After an interesting few months in the graphics card space, AMD is finally releasing its new flagship cards, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT. AMD’s numbers were impressive, but how do they stack up against current competition?
Radeon RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT: Current industry landscape
With the release of these cards, everyone’s gonna be talking about the recent combusting graphics cards, which is apparently due to human error. Needless to say we’re at an interesting time in the graphics card space, with Intel coming onto the scene, and costs rising to the point where you can build a decent rig for the price of these GPUs. A lot of people have been soured by Nvidia’s anti-consumer practices for years now, but will it ever have a noticeable effect on market share?
Now, AMD knows it has no answer to the $1,600 RTX 4090. But at that price, you can buy a cheaper but still expensive card and the rest of your rig, and make out pretty well. What they are comparing it to in their internal testing, is the 4080, which retails for $1,200.
Design and ports
At first glance, the size difference between the 4080 and the XTX and XT is staggering. If you need a smaller form factor in your case, this is definitely the card to go with. This is probably my favorite design I’ve seen from AMD, and it really looks great in your rig. They take up 2.5 slots in your PC, and the XTX is slightly taller and longer than the XT, but both significantly smaller than the RTX 4080. Honestly, I value modularity and I dislike building my entire system around one component, so I’m thankful that they went this route. Seriously, 1800 cubic centimeters is much preferred compared to over 2500 cubic centimeters. Especially when considering the fact that the 4080 outputs less power than the XTX. Whether Nvidia was just overbuilding to use a much larger cooler I can’t say, but we’ll wait for the refresh cards to find out.
They both require a dual 8-pin power connector rather than a 12-pin. On the 7900 XTX and 7900 XT we have one HDMI 2.1, one USB-C, and two DisplayPort 2.1 inputs, which have Ultra High Bitrate (UHBR) 13.5 capabilities.
The 7900 XTX has 24 GB of DDR6 memory and the XT has 20 Gb, powered by 355W and 300-315W respectively. That means in your build, AMD recommends an 800W or 750W minimum power supply. Interestingly enough, the previous flagship card from AMD – the RX 6950 XT, ran at a typical board power of 335W. The 7900XT runs at 315W, so not only are you getting massive performance improvements, you’re getting it for less power requirements, which drives home just how much AMD is focused on improving not just performance, but performance per watt.
Performance per dollar and performance per watt
Performance per watt and performance per dollar are the two key ingredients that make these cards stand out. To help with performance and power, AMD went with a chiplet design, the first GPU to make use of this architecture. They actually have two separate dies that are connected through a 5.3TB/s interconnect. This also means they can run at decoupled clock speeds, so on the 7900 XTX, they can run shaders at 2.3GHz and the front end at 2.5GHz, taking the load off where it matters. When choosing a graphics card, beyond hardware compatibility, my decision comes down to performance per dollar. While the 4080 may beat the 7900 XT in some games and trail not too far behind the XTX in others, when you break it down by cost, things start to get a little more clear.
For example, let’s look at Cyberpunk, Resident Evil Village, and Sniper Elite 5. Keep in mind these are AMD’s numbers.
For Cyberpunk, the Nvidia RTX 4080 runs 4K at 65 fps, the 7900 XT at 60 fps, and the XTX can get up to 71 fps. Resident Evil Village has the RTX 4080 at 164 fps, XT at 154 fps, and XTX at 187 fps. In Sniper Elite 5, the 4080 can run it at 126 fps, XT at 107 fps, and XTX at 121 fps. So when you break those numbers down into performance per dollar, things become a little more impressive. Remember, you’re paying $200 extra dollars for the 4080 vs the 7900 XTX, so even in games like Sniper Elite 5 where the 4080 performs marginally better, the 7900 XTX is still a better overall value for what you’re paying for. With that, let’s get into actual performance.
AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT: Performance and raytracing
At 4K, Cyberpunk 2077 averages around what AMD advertised, just above 70 fps, with dips that get down to the mid 50s for more graphically intense areas. I’ve been playing this mostly at a capped fps of 60, and it’s been impressively consistent with framerate throughout. As for Doom Eternal, it averages around 150fps, and Halo Infinite was consistently in the 80fps range.
As for raytracing, if you’re shooting for a consistent 60fps in Cyberpunk on Ultra Raytraced settings, FSR is the only way you’ll get close. Without it you’re looking at fps in the teens and twenties. If you use FSR on one of the quality settings, 40 is possible. Unfortunately I could not get a consistent 60fps on Ultra Performance, instead it averages in the mid to high 50s. If you’re just going for a stroll in Night City and you cap your framerate, it hits 60 far more often than in the middle of combat. Personally I would sacrifice boosting raytracing up to ultra in favor of a consistent fps. So, in pursuit of that, I found the sweet spot to be setting Raytracing to medium, then going in and changing Raytraced lighting to Psycho, and keeping Raytraced reflections off. Obviously that’s the real performance killer here. Of course there are tweaks to squeeze better performance out of these games, but as someone who only has a monitor that can do 4K60, I am more than happy with these results.
Other software offerings
Different manufacturers have their own proprietary or open software capabilities to round out their offerings. With Nvidia, you know you’re getting top-of-the-line raytracing in your games, but AMD is making strides, and when you break it down performance per dollar, they are catching up. Raw raytracing performance though, not quite.
They also each have their own upscaling features, which allow you to run the game at a lower resolution than your monitor and have the software upscale it to your native resolution, essentially giving you free FPS. This is known as Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution, also known as FSR, which has two iterations so far. FSR1 offers massive performance improvements at the cost of not great image quality, and while FSR 2 does improve image quality, it is not really comparable with DLSS due to the fact that Nvidia uses AI upscaling, which is far ahead of FSR2. Also, DLSS has been around longer and is supported in more games, but it’s only available on Nvidia cards. FSR can be used on any card and is even available in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S. AMD says that it’s supported in 226 games and upcoming releases, including unannounced games, but only lists support in 54 available games. DLSS will be the clear winner in upscaling for the time being, without a doubt. AMD’s other offerings include their cloud gaming service AMD Link, Smart Technology that boosts your performance if you’re using a Ryzen CPU and Radeon card, and AMD HYPR-RX, which combines Radeon Super Resolution, Boost, and Anti-Lag coming in the first half of 2023. It’ll be automatically integrated with select games, and they’re saying you’ll get one click performance and latency boost. We’ll definitely have to keep our eyes peeled for that one.
All in all, AMD may not be taking shots at the 4090 king, but when you factor in the lower requirements to run it, smaller form factor, less power requirements, they might just be the path of least resistance when it comes to upgrading or building entirely new. When it comes to how these will fare practically in the market, looking at Steam’s hardware survey, less than 3% of people are running games at 4K, and only around 11% are at 1440p. Compare that to the 65% running at 1080p, these cards will honestly be overkill for a lot of those in the market for an upgrade.
The 1440p results on competitive games like Valorant, Rainbow Six Siege, and Overwatch 2 easily rival the more expensive competitors. That being said, Nvidia still dominates market share and we won’t see that change for the next couple of years, at least until prices come down. With people expressing frustration at Nvidia for their pricing, especially in the crater that is the crypto crash, AMD had a golden opportunity to strike. While they can’t compete with Raytracing, DLSS, or integration with software for creators and especially streamers, they are making significant steps toward meeting that standard. This is especially important when previous iterations were mostly lackluster in comparison, they needed to take a significant leap over the last generation, and they absolutely did. The real star is the fact that the value you get for your money is better than anything on the market, but that value is still prohibitively expensive.
AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX starts at $999, while the 7900 XT starts at $899. They will both be released December 13, 2022.
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