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With AMD releasing the RDNA2/6000 series video cards in late 2020, we were witness to a long-awaited resurgence in the high-end graphics space. Not only is “Big Navi” competitive on that front, the new GPUs include hardware-accelerated ray tracing as well. According to our 6800/6800 XT reference review, the cards trade blows with comparable RTX GPUs, which is quite a sight for sore eyes.
Today we have our hands on an aftermarket card, the MSI Radeon RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio. The Gaming X Trio version of this card brings a more robust VRM design, a large triple-fan heatsink, and a small overclock out of the box. The 2.5-slot+ cooling solution includes RGB lighting on top and the front on the middle fan shroud. A full-length graphene backplate with a white MSI dragon cleans up the card’s backside while adding some rigidity. Overall, it’s a good-looking card and will fit in well with most build themes.
Performance-wise, the slightly overclocked card performed well in our testing, beating the reference model 6800 XT in most tests by a small margin. The small overclock doesn’t do much, but typically you’re buying these premium models for the better hardware, cooling, and aesthetics in the first place. Overall, this card trades punches with the Asus Strix RTX 3080 depending on the title and settings while using less power.
With both cards priced around the $849 mark, it can cloud up an easy decision, especially with many 6800 XT versions priced less. Read on for more details on the card and how it performed in our benchmarking suite.
Specifications and Features
|AMD Radeon RX Series Specifications |
RX 6900 XT
|MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio||AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT||AMD Radeon RX 6800||AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT|
|GPU||Navi 21||Navi 21||Navi 21||Navi 21||Navi 10|
|Process||TSMC 7 nm|
|Transistors||26.8 Billion||10.3 Billion|
|Infinity Cache||128 MB||N/A|
|Game Clock||2015 MHz||2045 MHz||2015 MHz||1815 MHz||1755 MHz|
|Boost Clock||2250 MHz||2285 MHz||2250 MHz||2105 MHz||1905 MHz|
|Memory||16 GB GDDR6||8 GB GDDR6|
|Memory Speed||16 Gbps GDDR6||14 Gbps GDDR6|
|Throughput (FP32)||20.6 TFLOPs||18.6 TFLOPs||13.9 TFLOPs||9.75 TFLOPs|
|TDP (Watts)||300 W||300 W||300 W||250 W||225 W|
The MSI RX 6800 XT uses the Navi 21 core sporting 4,608 stream processors, 128 ROPs, and 288 TMUs, the same as all other RX 6800 XTs. The big difference between the cards is the cooler, power delivery, and clock speeds. In this case, the GXT is spec’d at 2045 MHz Game Clock and 2285 MHz Boost Clock. This is a difference of 30 MHz and 35 MHz for the game clock and boost clock. The memory speeds remain the same. It’s a minimal difference on paper, but one that generally shows up in testing.
MSI’s current lineup for the RDNA2 cards consists of the basic reference version, Gaming Trio, and a Gaming X Trio. I’d eventually expect a SUPRIM version just like the RTX 3080 Suprim we reviewed, as well as some lower-priced “Mech” models.
Our MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio uses the Tri Frozr 2 heatsink and three Torx 4.0 fans. The new fans use ball bearings to keep the noise down and have a longer life expectancy. The new fan blades are in pairs; two bound together with a linked outer ring, MSI says this focuses airflow into the heatsink. Making things silent at low temperatures, the RX 6800 XT GXT also sports Zero Frozr technology, where the fans remain off until cooling is needed.
MSI also redesigned the heatsink to improve airflow dynamics by installing deflectors inline. These deflectors are said to provide additional surface area and steer the air to where it is needed for maximum cooling. Additionally, the Wave-curved 2.0 fin edges are said to disrupt unwanted airflow harmonics resulting in reduced noise. Making contact with the core and other critical bits is precision-machined square core pipes to achieve the most contact with the GPU and copper base plate. This contact helps spread the heat along the heatsink’s full length. In our cooling tests, the RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio peaked at 69°C under load at stock speeds and was quiet in doing so.
MSI uses their old standby MSI Afterburner to monitor and control their graphics cards on the software front. Afterburner has been updated with additional functionality, including the OC scanner to automatically overclock the card and includes additional skins keeping it up to date. Afterburner is the MSI Dragon Center to control the system itself and Mystic light to control the RGB lighting.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
Retail packaging for the MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming Trio X includes a picture of the card on the front along with the model name, a couple of features (4K UHD support, 16 GB vRAM, PCIe 4.0), and the MSI Dragon even making an appearance noting this is from the Gaming lineup.
Inside the box, the card sits snug in form-fitting foam to keep it secure during shipping. MSI has included an “anti-bending strap,” a simple strut that mounts to the expansion slots. Also inside is a driver disk to get you started.
Meet the MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio
The Gaming Trio X with its Tri Frozr 2 cooler looks like a premium part. The three large Torx 4.0 fans are surrounded by a mostly black shroud. The outside edges of the two surrounding fans have silver highlighting for a nice contrast. RGB LEDs are found in three lines running across the center fan, a strip along the top, as well as the MSI name and gaming dragon, which are lit up on top. The colors are saturated and plenty bright. The Gaming Trio X shouldn’t have issues fitting in with most build themes.
A Closer Look
Zooming in on the I/O layout, we’re greeted by three DisplayPorts (v1.4) and a single HDMI (v2.1) port—the latter supporting up to [email protected] The card’s maximum resolution is 8K (7680 x 4320). While the card does not exhaust air directly out of the I/O plate, there are holes in it to let a bit of the warmed air out. Power is sent to the GPU through two 8-pin PCIe connectors. Combined with the PCIe slot, the card provides up to 375 W of in-spec power, plenty to run the card even while overclocked.
MSI uses the Tri Frozr 2 heatsink on the Gaming X Trio. The 2.5-slot solution uses six heat pipes that are squared off where it makes contact with the GPU die. This flattening increases the contact area and is said to increase thermal performance.
In addition to heat pipes that snake their way through the fin array, the new Torx 4.0 fans helps move the air through the fins. Pairs of blades are bound together with an outer ring design that MSI says focuses airflow into the heatsink. The fin stack is also said to improve airflow dynamics with deflectors. These deflectors provide more surface area and guide the air to where it is needed most. MSI also states the wave-curved 2.0 fin edges disrupt unwanted noise from airflow, reducing noise.
After fully removing the heatsink and backplate, we’re finally able to see the PCB. We see an unmarked Navi 21 silicon and its 519.8 mm² die area. Surrounding the GPU are eight Samsung memory ICs (K4ZAF325BM-HC16) specified to run at 16 Gbps. The memory uses a 3-phase design controller, an OnSemiconductor NCP81022N controller feeding Alpha & Omega DrMOS type MOSFETs. The GPU core is controlled via a pricey Infineon XDPE132G5D and 13 70A International Rectifier TDA21472 DrMOS MOSFETs. This is compared to the 12-phase 70A reference solution, so we find one more phase.
Below are closeups of the power bits, Samsung GDDR6, and the control ICs.
Below is a screenshot of GPU-Z showing the clocks we achieved at stock speeds. Out of the box, the card has a listed game clock of 2045 MHz with the boost clocks to 2285 MHz. The card ran at an average of 2426 MHz.
AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT on the test bench…
Test System and Benchmark Methods
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Maximus XII Extreme, ASRock Z490 PG Velocita|
|CPU||Intel i9-10900K @ stock|
|CPU Cooler||EVGA CLC 240|
|Memory||2×8 GB G.Skill Royal 3600 MHz CL16-16-16-36|
|SSD||Gigabyte Aorus 2 TB NVMe Gen4 (OS + Applications)|
|Power Supply||EVGA 750 W G3|
|Video Card||MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio / Adrenalin 20.12.2|
Our test system is based on the latest mainstream Intel z490 platform and uses the i9-10900K 10/20t CPU. The CPU is overclocked to 4.9 GHz on all cores/threads, with cache set to 4.3 GHz. The clock speeds used provides a good base to minimize any limitations the CPU may have on our titles, particularly when using the lower resolutions, and should be attainable with a good air cooler or better. The DRAM is in a 2×8 GB configuration at 3600 MHz with CL16-16-16-36-2T timings, middle of the road option balancing performance and cost.
We have made some significant changes since the last update adding a few new titles and dropping some of the older games. More details can be found in the GPU Testing Procedure article, which we have updated with our latest benchmarks. Below is a quick summary for easy reference.
- UL 3DMark Time Spy – Default settings
- UL 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) – Default settings
- UL 3DMark Port Royal – Default Settings (Ray Tracing capable cards only)
- Unigine Superposition – Performance, 1080p High
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider – DX12, “Highest” preset (will add RTX when it has been patched)
- The Division 2 – DX12, Ultra preset, VSync Off
- Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – Ultra High preset, VSync Off
- Far Cry New Dawn – Ultra defaults
- F1 2020 – DX12, Very High defaults, TAA, and x16 AF, Australia track, do not show FPS counter
- Metro: Exodus – DX12, Ultra defaults
Our first set of benchmarks hail from Underwriters Laboratories, who acquired Futuremark back in 2014. Earlier in 2018, a rebrand occurred, and since that time, Futuremark is now UL. The benchmarks have not changed, just the name. We chose to stick with 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) and 3DMark Time Spy as these tests give users a good idea of performance on modern titles.
3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) is a DX11-based test that runs at 1080p resolution. UL says the graphics are rendered with detail and complexity far beyond other DX11 benchmarks and games. 3DMark Time Spy is a DX12 benchmark designed for Windows 10 PCs. It supports new API features such as asynchronous compute, explicit multi-adapter, multi-threading, and runs at 2560×1440. 3DMark Port Royal is the first Ray Tracing benchmark designed for Windows 10 PCs and graphics cards with Microsoft DirectX Raytracing capabilities.
Looking at the charts above, we see the MSI RX 6800XT Gaming X Trio just a little bit faster than the reference card we tested previously. We know from the original RX 6800 XT and RX 6800 review this card trades punches with the Nvidia RTX 3080 and is quite a performer in raster-based operations. When you enable ray tracing, we see the 6800 XT is on par with the 2080Ti/First generation ray tracing and doesn’t keep up with the RTX 3080.
We have updated our testing suite for gaming benchmarks to bring more modern titles into the mix. Gone are Battlefield V, F1 2018, Far Cry 5, AOTS:e, and World of Tanks, which were replaced with Metro Exodus, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, F1 2020, and Far Cry: New Dawn. We kept The Division 2 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The games should provide a good view of the card’s overall performance. Many of these are DX12 games.
1920 x 1080 (1080p) Results
The MSI Gaming X Trio is, overall, a bit faster than the reference version in our testing when looking at the gaming benchmarks. Still, most would never see or feel the difference if you are running 1080p, especially in Far Cry: New Dawn, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, where the difference was nil. Overclocking yielded a couple of % difference here, again being hamstrung by the CPU at the lower resolution. Outside of F1 2020, the RTX 3080 tends to be just a couple of percent faster than our MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio.
2560 x 1440 and 4K UHD Results
Below are the higher resolution results starting with 2560 x 1440 and the gaining in popularity 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD). These resolutions prove to be a bit of a stretch for lower-end cards, but an AMD RX 6800XT is easily capable at both 2560 x 1440 and 4K UHD.
Moving up in resolution, the gap tightens between the Green and Red teams, and the RX 6800 XT is performing right where AMD said trading blows with the RTX 3080 @ 4K. The MSI card’s slightly higher clocks keep it in the fight. Our 4K UHD results show all titles are over the magical 60 FPS threshold, making this GPU quite capable at 4K UHD. At the middle resolution of 2560 x 1440, most titles are well above 120 FPS making this a solid choice for high FPS/Hz gaming at WQHD.
Ray Tracing and DLSS Testing
Below, we tested Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider with ray tracing on at 1440p and 4K. MSI’s RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio produced playable results above 60 FPS at 1440p in Metro and SOTR. Moving up to 4K was a bit of a stretch for AMD’s first attempt at ray tracing, coming in under 60 FPS. They didn’t manage to keep up with team Green, but as was said, these are decent results for a first attempt and, for the most part, better than an RTX 2080 Ti.
We didn’t have results to compare with Nvidia’s DLSS since AMD’s version, FidelityFX Super Resolution, is still in development but it is supposed to accomplish similar results.
For overclocking, we used AMD’s Radeon software. The interface is very similar, but overclocking the new Navi 21 GPUs is slightly different. Instead of a fixed maximum clock for the GPU core, you need to set a lower and upper range. This took a bit of testing as setting either range too high would diminish results or cause the benchmark to fail.
The MSI card peaked over 2400 MHz, then settled around 2356 MHz during Time Spy. We also added 140 MHz to the memory speed as well. In the end, this took our Time Spy score of 17,080 and raised it to 17,410. That isn’t a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless.
Temperatures and Power Use
We test power consumption by running through the game benchmarks of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and F1 2020 at stock speeds and while overclocked. We monitor temperatures throughout this testing, with the peak temperature listed in the data below. To more accurately simulate real gaming conditions, the benchmarks are extended (time) to allow the card to settle.
Temperatures on the MSI card and its Twin Frozr 2 heatsink peaked at 69°C in F1 2020 and 68°C in SOTR at stock settings. After overclocking the card, temperatures went up two degrees in each game, peaking at 71°C. These results are several degrees less than the reference cooled RX 6800 XT we reviewed. The fans ramped up slowly and were barely audible over the rest of the system. For getting rid of ~300 W of heat, the large cooling solution does a great job keeping things cool and quiet.
Power use for the MSI RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio peaked at 511 W at stock while reaching 532 W while overclocked (both in SOTR). For most systems, a quality 750 W power supply will be adequate for your needs, even while overclocking both the card and CPU.
MSI’s RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio took AMD’s reference card and improved upon it in almost every way. This includes a factory overclock and 13-phase VRMs, a more effective and quiet heatsink in the Tri Frozr 2 cooler, and an overall appearance improvement. The drawback to having these features is a price increase. A reference model AMD RX 6800 XT’s MSRP is $650, MSI’s Gaming X Trio will hit your wallet for over $850; a significant increase over MSRP, not that you can find any 6800 XT anywhere close to that price.
What does that look like compared to other card’s MSRP? The good news for MSI is that it is in the ballpark compared to most aftermarket RX 6800 XTs. For example, the XFX RX 6800 XT Speedster Merc 319 is $800. ASRock’s RX 6800 XT Taichi is $830, and the Gigabyte Aorus RX 6800 XT Master Type C @ $899. Missing from this list is Asus, but it was difficult to track down the MSRP for a non-water cooled RX 6800 XT. As you can see, prices among the comparable competition are both less and more expensive than the MSI Gaming X Trio. So while the $200+ hike is some of the biggest differences we’ve seen, MSI’s pricing matches (or is better) than its competitors.
If you’re looking to spend almost $900 on the latest AMD video card, MSI’s RX 6800 XT Gaming X Trio should be on your shortlist. Between the solid cooling, more robust power delivery, and appearance, the Gaming X Trio stands above most AMD RX 6800 XTs.
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)
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