MSI Radeon RX 6700 XT Gaming X Review 4

MSI Radeon RX 6700 XT Gaming X Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • MSI did not provide an MSRP for the Gaming X. Given current market conditions, we expect a price of at least $750.
  • Performance comparable to RTX 3070 and RTX 2080 Ti
  • Excellent energy efficiency
  • Idle fan stop
  • Very quiet
  • Excellent temperatures
  • Hardware-accelerated raytracing
  • Smart Access Memory / resizable BAR boost performance
  • 12 GB VRAM
  • Backplate included
  • Support for HDMI 2.1, AV1 decode
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • AMD FidelityFX
  • 7 nanometer production process
  • Very limited supply
  • Actual market price will end up much higher
  • Raytracing performance loss much bigger than on NVIDIA
  • Memory overclocking artificially limited
We have a total of six Radeon RX 6700 XT launch-day reviews for you today: AMD RX 6700 XT Reference, ASUS RX 6700 XT STRIX OC, MSI RX 6700 XT Gaming X, PowerColor RX 6700 XT Red Devil, Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+, and XFX RX 6700 XT Merc 319.

With the Radeon RX 6700 XT, AMD is releasing a highly competitive SKU for the upper midrange—a segment for which NVIDIA launched two cards recently, the RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti. This market is very important because it defines the serious gamer willing to spend a little bit extra for higher FPS or better image quality without going overboard. The Radeon RX 6700 XT uses the Navi 22 GPU, while the Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6900 XT are powered by Navi 21. Both are built on the same RDNA2 architecture with support for Raytracing using a 7 nanometer production process—Navi 22 is basically a cut-in-half Navi 21 with 192-bit memory. The only deviation from that is that the L3 Cache (aka Infinity Cache) is 96 MB on Navi 22, whereas it is 128 MB on Navi 21.

On average, over our brand-new, 22-game strong test suite, we measured the MSI RX 6700 XT Gaming X to almost exactly match the AMD reference design. In some tests, it's a tiny bit faster, and in others a tiny bit slower, which is as expected due to random test run variation. The result is still surprising because specifications show that MSI has the card come with a factory overclock, but it doesn't turn into a tangible performance benefit. Other custom designs tested today have exactly the same problem, so it doesn't look like it's MSI's fault. While it's not a huge deal—factory OCs only give you 1, 2 or 3% these days—it's still unexpected. Other reviewers are seeing similar results, I wonder what's going on.

Overall performance sits right in between two NVIDIA Ampere cards. The RX 6700 XT is 8% faster than the NVIDIA RTX 3060 Ti, but 4% behind the RTX 3070. Compared to AMD's own Radeon RX 6800, the performance difference is 17%. An important result that I want to highlight is that the RX 6700 XT is able to nearly match the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti—isn't that a huge achievement? Just a few months ago, most people wouldn't have dared to dream that AMD's x7xx card would be able to compete with NVIDIA last-generation flagship.

With those performance numbers, the Radeon RX 6700 XT is the perfect choice for the huge 1440p gamer crowd out there; the card also has enough muscle to run many titles at 4K 60 FPS, especially if you are willing to dial down settings a little bit. The RX 6700 XT is also a great choice for 1080p Full HD if you want to drive a high-refresh-rate monitor with 120 or 144 Hz. AMD's new card has support for raytracing, but unlike the competition from NVIDIA, it lacks hardware units for many RT tasks, which means NVIDIA has the upper hand here in terms of performance. RT performance varies greatly between the titles we've tested, I'd say you can roughly expect RTX 2080 raytracing performance from the RX 6700 XT, which is not bad at all. It really comes down to how essential you consider RT support. If you consider it an optional "better than Ultra" setting, it is not paramount to you yet—RT performance won't be a dealbreaker if you may or may not activate it. If you believe RT is the future and want to be ready for games to come, NVIDIA looks like the better option, also because they have the DLSS upscaling technology, which cushions the raytracing performance hit at the cost of a little bit of image quality.

MSI's card looks like the most economical of all the designs we've reviewed today. It doesn't go overboard with cooling, yet has sufficient cooling power to beat the AMD reference and operate at a good balance between noise and temperatures. Even though it's the only dual-fan custom design in our tests, the numbers are very respectable: 73°C and 29 dBA, a small temperature increase compared to more powerful triple-fan cards with bigger heatsinks, an increase small enough you'd never notice it subjectively. Noise levels are excellent, the card is whisper quiet even with the most demanding games. Our new noise-testing methodology is now able to provide additional insight at the lowest noise levels, but the differences here are slim even though the numbers might suggest otherwise. There's almost no subjective difference between 25 dBA and 28 dBA. Generally, all RX 6700 XT custom designs we've tested today run very quietly, barely audible. It's great to see that idle fan stop has become a standard capability nowadays—all Radeon RX 6700 XT cards, including the Gaming X in this review, will shut off their fans in idle, desktop work, and internet browsing.

AMD shocked the world with the energy efficiency of Navi 21, which beats even NVIDIA's Ampere. The Radeon RX 6700 XT with its Navi 22 GPU is highly efficient, too, but "only" matches NVIDIA's RTX 3080. It seems AMD pushed the design a bit above its optimum operating point for efficiency, possibly to sneak the RX 6700 XT right into the performance gap between the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070. With 220 W during gaming, the RX 6700 XT is gentle in its power supply requirement, as basically any power supply from a known brand will power it just fine. Power consumption in single-monitor idle and media playback has been improved considerably over Navi 21. AMD now only needs to figure out multi-monitor power, which is still higher than on any NVIDIA graphics card.

Unlike some other RX 6700 XT cards, overclocking worked well on the Gaming X, we gained around 5% in real-life performance. The AMD reference and PowerColor Red Devil needed a power limit increase for that, which suggests that Sapphire picked better power limits than these cards. It's a slap in the face of overclockers that AMD insists on artificially capping the maximum OC potential of their products by limiting the slider length in Wattman. Memory overclocked to 2150 MHz was 100% stable on every single card we've reviewed, so why not give us more? Or set no limit at all, like NVIDIA.

The Radeon RX 6700 XT offers 12 GB of memory because the underlying memory architecture uses a 192-bit interface design. With a 192-bit interface, your design options are 6 GB and 12 GB unless you're willing to mix memory chips of mismatched capacity. Obviously, 6 GB VRAM is not enough for 2021 and beyond in this market segment, so AMD really had no choice here. The only alternative would have been to go with a 256-bit wide bus interface, which would have enabled 8 GB variants while increasing the manufacturing cost of the GPU and PCB. Looking at our benchmark results, I can't find a single instance where the 12 GB RX 6700 XT significantly beats the 8 GB RTX 3070—not even at 4K, so VRAM really is no issue. From a marketing perspective, "12 GB" on the RX 6700 XT is more than "8 GB" on the RTX 3070, so that could win AMD some customers, too.

According to AMD, the Radeon RX 6700 XT comes at an MSRP of $479—a fantasy that won't last for half an hour. Supply of the AMD reference design is extremely limited, even big shops have only received a handful of units. How much stock AMD is selling on their own site nobody knows, but I'm sure bots will have grabbed it by the time you complete the checkout process manually. Thinking of these fake MSRPs, I'm wondering, shouldn't AMD shareholders start complaining that AMD is not giving them the returns they deserve? Obviously, the market is willing to pay much more for these cards, so why is shareholder money lost by selling too cheap? Another random thought: If you were an AIB with a warehouse full of RX 6700 XT cards, wouldn't it be a REALLY bad idea to sell them now, near MSRP? Just send out a few alibi cards and wait a few weeks before selling them at the real market price.

MSI did not provide any pricing, but I'm sure the card will have an MSRP of $550–$600, like other premium variants we got pricing for. Realistic? I don't think so. Given current market conditions, I'd estimate a price of $750 or higher. The card pretty much matches the RTX 2080 Ti and GeForce RTX 3070, which are being sold for around $750, so there's no reason anything would be different for the RX 6700 XT. There's no doubt that supply will be extremely limited, I'm hearing of hundreds of cards for a whole country. So what should you do? I'd say that up to $700 is very reasonable for the RX 6700 XT since it's a great card with excellent performance that's extremely competitive with what NVIDIA offers. Beyond that, definitely check the alternatives: the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 or a used RTX 2080 Ti or RTX 2080 Super even. I would definitely be willing to pay another $50 on top for the Gaming X—the better cooler alone is worth that.
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