AMD has made a big case this generation for being the performance-per-watt champions for PC gamers. And indeed, makes those same claims in its RDNA 3 era. But the final hurray for RDNA 2 – with this RX 6950 XT as its latest flagship – goes against all that efficiency bravado. But it certainly delivers where PC gamers need it.
We got our hands on the Gigabyte version of AMD’s RX 6950 XT (opens in a new tab). It’s the top of the Radeon stack, delivering the best of Navi 21 silicon, for the most money of any single-GPU Red Team card ever asked for.
Unlike the relatively recent Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti (opens in a new tab)which unleashes the full power of the GA102 GPU to deliver more (almost) everything compared to the GeForce RTX 3090 (opens in a new tab)the actual core composition of the RX 6950 XT is identical to that of the original Radeon RX 6900 XT (opens in a new tab). It’s less of a fat-packed new version of AMD’s best chip, and more of a bin-sorted version that clocks significantly higher than its ancestor.
Where our reference clocked RX 6900 XT averaged a not-too-shabby 2,212 MHz in extended testing, this Gigabyte version of the RX 6950 XT manages to average 2,553 MHz. Not too long ago 2.5 GHz would have been a reasonable clock speed for a CPU, and it wasn’t something we had seen in graphics cards until this generation RDNA 2 be abandoned.
Admittedly, we had the Radeon RX 6600 XT (opens in a new tab) above the 2.7GHz mark, but it’s a much less complex GPU than the Navi 21 GPU, which is also more than double the size. Running something like this RX 6950 XT at this consistent speed is a much more impressive feat.
Inevitably, you need a bit more juice to be able to sustain those frequency levels; these cards sport mature versions of the Navi 21 silicon capable of swallowing over 400W of card power and remaining stable in-game. To that end, the RX 6950 XT is rated at 335W of typical card power (TBP ), while the RX 6900 XT was a more restrained 300W.
In real terms, this actually translates to the same power levels as the RTX 3090, and also translates to more or less the same performance levels in many games as well.
Considering this is a $1,099 GPU – and is in fact still available for purchase at that price – compared to a GeForce card that still sells for the best at $1,600, it’s actually quite impressive. It only costs $100 more than the standard RX 6900 XT and manages to deliver higher performance due to the increased power/frequency.
It’s most important at the higher end of the resolution spectrum, which is just as well, because if you’re dropping a big one on a GPU, it’s best not to strap it to a 1080p, pagan TN panel. But there are also payoffs there for triple-digit frame rate hunters.
1440p gaming performance
4K gaming performance
And it’s that frame rate performance that will be most important to PC gamers, though it would be remiss of me not to mention the relative power consumption needed to keep the RX 6950 XT running well above the RX6900XT. On average, our RX 6900 XT was hitting around the 300W mark, sticking to its suggested TBP of 335W, while this RX 6950 XT is just under 360W, peaking at 408W .
As we said, performance per watt figures for AMD’s RDNA 2 cards were something the red team considered something to celebrate, and rightly so. They performed very well, although in our tests not much more than Nvidia cards. They may be thirsty, but GeForce cards also fly.
CPU – Intel Core i7 10700K
Motherboard – MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi
RAM – Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro @ 3200MHz
CPU cooler – Corsair H100i RGB Pro XT
power supply – NZXT 850W
Frame – DimasTech Mini V2
Monitor – Eve Specter
It’s out the window now, with the RX 6950 XT and RX 6750 XT (opens in a new tab) maps, however. But if they can keep their frame rates high, most PC gamers won’t worry about a little thing like massive energy price spikes.
But yeah, let’s celebrate AMD catching up with Nvidia’s old gaming card, the RTX 3090, because it’s a milestone. The RX 6950 XT can deliver gaming performance that red team fans could only fantasize about in the overrated dreams of Reddit’s echo chamber fever just a generation ago.
And let’s forget about the fact that Nvidia released the RTX 3090 Ti, which is even faster, more power-hungry, and offensively priced at $2,000. And I’m not being facetious here either. We should forget it. Although, honestly, I would probably forget about this RX 6950 XT too. We’re at a ridiculous point of buying a new high-end graphics card, and if you drop a grand or more on a GPU at this point, you better be prepared for some serious buyer’s remorse at the moment. instant either AMD or Nvidia announce their next-gen plans.
It’s of course never a good time to upgrade on PC when you’re preoccupied with the relentless pace of innovation and technical advancement. Our general advice is that if you need new hardware right now, buy it. But that must change when you arrive within six months of the birth of a significant new generation.
And that’s where we are now. Before the end of the year, we’ll have new cards from Nvidia and AMD, and all the rumors suggest we’re looking at another big leap in performance from generation to generation. On the AMD side alone, the first card expected to drop – the RX 7700 XT – is said to have RX 6900 XT gaming performance levels.
Surely it will be a $500-$600 graphics card, which would make spending twice as much on anything high-end today a wild ride.
This Gigabyte RX 6950 XT is a well-made card, however. Operating temperatures are incredibly low, it runs at an incredibly high speed and is quiet while doing so, and is much more affordable than Nvidia’s equivalent when it comes to performance. But would I buy one? Surely not. Buying anything today other than a sub-MSRP RTX 3060 Ti or RX 6700 XT only sets you up for disappointment.