MSI Radeon RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio

MSI Radeon RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio Review: Power Hungry

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The AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT launched last month, along with the RX 6750 XT and RX 6650 XT, bringing 18Gbps GDDR6 memory along with boosted clocks and higher power requirements. The Sapphire Nitro+ Pure that we reviewed initially performed quite well. Today’s MSI Gaming X Trio is just a hair faster, but in getting there MSI seems to have increased power draw substantially over the competition. The RX 6950 XT ranks as one of the best graphics cards, and even holds the top spot for 1080p and 1440p gaming in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy (but not with ray tracing), but MSI’s variant wouldn’t be our first pick.

Here’s a look at the specs for AMD’s reference 6950 XT alongside the MSI and Sapphire cards we’ve had in for review — AMD elected to not sample media with its reference design, helping to ensure slightly higher overall performance, just like Nvidia did with the RTX 3090 Ti

GPU Specifications
Graphics Card RX 6950 XT MSI RX 6950 XT RX 6950 XT Sapphire RTX 3090 Ti
Architecture Navi 21 Navi 21 Navi 21 GA102
Process Technology TSMC N7 TSMC N7 TSMC N7 Samsung 8N
Transistors (Billion) 26.8 26.8 26.8 28.3
Die size (mm^2) 519 519 519 628.4
SMs / CUs 80 80 80 84
GPU Cores 5120 5120 5120 10752
Tensor Cores N/A N/A N/A 336
Ray Tracing Cores 80 80 80 84
Boost Clock (MHz) 2454 2310 2435 1860
VRAM Speed (Gbps) 18 18 18 21
VRAM (GB) 16 16 16 24
VRAM Bus Width 256 256 256 384
ROPs 128 128 128 112
TMUs 320 320 320 336
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost) 25.1 23.7 24.9 40
TFLOPS FP16 (Tensor) N/A N/A N/A 160 (320)
Bandwidth (GBps) 576 576 576 1008
TBP (watts) “340” claimed 335 ~370 450
Launch Date May 2022 May 2022 May 2022 March 2022
Launch Price $1,179 $1,099 $1,249 $1,999

Interestingly, MSI lists a power consumption of just 340W for its RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio, but that feels more like the TDP for the GPU rather than the full card power. We’ve actually tested two different cards (the first died after a couple of days for unknown reasons), and both consumed far more than 340W at their default settings. In fact, the second card used a few more watts than the initial card. We’ll get to the actual power measurements later, but we saw closer to 430W out of MSI’s card, and enabling Rage mode (with its 10% bump in power limits) pushed that up to 440W. Basically, it was right in the same ballpark as the RTX 3090 Ti.

Core specs are mostly identical among the three RX 6950 XT cards, with GPU boost clocks and TBP being the only real difference. AMD gives a reference clock of 2310 MHz, Sapphire pushes that to 2435 MHz, and MSI tacks on an additional 19 MHz for 2454 MHz. While previous-generation AMD GPUs often listed a theoretical boost clock that was higher than you’d typically see in practice, that changed with the RDNA 2 architecture and the RX 6000-series GPUs. At default settings, we saw average GPU clocks of more than 2.5GHz, and with Rage mode the MSI card actually broke 2.6GHz.

The big concern right now with the RX 6950 XT is that we expect AMD will launch an RX 7900 XT before the end of the year, possibly as soon as October. That’s not too far away, and AMD has publicly declared that it expects RDNA 3 to deliver a 50% improvement in performance per watt. It will also be the first GPU to use chiplets, and while the topology of such a design isn’t entirely clear, this could be the “biggest Navi” yet. Amid falling GPU prices and the pending next-gen architectures, it’s difficult to recommend rushing out to buy a soon-to-be-outdated GPU for over $1,000 right now.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting that the retail prices on the RX 6950 XT have been coming down fast. Officially the GPU has a $1,099 MSRP, and at launch we saw multiple companies pushing factory overclocked models for $1,249 or more. Right now, Newegg has multiple RX 6950 XT cards (opens in new tab) selling for MSRP, and we’ve seen some sales come and go that dropped prices as low as $1,030. The MSI Gaming X Trio is one of the cards selling for MSRP, which does put it $150 below the Sapphire Nitro+ Pure, but when the cards launched last month, both were targeting the same $1,250 price point — MSI just happened to correct faster.

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