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AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT review: revisiting the super-performers

Doom Eternal, Control, Borderlands 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Three new titles and one returning favourite kick off the final wave of RX 6000 series game benchmarks. All four are modern games using advanced graphics APIs, like DirectX 12 and Vulkan, that showed some of the biggest gen-on-gen performance improvements in our RTX 30-series testing. These modern interfaces allow proper CPU utilisation, minimising processor bottlenecking at lower resolutions, and therefore should run well on the Big Navi cards too.

We've run our benchmarks at three resolutions: 1080p, 1440p and 4K. Recently, we have been asked to run ultra-wide benchmarks too, but you can extrapolate expected performance here pretty easily - 2560x1080 is somewhere between 1080p and 1440p, while the more common 3440x1440 is almost exactly between 1440p and 4K.

Our benchmark results are presented a little differently to what you might be used to elsewhere on the web. On mobile, you'll get a basic overview, with metadata from the video capture of each GPU being translated into simple bar charts with average frame-rate and lowest one per cent measurements for easy comparisons.

On a desktop-class browser, you'll get the full-fat experience with embedded YouTube videos of each test scene and live performance metrics. Play the video, and you'll see exactly how each card handled the scene as it progresses; you can even choose exactly what GPUs at what resolutions you're interested in and it'll update in real time. Below the real-time stuff is a bar chart, which you can mouse over to see different measurements and click to switch between actual frame-rates and percentage differences. All the data here is derived from video captured directly from each GPU, ensuring an accurate replay of real performance.

Let's see how much extra performance AMD's halo product brings to the table.

Doom Eternal

Doom Eternal, based on the idTech 7 engine, is running cutting-edge and highly scalable technology. Designed to operate across the generations and to push GPU utilisation to its maximum, it's also highly efficient in terms of CPU utilisation, opening the door to extreme frame-rates at lower resolutions. It's also a rather difficult game to benchmark, because it is inherently highly dynamic. We choose to benchmark the first engine-driven cutscene in the game, fairly early on in the Hell on Earth level.

The results of this title are illuminating in two counts. First of all, at 4K resolution, the RX 6900 XT seems to deliver a performance increase of 14.6 per cent ahead of the RX 6800 XT, effectively delivering more frame-rate than its notional 11.1 per cent of additional compute power should be capable of delivering. This was confirmed through a re-test and I've noted a similar bump in other reviews too. Meanwhile, at 1440p and 1080p resolution, Doom Eternal is right on spec, adding 11 per cent of frame-rate.

In terms of the overall competitive landscape, the RX 6900 XT seems to fit precisely between RTX 3080 and RTX 3090.

Doom Eternal: Vulkan, Ultra Nightmare, 8x TSSAA

Borderlands 3

In a rather unexpected turn of events, the Borderlands 3 benchmark has emerged as a key battleground in the next generation GPU conflict. It saw Nvidia post its biggest gen-on-gen leap when comparing RTX 3080 to RTX 2080, and it also saw AMD's RX 6800 XT move ahead of the 3080 when Big Navi first emerged - an impressive opening statement. So where does the RX 6900 XT sit? It's complicated.

For a thousand dollar GPU, it's clear that the biggest of Big Navis is targeting the highest possible resolutions - but owing to the particular set-up of the Infinity Cache, its performance level is significantly better at 1440p and below. So what we're left with is an interesting state of affairs. At 4K resolution against RX 6800 XT, the 6900 XT delivers 12.6 per cent of extra performance (again, seemingly exceeding specs that suggest an absolute top-end of 11.1 per cent extra). However, this puts it on par with RTX 3090 - it doesn't beat it. However, when you switch back to 1440p and lower, the 6900 XT is ahead. It's a small boost overall, but it is measurable.

One additional point - the Smart Access Memory feature does work for this game and while its effectiveness at 4K is only minimal, it adds further weight to its 1440p and 1080p gaming credentials, assuming you have the hardware that is compatible with the feature.

Borderlands 3: Bad Ass, DX12, TAA


Remedy's Control isn't just a brilliant game - it's also one of the most celebrated showcases for ray tracing technology and is has one of the best implementations of Nvidia's DLSS 2.x AI upscaling technology. But what's more remarkable about this title in terms of our testing here is just how dominant Nvidia is without any of the ray tracing or AI features enabled.

The headline figure here is that at 4K resolution, the RTX 3090 delivers the same stretch of two cutscenes and traversal gameplay with a remarkable 25 per cent lead. Even the RTX 3080 has a significant lead over AMD's finest. The gap closes at lower, more Infinity Cache-friendly resolutions, but it's still clear that Nvidia cards play this game best - and the gap becomes a yawning chasm once DLSS is engaged. Remedy's TAA anti-aliasing isn't particularly impressive, DLSS does a much better job as a replacement technology, so Nvidia users really should be using it.

There is one saving grace. When you look at the scalability here between Big Navi and little Navi - represented here by the RX 5700 XT - it's clear that AMD has delivered a great generational leap. The RX 6900 XT's 80 CUs are delivering 2x performance or better depending on the resolution.

Control: High, DX12, TAA

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

This enhanced version of Tomb Raider's signature Foundation Engine may not have all of the bells and whistles found in the latest Marvel's Avengers, but it's still a highly impressive piece of work that thrives on modern GPU architectures. It's a competent but not especially impressive showing for the RX 6900 XT. At 4K resolution, it's effectively on par with the cheaper RTX 3080, while RTX 3090 pushes ahead. Once again, it does get more competitive at lower resolutions, but even so, the scalability vs the RX 6800 XT is not especially eye-opening: it's 8.9 per cent faster at 4K, but the boost drops the further down the resolution ladder you go.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest, DX12, TAA

Overall then, it's a mixed bag from our so-called super-performers - the games that seem to thrive best on modern GPU architectures, but let's see what further data we can glean by analysing a wider array of titles.

AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT Analysis

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About the Author
Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.