When you’re trying to find the right graphics card for a computer, you have a lot of choices, and it’s not always obvious what you should choose.
Breaking down every single card is too much. Instead, you need to break it into chunks to see what really suits your budget and performance needs.
One way to do that is to compare graphics cards that are designed to compete against each other, and a perfect example of that can be seen with the NVidia GeForce RTX 3070.
It’s a very popular card, and if you’re looking for an AMD counterpart, then what you want to check is the AMD RX 6800.
Below, you’ll find a detailed comparison between these two graphics cards.
What Is an RTX 3070?
The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 is a consumer-grade graphics card. It was originally launched in September 2020, and at the time of this writing, it’s still in production and available for sale.
Let’s pause for a moment and make sure everyone is on the same page.
For those who don’t already know, a graphics card is a device for computers and computer systems that specializes in carrying out all of the calculations and work necessary to produce video. So, when you play a game, watch a movie, or just swirl your mouse in circles on a computer screen, a graphics card is making that possible.
Except, that’s not exactly right. In reality, the graphics processing unit (GPU) is what does those calculations and makes video possible. A graphics card is actually a specialized way of putting a GPU into a computer. GPUs come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. To specifically count as a graphics card, there is a specialized, self-contained device that will attach to a computer. The card typically has its own connectors, manages its own power, and has its own cooling system.
If you open up a computer and look at its insides, there’s a GPU in there somewhere. If you can see a specific card that has its own fans and can be removed or replaced without any soldering or special work, then you’re looking at a graphics card.
What Are the Key Specifications of the RTX 3070?
What we’ve covered so far is that the RTX 3070 is a consumer-grade graphics card that has been around since 2020. That’s a great start, but what makes it different from any other card?
To answer that, we can look at the hardware specifications. There are a ton of specifications, but we don’t need to go through all of them (which is a good thing, since it would take hours). Instead, you can focus on a handful of the most meaningful specifications.
As we go through them, you’ll also get information on what those specifications actually mean.
Let’s start with video memory. Memory is a shorthand way of referring to random access memory (RAM). This is a part of the computer that acts as short-term memory. When a processor (and remember that a GPU is a type of processor) needs to frequently access information over and over, it can put that information in the RAM. This way, it can get to the information a lot faster, and that helps lower overall calculation times.
Video memory (or VRAM) is RAM, but it’s dedicated specifically to the GPU. In general, graphics cards are more powerful when they have more VRAM (which is measured in GB), so a higher number here is a good thing. Later, when we directly compare graphics cards, you’ll see this in action.
As for the RTX 3070, there are a few different configurations — which isn’t surprising when you remember that the card has been available for over two years. The older models come with 6 GB of memory while the newer ones support 8 GB.
GPUs are specialized processors. Ultimately, that means that they carry out calculations for a computer system. As such, the speed at which they can carry out those calculations matters a lot.
Typically, such a thing is measured in flops. This is actually an acronym for floating-point operations per second. So, a single flop would be a single operation each second. Modern graphics cards are performing in the range of teraflops, which means they can carry out trillions of operations each second.
Once again, there are different variations of the RTX 3070, and they don’t all perform at exactly the same level. On average, you can expect this graphics card to achieve around 20 teraflops.
The third major specification we’re going to consider is power draw. This is measuring how many watts of power the graphics card needs in order to operate.
Now, this is a little different from the other specifications. More or less power draw doesn’t inherently make one card better or worse than another. There are really two reasons to think about power draw.
First, it’s important for designing a system. Every computer has a power supply unit (PSU), and it’s responsible for feeding electricity to the various critical components of the computer. In most cases, the graphics card needs more power than any other component. So, you check the power draw of the graphics card to figure out what kind of PSU you need for a computer to work.
With this in mind, cards that draw more power require bigger PSUs, and that can raise the price of the whole system. So, a more power-hungry graphics card won’t necessarily perform worse, but it does come with drawbacks.
The other thing to consider is power efficiency. You have to pay for the electricity that runs through a computer, and a graphics card that draws more power will literally raise your electric bill. On top of that, if you’re someone who aims to reduce how much power you use, a more efficient card might be preferable.
So with all of that in mind, the RTX 3070 draws 220W for peak performance.
What Do They Mean for Graphical Performance?
With all of these talks of specifications, it might seem like we’re ready to compare two graphics cards, but there’s still a problem. You just read a bunch of numbers, but there’s no context around them.
If you’re familiar with graphics cards and performance specifications, go ahead and skip to the next section. If not, this is the part where we explore how these specifications translate into what you see on a screen.
First, let’s talk about power draw. Like I already said, it doesn’t really affect performance. Instead, it helps you decide which graphics card is better when multiple options can get the job done. It’s a bit of a tie-breaking specification.
The other two specifications matter a lot.
What does VRAM do for graphical performance? Well, when you have more VRAM, the graphics card can follow more complicated instructions for graphical rendering. If you’ve heard of things like ray tracing, these are software instructions that make graphics look amazing, but they’re very complicated. Higher amounts of VRAM help the GPU handle complicated stuff like that without slowing down.
Speaking of slowing down, if you don’t have enough VRAM for a given task, the most common thing you will see is video lag or stuttering. The GPU simply can’t render the images as fast as the computer is demanding them. As a result, the video has to pause to let the GPU catch up.
This can also happen if you’re streaming video. The output video stream might pause or stutter to let the GPU catch up. Clearly, the VRAM is important.
As for the flops, that’s really determining how much the graphics card as a whole can handle. The flops can impact the definition of the video (rendering more pixels requires more calculations), the frame rate, and the quality of images.
If you go into the settings of a video game, you might be able to adjust things like shadows, reflections, and all kinds of details. If your graphics card operates at enough flops, then you can turn all of these settings up without seeing any drop in performance. If you don’t have enough flops, then turning these things up will cause the image to get blurry (sometimes) and the frame rate to drop (most of the time).
What Is a Good AMD Equivalent to the RTX 3070?
It took a bit, but we’ve set the stage. You have all of the information you need to understand the RTX 3070 and what it can do. With that information, we can now pick a graphics card to compare to it and see in certain terms what that comparison looks like.
Let’s not bury the lead. The AMD RX 6800 is probably the best AMD equivalent to the RTX 3070.
Why is that? Well, to fully explain, we’ll explore the RX 6800 in the same way we just went through the 3070.
The AMD RX 6800
The AMD RX 6000 series is a direct competitor with the RTX 3000 series. The RX 6800 was originally released in November 2020, just two months after the RTX 3070. It is also a consumer-grade graphics card that exists somewhere between budget and high-end price points.
The RX 6800, like the 3070, has been out for a couple of years, so it’s another case where you can find multiple variations on the same graphics card. Because of that, the specifications will include stat ranges instead of single numbers.
Speaking of stat ranges, let’s get into the specifics of the RX 6800.
In terms of specifications, the RX 6800 and the RTX 3070 are in the same class of graphics cards, but you’ll see that there are key differences. Let’s view them the same way we did with the previous card.
Right off the bat, you’re going to see that these graphics cards are not identical. The RX 6800 has up to 16 GB of VRAM. That’s double the high end that is available with the 3070.
Considering that more VRAM usually translates into better performance, this is a major difference. We’ll talk about actual video expectations after we get through the specs, but this is a significant difference that is worth noting.
The RX 6800 runs at a speed of about 16 teraflops. That’s noticeably lower than the 3070, but there’s something worth mentioning about how teraflops are measured. There are different ways to run graphics cards, and depending on what you choose, it can dramatically impact the performance in terms of calculation speed.
The 3070 is much more stable in this sense, and there wasn’t as much variation in performance depending on how you run the card. The variations on the RX 6800 are much higher. So, the RX 6800 is capable of higher peak calculation rates, but on average, it’s a slower graphics card, so that’s why we’re specifically looking at averages here.
As for power draw, the 6800 needs more juice. That’s not surprising when you consider how much more VRAM is supported by the graphics card. Specifically, the 6800 needs 250W, which is 30 more than the 3070.
The 3070 is the more efficient card, but in terms of saving on hardware, this difference won’t matter. Both graphics cards are best served by a 750W power supply.
How Do the Two Cards Compare?
We’ve made it through the raw numbers. Now, we can really compare how it might feel different to purchase and own one card as compared to the other. This is not a buying guide; no one is telling you which is the choice you should make.
Instead, it’s an attempt to translate the specific comparisons we’ve already made into real-world effects.
Starting with the price, these are both cards that come in different varieties, and that changes the price. If you go shopping right now, you’ll see a range of prices for each card.
One way to compare them is with the original asking price, or MSRP. If we do that, the RX 6800 launched at $649 while the RTX 3070 launched at $499. Today, you can find plenty of options for either that sit between $500 and $600, but there are some high-end 6800s that get above $800.
Considering how close they are in price now, it’s hard to say that one is clearly more cost-effective than the other. The pricier 6800s will be less cost-effective, but they are providing additional power with that elevated price point.
Overall, you’re looking at spending comparable amounts regardless of which card you choose.
How about performance? We know what the specs are like, but what does that mean in terms of pixel counts and frame rates? Which card can play more demanding games at higher settings?
To answer that, we can turn to benchmark tests.
First off, both cards are very capable of playing modern games in ultra-high definition and at max settings. Pushed to the limits, the lowest frame rate on any major benchmark test is 44 FPS (frames per second). While that’s not the highest you’ll find, it’s definitely good.
That particular low point was on a test using Microsoft Flight Simulator, and that is a very demanding game.
Aside from that, both cards were consistently above 60 FPS and able to break 100 FPS under certain conditions.
Overall, they’re both good cards, but across the benchmark tests, the 6800 performs a little better, and that was true on every single tested game. Overall, the 6800 is the more capable card, but not by leaps and bounds.
Let’s put all of that together. If you’re looking for an AMD equivalent to the RTX 3070, the RX 6800 is the closest choice. On average, it might cost a little more, and it will perform slightly better, but they are extremely comparable graphics cards.
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