We finally know what AMD’s Big Navi looks like, and it comes in the form of the Radeon RX 6900 XT and the Radeon RX 6800 XT. According to AMD, the cards are perfectly capable of smashing out games at 4K with 60 frames per second with max settings — although questions still remain about the card’s ray-tracing capabilities.
After unveiling their upcoming 5000 series Ryzen CPUs, AMD finally lifted the lid on their next-gen GPU offerings early Thursday morning Australian time. The 25-minute briefing touched on improvements with AMD’s RDNA2 architecture, the Radeon RX 6800, 6800 XT and 6900 XT GPUs, international pricing, DirectX Ultimate support and more.
There were also some small bits of news that weren’t fully expanded upon. World of Warcraft, for instance, will support ray-traced shadows on AMD cards via DirectX 12 Ultimate, but it wasn’t outlined the difference in performance (or when that support would be enabled). AMD also touched on Smart Access Memory, a feature that supposedly grants full access to the GPU’s memory provided an AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU is used.
The most important question, naturally, was performance. In a first-party slide, AMD showed the Radeon RX 6800 XT matching, or surpassing, the RTX 3080 at 4K and 1440p — although from what we can tell, ray-tracing performance wasn’t evaluated.
AMD’s Smart Access Memory is an interesting feature. It’s a BIOS setting that’s only enabled on AMD 500-series chipset motherboards, supposedly granting the CPU direct access to the Big Navi GPU’s VRAM. In theory this would bypass the ordinary limitations between CPUs and PCIe devices, as CPUs are typically restricted to 256MB.
AMD didn’t go into greater detail about AMD Smart Access, but their briefing showed it already in use with several major AAA titles, indicating that the feature doesn’t require special support on a game-per-game basis. However, AMD typically follows their briefings with deeper technical insights for journalists and influencers closer to launch as part of their review process.
Still, the feature was an essential part of AMD’s pitch for the Radeon RX 6900 XT. AMD compared the 6900 XT with smart access memory and a new one-click overclocking feature called Rage Mode against the RTX 3090 in a slide, showing the card supposedly trading blows with the Nvidia flagship. But it wasn’t specified whether the RTX 3090 was using DLSS in supported games, whether the RTX 3090 was using ray-tracing in supported games, and what the 6900 XT’s performance would be like without Rage Mode, or Smart Access Memory. DLSS in particular can have an enormous boost to performance, often without sacrificing much noticeable image quality.
Of the three cards, the Radeon RX 6700 and 6800 XT are ones AMD expects most gamers to buy. The Radeon RX 6900 XT is priced at $US999 internationally, and pitched more as a workstation/enthusiast product for those considering the Nvidia RTX 3090 — which sells for over $2400 in Australia.
Here’s the specs for each of the cards:
What wasn’t really included in the briefing was exactly how the RX 6000 series performs when ray-tracing is enabled. It also wasn’t explained whether the GPUs will support existing ray-traced games, like Control or Wolfenstein: Youngblood. It may be likely that the AMD GPUs will only support games using the DirectX Ultimate implementation of ray-tracing — the same as what’s baked into the PS5 and Xbox Series X, which is powered by AMD hardware, though.
On the feature front, AMD also spoke about an upgrade to their latency reduction technology. Using Radeon Boost with a FreeSync monitor when playing Fortnite at 4K on the Epic preset saw the latency supposedly drop from 63ms to 23ms. That was lower than the 31ms latency in Nvidia’s measurements when playing Fortnite on an RTX 3080 with Nvidia Reflex enabled, too.
Australian pricing and availability for the Radeon RX 6000 series hasn’t been announced, but I’ll keep you posted on that when it’s known. The Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT will be sold internationally from November 18, while the Radeon RX 6900 XT will go on sale from December 8.
If you want to watch the full briefing for yourself, it’s embedded below.