Best RX 6800 Graphics Card

best overall

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ RX 6800

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ RX 6800
  • Great design
  • Excellent RGB lights

AMD has not been very present in the high-end sector of the GPU market. From around 2013 to 2019, they have lacked behind. However, once their new architecture RDNA 2 came into play, things took a turn for the better.

In late 2020 the RX 6000 series released, bringing performance comparable to the competition and a lot of times even better than the competition.

The RX 6900XT easily keeping up with RTX 3090 while costing $500 less is a clear win. RX 6800XT beating out RTX 3080 in raw rasterization performance. But, the best bang-for-the-buck GPU out of this entire lineup is the RX 6800 which is a direct competitor to RTX 3070.

For $579, you get an impressive high-end card. Let’s look at the best RX 6800 on the market.

After extensive research, we have created a list of the best RX 6800 available.

The Pros:

  • Great factory overclock
  • Additional OC headroom
  • Noise levels rarely over 32 dB

The Cons:

  • Design lacks uniqueness

PowerColor might not be widely known as some brands such as Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, etc. but they certainly always deliver high-quality GPUs with good cooling and impressive factory overclocks. Their last GPU release left quite the impression. It was one of the fastest, quietest and coolest 5700 XT.

Let’s see whether the PowerColor RX 6800 Red Dragon can leave that same kind of impression.

Pricing

The official release price for the RX 6800 was $580. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there isn’t any information about the MSRP of the PowerColor RX 6800 Red Dragon. AMD GPU prices are known for large fluctuations. If you search for a 6800 Red Dragon while the GPU market is stabilized, you will probably find one priced $50-$80 over the reference card.

This pricing is nothing too out of the ordinary. However, a price premium of more than $50 is only justified if the card performs well. So, let’s delve deeper into design, performance, and cooling.

Design

PowerColor has been quite consistent with its designs over the years. They usually stick with an all-black shroud and adding red as an accent.

The RX 6800 Red Dragon is nothing to go crazy about. You get a standard triple-fan setup. The entire shroud around the PCB is black with minimal branding. The only logos that can be found are one on the side and the other one on the back. The one located on the side is RGB.

The backplate is metal which is nice to see, but there are no thermal pads under it to improve contact with the PCB.

Performance and Overclocking Capabilities

The Red Dragon may not have anything interesting to offer in terms of visuals, but when it comes to raw performance, it delivers.

On paper, the core clock boosts up to 2140 MHz on the Silent BIOS. With the OC BIOS, the core clock should boost up to 2170 MHz. But, real-life performance seems to be showing different results.

In demanding games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and others, the RX 6800 Red Dragon pushes the core clock nearly up to 2250 MHz. On average.

What makes this aftermarket card even more interesting is the overclocking capabilities. With enough trial and error, you could push PowerColor’s dragon to 2530+ MHz. That’s quite a bit more than what the reference card can achieve which is anywhere between 2370-2430 MHz.

Thermals

Even with such a high factory overclock, PowerColor has successfully kept the temperature and noise levels low. With the OC BIOS, temperatures average around 62°C. With the Silent BIOS, the fan-curve is a bit lower and smoother, but the average temperature can reach over 70°C.

The Pros:

  • Impressively low temperatures and noise levels
  • All-around great design
  • Satisfying RGB

The Cons:

  • Too expensive
  • Lacking factory overclock

The expectations for ASUS cards are always high and for a good reason. Rarely will you see a disappointing release coming from this company. Although, they did considerably lack behind with their TUF lineup in 2019, especially with the RX 5700 series. But, after a few months, they revised their mistakes and put the TUF back on the shelves with improved cooling.

However, we are not here to talk about ASUS’ history or the TUF. It’s time to look at what the RX 6800 STRIX OC has to offer to the masses. The company’s known flagship.

Pricing

If you have expectations from ASUS then you already know that a STRIX variant will be coming with a hefty price premium. And, you wouldn’t be wrong. The RX 6800 STRIX variant has an MSRP of $700. That is $120 over the $580 reference RX 6800 card. This kind of price hike can be hard to justify.

However, if it is that much better than the alternative, it may just be worth it.

Design

ASUS rarely goes wrong when it comes to design. They stick to their industrial style with their STRIX lineup and the triple-fan setup.

On the front of this graphics card, you will find three fans. One of them being reversed to blow air in the opposite direction. It looks good, but it was supposedly done for less turbulence which ultimately leads to better cooling. Surrounding the shroud are several metal accents/highlights and a black shroud. Compared to previous designs, this one has a lot more elements added to it, but it still looks pretty clean.

ASUS also satisfied everyone’s RGB needs with a long translucent line across the entire side of the GPU.

The backplate follows the same type of style that is found on the front. It’s simple and bold at the same time. The backplate is made out of metal and has proper contact with the PCB thanks to the thermal pads.

Performance and Overclocking Capabilities

During gaming the RX 6800 STRIX OC averages around 225 W. But, when you push it to its maximum, it can reach a power draw of 285 W. That’s 50 W more than the reference card.

This GPU has a boost clock of 2190 MHz. Those are the advertised clocks and it seems they are true. In demanding games such as Cyberpunk 2077 or Metro Exodus, the card boosts up to 2220 MHz, but averages around 2200 MHz.

If that is not enough for you and you are into overclocking, ASUS has left plenty of OC headroom. With enough tweaking, users have managed an OC of 2490 MHz. PowerColor’s Red Dragon does push further than that, but they are still quite similar in raw performance.

Thermals

Even though ASUS has considerably pushed the core clock, the STRIX still manages to stay cool and quiet. With the default performance BIOS, temperatures average around 53°C. That is ten degrees lower than the Red Dragon. Impressive. Even with such low temperatures, the fans don’t ramp up too much. The maximum system noise recorded by reviewers is around 33 dBA.

The Pros:

  • Best RX 6800 factory overclock
  • Coolest RX 6800
  • Well-executed RGB

The Cons:

  • No obvious disadvantages

Sapphire is and has been the largest supplier of AMD GPUs for a long time. Sapphire has created a standard for performance and cooling over these past few years with their Pulse and NITRO+ AIB variants. Pulse being the cheaper option while NITRO+ is their flagship product.

Back when the Nitro+ and Pulse versions of the 5700XT were released, both of those cards were rated quite positively, so let’s see if Sapphire has managed to do the same for the NITRO+ RX 6800.

Pricing

This RX 6800 has an MSRP that is about $100 over the reference card. If this GPU is in stock, you should probably be looking at a price of around $670. That is a price hike that is not expected from Sapphire. Usually, AIBs such as STRIX from ASUS or AORUS from Gigabyte have such a price premium.

In the past, the NITRO+ was $40-$60 over the reference card.

With some of the information below, you should decide whether those one hundred dollars extra are worth it.

Design

The overall design style of the NITRO+ has not changed too much when compared to the previous generation.

 It is still a triple fan GPU with the two fans on the sides being larger than the one in the middle. The shroud around the fans is mostly black with a few silver accents stretching over the sides.

The execution of the RGB on this card is one of the better ones out there. On the side, there is an RGB Sapphire branding and a thin translucent (RGB) stripe on the edge of the card. It’s cool and futuristic.

On the back, there are a few cutouts, assuming for improved airflow. In terms of visuals, there is a small RGB logo and the bracket on the back of the PCB is exposed.

Performance and Overclocking Capabilities

The factory overclock of 2190 MHz is entirely the same as the STRIX variant which is nice to see and quite surprising too. However, that’s where the similarity between those cards ends. Unlike the STRIX model, the NITRO+ RX 6800 continues to boost well over that with stock settings.

In-game, the GPU core boosts almost to 2300 MHz out of the box. That’s one of the best factory overclocks we have seen for this card.

That’s not all. If you want to push the NITRO+ even further, you can. We have seen reports of 2530 MHz overclocks from several reviewers and user reviews. That’s a huge OC headroom.

Thermals

If a GPU has such a high factory overclock, it makes sense that its thermals will not be as acceptable, right? Well, that is not the case with the NITRO+ at all. Not only is this card quiet, but its temperatures never go over 50°C during any kind of load. That is better than any other RX 6800 on the market.

It is even better than graphics cards with much lower power consumption such as the RTX 2060.

The Pros:

  • Acceptable temperatures considering the price
  • Near same performance as aftermarket RX 6800s
  • Unique design

The Cons:

  • One more DisplayPort 1.4 wouldn’t hurt

Most people avoid reference cards from both AMD and NVIDIA. Usually, because they lack proper cooling, are loud, and have a low boost clock. But, this time, both NVIDIA and AMD came up with solid reference cards.

For those that don’t feel comfortable paying extra money for minimal features and improvements in performance, they can just get an RX 6800 directly from AMD.

Pricing

The original price for this card was $579 to directly compete against NVIDIA’s RTX 3070 which was priced at $500. Often, the situation is the other way around. AMD offering a slightly slower and slightly cheaper variant while NVIDIA comes with a bigger price tag and a small performance advantage. However, for this last release, AMD made a brave move that ultimately worked.

Design

There isn’t a lot to say about the design of these cards. It is a GPU with three fans surrounded by a shroud that is a mix of black and silver.

A red line accent follows the entire edge of the side of the card. There’s also a red RADEON logo on the side. The logo does light up, but we aren’t sure whether it is RGB or not.

The backplate is made out of metal and the dominant color is silver which is something rare nowadays. Generally, GPUs are either mostly white or black.

Unfortunately, there are no thermal pads under the plate for better heat dissipation.

Performance and Overclocking Capabilities

AMD advertises a boost clock of 2105 MHz, but the GPU does go a little further than that. During heavy loads, the core boosts up to 2225 MHz.

In terms of overclocking, there is a little bit of headroom. With the power limit on max, you could probably reach around 2450 or even 2500 MHz. But, your mileage may vary.

Thermals

This is a reference design, so don’t expect anything too impressive in terms of noise and thermals.

During heavy load, the GPU reaches a temperature of 70°C. That is not too bad considering that the fans don’t spin up too much. With the fans reaching 1600 RPM, the system noise levels don’t go over 34 dBA.

Which RX 6800 Will Satisfy Your Needs?

Even after narrowing down the options for an RX 6800, that’s still three options too much than what you need. So, which one is going to satisfy your needs the best? Let’s have a look.

The SAPPHIRE NITRO+ RX 6800 is the best of the best, no doubt. It does come with a $100 price premium, but considering the impressive OC headroom, the factory overclock and impossibly low temperatures, it takes the Best Overall crown.

AMD’s RX 6800 Reference Card gets the award for Best Value. Sure, it’s not as fast, cool and quiet as all the other AIB models, but it is considerably cheaper. If you manage to grab it for MSRP, you will get the best bang for your buck.

However, this does not mean that you should take ASUS Radeon RX 6800 STRIX OC or PowerColor RX 6800 Red Dragon out of the equation. Both of these cards excel in almost every aspect. If you see these available on the market, don’t hesitate to make the purchase.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is impossible. That is why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements.