AMD Wants You Know Its Last-Gen GPU Beats NVIDIA's Previous-Gen GPU

GeForce RTX Radeon RX
You've gotta appreciate the marketing team for AMD's graphics arm. Even in some of its darkest hours, AMD's Radeon marketing remains ferverent to a level that can only be admired. Team Radeon is in a pretty good position right now, yet for some reason the company is still aggressively emphasizing the benefits of... its last-gen GPUs?

That's the thrust of the below chart, released yesterday by AMD Gaming Marketing honcho Sasa Marinkovic. It compares the Radeon RX 6800 against rival NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 3070 and comes away with the conclusion that AMD's card is some 13.4% faster on average in 2560×1440 resolution across 32 games.

amd 32 games comparison

The chart is erroneously titled "32 Games Across RT and Raster". Marinkovic replied to an early commenter that recommended AMD re-do the comparison with ray-tracing enabled, by saying that it was. However, in a later tweet, he clarified that none of the games in question were actually using ray-tracing features, and that the chart should have been titled "32 Games Rasterization Performance."

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Even acknowledging that it's strictly raster performance, at a glance, the comparison doesn't seem all that unreasonable. Looking at new street prices, Radeon RX 6800 cards are going for around $500, and so are GeForce RTX 3070 cards. Both cards sit in the 200-250 watt TDP range, and the comparison does make AMD look pretty good, so what's the issue?

metro exodus
RDNA 2 RT performance is better than you think. From our Radeon RX 6750 XT review.

The first problem comes in when you consider the rest of the market. You can find Radeon RX 6800 XT cards—which are as much as 20% faster than the non-XT card—for just twenty-five dollars more than the RX 6800. That would have been the more convincing comparison. The RX 6800 XT is competitive with the GeForce RTX 3080 in raster; obviously it would annihilate the RTX 3070. Why choose this specific product?

midrange last gen gpus

The larger issue is the timing of this commentary. You see, all of these GPUs were more expensive at release, and this price compression exists because these parts have been out for two years already. Both NVIDIA and AMD are expected to release new mid-range GPUs this month, likely at or around Computex, and this comparison of two-year-old GPUs seems somewhat out of place in that context.

steam hardware survey april23
Latest data from the Steam Hardware Survey.

Still, there are probably a lot of people still clinging onto older GPUs that could use an upgrade to something like an RX 6800 or RTX 3070. Frankly, it's a more difficult choice than AMD makes it out to be. While it's true that the Radeon RX 6800 offers superior raster performance and 16GB of video RAM, the GeForce RTX 3070 is likely to outperform the Radeon card in games that make heavy use of ray-tracing. It's also a physically smaller card, which is an important consideration to some folks.

Either way, paying $500 for a last-generation GPU at this point feels like a questionable proposition. It's true that the performance profile of mid-range GPUs hasn't moved nearly as much as the high-end has over the last couple of generations, but we're still seeing generational improvements at the "6" and "7" tiers. Folks who would buy a GeForce RTX 3070 or Radeon RX 6800 at this juncture would almost certainly be better served holding off for a new $500 GPU from AMD or NVIDIA.