When Nvidia announced and launched their 30 series graphics cards, they had all the gaming audience firmly focused on their products, and as the whole crypto mining happened, and miners basically emptied the physical and virtual shelves of all 30-series cards, no one took any particular notice of AMD and their newest 6000 series cards.  We were exactly the same.  Until ASUS sent us the very formidable Radeon RX6800 in the very very attractive ROG STRIX-guise with a slight OC straight out the box.  With impressive numbers such as 16Gb of memory and boasting PCIe 4.0 support as well as 4K UHD capable at a price tag that, in the current climate is cheaper than the RTX3070 and boasts double the memory…  Makes the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition a very appealing piece of kit.  We spent some time with this beast and this is what we found.

 

Specifications

Here we can see the obligatory specification sheet comparing the Founders Edition (FE) card compared to the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition card.  There is usually not much that third-party companies can do apart from playing with the design and the clock speeds.  As shown in the spec sheet the cards are virtually the same apart from an 85 MHz boost clock speed gain on the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition card.

GPU Radeon RX 6800 ROG Strix Radeon RX 6800 OC Edition
Shading Units 3840 3840
TMUs 240 240
ROPs 96 96
Compute Units 60 60
Boost Clock 2105 MHz 2190 MHz
Memory Type GDDR6 GDDR6
Memory Size 16GB 16GB
Memory Bus 256-Bit 256-Bit
Bandwidth 512 GB/s 512 GB/s
Effective Memory Speed 16 Gbps 16 Gbps
Bus Interface PCIe 4.0 x 16 PCIe 4.0 x 16
Additional Power Connector 2 x 8-pin 2 x 8-pin
TDP 250W 250W
Recommended PSU 650W 650W

 

Before we jump into real-world performance and how the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition stacks up against the RTX2080 that we have in our system normally, and the RTX3080 we reviewed previously, we are looking at what is in the box!

Unboxing and Design

 

For those who are not aware, ASUS, whether it be ROG or TUF, has impeccable packaging, arguably the best I have ever experienced, and the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is no different.  Unlike the motherboards, graphics cards usually don’t have many extra things inside the box apart from the card itself.  Inside the box, you will find the card itself, some loose pamphlets, a trading card, which is a nifty trinket to have and flex with, and some ASUS branded cable straps that do come in handy.

The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition features the same beefy heatsink and three-fan design that most newer ASUS cards, be it Nvidia or AMD.  Before we go any further it is important to note that ASUS calls this card a 2.9 slot card, but for all purposes, it is a three-slot monster that measures a whopping 320mm long.  What this means that if you are a fan of compact builds or you are running a small mid-tower case you might struggle to squeeze this monster into your case if you have a front-mounted radiator, as we have.

With a card of this size and considerable weight, sagging is something to be expected.  Fortunately, ASUS has come up with a solution.  They have a metal frame that is located between the cooler shroud and the PCB to try combat gravity, and it does a rather good job of it.  We prefer to use a small screw on the case to screw the card into the rear and providing some more support as to not hurt the stupidly gorgeous ASUS ROG Strix Crosshair VIII Dark Hero motherboard that we are also reviewing.

 

 

The triple fan configuration, just like we saw on the ASUS TUF RTX3080 we reviewed, has the center fan spinning in opposite direction to the outer fans to reduce turbulent airflow which provides better cooling while keeping noise levels at a minimum.  Upon further inspection we found the ROG Strix fans to feature more fins on the fans compared to the TUF version.  This makes for more air to be able to be pushed through the massive heatsink resulting in even better cooling performance.  ASUS did have some fun with these cards.  On the bottom of the card, there are coordinates printed, when searched these coordinates take you to the ASUS headquarters in Taiwan.  A nifty nod to the factory for their hard work.

 

 

The side of the card has an RGB light strip that runs along the side of the card, facing outwards.  There is a single ROG logo on a silver plaque in the center.  The RGB strip is not too brash and bright but is bright enough to be noticed.  Personally, I am not much of an RGB fan so the fact that the RGB can be turned off either in the armory crate software on in the BIOS is wonderful.  Moving to the back-side of the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition we are met with the power connectors.  The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition will need, at least, a 650W power supply and it will require two 8-pin PCIe power connectors.  The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is rather power-hungry with a rated TDP of a whopping 250W.  Back to the front of the card, neatly tucked away is the dual bios switch allowing you to run the card in either Q mode ( quiet mode) or P mode (Performance mode).  Naturally, this switch should stay in the P mode…

 

 

The overall look of this card when installed is wonderful, thanks to arguably the best-looking top plate, featuring the signature ROG emblem and the new open-back heatsink design allowing for massive cooling improvements while still keeping the ASUS ROG Strix sleek and attractive look that ASUS has become so renowned for.  When it comes to the way to connect to the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition card the immediate omission would be the USB Type-C.  This might be a bummer for some but fortunately, you will still get one HDMI 2.1 port and three Display Port 1.4 ports that should cover all your connection needs.

 

Smart Access Memory (SAM) & FidelityFX

 

 

For those of you who are true AMD fans, you would be aware of the latest technology that AMD is so very excited to push.  It is called SAM, Smart Access Memory.  What SAM does is, if you have an AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU, paired with an AMD Radeon RX6000 GPU, gives the CPU full access to your GPU bandwidth.  What this means, in the most basic terms is that latency is greatly reduced which will see a great boost in performance when it comes to gaming.  AMD claims that if you are fortunate enough to have both of the above requirements you should be able to see between 3-15% performance improvement over the Nvidia RTX 3080…  granted, you will probably not have both cards to be able to compare them but to me, this seems like AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s DLSS solution.

AMD is full of new technology at the moment and they are very happy to announce their way to fight the giant that is Nvidia when it comes to GPUs is FidelityFX.  Take a look at what this means for gaming in the video below.

 

 

AMD’s newest addition is FidelityFX which features a plethora of new features that comes with the RX 6000 range of cards.  Amongst the many options and additions that FidelityFX brings, Super Resolution uses new upscaling features to boost framerates in certain titles.  Contrast Adaptive Sharpening, Ambient Occlusion, Variable shading, screen-space reflections, and Denoiser.  I am not going to dive too deep into all of these features as there are only a limited amount of titles that support it.  But it is worthwhile to keep an eye on because this will be what takes the fight to Nvidia in the near future.

Temperatures

Much like the RTX3080 that we reviewed previously, we found that the new cutout design that the newest generation of cards, from both manufacturers, makes a massive impact on the cooling and operating temperatures of the cards.  Idle temperatures, on the, P Mode setting, were always around the 30’C mark which is a couple of degrees lower than what our own RTX2080 would idle at.  When it came to running the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition under load is where the real surprise came.  During testing games that saw our Ryzen 9 5900X reach temperatures in the 80’C region, the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition still performed at a chilly 50’C.  Granted, the 5900X is a real monster and runs hot by nature, comparing the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition to the RTX2080 saw an average temperature difference when going between gaming titles of easily 10 – 15’C.  The only massive difference would be that the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition fan curve would hardly be spinning the fans at those temperatures where our RTX2080 would be spinning rather rapidly by those temperatures ( call us temperature conscious when it comes to our personal kit )

So for anyone who is trying to build a rig with minimal airflow and/or an extremely quiet build then I would highly recommend the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition as the cooling that ASUS has built into this card is simply fantastic!

 

Performance

We put the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition through its paces in a couple of demanding titles.  The titles ranged from Direct X 12 games like Division 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Metro Exodus, and Control.  Games were tested in 1080p and 1440p, due to no 4K monitor being available to us we had to research results for those tests but we will only briefly mention them.

Thanks to ASUS we could test the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition with, and without Smart Access memory, thanks to the ASUS ROG Crosshair VII Dark Hero with a Ryzen 9 5900X CPU, so tests will also feature stats for SAM on and SAM off.

Division 2

 

1080p – 154fps

1440p – 110fps

1440p (SAM) – 110fps

 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

1080p – 170fps

1440p – 125fps

1440p (SAM) – 124fps

1440p (ray tracing on) – 64fps

 

Metro Exodus

 

1080p – 100fps

1440p – 85fps

1440p (SAM) – 90fps

1440p (ray tracing on) – 50fps

 

Control

 

1080p – 142fps

1440p – 91fps

1440p (SAM) – 99fps

1440p (ray tracing on) – 45fps

 

As can be seen above that in its current state, SAM does not make enough of an impact in gaming performance to warrant buying the new AMD cards purely for that, DLSS is still more superior and with varied results and no results in other titles, SAM is a step in the right direction and will, probably, very good in the near future.  The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition as shown above is VERY capable at 1080p and 1440p delivering a touch under 100fps in extremely demanding titles like Metro Exodus and flying past the 100fps mark in other titles.

Verdict

The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is an absolute monster when it comes to the spec sheet, it has a massive 16Gbs of memory with an impressive boost clock speed.  Although it lacks real Ray Tracing performance due to the lack of Tensor cores and the current lack of full-blown DLSS competition it still has enough raw power to power through what it lacks by making it up with brute power.  Although we did not have a 4K display to really test it, with some research we found that the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is very capable to give you 60+ fps at 4K with slightly lowered settings and no ray tracing.

At 1440p the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is an absolute monster and it blows the RTX3070 out the water, even with ray tracing enabled.  If you are willing to give AMD a chance to develop their FidelityFX super-resolution then the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is a very capable card that fights in a bracket below the RTX3080 and cleans the floor in that department.  It might be on the slightly pricier side right now but what GPU is not in the current climate?  The fact that ASUS has given it the full ROG treatment with the massive RGB strip on the side and the very appealing bottom design makes you truly want to vertical mount this monster to take in all the ROG goodness.

Pros

BEAUTIFUL

PCIe 4.0 support

amazing cooling performance

16Gb memory

AMD ray tracing

 

Cons

no DLSS (yet)

no USB-C

not for small build enthusiasts

 

The ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition is a no-brainer for someone who does not quite have the budget to get the titan that is the RX6900XT but still wants a top tier ROG card from team RED.  Give AMD some time to develop a proper DLSS competitor and the ASUS ROG Strix Radeon RX6800 OC edition will be an absolute beast that will give nearly all the 30 series cards a go thanks to its pure raw performance power.

 

 

Special thanks to ASUS South Africa for supplying the review content

 

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