- The ASUS RX 6800 XT STRIX OC Liquid Cooled is currently listed online for $900.
- Fantastic overclocking potential
- Tremendous performance gains over last generation
- 60 FPS 4K gaming a reality now
- Large factory overclock
- World-leading power efficiency
- No loss in efficiency from factory OC
- All-in-one watercooler included
- 16 GB VRAM
- Extremely quiet
- Power limit increased
- Idle fan stop
- Good memory overclocking potential
- Dual BIOS
- Multi-monitor power consumption improved
- RGB headers
- Hardware-accelerated raytracing
- Support for HDMI 2.1, AV1 decode
- PCI-Express 4.0
- 7 nanometer production process
- Very large price increase over AMD reference
- Not that much better than other air-cooled custom designs
- Raytracing performance loss bigger than on NVIDIA
- Three memory chips are missing a thermal pad
- Memory overclocking artificially limited
- Cables going to the AIO look a bit messy
The ASUS Radeon RX 6800 XT STRIX OC Liquid Cooled is a truly impressive beast. Thanks to its integrated watercooler, it runs cooler than any air-cooled graphics card ever could. ASUS has given the card a large factory overclock to 2360 MHz rated boost, or +110 MHz over the AMD reference. In real-life, when measuring clocks over our whole test suite at 4K, the average GPU frequency is 2416 MHz, which is 160 MHz higher than the 2257 MHz we measured on the AMD reference. Pretty impressive. ASUS also increased the power limit significantly. At 4K resolution, those improvements result in a 4% performance uplift over the Radeon RX 6800 XT reference. These numbers make the ASUS STRIX the fastest RX 6800 XT tested today, but the differences are small. The air-cooled cards are just 1-2 % behind. Compared to the Radeon RX 6800, the STRIX is almost 20% faster, and the RTX 3080 is only 1% ahead. The much more expensive GeForce RTX 3090 is 11% faster, but the RX 6900 XT will deal with that next month. Almost twice as fast as the RX 5700 XT and more than three times as fast as the RX 590—performance uplifts compared to older cards are impressive, too.
With these performance numbers, the Radeon RX 6800 XT is the perfect choice for 4K gaming at 60 FPS. It achieved that mark in nearly all titles in our test suite. Things are different once you turn on raytracing. Just like on NVIDIA, there's a hefty performance hit when running with the DirectX Raytracing API. We only tested two games so far, but it seems the loss in performance is bigger than on NVIDIA, who improved in that area with Ampere. Remember, this is AMD's first-generation raytracing implementation. Performance is still very respectable, reaching roughly RTX 2080 Ti levels. Now that RT hardware is available for both AMD and NVIDIA and game developers are making console games on AMD's new RDNA2 architecture, it'll be interesting to see how raytracing performance evolves in the coming months.
The large watercooling unit is definitely the highlight of the ASUS STRIX OC. It comes pre-filled and is maintenance-free, so you don't have to worry about it in any way, other than finding a spot for its installation in your case. ASUS didn't go completely passive for their graphics card, relying only on the watercooling unit. The card also has a slow-running fan, which provides airflow to cool the VRM circuitry. Memory chips and graphics processor are cooled by water. On our sample, I noticed that three memory chips are missing thermal pads, I guess someone simply forgot placing those in the rush leading up to this launch. I've notified ASUS, I'm sure they'll fix this for the main production run. The watercooling unit itself looks very solid and has plenty of bling due to adjustable RGB lighting in the radiator. I only wish the cables going to the radiator were organized a bit more neatly.
Performance of the cooler is top-notch. In our new apples-to-apples heatsink testing, we found that it is slightly better than even the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 cooler. On the other hand, this means it is "just a bit better than the best aircooling." Temperatures are outstanding, just 57°C under load is impossible to achieve with any air cooler on the RX 6800 XT. Noise levels are also very good, almost whisper quiet at 31 dBA, but that's only the same noise level as the AMD reference design. It seems ASUS focused more on temperatures than noise levels. Other air-cooled RX 6800 XT cards tested today actually end up a little bit quieter at 30 dBA. Given the excellent cooler, which is much better than those of other cards tested today, I feel like this is a missed opportunity, to provide significant noise-level improvements that other cards can't keep up with. Should you want more cooling power, the dual BIOS feature lets you activate the "Performance" BIOS, which runs the same clocks and power limit, but dials up the fan curve some more. In this mode, the card is much noisier: 34 dBA with 5°C better temperatures. I'm not seeing any reason for such a noise increase, 5°C really makes no difference for anything.
Overclocking yielded spectacular results on the RX 6800 XT STRIX. Much better than I could have imagined, better than anything I've seen on Radeon in recent years. I almost maxed out the GPU frequency slider, and reached over 2.7 GHz actual GPU frequency in the end... 2.7 GHz—crazy. Real-life performance gains are solid too. While other custom designs reached 238 FPS, the ASUS card achieved 249 FPS, an unusually big improvement.
AMD surprised us with the power efficiency of their new Navi 21 RDNA 2 graphics processor, beating even NVIDIA's Ampere lineup. Despite the large factory overclock, ASUS did not go overboard with power consumption. It's 24 W higher for 4% performance gained, a very reasonable tradeoff. The maximum power limit has been increased, too, so AMD's Boost algorithm can boost higher for longer.
Pricing is not pretty. ASUS is pricing this card at $900, which really is a lot of money—$250 higher than the AMD reference which retails for $650. If you are a hardcore overclocker and want to play with OCs all day then this card could still be worth it for its massive overclocking headroom. For gamers, I'm not so convinced. $250 for 4% out of the box performance really isn't worth it. Even if you take into account overclocking, you're now at a price point that's much higher than any RTX 3080 out there, matching the upcoming RX 6900 XT. Prices are so crazy right now, and there's pretty much no stock of anything. People seem to be willing to pay anything to jump on the Ampere or RDNA2 train, so I'm sure ASUS will sell all their cards instantly, no matter the price.