The Radeon RX 6900 XT is AMD’s next-generation RDNA 2 architecture flagship. The MSI Gaming X Trio card wants to put this chip in the spotlight with high-end cooling.

Released in late 2020, the Radeon RX 6900 XT represents what AMD can do best at the time of writing. It is the flagship of the brand in the graphics card sector, pushing the RDNA 2 architecture to the limit. We were able to test a model developed by MSI, the MSI Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio.

RX 6900 XT

AMD’s Radeon RX 6900 XT is the most powerful chip using the RDNA 2 architecture. There are 80 compute units, each equipped with a ray-tracing “ray accelerator,” or 5120 stream processors, with a boost frequency up to 2250 MHz, a 128 MB Infinity Cache and 16 GB of 256-bit GDDR6 storage. On paper, this card has to compete with the GeForce RTX 3090, which is Nvidia’s most advanced card, but for a more aggressive price.

With its Gaming X Trio, MSI amplifies these features with a frequency boost that goes up to 2340 MHz out of the box and the brand’s Tri Frozr 2 cooling system.

This results in, first of all, a very imposing card, 324 x 141 x 55 mm for a weight of 1576 grams. By default, it is installed in a two-slot height, but MSI offers an optional bracket to install the card more firmly in three slots.

The very large radiator covers the GPU, but also its video memory and the power circuit to cool the essential elements as well as possible. To power all of this, MSI requires no less than three 8-pin PCI-E power connectors, however a maximum of 525 watts based on PCI-Express port specs (75W) and power connectors (150W each). Obviously, who says gaming product also says RGB LEDs with a backplate that can shine brightly on your PC.

In terms of video outputs, there are three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.1 port capable of displaying 4K up to 120Hz as needed.

We start our test series with 3DMark Time Spy Extreme, which allows us to judge performance on a complex scene using DirectX 12, but without ray tracing. As we saw in our previous RDNA 2 tests, it is precisely in ray tracing that AMD shows its weaknesses. Therefore, the Radeon RX 6900 XT should perform well in this first test.

And this is true because with a score of 8709 points, our Radeon RX 6900 XT made by MSI is at the top of the graphics cards we have tested so far. We can already see here the extent to which AMD has been able to catch up generation after generation to offer a graphics chip as fast as Nvidia offers, at least when it comes to calculations without ray tracing.

3DMark DirectX Ray Tracing

For several months, 3DMark has been offering a bespoke benchmark for evaluating performance on the DirectX ray tracing API used by Windows 10. It is a very good add-on to Time Spy Extreme for evaluating the performance of a modern graphics card. Real-time ray tracing in 3D applications is still relatively new, and above all very demanding, in the field of graphics cards.

As already noted above, this is where RDNA 2 shows its limits. We are in the first generation of AMD that offers real-time ray tracing, while Nvidia is already in its second generation. In our test, MSI’s Radeon RX 6900 XT averaged 31fps in this benchmark, well behind Nvidia’s RTX 3080’s 46.5fps, but a range lower. We haven’t tested the GeForce 3090 ourselves, but a tour of the 3DMark website shows that the card spins between 55 and 60 frames per second, depending on settings. It’s almost twice as good as the Radeon RX 6900 XT.

Red Dead Redemption 2

As we have seen, the Radeon RX 6900 XT excels at tasks that do not involve ray tracing. This can be easily demonstrated by Red Dead Redemption 2, a very greedy game and a real technical slap in the face of the previous generation, which does not use the latest lighting and reflection technologies. We run its built-in benchmark with maximum graphics settings, in various definitions.

Even at a very high rendering definition, 4K at 3840 x 2160 pixels, the graphics card is capable of displaying more than 60 images per second on average, in a comfortable way. We even topped the 120 FPS bar for those who prefer to play in Full HD. Note also that these results are much better than those recorded on Nvidia’s RTX 3080. We’d have to see what it would look like on the RTX 3090, but the RX 6900 XT will most likely hold the upper hand in this game.

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