AMD Radeon RX 6600 tested: A gaming GPU that levels up your 1080p play – CNET


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In what I suspect is the last new graphics card release of 2021, AMD launches its entry 1080p Radeon RX 6600 GPU, a lower-power sibling to its recent RX 6600 XT and direct competitor to Nvidia’s RTX 3060. Both the RX 6600 and RTX 3060 are aimed at gamers looking for solidly playable, high-quality 1080p — AAA games at 80-100fps or so with some fiddling of settings — as opposed to high-frame-rate, high-quality 1080p. And for that, the RX 6600 delivers solid, if not stellar results. 

Although the RX 6600 is nominally priced at $329, this is the absolute worst time to buy a graphics card, and has been for a while. Yes, the cryptocurrency mining crackdown in China and regulatory smackdown in Europe may lessen the demand for GPUs, but we’re still in the middle of a silicon supply crunch that affects many components of graphics cards and that’s expected to last at least until the end of the yearif not into 2022

So it’s bound to keep availability low, shopbots busy and prices high; they’d dipped a little in August, but now seem to be back up to high levels. For instance, in August, a spot check of available RTX 3060 cards, which are targeted to start at $329 like the RX 6600 is, were going for as “low” as $500; now they’re closer to $800. 

And if you’re looking at entry-level cards like the RX 6600, you’re probably really price-sensitive to begin with, making it a doubly bad time — unless you’re desperate.

Without knowing what the actual-real-true prices are as opposed to the what-planet-do-you-live-on prices, it’s difficult to make a call about which GPU to recommend you make a fruitless attempt to buy. You can check all the usual suspects, though, including Amazon, Newegg, Walmartand Best Buy.  

Like Nvidia’s RTX 3060 models and the RX 6600 XT, there’s no official AMD-branded version of a card using the RX 6600 GPU, so we tested the Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 6600, a dual-fan factory-overclocked model that’s a solidly built and performant take on this class of cards. In our testing, the 6600 generally delivered in-game 1080p frame rates above 70fps with whizzy speedup features turned off, and proved a fine card for single-screen photo editing. It ventured into 1440p territory with mixed results: Playable, but usually with some scaling back on quality.

Sapphire Pulse AMD Radeon RX 6600

Memory 8GB GDDR6
Memory bandwidth (GBps) 224
GPU clock (GHz, base/boost) 2.0/2.5
Memory data rate/Interface 14 Gbps/128 bit
Peak texture fill rate (gigatexels per second) 279
Compute Units and Ray Accelerators 28
Stream cores 1,792
Texture mapping units 112
TGP/min PSU (watts) 140/500
Bus PCIe 4.0 x 8 (16-bit slot)
Size 2 slots; 7.6 in/193mm long
Connections 1 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4
Price $329 (AMD target price)
Ship date October 12, 2021

It’s a dual-slot card, but a real one that doesn’t cut it too close with neighbors; that, plus its low-ish wattage makes it a good physical fit for for sticking into older systems as an upgrade. 

There’s not a lot to the Pulse’s feature set — it’s just a well-built implementation of the AMD GPU, with no flashing lights, BIOS switching, performance logging and so on. Running at full tilt, the card remained relatively cool and quiet, sustaining a 2.3GHz GPU clock speed —  a little more than the typical rating of 2.2GHz — and the fans are quiet, with no irritating whine.

sapphire-pulse-amd-rx-6600-gaming-gpu-dsc04074

Like its older brother the RX 6600 XT, AMD doesn’t offer its own card with the RX 6600 GPU; Nvidia has a similar strategy for its low-end chips.  

Lori Grunin/CNET

You have access to the multitude of settings made available by Radeon Adrenalin, as well. They include Radeon Boost (which selectively renders scene elements at a lower resolution, based on visibility, for higher frame rates); Radeon Anti-Lag (reduces latency by lightening the load on the CPU); Radeon Image Sharpening; and Smart Access Memory (AMD’s Resizable BAR implementation, in which the CPU can store game-related data in GPU RAM rather than system RAM so the GPU doesn’t have to traverse the system bus to retrieve it).      

Sapphire’s Trixx Boost utility is pared down but includes some rough-and-ready upscaling if you need a, well, boost.

Sapphire

You can also use Sapphire’s Trixx Boost utility, which uses using simple upscaling algorithms, tweaked by AMD’s Radeon Image Sharpening, to boost frame rates. AMD’s  FidelityFX Super Resolution (upscaling from lower-resolution textures to achieve faster frame rates, a la Nvidia DLSS)  and Contrast Adaptive Sharpening require integration by game developers, while the combination of Trixx Boost and driver-implemented RIS can work with any game that runs on DX9 or later. 

Trixx does have some advantages over some other manufacturer’s utilities. It doesn’t insist on running all the time or loading itself at Windows launch, for one. And Boost has a setting for upscaling to 1080p; algorithms like Nvidia’s DLSS and FSR are optimized for upscaling from 1,920×1080 textures. The flip side is that it’s a bit stripped down; of course, the card doesn’t have much to control, but I would at least like to be able to save performance logs.

sapphire-pulse-amd-rx-6600-gaming-gpu-dsc04067sapphire-pulse-amd-rx-6600-gaming-gpu-dsc04067

It’s thinner than most of the RX 6000 series cards I’ve seen, but still takes up the space of two slots.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Based on my testing of the Pulse and the Asus RX 6600 XT, I’d probably avoid cards based on the chips as an upgrade for older Intel systems with PCIe 3 buses (that’s 10th gen or earlier) since it doesn’t perform as well as the RTX 3060. They rely heavily on the faster PCIe 4 bus and AMD’s Smart Access Memory in some cases to compensate for the narrower 8-lane PCIe connection rather than Nvidia’s 16-lane connection, which really impacts the bandwidth. And AMD, with its single Ray Accelerator per compute unit, has yet to catch up with Nvidia on performance for some DirectX 12 technologies, notably DXR. So it might not be a good choice for games which are reliant on ray tracing for decent quality.

Performance snapshot

Far Cry 5 (1080p)

MSI Aegis RS (6800)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (6800 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

MSI MEG Trident X (RTX 2070 Super)

Note:

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Far Cry 5 (4K)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (6800)

MSI Aegis RS (6800XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

Note:

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance (fps)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test (1440p)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6700 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800 XT)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test (4K)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 with DLSS)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070)

MSI Aegis RS (6800)

MSI Aegis RS (6800 XT)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Time Spy

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (6600 XT)

MSI MEG Trident X (RTX 2070 Super)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070)

MSI Aegis RS (6800)

Maingear Turbo (RTX 2080 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (6800 XT)

Note:

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI MEG Trident X (RTX 2070 Super)

MSI Aegis RS (6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti)

Maingear Turbo (RTX 2080 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070)

Origin PC Chronos (RTX 3080)

MSI Aegis RS (6800)

MSI Aegis RS (6800XT)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

SpecViewPerf 13 SolidWorks (4K)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6700 XT)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800)

MS Aegis RS (3060 Ti)

MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800 XT)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Configurations

Maingear Turbo (RTX 2080 Ti) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); 3.8GHz Ryzen 9 3900XT; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,600; 11GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti; 1TB SSD + 4TB HDD
MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060 Ti) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3060) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2H20); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 12GB EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RTX 3070 FE) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founders Edition; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600 XT) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (21H1); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200; 8GB Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 6600 XT OC; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RX 6600 XT) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (21H1); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200; 8GB Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 6600 XT OC; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800 XT) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 16GB AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT; 1TB SSD
MSI Aegis RS (RX 6800) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,000; 16GB AMD Radeon RX 6800; 1TB SSD
MSI Trident X (RTX 2070 Super) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); (oc) 3.8GHz Intel Core i7-10700K; 32GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,932; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super; 1TB SSD

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