At last, AMD is ready to compete on the high end of gaming video cards. The company revealed the Radeon RX 6900 XT, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6800 GPUs today. It claims these products have enough power to go head-to-head against Nvidia’s most powerful graphics cards, which is a market segment AMD has evaded for years. But that’s about to change.

The RX 6800XT and RX 6800 both launch November 18. The RX 6900 XT, meanwhile, debuts December 8. AMD is positioning the $580 6800 against Nvidia’s $500 RTX 3700 and the $650 6800XT against the $700 RTX 3080. The RX $1,000 6900 XT, meanwhile, competes against the $1,500 RTX 3090. And AMD showed off a lot of numbers as evidence of its ability to keep up with the competition.

Here’s a chart provided by AMD today that shows how the RX 6800 XT stacks up against the RTX 3080:

Above: AMD Radeon RX 6800XT vs RTX 3080.

Image Credit: AMD

In this chart, AMD is also adding extra performance if you use optional features called Rage mode and Smart Access memory. Rage is an overclocking preset that AMD will include with the cards (and that does not void your warranty). Smart Access enables an AMD Ryzen RX 5000 Series CPU to intelligently share memory with a Radeon GPU.

The issues here are that you’ll need to be fully integrated into the AMD ecosystem to take advantage of Smart Access. And Rage mode seems like it could make your GPU run loud and hot. Because if it’s so much better, why isn’t that just the standard setting?

But even without Smart Access and Rage, AMD is neck-and-neck and with the RTX 3080. That is impressive in itself. And the RX 6800 is potentially even more impressive. Look at how it stacks up against the RTX 2080 Ti, which is equivalent to the newer RTX 3070:

Above: RTX 2080 Ti versus the RX 6800.

And here’s the RTX 3090 versus the RX 6900 XT:

For Radeon to compete with Nvidia GPUs, it needs good ray tracing and next-gen upscaling

I am not at all surprised that AMD is matching Nvidia’s raw rasterization performance. The company has top-notch engineering, and it’s working on the rapidly maturing 7nm process. It makes sense that the company is squeezing incredible performance out of more efficient chips.

But questions remain about how AMD cards are going to handle next-generation graphics like real-time ray tracing and the upscaling techniques required to make ray tracing viable.

Of course, this doesn’t all come down to AMD. The company is relying on Microsoft and its DirectX II Ultimate graphics API to power these next-gen features. And this is not much unlike what Nvidia has done with RTX — which is its own rebranding of Direct Ray Tracing.

But on Nvidia cards, RTX also comes with features like deep learning supersampling (DLSS), which is an AI-powered upscaling technique. It enables a game to look like 4K even if it’s running at 1080p. This frees up more power for the computationally expensive ray tracing algorithms.

Nvidia developed DLSS on its own. Does AMD have a counter? Well, it’s apparently relying on Microsoft for this as well. And that may end up working out. Microsoft is developing new graphics APIs called DirectML that can denoise and upscale an image. And this is obviously crucial to Microsoft because it will likely use this tech in the Xbox Series X/S consoles.

The concern here is that we know that ray tracing and DLSS work on Nvidia RTX cards. And that means the RTX 3080 and the other GeForce offerings are ready for the future. We’ll have to see for ourselves if AMD can say the same thing about Radeon.


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