Surprise! AMD just revealed the $329* Radeon RX 6600, a new budget 1080p gaming graphics card that should be available at Amazon, Best Buy, Micro Center and the Newegg Shuffle starting as soon as the very moment we published this story at 9AM ET. Given how exorbitant GPU prices have been during the global chip crunch, you should probably stop reading if you want one and get with the clicking.
OK: If you’re reading these words, I’m assuming you’ve now secured either a new GPU or a dose of disappointment. Great! Now let’s discuss why you might actually want this video card, based on my recent briefing with AMD.
If you’ve read my colleague Tom Warren’s recent AMD RX 6600 XT review, you know we already considered that $379* card a solid entry-level GPU. It was capable of playing most of the latest games at 1080p and maximum settings, but not all, not with ray-tracing, and was definitely a sizable step beneath the $400* Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti that costs just $20 more*. It’s exactly the kind of bang-for-the-buck GPU that I used to buy myself, though.
Well, the new RX 6600 is the exact same Navi 23 chip, but with four fewer compute units (28 instead of 32), slightly slower clockspeeds, and a reduced total board power consumption of just 132 watts (vs. 160 watts) so you can easily fit it into a system with a 450-watt power supply. That’s lower than the 500 watts AMD recommends for the 6600 XT, let alone the 550-watt that even Nvidia’s entry level $329* GeForce RTX 3060 asks buyers to bring to the table.
In practice, AMD says you’re looking at a 10 to 15-percent performance gap between the 6600 and 6600 XT, but the company would rather you look at its 23-percent uplift over Nvidia’s RTX 2060 instead — assuming you’re taking advantage of Smart Access Memory aka Resizable BAR with a compatible CPU and game, anyhow. If so, AMD says you can expect to average 91 FPS in Far Cry 6, 85 FPS in Deathloop at maximum levels of detail, and that the card averages 100 FPS across the company’s test suite, compared to 120 FPS average for the 6600 XT.
The company also says its Nvidia DLSS competitor, AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) is potent enough in games like Far Cry 6 that you can step up to 1440p plus raytracing and still average 60 FPS (assuming you’re pairing it with a Ryzen 5 5600X processor and DDR4 3600MHz RAM or better).
Unfortunately, this morning’s reviews suggest that the RX 6600 doesn’t compare as favorably against Nvidia’s RTX 3060 as you’d expect, with reviewers like Tom’s Hardware concluding that it’s “generally slower,” Digital Foundry calling it a “hard sell” with worse upscaling and poor raytracing performance vs. Nvidia, and extensive lists of benchmarks like the ones at Guru3D suggesting it offers closer to RTX 2060 and AMD RX 5700 levels of performance. If you’ve currently got a two-year-old 2060 Super or 5700 XT (each of which retailed for $399 at the time), this card would likely not be an upgrade for you at all. Once again, it looks like Nvidia wins this round.
But as with any graphics card during the pandemic, actual retail availability at a reasonable price matters far more than comparative performance, since you generally can’t find anything close to its MSRP — and that goes double for AMD, whose availability has been notably worse. Here’s AMD’s statement to The Verge on supply this time around:
AMD is working closely with board partners, OEMs, SIs and etail/retail partners to ensure as many graphics cards are available to gamers as possible, and we expect that a healthy supply of AMD Radeon RX 6600 graphics cards will be available at launch.
“Healthy” is a very difficult word to pin down, but we’ll see. Late last month, AMD CEO Lisa Su suggested chip supplies would likely be “tight” until the second half of 2022.
It’s also worth noting that most of AMD’s GPU board partners don’t seem to be taking full advantage of the RX 6600’s reduced power consumption yet. While ASRock does have a single-fan design and Sapphire’s dual-fan looks fairly svelte, every card takes up at least two full slots in a case and they all still require 8-pin PCIe power connector — and the PowerColor card still quotes a 500W power supply recommendation, not 450. Still, like the Nvidia RTX 3060, the reduced size and power requirements could make it popular for smaller builds.