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Sunday, December 10, 2023

AMD Radeon RX 7600 Review

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A full 6 months after AMD launched the Radeon RX 7900 XTX and XT, Team Red has finally delivered the Radeon RX 7600, a budget graphics card targeting the 1080p crowd. Unlike the recently-released Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Ti, however, this graphics card is looking to stay under $300, and thus delivers quite a bit less performance, especially with ray tracing enabled. But in a time where affordable graphics cards are so few and far between, does that even matter?

Radeon RX 7600

The Affordable Graphics Card, At Last?

The AMD Radeon RX 7600 starts at $269, making it the most affordable current-generation card on the market. The next closest thing is the Nvidia RTX 4060 Ti, and that costs more than $100 more. However, just like any other graphics card these days, that's just the starting price, with aftermarket cards seeing higher prices for fancy coolers and lighting.

Another thing that makes the RX 7600 stand out is its price compared to its last-generation counterpart, the AMD Radeon RX 6600. Unfortunately, I don't have an RX 6600 on hand anymore for comparitive testing, but that card launched at $329, although that was in the middle of the great graphics card shortage of 2021.

The Radeon RX 7600 price could be taken as a sign that PC part manufacturers are starting to figure out that covid-era pricing for graphics cards can't last forever, and maybe we'll start seeing prices start to normalize at a more reasonable level – but that's probably just a pipe dream in this hellscape of capitalism.

AMD Radeon RX 7600 – Design and Specs

I get a lot of graphics cards coming through my tiny apartment of every shape and size, but let me tell you – when I opened up the RX 7600 I was not expecting it to be so small. Maybe I'm just used to the cavalcade of huge GPUs that barely fit in computer cases, but the RX 7600 is just 8 inches long, making it a perfect fit for smaller PC builds.

And, because of the low-power nature of the Radeon RX 7600, you only need one 8-pin connector, as the GPU peaked at just 164W of power consumption while testing. This is the de facto current-gen card for smaller PC builds, though you are going to have to settle for 1080p gaming with this card.

Just like the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT, the RX 7600 is based on RDNA 3, which brings with it updated ray tracing cores, along with slightly better power efficiency. The compute unit layout is also the same, and the 7600 is equipped with 32 of them. Each compute unit has 64 stream processors, which makes for 2,048 total stream processors in the Radeon RX 7600.

What's new in this generation, though, is the introduction of AI accelerators. For gaming, these don't mean much quite yet, as they're meant to accelerate more traditional AI workloads. But with how successful DLSS and XeSS have been for Nvidia and Intel, respectively, I hope to see AMD find a way to improve FSR with these AI accelerators, because it needs the help, especially where ray tracing is concerned.

Because while the RX 7600 does have ray accelerators – one on each compute unit – ray tracing performance is simply terrible. It feels like the only reason the RX 7600 even supports ray tracing is because the RDNA 3 architecture as a whole supports it. You're not going to want to turn on the effect with this graphics card.

AMD Radeon RX 7600 – Performance

The RX 7600 is a 1080p graphics card through and through, but there's a limit to that. Even at 1080p, games like Cyberpunk 2077 struggle to run on the Radeon RX 7600, even with AMD's upscaling tech enabled. Instead, it really shines in traditional, rasterized workloads.

For testing, I ran each of the tests at 1080p and 1440p with ray tracing and FSR enabled for AMD cards and DLSS enabled for Nvidia cards. The reason I use DLSS and FSR in my testing is because if you have the option available to you, there's no good reason not to use it.

As it stands right now, the RX 7600 is the slowest graphics card of this generation, and it's not exactly close. Its closest current-generation competirtor is the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 Ti, and that grpahics card is nearly twice as fast when ray tracing is enabled. However, in games without ray tracing, like Total War: Warhammer 3, or games with light ray tracing like Far Cry 6, the gap narrows significantly.

In Total War: Warhammer 3 at 1080p the RX 7600 is just 15% slower than the RTX 4060 Ti, despite the latter costing 33% more. This makes the AMD graphics card a no-brainer if most of the games you play don't use ray tracing. Games like Overwatch 2, for instance, are going to shine on the RX 7600.

But in games with ray tracing it's rough out here for AMD. In Cyberpunk 2077 at 1080p, the Radeon RX 7600 only manages a paltry 33 fps at max settings and FSR on its Quality preset. Then, in Hitman 3 with all of its eye candy enabled, you're getting just 30 fps.

There are some games that do have ray tracing where the Radeon RX 7600 manages decent performance, though. Both Far Cry 6 and Forza Horizon 5 exceed 60 fps at 1080p, even with ray tracing enabled. Though, those games are generally known to be optimized for AMD hardware.

1080p Matters

A graphics card launching in 2023 that's only really good at 1080p doesn't sound terribly exciting, but it actually makes sense. According to the latest Steam Hardware Survey, 1080p gamers make up a whopping 64.52% of Steam's install base. Even 1440p, which is heralded as the sweet spot for PC gaming falls way behind, making up only 12.49% of the userbase.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the hype of 4K gaming with ray tracing and think that 1080p gaming is just a thing of the past, but if the Steam Hardware Survey proves anything, it's that an affordable graphics card that can handle 1080p gaming is just as important now as it's ever been. It's just a shame that Nvidia and AMD seem to ignore such a wide swath of gamers a lot of the time.

It'd be nice to see the RX 7600 be able to handle ray tracing more effectively, as it's going to become more and more important as time goes on. But until the $299 Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 gets here sometime in July, this is the best graphics card for 1080p gaming.

Verdict

At just $269, the AMD Radeon RX 7600 is the most affordable current-generation graphics card, and it’s geared at 1080p gaming. It’s a goal the graphics card has no problem achieving most of the time, but in games with many ray tracing effects frame rates suffer. However, if the games you want to play don’t support those effects in the first place, you’re in for a solid 1080p experience.

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