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GeForce RTX 3080 vs. Radeon RX 6800 XT

 Still among the best GPUs you can buy, let's take an updated look at the battle between the GeForce RTX 3080 and the Radeon RX 6800 XT. The last time we tested these two in a big benchmark comparison was about a year ago. For most of their lifetime these high performance graphics cards have been hard to get, but hopefully that situation will get keep improving throughout 2022.

Lately you might have heard things like the 6800 XT has aged better than the RTX 3080 10GB already, and that recent driver updates have pushed it ahead. We're not sure if that's true, but after running both GPUs through a 50 game benchmark, we'll certainly have our answer.

As a refresher, when we tested these a year ago in a 30 game benchmark at 1080p, 1440p and 4K, we found that at 1080p the 6800 XT was ~5% faster on average, then performance was even at 1440p, while the 6800 XT was 6% slower at 4K. An overall very close battle.

For much of 2021 the RTX 3080 was priced well above the 6800 XT due to miners' demand, and probably gamers as well. However, after what felt like forever, GPU pricing does appear to be slowly falling and today both models can be purchased for around $1,200. Not great, but a lot better than it's been.

If you've been holding out and are now willing to pull the trigger, this data should be useful, but it's also to see how performance has progressed over the past 18 months. Our official recommendation remains to continue and hold out as long as you can before you buy a new GPU for inflated prices. We believe GPU pricing will continue to fall, but of course, we can't know for sure. It's also worth keeping in mind that these products are relatively old now, at least in PC hardware terms, and will be replaced with newer technology later in the year.

For all testing we used our Ryzen 9 5950X test system with 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 dual-rank, dual-channel memory. Both GPUs were tested at 1080p, 1440p and 4K across 50 games, using Windows 11. The driver versions used were Radeon Adrenalin 22.2.3 and GeForce Game Ready Driver 511.79.

As usual, we won't show you 50 game results individually, but we've picked some of the most interesting to take a closer look. Then we'll run a benchmark summary with scores for all games head-to-head in a single graph. Let's get into it...

Benchmarks

Starting with Dying Light 2, we find little distance between these two GPUs, especially at higher resolutions. The 6800 XT enjoyed a small performance advantage at 1080p, but at 1440p where we suspect most high-end graphics card owners are likely to play, performance was essentially neutralized and the same was also true at 4K.

Total War Warhammer III currently runs best on Nvidia hardware, though that isn't to say the experience wasn't good with the 6800 XT. However, the RTX 3080 was 8% faster at 1080p, 16% faster at 1440p, and 27% faster at 4K. It's worth noting that 1% lows were about the same across the board.

In Call of Duty Warzone both GPUs are very evenly matched. We're looking at near identical 1080p performance which is possibly a little CPU limited, then virtually identical performance at 1440p as the 6800 XT was just 4% faster on average and then matched performance at 4K. We expect these GPUs will scale quite evenly as you lower quality settings, so either is very suitable for Warzone gamers.

Both GPUs cranked out plenty of frames in Forza Horizon 5 using the highest quality preset, even at 4K where both maintained over 60 fps. The 6800 XT delivered 11% more performance at 4K, 17% more at 1440p and 20% more at 1080p.

God of War plays really well using either GPU, though the RTX 3080 delivered the best results. Although both graphics cards pushed over 60 fps at 4K, the GeForce was considerably faster pumping out 20% more frames. The 3080 also provided 10% greater performance at 1440p and 8% at 1080p.

In Far Cry 6 we're looking at almost identical performance between these two GPUs. The 1080p and 1440p data is a bit useless as we're CPU limited and this is a limitation with the game that utilizes our 5950X very lightly, limiting utilization to just 2 threads. That said, even at 4K where the game becomes primarily GPU bound, we see little difference as the 6800 XT is a mere 4% faster.

F1 2021 using the ultra high quality preset enable ray tracing on supported hardware by default. This explains why the 3080 has a performance advantage in our testing, for 8% greater performance at 1080p, 13% at 1440p, and 18% at 4K. The 6800 XT enabled highly playable performance even at 4K, but for those seeking maximum performance with ray tracing enabled, the 3080 is the better solution.

Metro Exodus Enhanced requires ray tracing support to run. For this test I'm using the ultra quality preset with the ray tracing level set to normal and we also have VRS set to 4x. This still saw the RTX 3080 well ahead of the 6800 XT, offering 38% more frames at 1080p, 47% more at 1440p and 64% more at 4K. The 6800 XT was very useful at 1440p and 1080p despite being much slower than the 3080, but at 4K it's really not suitable, especially for those who require at least 60 fps.

For Rainbow Six Extraction testing we're using the highest quality preset. The 6800 XT and 3080 go neck and neck at 1080p and 1440p, but the GeForce GPU pulled ahead at 4K, at least for the average frame rate where it was 15% faster. Both averaged well over 60 fps so that's good, but the RTX 3080 proved a little more capable at 4K in this title.

The Apex Legends performance is similar, though the RTX 3080 was faster at all three tested resolutions, delivering between 6 to 12% more performance on average. Given that both pushed over 100 fps even at 4K, it's fair to say that neither GPU will have troubles delivering the kind of frame rates required for competitive gameplay, using competitive quality settings.

Next we have Fortnite, which as many of you know is a personal favorite of mine. The 6800 XT and RTX 3080 delivered a similar experience, especially at higher resolutions. Both were good for over 150 fps at 1080p using the Epic preset, so with competitive quality settings I expect the margins will remain similar, assuming you don't run into a CPU bottleneck, and frame rates will be well over 200 fps. Here the 6800 XT was 7% faster at 1080p, 5% faster at 1440p and just 4% faster at 4K.

Last up we have Cyberpunk 2077 with some mixed results. At 1080p the 6800 XT was 10% faster when comparing the average frame rate, despite identical 1% lows. Then at 1440p the margin came down to just 6% in favor of the Radeon, while at 4K performance was the same.

Performance Summary

Before we draw any performance-related conclusions let's take a look at the data across all 50 games tested. First, here's the 1080p data and we see that on average, the RTX 3080 is just 3% slower than the RX 6800 XT. If we remove the best and worst result, the margin remains the same, and if we just remove Metro Exodus, the RTX 3080 is ~4% slower on average.

Not much has changed here. In our day-one 6800 XT review which covered a dozen games, the 3080 was 6% slower, but that was using a smaller game sample, so it's difficult to draw any conclusions from that. The margin at 1080p is still slightly in AMD's favor.

Moving to 1440p, the margin is reduces to almost nothing. A mere 1% difference is what I'd call identical performance. Compared to our day-one RX 6800 XT review, the Radeon GPU was 2.6% faster on average, so the 1% we're looking at here with a 50 game sample means the results haven't changed in the last 18 months or so.

For almost half of the games tested, 24 out of 50 the margin was 5% or less, meaning there was no perceivable difference between the two GPUs. Then we see just 14 titles where the margin was 10% or greater in either direction.

In previous tests, the RTX 3080 was found to be 5% faster on average at 4K, and here across 50 games it was 7% faster, or 6% if you remove the Metro Exodus result. That's strikingly similar to what we saw over a year ago, so again it does appear that very little has changed.

Picking a Winner

In terms of rasterization performance, the RTX 3080 and Radeon 6800 XT are very evenly matched. Whatever tales you may hear about driver optimization, truth is nothing has changed in this shootout since day one. Surely there's been some more significant movements on a per game basis, but overall the picture looks unchanged.

When comparing our 50 game benchmark results with other reviews or follow up testing, please take note of the number of games tested, as well as the settings used as this can heavily influence the margins. For example, if we were to cherry pick the 25 most favorable games for Nvidia, the RTX 3080 ends up being 14% faster at 4K, which is twice of what we see across all games. Something to keep in mind.

With performance being so close, at least before we factor in ray tracing, DLSS and other performance-enhancing features, the next thing to look at is pricing. Last month's pricing update saw the RTX 3080 10GB coming in at $1,538 and the Radeon 6800 XT priced slightly lower at $1,304. Today both are available at major retailers for ~$1,200 which is great to see as prices continue to slowly fall.

So how do you decide which one to purchase? Arguments could be made for either product.

The advantage of the Radeon RX 6800 XT is the larger VRAM buffer, and long term this should see it age well, though 18 months from its initial release, the RTX 3080 is still good. The only other noteworthy advantage of the 6800 XT is Smart Access Memory. When paired with a Ryzen 5000 series CPU, the performance gains in certain titles can be impressive, and even with an Alder Lake CPU we believe the uplift can be significant. GeForce GPUs don't appear to benefit from Resizable BAR nearly as much.

The GeForce RTX 3080 has two other distinct advantages: DLSS support and superior ray tracing performance. In our opinion, DLSS has become a strong selling point of RTX branded products as support and quality continues to improve. Meanwhile, AMD still doesn't have a real answer to DLSS. FSR has helped to lessen that blow, but it doesn't nullify DLSS and it's not a selling point of Radeon GPUs, largely because it supports all GPUs, GeForce included.

As DLSS continues to improve, so does ray tracing with more and more titles offering ray traced effects, and those that use it well generally see performance tank on RNDA2 based products. We feel it's easy to argue in favor of the RTX 3080 given those features, especially so if you're keen to check out ray tracing and think you'll play the latest titles with it enabled. A GeForce GPU is a must as performance is typically much better then.

Choosing the Radeon over the GeForce would be justified if you are not interested in ray tracing and you could save some money in the process. On that note, our benchmarks were conducted using a Ryzen 5000 system with resizable BAR enabled. This favors Radeon GPUs more than GeForce, so if you have a system that doesn't support resizable BAR yet, the RTX 3080 will look slightly better overall compared to what's been shown here, though it's a marginal difference.


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