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Monday, July 15, 2024

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT Review

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It’s been almost five months since the launch of the RX 6700 XT, AMD’s GPU targeting 1440p gaming, so one might say we’re overdue for a release for more budget-minded gamers. Well, the wait is finally over as the RX 6600 XT has arrived and takes aim at 1080p. Starting at $379, it doesn’t exactly come cheap, but thanks to a smaller die and pre-planning on the part of AMD, you may just be able to find it in stock. Let’s take a closer look and see if it’s been worth the wait.

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT – Design and Features

This time around, there is no reference version of the card available directly from AMD. That means that from day one, there will be multiple versions available from all of the major brands, including those with factory overclocks and novel cooling solutions. AMD promised that at least some of these models would meet its suggested pricing of $379 and that it had readied stock before launch. We can only hope for a better launch than we’ve seen with other cards this generation, but given the incredible demand, you’ll likely need to move quickly to secure one for yourself.

The lack of an “official” reference version means that reviewers are getting different AIB cards to look at for launch today. For this review, I was sent the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX 6600 XT OC, which will retail for $549. It’s a souped up version compared to the reference spec with a mild factory of overclock and a beefy dual fan cooler. Depending on which version you get, your factory overclock and cooling solution could be different, but so long as your temperatures don’t result in thermal throttling, each version is likely to exceed its rated clock speed anyway, resulting in performance that is close across the board.

Despite differences in cooling and out of the box clock speeds, every card shares core features. They all target 1080p gaming, and do so with 32 compute units and 2048 stream processors. The starting clock speeds are 2359 MHz for the Game Clock and 2589 MHz for the Boost Clock. These are, by any measure, extremely high. ASUS wasn’t willing to share the stated clock speeds ahead of release with us, but this version peaked at 2726 MHz and hovered closer to 2624 MHz while gaming.

Even though the RX 6600 XT has fewer CUs and SPs than last generation’s RX 5600 XT (which had 36 CUs and 2304 SPs), it’s able to deliver much higher performance. Peak single-precision performance tops out at 10.6 TFLOPs and half-precision at 21.21 TFLOPS, each 47% more than last-gen. Peak texture and pixel fill rates have each been improved at 48% and 66% respectively. Impressively, it does this with only 160 watts of rated board power, 10 watts more than the RX 5600 XT.

If that all sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry. What you need to know is this: AMD has been able to achieve significant performance gains over the RX 5600 XT without drawing excessive amounts of additional power from your system. Even if you don’t care about power, what you should care about is heat. Low power means lower temperatures and higher sustained performance, even in the middle of the latest system crushing game.

The RX 6600 XT is able to pull this off thanks to AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture. RDNA 2 is the latest framework for AMD’s graphics cards and enables them to hit such tremendously high clock speeds in a power efficient package, requiring only a single 8-pin power adapter. The architecture also opens the door to hardware-level ray tracing with built-in ray accelerators. Enabling ray tracing still brings a performance hit, but now that FidelityFX Super Resolution is on the scene, we’re likely to see much better performance with it enabled in future titles. The technology was only recently released, however, so the amount of titles taking advantage of this feature is small but growing.

The biggest indicator that this is a “1080p card” (outside of AMD’s marketing) in its memory configuration. The RX 6600 XT features 8GB of GDDR6 video memory on a 128-bit bus, clocked to 16 Gbps. Bus width is a key factor in determining its bandwidth (which is specced at 256 GB/s) and this is particularly low. The 128-bit bus width puts it behind even the RX 5600 XT which was 192-bit. It’s biggest competitors, the RTX 3060 and RTX 3060 Ti both top it, coming in at 192-bit and 256-bit respectively. While AMD does mitigate this with the inclusion of 32MB of Infinity Cache, its method for decreasing VRAM latency, it’s still a hardware-level limitation.

Playing at 1080p, it doesn’t make a perceptible difference that I could feel, but I did have some issues testing higher resolutions that may be related. At 4K, the textures in Control simply refused to load all the way, leaving the game a blurry mess. In Battlefield V, load times were much longer on the RX 6600 XT than the RTX 3060 or 3060 Ti. I can't say conclusively that these issues are the result of the memory configuration, but they were repeatable and clearly pushing beyond what the memory configuration was intended to achieve. For the record, this isn't a knock on the RX 6600 XT. It is not a 4K card and was never pitched as one. These anecdotes did stand out in my testing, however.

Returning to the positive, our Strix model ran remarkably cool and quiet. It peaked at a ridiculously fast 2726 MHz, but even after hours of benchmark testing it only hit 62 degrees Celsius. Even though the card features a dual BIOS with Performance and Quiet modes, I never found it necessary to switch into Quiet mode. Even under load, the card ran quiet enough that it blended in with my case fans. When you’re performing less intensive tasks, its fans won’t spin up at all, making it silent.

As an RDNA 2 card, the RX 6600 XT features all of the benefits we’ve seen on other Radeon cards this generation. If you’re using a compatible AMD Ryzen CPU, you’ll be able to leverage Smart Access Memory (Resizable BAR) to increase performance in certain games. Radeon Boost leverages Variable Rate Shading to improve performance in motion. Likewise, the FidelityFX suite features a number of graphics-enhancing features like Contrast Adaptive Sharpening to add an additional level of crispness to your in-game visuals. For competitive players, Radeon Anti-Lag can decrease input lag, giving you an edge in shooters. And, of course, it’s compatible with AMD FreeSync to eliminate screen tearing on compatible displays.

The card features four video outputs to support a maximum resolution of 8K (7680 x 4320). Around the rear of the card are three DisplayPort 1.4a outputs and a single HDMI 2.1. For streaming and entertainment, it supports VP9 and AV1 decoding, perfect for major streaming services like Netflix, as well as H.264 and H.265 for encoding and decoding.

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT – Performance

With background out of the way, it’s time to dig into how the card actually performs. We test graphics cards using a mix of synthetic and real-world gaming benchmarks. All of our tests are performed at ultra settings unless otherwise specified. It’s important to remember that the sample RX 6600 XT we received features a factory overclock of some degree, so a completely reference version of this GPU is likely to perform several percentage points below what we found here. Because of the way that GPUs intelligently increase their own clock speeds, the impact on our results will be very small compared to reference.

Due to its limited availability, our current testing suite does not include any titles that use AMD’s new FidelityFX Super Resolution upscaling technology. IGN is currently in the process of updating our testing regimen to incorporate FSR technology into our assessments as it becomes more widely available. These are the currently available titles incorporating FSR and will offer a large performance boost when enabled.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the benchmarks. Though AMD’s promotional materials position it against the RTX 3060, the RX 6600 XT’s pricing makes it a closer competitor to the RTX 3060 Ti. Here’s how it performed.

Beginning with synthetics, I tested the RX 6600 XT against a selection of its biggest competitors between the current and last generation of GPUs. In 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra it was 18% faster than the RX 5600 XT and 1% faster than the RX 5700 XT. It delivered impressive results against the RTX 3060, coming in 27% faster, but was 10% slower than the RTX 3060 Ti.

The trend continued in Unigine’s Heaven benchmark. Against the RX 5600 XT and RX 5700 XT it was 33% and 9% faster respectively. Against the RTX 3060 it was 18% faster. It again lagged behind the 3060 Ti by 19%.

For the next round of synthetics, I focused on ray tracing performance. Since the RX 5000 series did not support ray tracing, I wasn’t able to test those GPUs in these tests, and the RX 6600 XT expectedly came in last place. In 3DMark Port Royal, it lagged the RTX 3060 by 12% and the Ti by 36%. In the Ray Tracing Feature Test, it fell behind by 45% and 68%. Since the Boundary benchmark uses DLSS upscaling on Nvidia cards, the lead is expansive but not directly comparable. The RX 6700 XT bests the 6600 XT by several frames a second overall.

AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT Gaming Benchmarks

Turning to what matters most, real-world gaming, the results are even more interesting. AMD positioned the RX 6600 XT as a 1080p card and it’s easy to see why. The results here are consistently high and capable of delivering a great gaming experience. Against the RX 5600 XT, it was substantially faster, delivering 28% higher FPS at 1080p and 26% higher at 1440p. The card even managed to beat the RX 5700 XT in its overall average, coming in 4% and 3% faster respectively.

Against Team Green, things begin to shift. It outperforms the RTX 3060 by 9% and 5% in rasterization at 1080p and 1440p (2% and 1% with Metro Exodus included). The RTX 3060 Ti, on the other hand, performs significantly better. There, the RX 6600 XT performs 10% slower at 1080p and 18% slower at 1440p in rasterization (13% and 22% slower including Metro).

As I usually do, I expanded my focus for wider game testing at the target resolution. In this larger array of games, the card performed 5% faster than the RTX 3060 in rasterization but was 13% slower than the RTX 3060 Ti. Given the head start DLSS received, a number of these games have implemented the feature but do not yet feature FSR. As a whole group, the RX 6600 XT was 10% slower than the RTX 3060 and 25% slower than the RTX 3060 Ti.

Given the performance here, it’s clear that RX 6600 XT has been dialed in for 1080p gaming, and it performs well at that resolution. The big question is what kind of value it offers compared to what else is on the market. To keep things simple, I’ll be considering the RX 6600 XT against the RTX 3060 and RTX 3060 Ti at standard, reference pricing across the board.

The problem is that the RTX 3060 Ti exists for only $20 more than AMD’s suggested pricing for reference models and is an objectively better value for gaming. Not only is it faster at 1080p, it opens the doors to 1440p more effectively thanks to its higher bandwidth memory and the wider availability of DLSS. This is even more pressing when you consider that our results here are likely slightly higher than what a completely reference card will deliver. While the RX 6600 XT can support some titles at 60+ FPS at 1440p, it’s not consistent, and as games become more demanding, that resolution is likely to become less attainable without really dialing back settings.

But what of the RTX 3060, the card AMD drew direct comparisons to? In rasterization, the RX 6600 XT compares well and does indeed outperform it. The problem here is that the RTX 3060 is priced $50 cheaper, has 12GB of higher bandwidth video memory, and is also likely to have greater longevity thanks to DLSS. The RX 6600 XT wins at native rendering, but if you play games with DLSS, the RTX 3060 will allow you to game on a QHD monitor without the same performance hit.

All of that said, it’s unlikely you’ll even be able to buy any of these cards at their suggested pricing due to the continuing silicon shortage. If AMD is able to keep them in stock, it would make it the available, if expensive, card you can buy. Against the exorbitantly high prices of other GPUs at the moment, $379 may indeed be the better value, but it’s far from the “budget” GPU its design points to.

The other thing to consider is FidelityFX Super Resolution, AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s DLSS. The technology is currently available in a very limited number of games, but AMD clearly intends it to go wide by making it open source and easy for developers to implement. Should it succeed, that could change the dynamic and value proposition of the RX 6600 XT, particularly against the RTX 3060. Right now, that’s yet to be seen and feels like a roll of the dice to buy a GPU based upon. Still, there is potential there.


If AMD is able to keep it in stock, the RX 6600 XT will finally let you build that gaming PC you’ve been waiting on, but I’d recommend holding out just a little longer. It performs well at 1080p, but is just too expensive to recommend at $379.

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