also largely agree that the Radeon RX 6900 XT is a better purchase than Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3090 for most gamers. The way hardware performs will always vary by game, but PCWorld and Hilbert Hagedoorn of Guru3D report that the 6900 XT and the RTX 3090 achieved comparable frame rates at lower resolutions, while Nvidia pulled ahead at higher resolutions. Due to the 6900 XT’s lower price, both publications recommend it as the better-value purchase.

Hot Hardware hedges a bit more, noting that “the Radeon RX 6900 XT and the GeForce RTX 3090 are fairly nip and tuck, and trade victories depending on the title, though the RTX 3090 does have the overall edge.” While the review notes that AMD’s card is “well-positioned relative to competing offerings from Nvidia,” Chiappetta also concludes that it “doesn’t definitively beat competition.”

But AMD’s card is at a significant disadvantage when it comes to ray tracing. Reviewers are split on how important this is. Guru3D suggests not everyone cares about ray tracing, and as long as you don’t, AMD’s card is a better buy. Jarred Walton of Tom’s Hardware counters that people considering cards that are this expensive shouldn’t overlook ray tracing; Walton doesn’t recommend the card for general gaming.

But reviews also agree that anyone who really cares about value might as well buy the 6800 XT instead — a more affordable card that Verge senior editor Tom Warren found quite capable of 4K and 1440p gaming. PCWorld emphasizes that the 6900 XT is really intended for content creation professionals. And Tom’s Hardware laments that the 6900 XT is only “4 to 7 percent faster” than the 6800 XT — “such an incremental bump in performance that it hardly seems worth the trouble.”

Overall, it seems like the 6900 XT is a fairly niche purchase for folks who are willing to drop $1,000 on a seriously powerful GPU but don’t mind a disadvantage when it comes to ray tracing. To be clear, though, this is all a theoretical discussion at this point: these cards are available in quite limited quantities, and the first batch of Radeon RX 6900 XT cards sold out in minutes this morning. But hey, it’s good to keep in mind for the future.