MSI Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio Review: NAVI to the Max


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MSI Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio Review: NAVI to the Max

Today we have our hands on Overclockers.com’s first Radeon RX 6900 XT. With the limited supply and current mining craze, it’s been difficult to get review samples from anyone. Thanks to MSI we have the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio on our test bench.

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 2.7-slot cooling solution includes RGB lighting on top and the front of 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, this overclocked card performed well in our testing – slipping between the RTX 3080 and 3090 while even outperforming the latter in some tests. The MSI RX 6900 XT GXT did this while using less power than either of the RTX cards just mentioned. Where this card really shines is the higher resolutions hitting well over 60 FPS in 4K UHD where it’s a close race with the RTX 3090. The small overclock helps, but typically you’re buying these premium models for the better hardware, cooling, and aesthetics in the first place. Overall, this card looks great and performs even better.

The MSRP for the MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio is set at $1549.00 which at first, appears to be quite high. This isn’t related to a supply shortage or mining which we mentioned above but a 25% tariff which is being applied to most tech-related imports coming from China. This tariff started in mid-December of 2020 and will filter down to most PC components in time. When comparing prices with the reference models in the table below which reflects MSRP at the time of release, you’ll need to add another 25% to those figures as well. Read on for more details on the card and how it performed in our benchmarking suite.

Specifications and Features

AMD Radeon RX Series Specifications
Model AMD Radeon
RX 6900 XT
MSI RX 6900 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
Architecture RDNA2 RDNA
Process TSMC 7 nm
Transistors 26.8 Billion 10.3 Billion
Infinity Cache 128 MB N/A
Compute Units 80 72 60 40
Ray Accelerators 80 72 60 N/A
Stream Processors 5120 4608 3840 2560
ROPs/TMUs 128/320 128/288 96/240 64/160
Game Clock 2015 MHz 2105 MHz 2015 MHz 1815 MHz 1755 MHz
Boost Clock 2250 MHz 2340 MHz 2250 MHz 2105 MHz 1905 MHz
Memory 16 GB GDDR6 8 GB GDDR6
Memory Speed 16 Gbps GDDR6 14 Gbps GDDR6
Memory Interface 256-bit
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
Release Date 12/08/2020 02/18/2021 11/18/2020 11/18/2020 07/07/2019
MSRP $999.00 $1549.00
(incl 25% tariff)
$649.00 $579.00 $399.00

The MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio uses the Navi 21 core sporting 5,120 stream processors, 128 ROPs, and 320 TMUs, the same as all other RX 6900 XTs. The big difference from the reference cards is the cooler, power delivery, and clock speeds. In this case, the GXT is spec’d at 2105 MHz Game Clock and 2340 MHz Boost Clock which is one of the highest on the market. This is a difference of 90 MHz for both the game clock and boost clock. The 16 GB of memory remains at the same speed. 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 6900 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 6900 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.

MSI has also added additional heatsinks under the cooler for the power delivery system which typically kicks out a lot of heat under load. These are passive heatsinks that do not make direct contact with the cooler but take advantage of the airflow. In our cooling tests, the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio peaked at 70°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. We also have MSI’s Dragon Center to control the system itself and contains the Mystic light GUI to control the RGB lighting.​​

TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK

TORX FAN 4.0 is built on teamwork, with pairs of fan blades bound together with a linked outer ring design that focuses airflow into the updated TRI FROZR 2 cooling system.

TOTALLY COOL CORE PIPES
Core Pipes are precision-machined for maximum contact over the GPU and spread the heat along the full length of the heatsink for optimal cooling.

SHHHH…SILENCING HEATSINK DESIGN
Stay stealthy with Airflow Control that improves airflow dynamics. Deflectors provide additional surface area and guide air to where it’s needed for maximum cooling. Wave-curved 2.0 fin edges disrupt unwanted airflow harmonics resulting in reduced noise.

THAT’S HOW WE ROLL
Extremely durable double-ball bearings spin your TORX FANs for years of intense and lengthy gaming sessions with zero noise.

LIGHT ‘EM UP

It’s time to put on team colors. Synchronize lighting with other compatible devices to take the light show to another level. Going dark is as easy as turning the lights off.

 

MSI AFTERBURNER

MSI Afterburner gives you complete control, lets you monitor your hardware in real-time, and best of all: it’s completely free. and can be used with graphics cards from all brands.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

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Retail packaging for the MSI RX 6900 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 quick user’s guide to get you started and a favorite of mine, a simplified, comic book style leaflet featuring Lucky the MSI Dragon.

Meet the MSI Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio

 

Image courtesy of MSI

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. The MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio also has an Aluminum backplate adorned with the MSI Gaming Dragon for excellent heat dissipation and PCB protection.

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 three 8-pin PCIe connectors. Combined with the PCIe slot, the card provides up to 525 W of in-spec power, more than enough power for this 300 W card even while overclocked.

MSI uses the Tri Frozr 2 heatsink on the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio. The 2.7-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. This premium cooling solution pushes the dimensions of the card to 324 x 141 x 55 mm and weighs in at 1576 grams or nearly 3.5 pounds.

In addition to heat pipes that snake their way through the fin array, the new Torx 4.0 fans help 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.

Below we have the additional heat sinks and thermal tapes that MSI has added to help cool the MOSFETs. They have even added tape to the aluminum backplate for the MOSFETs and memory, cooling the PCB from the back-side. On the bottom right is MSI’s anti-bending strap which keeps the PCB from flexing under the weight of this big cooler.

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 with an OnSemiconductor NCP81022N controller feeding Alpha & Omega DrMOS type MOSFETs. The GPU core is controlled via a pricey 16-phase Infineon XDPE132G5D and 14, 70A International Rectifier TDA21472 DrMOS MOSFETs.

Naked PCB

​Below are closeups of the power bits, Samsung GDDR6, and the control ICs.

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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 2105 MHz with the boost clocks to 2340 MHz. The card ran fairly consistently at 2489 MHz.

MSI Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio 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 provide 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

Synthetic Benchmarks

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 6900XT Gaming X Trio quite a bit faster than the RTX 3090 in 3DMark’s Fire Strike Extreme and very close in Time Spy. In Port Royal, a Ray Tracing benchmark, the RX 6900 XT falls behind both the RTX 3090 and 3080 but for the first attempt at hardware-based Ray Tracing, AMD has still done an excellent job here. Just as Fire Strike Extreme seems to be AMD-friendly, Unigine’s Superposition is the opposite with the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio barely passing the RTX 3080 once overclocked.

Gaming Benchmarks

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 RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio is, overall, a bit faster than the MSI RX 6800 XT in our 1080p gaming benchmarks but resolution proves to be more CPU bound. It traded blows with the RTX 3080 and came close to the RTX 3090 aside from Far Cry: New Dawn, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, where all of these cards appear to be hamstrung by the CPU at the lower resolution. Looking at F1 2020 both the MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio and MSI RX 6800 XT GXT led the way by a significant margin.

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 the MSI Radeon RX 6900XT Gaming X Trio is easily capable at both 2560 x 1440 and 4K UHD.

4K UHD Results

Moving up in resolution, the gap tightens between the Green and Red teams, and the RX 6900 XT is performing right where AMD said trading blows with the RTX 3090 at both resolutions. The MSI RX 6900 XT GXT’s super high 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 6900 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, comparable to the RTX 3080.

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.

[email protected]

For those unfamiliar with [email protected] it is a project originally started by Stanford University which is now based out of Washington University in St. Louis. Their goal is to help create treatments and cures for various diseases by understanding how human proteins “fold” or misfold which is where the name comes from. This is done by simulating the folding of human proteins which takes enormous amounts of computational horsepower. This is where everyday people like you and I come in by donating our PC resources to fold at home during our spare time.

Currently, the [email protected] team is working on various treatments but one that is on everyone’s mind these days is Covid-19. There’s a whole list of diseases that they work on such as Cancer, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s to name a few with the option to select which you would like to donate your time to.

If this is something you’re interested in we have team 32 here at Overclockers.com with members who can answer questions and help you optimize your folding.

Here we have a couple of screenshots of the MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio folding project 17317 which is a Covid-19 related protein. As you can see it fold approximately 4.2 million PPD and uses 216 W doing so. We have also included an example of the types of proteins they work on.

Cryptocurrency Mining

Mining for Cryptocurrency isn’t really my thing but with the market today we felt it was something that may interest our readers. The following example is using NiceHash which has a built-in benchmark. The MSI RX 6900 XT GXT is running at stock without any type of optimization. As such with GPU alone it could earn you about $6.80 USD per day using 210 W. For more information or assistance check out our Cryptocurrency subforum here at Overclockers.com.

Overclocking

MSI Afterburner is now working with AMD 6000 graphics cards. While it did work we found through testing that AMD’s Radeon software delivered more consistent results as MSI AB allowed the core speed to drop significantly more resulting in lower scores.

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. We settled on an upper range of 2701 MHz and the lower range of 2601 MHz, the software maintains a minimum of 100 MHZ between the upper and lower ranges. Setting the lower range to 2640 MHz forced the upper range to 2740 MHz which proved to be unstable in some benchmarks. We also added 100 MHz to the memory speed to finish our overclocked settings.

3DMark Time Spy Overclocked

The MSI card peaked at nearly 2700 MHz and ran there consistently through some of our benchmarks but settled around 2662 MHz during Time Spy. This shows the variance in overclocking the new NAVI 21, the core speed is very dependent on the load. In the end, this took our Time Spy score of 18,258 and raised it to 18,979 yielding about a 4% increase which was consistent throughout most of our benchmarks.

GPU-Z with Overclocking

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 68°C in F1 2020 and 69°C in SOTR at stock settings. After overclocking the card, temperatures went up one degree in each game, peaking at 70°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 Radeon RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio peaked at 568 W [system total power] at stock while reaching 580 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.

Conclusion

MSI’s RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio takes AMD’s reference design and improves it in every way. Starting with a factory overclock making this 6900 XT one of the fastest out-of-the-box options available. MSI’s version also comes equipped with a 14-phase power delivery system and 525 W of available power from the three PCIe connectors. We have come to know the Tri Frozr 2 cooler is a very effective and quiet heatsink with an overall appealing appearance. The RX 6900 XT GXT is quite large taking up nearly three slots in your PC. It’s also heavy – making the included support bracket a nice touch. The drawback to having these features is a price increase. A reference model AMD RX 6900 XT’s MSRP is $999 (+25%), MSI’s Gaming X Trio will hit your wallet for over $1549; a significant increase over MSRP, not that you can find any 6900 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 6900 XTs. For example, the XFX RX 6900 XT Speedster Merc 319 is $1949. ASUS’s TUF Gaming RX 6900 XT OC is $1879, and the Gigabyte RX 6900 XT @ $1899. As you can see, prices among the comparable competition are all more expensive than the MSI Gaming X Trio (we have to assume supply and demand plays a role here). So while the $1549 price tag seems excessive, MSI’s pricing matches (or is better) than its competitors. If we compare the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio to the same model RTX 3090 from MSI @ $2170 considering when we reviewed this card at launch in September of last year the MSRP was $1589. This really puts some perspective on the market today.

Considering the market today and pricing on higher-end graphics cards $1500 doesn’t seem excessive for a premium solution RX 6900 XT. MSI has done a great job, as usual, with the RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio and is worth considering if you have the money to spend. Here at Overclocker’s, we have no qualms giving it our seal of approval!

 

Click to find out what this means

– Shawn Jennings (Johan45)

Discussion

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  1. Nice review Johan ..... I know with my reference card I found the backplate had some real hot spots especially when OC'd. Did you notice this with this csrd.
    bassnut
    Nice review Johan ..... I know with my reference card I found the backplate had some real hot spots especially when OC'd. Did you notice this with this csrd.

    Not really MSI always does a great job with their cooling.