AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT review: A killer 1080p graphics card with pandemic pricing

AMD tuned the Radeon RX 6600 XT for ultra-fast 1080p gaming and it shines in that regard, but slower 1440p performance and a sky-high price hold it back from full praise.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

Should you buy the Radeon RX 6600 XT?

You probably shouldn’t buy any graphics card right now, as I said in our GeForce RTX 3060 and Radeon RX 6700 XT reviews. Even after some slight relief in recent weeks, prices remain outright ludicrous right now. I’d recommend most people sit on the sidelines and stream their PC games via Nvidia’s GeForce Now service until the dust settles. The Radeon RX 6600 XT seals that advice.

dsc01712 Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD definitely priced its new graphics card in line with the times (and Asus doubled down by charging US$170 more than that for this ROG Strix model). Yes, memory prices have doubled in recent months. Yes, chip fabricators are having troubles securing materials to build CPUs and GPUs. Yes, shipping and logistics costs many times more than it used to, as the world struggles to break free from the pandemic’s grasp. And yes, the GeForce RTX 3060 that this card handily bests is selling for US$700 or more when you can find it, despite ostensibly being a US$330 GPU. All of this indicates that the Radeon RX 6600 XT will cost well more than US$379 on the street unless you’re lucky enough to snag part of the first wave of stock drops when the graphics cards launch on August 11.

Nevertheless, the Radeon RX 6600 XT is a card built for no-compromises 1080p gaming, and paying nearly US$400 for that in 2021 hurts. Five years ago, I said that AMD’s own Radeon RX 480 “redefined what’s possible with a US$200 graphics card,” thanks to its ability to drive fast 1080p and solid 1440p gaming experiences at a mainstream price point. Now, you need to spend nearly twice that to unlock the same capabilities with the 6600 XT. The pandemic plays a role in that but it sure doesn’t feel like progress, even though the Radeon RX 6600 XT offers ray tracing and other features the RX 480 could only dream of.

Make no mistake: This card is indeed built for fast 1080p gaming. Its 32MB Infinity Cache was tuned for the ultra-popular resolution, and the Radeon RX 6600 XT often trots past the older Radeon RX 5700 XT (which cost roughly the same at launch) there. But the lead narrows greatly if you bump the resolution up to 1440p because AMD equipped this card with a narrow 128-bit memory bus in conjunction with Infinity Cache. That helps save power, and the 6600 XT is wonderfully efficient, but it means the card’s performance slows at higher resolutions. Two years after the US$400 Radeon RX 5700 XT launched, the US$380 RX 6600 XT offers essentially the same 1440p performance for essentially the same price. Again: That’s a bummer.

dsc01715 Brad Chacos/IDG

I suspect AMD’s suggested pricing reflect current realities more than Nvidia’s MSRPs, and Asus's even more so. Nevertheless, Radeon somewhat shot itself in the foot with the Radeon RX 6600 XT’s cost. Yes, it’s faster than the RTX 3060. But at this price, its true competitor MSRP-wise is the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, which runs laps around the 6600 XT for just US$20 more. Well, in theory: In reality, the RTX 3060 Ti is selling for US$800 to US$1,000 on Ebay right now. If pricing ever returns to normal, the 3060 Ti would clearly be the superior buy.

That simply won’t happen anytime soon, especially given the custom-only nature of this launch. Unlike other RX 6000-series models, AMD won’t be offering a reference version of the Radeon RX 6600 XT to help nail down a price floor. You’ll only be able to get this GPU from third-party board makers like Asus, Sapphire, and XFX. AMD pledges there will indeed be US$379 models available from its partners, but if other GPU releases during the pandemic are any indication, those partners will devote much more effort (and stock) to higher-priced variants that let them squeeze out more profit in today’s seller’s market.

Along those lines, the US$550 Asus ROG Strix Radeon RX 6600 XT we reviewed today is a winner. It’s reasonably sized, it runs cool and quiet, and it's equipped with an appealingly aggressive design as well as a dual-BIOS switch. The ROG Strix 6600 XT rocks. I have no complaints about it whatsoever aside from the idea of paying US$550 freakin' dollars for a 1080p graphics card. Stay tuned for a few more custom RX 6600 XT reviews in the coming days.

dsc01709 Brad Chacos/IDG

Bottom line? Graphics card pricing is an absolute mess these days. Don’t spend US$500 or more on a 1080p GPU like this. I wouldn’t personally spend the asked-for US$379 on a reference-spec'd Radeon RX 6600 XT. Like the RTX 3060, AMD’s newest offering is a just-good-enough graphics card in a time where even okay, fine GPUs sell out instantly for staggering amounts. Only consider it if you have deep pockets, no patience, and a high refresh rate 1080p monitor. The Radeon RX 6600 XT is too fast and expensive to consider for 1080p gaming at 60Hz, while its funky memory configuration means the RTX 3060 Ti is a far superior buy for playing at 1440p. (Nvidia’s GPU is also much faster at 1080p.)

It’ll still sell out instantly though. Pay up if you must, but sit on the sidelines for now if you can. The Radeon RX 6600 XT would’ve been a spectacular upgrade if it stuck to the Radeon RX 5600 XT’s US$279 price point. Sadly, that’s just not possible in today’s world.

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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