6900XT / 6800XT - Reference vs AIB, power draw potential, cooling, and overall quality?

RanceJustice

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Hello everyone. I've been looking into picking up an AMD card, likely either a 6800XT or 6900XT, but I'm trying to decide on the particular model. However, besides the crazy pricing structure one element has me questioning what to do - variation between card types. For instance, I seem to remember someone told me that unlike Nvidia who allowed AIB to push the envelope on power/voltage and the like - the reason that most 3080 / 3090 have 2x 8-pin power, FE's have 1x 12pin custom, but the "high end" models have 3x 8-pin and some - notably the Asus ROG Strix at the top of the pack - have a special BIOS for tons of power draw. - AMD however locked things down? Is this accurate?

On the NV side (3090 I'm most familiar with and what I own currently) there was significant variation between the power draw, components/PCB/VRMs, cooling units, and other features from reference designs, to FE, to AIB etc. Is this also the case on AMD or not? If AMD has, as rumors suggest, not allowed AIBs to go beyond certain reference standards no matter their hardware, then perhaps its not even worth it to spend the extra money on a fancy AIB version of a 6900XT / 6800XT? Do any of the AIBs have a meaningful improvement in cooling, PCB/VRM component quality vs the reference design and if so, which? Or could they be a waste if AMD holds the reins too tight, that most improvements are a lot of money for almost no benefit - bolting race car components (or even a race car engine) into a sporty family car never allowed to go above 60mph anyway?

I've heard that the "good versions" of the AMD 6800XT and 6900XT in terms of AIBs are....

Asus ROG Strix LC - Quite expensive thanks to its AIO cooling system. Kind of strange there's no air cooled Strix for either the 6800XT or 6900XT?
PowerColor Red Devil (LE) - One of the more powerful air cooled AIBs, but as of late seems nearly as expensive as even the Strix LC. LE versions seems to have a few aesthetic extras perhaps, not sure if any changes to the card or default speeds.
Sapphire Nitro+ - Similar to the RedDevil, a solid air cooled offering nearly as expensive. Seems the 6800XT has a "SE" version with some aesthetic extra differences but oddly not the 6900XT?

There are a few others out there, including the Asus TUF (seems nearly as expensive as the Strix LC surprisingly), XFX MERC cards (equally or more expensive than better regarded models for PowerColor and Sapphire I'm told), a cheaper though harder to find AsRock (of questionable quality) and more in terms of AIBs. Considering we're in a time when the "top 3" I noted above seem to be $1400+ for 6900XT (and 6800XT are $1000+ as well!) , I'm wondering how much of it is worth it in terms of performance, component/cooling quality, features and the like. NV cards had a rather significant difference between reference, FE, and AIB (and between AIB types) but I'm curious if that is also the case with AMD or not.
 

noko

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Well at the moment, hard to be picky, basically grab what you can if you can. I grabbed a XFX 6900 XT 319 MERC . . . for $1399 at NewEgg. The good thing from the Egg I don't have to pay tax which saved me $100. If I bought from Bestbuy or Amazon I would have to pay tax that on today pricing adds at least $100. Build quality is superb and it is huge, I mean huge. Size also comes into play on what case you are going to use and this card maybe the biggest of the bunch. It is utterly quiet and keeps the GPU cool, even with out the best airflow in my case for the card.
 

John1780

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Bios is locked at 300W, so factory performance b/t reference and AIBs isn't notably different. Nearly all seem to max out around 26XX core clock, 2150 mem and low 20k 3DMark. IMO, it comes down to compatibility with your cooling solution and the use of MPT to eke out the extra performance gains. On air, the upsides of MPT will be limited due to thermals; however, on water, you can see some nice results (e.g. 21k+ TS). Check the 6800/6900 OC thread for some results.
 
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kilroy67

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Well at the moment, hard to be picky, basically grab what you can if you can. I grabbed a XFX 6900 XT 319 MERC . . . for $1399 at NewEgg. The good thing from the Egg I don't have to pay tax which saved me $100. If I bought from Bestbuy or Amazon I would have to pay tax that on today pricing adds at least $100. Build quality is superb and it is huge, I mean huge. Size also comes into play on what case you are going to use and this card maybe the biggest of the bunch. It is utterly quiet and keeps the GPU cool, even with out the best airflow in my case for the card.
I also got the XFX 6900 XT 319 Merc Ultra and it is monster of a card, it has a massive cooler and it is very well built. Just head over to the XFX site and check it out, plus it offers a 3 year warranty compared to 2 years for Powercolor and Sapphire.
 
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John1780

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Slight edit to my previous post: Red Devil 6900 has a slight bump to 320W vs 300W. Nothing that can't be matched by other cards using MPT, but bit of an advantage if you'd rather stick with Adrenalin.

Further edit: Just look at the cards individually on this chart to see which cards (may) have slight power bumps over the usual 300W limit:
https://videocardz.net/powercolor-radeon-rx-6900-xt-16gb
 
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RanceJustice

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Thanks for all that. I guess the overall question here is if it is worth purchasing an AIB design at all give the limits? Do any of the AIB versions cooling, PCB components and VRM reliability, etc... really justify it? At the moment, it seems that the reference versions are about $650 for 6800XT and $1000 for 6900XT, but AIBs seem to range at least between $850-1000+ for 6800XT and $1300-1500+ for 6900XT, which is pretty significant! I'm not aware if there are any problems with reference cooling , but even if there were it seems like one could buy a water block (EKWB Quantum Velocity or other high end block ) for less than the cost of any solid AIB. Then again, maybe more or less the reference cooler itself will be just fine (unless users were planning a liquid build anyway).

There were similar discussions for Nvidia cards with many choosing the Founder's Edition versions due to their lesser expense especially post tariff , but the AIBs seemed to have a larger justification in terms of cooling, quality, features, power draw and the like at least on the high end. Even with that however, many still felt it wasn't worth the additional to go away from reference/FE . However, if it seems that the price gradiant for AMD cards is equal or larger, but the potential benefits are not even at parity to Nvidia levels, then maybe its best to just stay with the cheaper reference cards when one can find them. Or is there something I'm missing that helps to make the AIBs worth while?
 

John1780

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Thanks for all that. I guess the overall question here is if it is worth purchasing an AIB design at all give the limits? Do any of the AIB versions cooling, PCB components and VRM reliability, etc... really justify it? At the moment, it seems that the reference versions are about $650 for 6800XT and $1000 for 6900XT, but AIBs seem to range at least between $850-1000+ for 6800XT and $1300-1500+ for 6900XT, which is pretty significant! I'm not aware if there are any problems with reference cooling , but even if there were it seems like one could buy a water block (EKWB Quantum Velocity or other high end block ) for less than the cost of any solid AIB. Then again, maybe more or less the reference cooler itself will be just fine (unless users were planning a liquid build anyway).

There were similar discussions for Nvidia cards with many choosing the Founder's Edition versions due to their lesser expense especially post tariff , but the AIBs seemed to have a larger justification in terms of cooling, quality, features, power draw and the like at least on the high end. Even with that however, many still felt it wasn't worth the additional to go away from reference/FE . However, if it seems that the price gradiant for AMD cards is equal or larger, but the potential benefits are not even at parity to Nvidia levels, then maybe its best to just stay with the cheaper reference cards when one can find them. Or is there something I'm missing that helps to make the AIBs worth while?
If you can find a reference 6800/6900xt, I'd snag it in a heartbeat. AIBs won't bring much extra performance to the table for the 30-40% increase in cost.

Without a WB I suspect you'll hit thermal issues pretty quick with a reference for anything more than a mild OC though. On air with MPT @340W, my temps are generally low-mid 90s with my Nitro+ on TS and Futuremark, and a few degrees cooler on recent games on a 1440p UW monitor. That said, if you really don't care about squeezing the extra 5-10 fps you'll get from it with an OC, then just grab a reference with the option to WB later.

That said, given the current state of things, I'd snag whatever you can get your hands on.
 
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newls1

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Pretty sure im the 1st Asus TUF 6900XT owner using the new alphacool waterblock.... put me 34th fastest on timespy.

1st TS Waterblock.png
 

Furious Nerd

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Very nice newls1

interesting tidbit I found about thermals between this Red Dragon 6800XT I got to replace my previous ASUS 3080 TUF OC - on my (SFF) NR200 case with two slim profile Noctua fans underneath the card, I was getting 30-32c idle with the 3080. With this 6800XT with a non-ref cooler, I get 42-44c idle in desktop. Both are 0RPM on idle. Not a knock on the card or anything since idle temps don't mean anything in terms of anything meaningful, just an interesting temp difference in idle temps I noticed.

Placing my hand on top of the case where I have an exhaust fan blowing air out from inside the case - the air always feels noticeably warmer than it did when I had the 3080 installed.

I haven't compared how this affects CPU temps yet (since it's now 10-12c warmer in the case as a baseline than where it was with the 3080). And I'm not sure if *load* temps would be similar or not. Haven't done testing on that. Maybe under load things will be the same highs. Maybe not. If under load it also makes the internal temp hotter 10c+ correspondingly compared to the 3080, than it can affect how long a CPU can boost for, I'd imagine?

-----------

More on topic - since the reference and AIBs (which offer objectively better cooling usually) are usually so close in performance, and AIBs cost SO much more than reference, my advice to anyone that isn't desperate or doesn't have deep pockets, to just camp the AMD.com store and try to get a reference model.
If you need a card as soon as possible, then you have better chance of finding AIB than you do a reference, but is the price worth paying? IMO no. I'd wait. AMD announced they will continue producing ref cards for a bit longer still, at least.
 
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