Fast forward to 2021 and AMD’s latest 1080p-focused GPU, the Radeon RX 6600 XT, has 2,048 stream processors and a 128-bit wide memory interface with a recommended retail price of $379 (around £334 inc VAT). There were even some cards priced at that level on launch day, but we’re now looking at around £450 inc VAT for a card.
We can keep complaining about the pricing of today’s cards for at least another year by the looks of it, though, and no amount of griping is going to magic up more GPUs from the mining stations of Kessel. The Radeon RX 6600 XT may well be overpriced for what it is, but that’s what we have to pay when there’s no cheaper competition and demand is greater than supply.
At this price, it goes up against Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3060 (with the RTX 3060 Ti being practically non-existent). If you want a new 1080p gaming GPU, and you have £450 to spend, the question is whether you should buy the Radeon RX 6600 XT or the RTX 3060, and that’s the question we’ll be answering here.
Inside Navi 23
Rather than using a cut-down version of an existing GPU, the Radeon RX 6600 XT is based on AMD’s brand-new Navi 23 chip. It has a comparatively small die area of just 237mm² and contains 11.06 billion transistors. As a point of comparison, the Navi 22 chip on which the Radeon RX 6700 XT is based measures 336mm² and contains 17.2 billion transistors.
Inside that die you’ll find 32 compute units based on AMD’s latest RDNA2 architecture, with 32 corresponding Ray Accelerator processors for ray tracing. The spec gives you a total of 2,048 stream processors, along with 8GB of GDDR6 memory attached to a 128-bit wide interface. With a memory clock of 2GHz (16GHz effective), that gives you a memory bandwidth of 256GB/sec.
Comparatively, the RTX 3060 has 12GB of memory attached to a wider 192-bit interface, giving you a total memory bandwidth of 360GB/sec with its 15GHz (effective) memory. On paper, the Nvidia GPU has the upper hand here, but AMD hopes to bolster the Radeon RX 6600 XT’s performance with 32MB of Infinity Cache. Again, though, that’s only a third of the 96MB Infinity Cache on the Radeon RX 6700 XT.
There’s also a potential performance issue from the PCI-E interface. It’s PCI-E 4, but it only uses eight lanes. That’s not an issue if you have a PCI-E 4 motherboard and CPU combination, as eight PCI-E lanes offer more than enough bandwidth for this level of GPU power.
However, that’s not true if you’re still using a PCI-E 3 motherboard and/or CPU, such as an Intel Comet Lake CPU or an AMD X470 motherboard. With these setups, you only get eight PCI-E 3 lanes, which starts to eat into this card’s bandwidth requirements when it gets going, compared with having the full 16 PCI-E 3 lanes.
The final key part of the spec equation is the clock speed. At stock frequencies, the Radeon RX 6600 XT has a 2359MHz game clock and a 2589MHz boost clock, but there are plenty of third-party cards that push the frequency higher.
Our MSI review card
One such card is the MSI Gaming X model that we were sent for review, which costs £460 inc VAT from Ebuyer. It bumps up the game clock to 2428MHz, resulting in a 1-2fps increase over the scores from the stock spec that we’ve reviewed. This pushed the average frame rate in Metro Exodus from 78fps to 80fps at 1,920 x 1,080 and from 59fps to 60fps at 2,560 x 1,440.
There’s a decent metal backplate on the rear of the PCB, and a rigid metal anti-bending strap built into the cooler that prevents the card from drooping. There’s even RGB lighting under the MSI logo on the top edge, but it’s a bit feeble compared with the bright lighting displays we see these days.
Meanwhile, the card’s Twin Frozr 8 cooler features a pair of MSI’s Torx Fan 4 fans, which binds pairs of blades together with an outer ring to more efficiently exhaust air. The shroud for the cooler looks a bit dated with its ‘gamer’ style of angles, but the card was exceptionally quiet during testing, even during demanding game tests. It doesn’t have the class and panache of Sapphire’s Nitro X cards, for example, but it’s still a reasonable-looking card with an effective, quiet cooler.
The good news for the Radeon RX 6600 XT is that it’s generally quicker than the GeForce RTX 3060 at its target resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. In Metro Exodus at Ultra settings, its 99th percentile result of 44fps is well in front of the 35fps of the RTX 3060, and its average of 78fps is 14fps faster too. Even adding ray tracing on the High setting didn’t give the RTX 3060 an advantage, with the Radeon achieving the same average result, and adding 3fps to the 99th percentile result.
The news is even better in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which is always a strong title for AMD’s latest GPUs. It averaged a massive 79fps here, with a 58fps 99th percentile result. What’s more, if your motherboard and CPU support Resizable BAR, you can take advantage of AMD’s Smart Access Memory tech, which boosted these figures to 64fps and 88fps respectively. Comparatively, the RTX 3060 could only average 58fps, which increased to 62fps with Resizable BAR enabled.
The gap was much smaller in Doom Eternal, where the Radeon RX 6600 XT was again ahead of the RTX 3060. Even Cyberpunk 2077, which is usually where Nvidia gains the upper hand, was handled fine by the Radeon, with its 59fps average being just in front of the RTX 3060’s 58fps, although the latter’s 99th percentile result was 2fps higher than that of the Radeon.
Where the GeForce fights back is when you add ray tracing to the mix in this game. With Medium ray tracing enabled, the GeForce averaged 35fps while the Radeon averaged just 18fps. Neither result is great, to be fair, but the GeForce is substantially quicker. It also has the benefit of DLSS support to improve performance even further, although DLSS tends to look quite blurry at 1,920 x 1,080.
Stepping down to PCI-E 3 does indeed make a slight difference to performance on the Radeon RX 6600 XT as well, as we tested it with PCI-E 3 mode forced for the top slot of our motherboard. In Metro Exodus, the average dropped by 3fps to 75fps, and in Valhalla it dropped by 2fps to 77fps. Neither result is disastrous, but running this card on a PCI-E 3 setup is the equivalent of underclocking it a little bit.
The restrictive memory setup also means the Radeon’s performance starts to drop off once you get beyond 1,920 x 1,080. Move up to 2,560 x 1,440, and the GeForce RTX 3060 moves in front of it in Cyberpunk 2077 and Doom Eternal. Go up to 4K, and the difference is starker, but to be fair, neither of these GPUs is designed for 4K gaming. At the target resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, the Radeon is generally the better choice.
If you have some money in the bank for a new 1080p gaming GPU, the Radeon RX 6600 XT is a pretty good contender in these silly times. It’s generally quicker than the GeForce RTX 3060 at 1080p and it’s easier to find in stock as well. The Nvidia GPU is better at ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s still not smoothly playable. The problem is that, even though the Radeon RX 6600 XT is readily available, it was still too expensive at launch and it’s even pricier now.
Just 18 months ago, £450 would buy you a solid 2,560 x 1,440 gaming card – a 1080p card such as the Radeon RX 6600 XT shouldn’t cost more than £250. These are the prices we have to pay at the moment, though, and if you do have ~£450 to spend on a 1080p gaming GPU, this is the one to get.
It’s fast at 1,920 x 1,080, it’s in stock and it generally beats the RTX 3060, but it’s still too expensive for what it is.
£460 inc VAT
PERFORMANCE 31/40 | FEATURES 17/20 | VALUE 22/40 | OVERALL SCORE 70%
+Actual real stock available
+Generally beats RTX 3060
+Decent 1080p frame rates
-Only eight PCI-E lanes
-Expensive for a 1080p card
-Poor ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077
Graphics processor AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT, 1968MHz base clock, 2359MHz game clock, 2589MHz max boost clock
Pipeline 2,048 stream processors, 64 ROPS
Ray Accelerators 32
Memory 8GB GDDR6, 2GHz (16GHz effective)
Infinity Cache 32MB
Memory interface 128-bit
Card interface 8x PCI-E 4
Memory bandwidth 256GB/sec
Power connectors 1 x 8-pin
Number of slots 2