AMD Radeon RX 6600: Finally, a true 1080p graphics card
PCWorld|November 2021
It’s good, though pricey.
BRAD CHACOS

It’s finally happened. Well over a year after this generation of graphics cards (fave.co/3DOEuWk) kicked off, AMD is releasing the first true 1080p GPU of the lot with the Radeon RX 6600, which is being both announced and launched today.

Sure, the step-up Radeon RX 6600 XT (fave.co/3vni0c0) ostensibly targets high-refresh-rate 1080p gaming, but it’s massively overkill for gaming on a standard 60Hz monitor. And the rival GeForce RTX 3060 (fave.co/3lUcqKX) doesn’t offer enough GPU grunt for no-compromises 1440p, but Nvidia ladened it with a ludicrous 12GB of VRAM, which contributes to its sky-high street price.

The Radeon RX 6600 offers very good Ultra-quality 1080p gaming paired with 8GB of GDDR6 memory, a remarkably sane combination. Its $329 suggested price might raise an eyebrow at first blush; that matches the MSRP of the RTX 3060, and AMD’s card is both slower and packs 4GB less VRAM. But you’ll find the RTX 3060 going for $675 to $850 on Ebay, way above its official $330 MSRP. In fact, the Radeon RX 6600 XT sells for less than the RTX 3060 online despite being faster across the board—you can find it for $575 to $675 on Ebay.

Still, expect the Radeon RX 6600 to command a markup on the streets. But given all those pricing intricacies and the ongoing GPU shortage (fave.co/3pkV3oL), AMD’s street price feels reasonable for the hardware on offer—even if being forced to pay well over $300 for great 1080p performance remains very unreasonable unless you have deep pockets or little patience.

SPECS, FEATURES, AND DESIGN

The Radeon RX 6600 sports a cut-down version of the Navi 23 GPU that debuted in the Radeon RX 6600 XT.

The new GPU features 28 compute units, compared to 32 in the Radeon RX 6600 XT (and 36 in the last-generation Radeon RX 5600 XT). More significantly, however, AMD neutered this lower-end GPU by greatly reducing the amount of power provided—132 watts, versus 160W in the XT model—and cranking back Game Clock speeds by a whopping 300MHz plus. The Radeon RX 6600 is rated for 2044MHz Game Clock speeds, compared to 2359MHz in the 6600 XT. That, paired with key improvements in how AMD made its RDNA 2 architecture (fave. co/3aRUJWc), makes the Radeon RX 6600 very power efficient.

Part of that power efficiency comes from its unique memory configuration. Well, it’s not totally unique—the Radeon RX 6600 copies the memory loadout of its pricier XT brethren. Here’s what we said about the memory during that review, which also applies to this non-XT model:

Part of the reason AMD’s new cards are so power efficient is the addition of “Infinity Cache,” a large blob of L3 memory embedded right within the GPU die. Games tap into it for a lot of memory tasks, which means the GPU doesn’t need to send requests “all” the way out to the graphics card’s GDDR6 memory. That in turn lets AMD build Radeon RX 6000– series GPUs with smaller memory buses, which helps save power. The [Radeon RX 6600] features a narrow 128-bit memory bus (think of it as the highway for memory data—more lanes lets traffic move faster) versus a 192-bit bus on the older 5600 XT, and a 256-bit bus on the 5700 XT.

It’s not all roses, though. AMD tuned the [Radeon RX 6600] Infinity Cache for 1080p gaming, giving it significantly less capacity than its brethren—32MB, versus 96MB on the 1440p-focused Radeon RX 6700 XT and 128GB on AMD’s higher-end 4K options. Radeon product manager Nish Neelalojanan told me that the “hit rate” that determines the Infinity Cache’s effectiveness is “very similar” in the 6600 XT at 1080p to what the other cards achieve at their targeted resolutions.

But as you’ll see in our benchmarks, if you try to step the resolution up to 1440p, the Infinity Cache’s hit rate decreases significantly, meaning the Radeon RX 6600 needs to instead rely on the traditional memory system much more. When that happens, the Radeon RX 6600’s relative performance plummets compared to that of graphics cards featuring more traditional, larger memory buses and higher overall memory bandwidth (though the lower memory bandwidth also makes modern Radeon GPUs less attractive to crypto-miners). Bottom line? This graphics card truly was built for 1080p gaming, though you can still get a decent 1440p experience if you don’t mind dipping slightly below 60 frames per second or dialing your graphics options down a bit.

Speaking of “this card,” there is no reference version of the Radeon RX 6600. All the cards you’ll find for sale come from thirdparty graphics card vendors like Asus, Sapphire, MSI, and the star of this review, XFX.

AMD sent us the XFX Radeon RX 6600 Swft 210 for review. It’s cool and quiet, with an attractive design reminiscent of XFX’s blacked-out style this generation, albeit in a smaller and more constrained package. It uses a pair of larger 100mm fans with 11 blades apiece (rather than the triple-fan configuration of costlier XFX options [fave. co/3DLMuYa]) sitting atop a heatsink with a pair of 6mm heat pipes snaking through it. While most higher-end GPUs wield monstrous triple-slot coolers, often paired with triple-pin power requirements, the XFX Swft 210 sticks to a standard 2-slot height. Between that and the single 8-pin power connector required, it should slip into almost any gaming PC as a no-hassle upgrade. It comes with a single HDMI 2.1 port and three DisplayPorts.

This more modestly priced card lacks some of the extra features found in more luxurious models. You won’t find integrated fan headers or even RGB lighting on offer here, though the XFX Swft 210 does include a dual-BIOS switch. That’s helpful in any troubleshooting endeavors and especially handy during overclocking attempts. It’s a welcome addition indeed, along with a metal backplate that will look nice and clean in your system.

The Swft 210 runs at the Radeon RX 6600’s reference speeds, and XFX says it should debut for “about” the suggested $329 price during the initial launch window for AMD’s new GPU.

Like other RX 6000– series GPUs, the Radeon RX 6600 supports all of RDNA 2’s various features, including FidelityFX Super Resolution (fave. co/3lWqKT6) and Smart Access Memory (fave. co/3aReZar) to boost performance, real-time ray-tracing capabilities, AV1 video decoding, DirectX 12 Ultimate goodies (fave.co/3jglNCY), an improved version of Radeon Boost (fave. co/2Z8zSvt) that wraps in Variable Rate Shading, Radeon Anti-Lag across all major DX APIs, FreeSync display support, AMD Link streaming to other devices, and much more. AMD’s robust Radeon Settings app includes both manual and automatic performance tuning controls so you can tweak the card to your heart’s extent.

Let’s get benchmarking.

OUR TEST SYSTEM

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