AMD is prepared to compete with NVIDIA’s most recent video cards once more by offering potent substitutes at a lower cost. AMD continues to lag behind when it comes to ray tracing yet again. That is essentially the background of AMD’s Radeon RX 7900 XT and 7900 XTX GPUs, which have muddled names but are designed to represent the apex of the company’s new RDNA 3 graphics architecture. These cards are unquestionably more affordable at $899 and 999, respectively, than NVIDIA’s monster-priced $1,599 RTX 4090 and $1,199 RTX 4080. (both of which actually sell for far more at most stores).
With the aid of the company’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) upscaling technology, AMD’s latest GPUs generally offer good 4K gaming performance. It’s just unfortunate that you’ll have to put up with less efficient ray tracing than the opposition. (On the plus side, they provide a significant ray tracing improvement over AMD’s most recent Radeon GPUs.)
What makes these cards so unique, then? They are the first GPUs to be constructed using a chiplet-based architecture, like AMD’s most recent CPUs. That should make it straightforward for AMD to modify their designs in the future, making it easier to scale down RDNA 3 for laptops and lower-end GPUs. A 5.3 TB/s connection links a 5nm computation die and a 6nm memory die in the 7900 XTX and XT. Together, they are capable of up to 24GB of GDDR6 RAM usage and 61 teraflops of computing capability.
Additionally, AMD claims that when compared to its prior RDNA 2 architecture, ray tracing performance has increased by 50% per processing unit. Its updated video engine now supports AV1 encoding and decoding at resolutions of up to 8K/60 frames per second. Although that format hasn’t gained much traction yet, it intends to provide greater video compression for 4K and 8K footage than current codecs like H.264.
The Radeon RX 7900 XT and XT are identical, as implied by their names. The top-end XTX has clock rates between 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz, 96 compute units, and an equal number of ray accelerators. The XT, on the other hand, clocks between 2GHz and 2.4GHz and has 84 computation and ray tracing units. The more expensive card has 24GB of GDDR6 RAM, as opposed to 20GB on the XT. (Notably, both provide more memory than the RTX 4080’s 16GB.)
But given their similarities, it’s puzzling why someone would choose to forego the 7900 XT and save $100. Go all out and get as much RAM and power as you can if you’re going to spend close to $1,000 on a video card. Even if it meant releasing a card that is a little bit slower than the 7900 XT, it would have been good to see something little less expensive from AMD.
As we’ve come to anticipate from AMD’s top-of-the-line graphics cards, the reference GPUs we’re testing look and feel like high-end parts. Most importantly, though, is that they only occupy two motherboard slots as opposed to the massive RTX 4080 and 4090’s three. The 7900 XT and XTX likewise rely on two 8-pin power connectors, so unlike NVIDIA’s cards, you won’t need to run any additional PSU lines or jam in a dongle. Due to its starting power draw of 355 watts, the 7900 XTX requires an 850 watt power supply, whereas the XT model may operate with a 750 watt PSU. Under load, both cards maintained a temperature of 66C, which was in line with what we observed on the RTX 4080 and 4090.
Even though I was excited to compare these new GPUs to NVIDIA’s, I had to upgrade my Ryzen 9 7900X’s motherboard BIOS and drivers numerous times before I could utilise either card. Although NVIDIA’s cards also needed a BIOS update, that is something I occasionally experience when testing cutting-edge technology, and AMD’s cards continued to have problems even after that. For instance, Halo Infinite would not start matches with either card. When I was testing Cyberpunk 2077, my PC occasionally crashed entirely; in order for Windows to restart, I had to disconnect my desktop and reset my BIOS.
This PC has a high-end Corsair 1000W PSU, and I’ve been testing AMD and NVIDIA video cards on it for a while now with no stability problems. So it came as a shock to realise how much damage these GPUs might cause. Since I haven’t read any reviews that mention similar problems, I’ll put my experience down to early drivers. I’m crossing my fingers that AMD is also making an effort to fix the faults I’m witnessing since the firm just published a new driver that addresses a problem with high power usage during video decoding.
The cards demonstrated that they could compete with the RTX 4080 when everything went perfectly. When it comes to the TimeSpy Extreme benchmark from 3DMark and the Compute test from Geekbench 5, the 7900 XTX and the 4080 were comparable. TimeSpy Extreme gave the 7900 XT a score that was 1,000 points lower than the RTX 3080 Ti from last year, while Geekbench gave the NVIDIA card a victory. Hitman 3 performed incredibly quickly on both cards in 4K, achieving 165 fps and 180 fps, respectively, when I turned on FSR upscaling. There is no need to run any game in 4K without the aid of cutting-edge upscaling technology, much like NVIDIA’s cards.
Once I started experimenting with ray tracing, the performance gap between AMD and NVIDIA became apparent. The RTX 4080 scored significantly higher than the 7900 XTX and XT in the 3DMark Port Royal benchmark (at least they managed to beat the 3080 Ti). Additionally, when playing Cyberpunk 2077 in 4K with full ray tracing and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution technology, I only saw about 57 frames per second on the Radeon 7900 XTX. That frame rate dropped to an unusable 25 fps without FSR. The slower 7900 XT could only achieve 50 frames per second in 4K with FSR and ray tracing turned on.
Basically, you’ll need to seek elsewhere if you’re keen to purchase a video card that achieves well beyond 60 frames per second in 4K with ray tracing. However, if you can manage 1,440p, you’ll discover more to enjoy: With ray tracing, FSR, and graphical settings all the way up, the 7900 XTX managed 130 frames per second in Cyberpunk, compared to the 7900 XT’s 114. That virtually fills a 120Hz gaming monitor to capacity! I still think 4K gaming is overrated; 1,440p looks excellent even today, and you might never see the advantages of pushing more pixels. But I’ll admit that NVIDIA’s DLSS3 upscaling technology has spoiled me, enabling me to play Cyberpunk at 74 frames per second while using ray tracing in 4K. That is the closest I’ve ever come to gaming nirvana.
However, there is one feature of these AMD GPUs that you won’t find with NVIDIA’s: affordable street costs. You can still purchase the 7900XT and XTX close to MSRP even after their release. Meanwhile, several RTX 4080 variants are edging closer to $1,500 at online stores (assuming you can find them in stock at all). It’s still difficult to justify spending close to $1,000 on a video card, but at least it makes more sense than spending all the way up to $1,500.
In terms of 4K gaming, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX and XT represent a significant advancement for AMD. However, I’m hoping the company can sort out its driver issues and, in the process, might manage to achieve greater ray tracing performance. The majority of gamers are still better off waiting for the upcoming mid-range AMD and NVIDIA cards, which will undoubtedly go on sale soon. However, if you are a fervent supporter of AMD, you have at last received the high-end upgrade you have been waiting for.