When it comes to high-end graphics cards, picking the right one can be difficult. They tend to have varying strengths and weaknesses, wide price ranges, and a list of trade-offs that makes it almost impossible to know which is the best choice for you.
Sometimes, things aren’t so complicated. There are cases where you can find two cards that are very similar, and then it’s a simple matter of taking the cheaper option.
When it comes to the Nvidia RTX 3080, this is certainly true. There is a genuine AMD equivalent with the RX 6800. Today, we’re going to look at exactly what makes these two cards so similar.
Let’s Find a Match
In order to justify the statement that these cards are equivalent, we really have to determine how to compare two different graphics cards. We can look at performance tests, or we can compare raw hardware stats.
In reality, we should do both. So, let’s start by looking at the stats for the RTX 3080 and talking a little about what those metrics really mean as we go.
Memory is always the first thing that comes up when looking at and comparing graphics cards. It’s certainly important, and you’ll usually see it right in the title on a sales page for any specific card.
Video memory is very much like computer memory. It’s built on random access memory principles. The primary difference is that video memory is dedicated solely for use by the graphics card, and video memory is optimized for this use. Because of that, it’s a very fast memory.
For the most part, graphics cards are all using the same type of video memory, so the real comparison comes down to how much is available. More memory is better, but you can hit diminishing returns pretty quickly.
For context, the RTX 3080 has cards with various stats, ranging from 10 GB to 12 GB of video memory. In reality, you won’t see much difference in performance whether you get a 10 GB card or a 12 GB card.
As long as the card has enough video memory to work efficiently, adding more won’t really improve performance.
That said, there is one advantage to picking a card with more memory, and that’s longevity. Software only gets more complicated, and in a few years, games might be pushing graphics cards hard enough that you’ll be happy you bought the one with a few more GB to spare.
Next up is speed, and it’s a very important metric. Generally speaking, the faster graphics card will play a game at a higher frame rate. Assuming the cards being compared can display video at the same resolution (which is definitely the case in this discussion), then higher frame rates are where you will really see a difference in performance, and speed is important for that.
Generally speaking, a graphics card measures speed in terms of clock speed. This number is measured in MegaHertz (MHz), and a higher number means faster speeds.
But, that’s not actually the whole story. The clock speed usually refers to how quickly a single processing unit can carry out tasks. 1 MHz would mean the processing unit can carry out 1 million tasks each second.
The thing is, modern graphics cards have tons of processing units. So, we need to keep that in mind too. If one card has a higher clock speed but the other card has more processing units, then the card with the lower clock speed might effectively be the faster option.
With all of that covered, the RTX 3080 has a maximum clock speed of 1815 MHz, and it has 8960 cores (or almost 9000 processing units).
Memory and speed are typically the most important hardware metrics to compare (although we’ll discuss a few others along the way), but they aren’t necessarily the most important ways to compare two cards.
At the end of the day, we’re buying these things for our computers, and price really does matter.
Consider this. Let’s say one graphics card is 10 percent better than the other, but it costs twice as much. Is it really worth the extra money?
Naturally, only you can answer that question for yourself, but you need price points in order to be able to make a reasonable comparison one way or the other.
Today, we’re not looking at cheap graphics cards. In fact, we’re looking at high-end hardware. Neither card is quite at the top of the heap for its respective manufacturer, but they’re both pretty close to the top. As a result, these are pricey bits of hardware.
The RTX 3080 sits at a price range of around $750 to $850.
Now, you’ll remember that graphics cards are actually sold by different companies and have third-party components (like fans). That’s why you see a price range instead of a single price, even though we’re only talking about one specific graphics card.
The last major hardware metric we’re going to compare is power consumption. Obviously, graphics cards run on electricity, and it’s important to know how much power any specific card needs.
Generally speaking, if a card can match performance while using less power, that’s a good thing. So, we’re looking for the lower number as the better metric when it comes to power.
That said, there’s a second power number that matters a lot. That is the recommended power supply unit (PSU) number. In other words, graphics card manufacturers will tell you what size of PSU your computer needs in order to function.
PSUs are priced largely by how much power they supply. So, if you can get a smaller PSU, it can save money on the computer as a whole, and that’s nice.
That’s not all, though. When a graphics card consumes electricity, it produces heat as a byproduct. That’s just how electricity works. This ultimately means that higher power consumption leads to more heat generation, and when your computer runs hotter for sustained periods of time, it can shorten the hardware’s lifespan. So, in this regard, the power draw really does matter.
Since we’re comparing high-end graphics cards today, you can rest assured that they consume a lot of power. The RTX 3080 consumes a maximum of just over 350W. Nvidia recommends a power supply of 750W or more for a computer with this card in it.
The last thing we can compare is how a card performs. All of that talk of hardware and components does matter, but at the end of the day, you probably want the card that produces better video quality, regardless of any hardware stats.
To measure performance, we typically compare graphics cards in direct tests. We’ll look at computers running each card and how well they can run high-end games. It’s a good stress test that allows for very precise comparisons.
Within those tests, there are a few metrics that we specifically consider. The first is video resolution. You might be familiar with 1080p or things like 4k and 8k. These are measures of screen resolution, and a higher number equates to more resolution.
Generally speaking, comparable graphics cards will produce the same resolution, and they can all do very high resolutions. That’s not really the issue. The issue is how the game performs at different resolution settings, so that’s something we’ll keep in mind when we go over the actual tests.
Another important metric is the frame rate. All things being equal, a card that can run a game at a higher FPS (frames per second) rate is the one that is winning the performance war. FPS is really the number that directly compares cards.
But, there’s another component to the test that matters, and that’s the state of special features. Most notably, there are games that can use ray tracing. This is a special kind of graphics card software that changes how light is calculated within a game. Ray tracing can lead to some very interesting visuals, but it requires a lot of extra calculations.
So, we’ll be comparing performance with ray tracing on and off to get a full idea of how the two cards really stack up against each other.
So, that’s how comparisons work. FPS numbers don’t really mean a lot unless we’re comparing two (or more) cards. What we really want to do is compare FPS numbers when the cards are running different resolutions and with or without ray tracing turned on.
Comparing the RX 6800
You have a good idea of what to look for in a comparison and what the 3080 is packing. From the beginning, we’ve been saying that the RX 6800 is a good match for the 3080. Now, we can look at some numbers and facts to see why.
You have enough background information at this point that we can really get into the nuts and bolts of this comparison. We’ll go through hardware stats next, but let’s start where it matters most: with performance tests.
There are a lot of tests to draw from. We’re going to take the benchmark tests provided by Tom’s Hardware.
Looking at about a dozen different games under different conditions, it’s easy to see that these cards are very close in performance. They both have ray tracing and can play games at the highest settings.
With everything on and maxed out, the RTX 3080 does appear to be the superior card. It generates a few more frames, but we’re not talking about a huge difference in performance. Both cards are managing frame rates well above 100 FPS, and that’s not surprising considering their power and price points.
The interesting thing to note is that when ray tracing is not available (and a lot of games don’t use ray tracing), the RX 6800 pulls ahead. More often than not, it’s the faster card with better FPS performance, although the 3080 does perform better on some games.
What this really suggests is that Nvidia ray tracing is still superior to AMD’s version. If ray tracing games are your favorite, then the 3080 is a better card, but even then, the 6800 is a good choice as an equal.
The performance results won’t surprise you when we go over the stats of the RX 6800. It’s also a very high-end card, and you’ll see that it’s outright superior in some metrics.
For starters, the 6800 is running 16 GB of video memory. That’s definitely more than the 3080, but if you remember how we talked about diminishing returns, the extra memory on the 6800 doesn’t really impact performance that much. It’s just a card that you might expect to perform better in a few years.
When it comes to clock speed, the 6800 has a noticeable advantage. It runs between 1925 and 2340 MHz, a big upgrade from the 3080.
But, the 6800 have noticeably fewer processing units: a paltry 5120 as compared to the 3080’s 8960.
When you put all of that together, you find that the 6800 is still a little bit faster in actual performance, but it’s a very thin margin.
Lastly, we can compare power draw. The 6800 is more efficient by a handful of Watts. At maximum output, it consumes 6 fewer Watts than the 3080. That’s as close as performance can get.
Technically, the AMD card recommends a PSU of 900W, but that’s a matter of manufacturer preferences. The truth is that both cards will run at the same level on the same PSU. There’s no meaningful difference with this metric.
Finally, we can look at the price comparison. If you’re familiar with computer components, then you’ll know that traditionally, Nvidia cards perform better, but AMD cards cost less.
That seems to be the case with these cards as well.
Even though the RX 6800 is a very reasonable equivalent to the RTX 3080, the 6800 is considerably less expensive. Its price range is between $500 and $700. You might remember that the 3080 runs between $750 and $850. The cheapest 3080 on the market will be more expensive than the most expensive 6800, and if you bargain shop, you can save several hundred dollars by choosing the 6800.
The price difference is actually the most extreme difference between the cards, and it almost breaks the idea of them being equals. The 6800 is substantially more cost-effective. But, in terms of performance, the 6800 is really the closest thing you will find to a 3080 in the AMD repertoire.
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