This is our first look at AMD’s newly launched Radeon RX 6000M GPUs destined for gaming laptops. These new RDNA2 GPUs are the most competitive products AMD has released for mobile PC gaming in quite some time, which might finally bring some heat to Nvidia who have dominated the market for years.
Today we’re taking a look at the Radeon RX 6800M, the flagship laptop GPU in the series which we’ve had on hand for some time ahead of the official launch. From the get go, some good news. AMD is being sensible about naming their mobile parts with the “M” suffix, distinguishing this GPU from its desktop counterparts in the RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT.
And that’s an important point, because the RX 6800M is based on Navi 22 silicon, the same GPU die as used in the RX 6700 XT on desktop. In fact, the specification for the 6800M and 6700 XT are very similar: both feature 40 compute units, 96 MB of infinity cache and 12 GB of GDDR6 memory. The one difference is the 6800M’s slightly lower game clock of 2300 MHz, with the memory clock rate of 16 Gbps remaining the same. There’s also an RX 6700M and RX 6600M in AMD’s line-up which hopefully we’ll be able to evaluate soon.
From a competition perspective, AMD is pitting the 6800M up against Nvidia’s top of the line GPUs: the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop and RTX 3070 Laptop – so this is a true battle at the high end. In contrast, previous AMD mobile GPUs haven’t been powerful enough or efficient enough to match Nvidia’s best offerings, which has left them floundering and largely unused, like last year’s RX 5700M.
For testing we have the new Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, which is an AMD+AMD laptop that features a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor alongside the RX 6800M GPU. AMD announced the Advantage program at Computex, essentially as a design and certification process that attempts to produce the best quality laptops using AMD internals. It seems to have paid off here with a decent design, a 300 Hz IPS display, and liquid metal for both the CPU and GPU.
The Strix G15 uses AMD SmartShift technology, which balances total system power draw between the CPU and GPU depending on the workload. You may be familiar with this in Nvidia laptop platforms through their equivalent called Dynamic Boost 2.0. This means that the Strix G15’s RX 6800M operates at a range of different power levels depending on how much CPU power is needed, just like the latest Nvidia RTX 30 laptops.
However what I have found is that SmartShift provides a greater dynamic range between the highest and lowest power levels for both the CPU and GPU. This laptop has 180W of power delivery and cooling capacity in total for the CPU and GPU, which means for a nominal 45W CPU draw, the GPU sits at 135W, a little lower than the 145W AMD announced in their presentation, although they did note that OEMs have some flexibility here.
But the full power range that I observed during gaming was anywhere from 110W to 160W on the GPU. 110W during CPU limited gaming with the 5900HX cranked up to 70W, and as high as 160W in really GPU limited situations with the CPU just sipping power at 20W. This is a much wider range than I’ve seen with any Nvidia laptop so far, which tend to keep things tighter with only 15-20W of dynamic boost range. AMD’s approach should help gamers get the best performance in a wider range of gaming conditions, especially while CPU limited.
Despite featuring such a wide power range, in practice most games pegged the GPU between 130W and 150W of power draw, with the CPU therefore sitting between 50W and 30W. I don’t know if this will differ with other RX 6800M laptops as only one has been announced so far and the GPU’s official specs merely say “145W+” for GPU power. I don’t expect to see any low-power, slower 80W variants though, which should simplify the buying process.
Another thing to note is that while the Strix G15 ships with 16GB of dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory, Asus is using memory modules with slower-than-normal subtimings, which hurts performance in some situations. As such, we’ve swapped out the memory in our system for a more traditional kit with regular timings, allowing us to proceed with more apples-to-apples comparisons with other laptops that don’t suffer from the same issue. Asus says the use of this particular memory kit is down to supply constraints in the current market.
Today’s benchmarking has been done at two resolutions: 1080p using the laptop’s internal display, which is connected through the iGPU; and 1440p using an external display hooked directly to the discrete GPU.
The first game we are looking at is Metro Exodus. At 1080p, the RX 6800M performs okay, beating the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU by 7%, but falling 5% behind the more powerful RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a similar 135-155W power range. All of these GPUs deliver a very good experience at 1080p, but the 6800M isn’t in a leading position.
The margin worsens at 1440p using ultra settings. The 6800M is only able to match the RTX 3070 in terms of performance, falling well behind the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. This was one of the largest margins we saw between the 6800M and RTX 3080 Laptop, with the 6800M registering 17% lower performance.
In Borderlands 3 at 1080p the RX 6800M topped the charts, benefitting from SmartShift technology to best alleviate a small CPU bottleneck. As such this configuration beats the RTX 3070 and RTX 3080 configurations that we’ve tested.
Results are still decent at 1440p. The RX 6800M comes in 11% faster than the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU, and falls 6% behind the RTX 3080 Laptop. That’s pretty competitive considering that before Mobile Radeons couldn’t get anywhere near Nvidia in these sorts of games.
Red Dead Redemption 2 at 1080p is quite GPU demanding, and AMD gets a small win here: 2% faster than the RTX 3080 at a similar power level, and 13% faster than the best RTX 3070 Laptop configuration we’ve tested so far. The AMD+AMD configuration helps to deliver better 1% low performance as you can see in this chart.
At 1440p the RX 6800M matches the performance of the RTX 3080 Laptop, which is a solid result for AMD. We’re seeing 17% better performance than the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU.
Control is a punishing title on the GPU and AMD isn’t able to keep up with the RTX 3080 Laptop at 1080p, falling 6% behind. The RX 6800M still delivers good numbers, beating the RTX 3070 by 5 percent, but it’s not the same margin as seen in the previous two games.
When AMD loses at 1080p, typically they lose by more at 1440p. Here the 6800M is 15% slower than the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, and this is without ray tracing factored in. While the focus of today’s review is not on ray tracing performance, Nvidia GPUs are currently superior for ray tracing (and DLSS where available), so if you want more mature ray tracing support, Nvidia is the way to go.
In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1080p the Radeon RX 6800M is 3 percent faster than Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Laptop and 17% faster than the RTX 3070, putting the 6800M in the leading position at this resolution.
At 1440p the RX 6800M is also competitive, but is now 3% slower than the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, as Nvidia’s architecture scales better as the resolution increases, a phenomenon we also observed with their desktop GPUs when they launched last year. RDNA2 is a bit of a beast at 1080p and still good at 1440p, but not quite as good as Ampere in this situation.
In Cyberpunk 2077, the RX 6800M matches the FPS of the RTX 3080 Laptop. However, 1% low performance is noticeably better on the AMD GPU, about 7% better in this instance. Performance is also 17% higher than the RTX 3070 when looking at this 1080p data.
At 1440p, as we’ve seen in the past few games, the RX 6800M slips behind the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, now sitting evenly between it and the RTX 3070. Like with Control, if you want to use ray tracing it’s a no-contest. Cyberpunk has DLSS support on top of Nvidia being faster at ray tracing.
In Horizon Zero Dawn, again performance is roughly equivalent between the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU and the RX 6800M at 1080p, with the 6800M providing better 1% low performance. The 6800M is 13% faster than the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU in this title.
Then at 1440p, the 6800M slips well behind the RTX 3080, coming closer to the RTX 3070 in terms of average and 1% low performance, although faster than that offering.
The last title we’re looking at in detail today is Dirt 5 running at 1440p where… I believe you know where this is going. The RX 6800M is 5% slower than the RTX 3080 Laptop, but 13% faster than the RTX 3070, sitting in-between those two Nvidia GPUs.
Here are some head to head comparisons featuring the rest of the titles we benchmarked. At 1080p we’re using a smaller subset of 12 titles to avoid the games that are heavily CPU limited at this resolution, which does happen on an RX 6800M-based machine.
Compared to the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU running at 135-155W, whether you go Radeon or GeForce, you’ll be getting basically the same performance on average. For those of you gaming on the laptop itself (no external monitor), this should be of particular interest as you may be running natively at 1080p. It should be noted there’s a small CPU difference here, as we’re comparing 5900HX results with the 6800M, to Core i9-10980HK results with the RTX 3080.
At 1440p, the RX 6800M is 6 percent slower than the RTX 3080 Laptop on average across our 18 test sample. A few titles were still somewhat CPU limited including Hitman 3’s punishing Dartmoor benchmark, and Resident Evil 2, along with an outlier in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. If you want to discount the CPU limited numbers the margin increases by 1% in Nvidia’s favor, but the general message is the same: at a higher resolution, the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU is faster but not by much.
The RX 6800M is almost always faster than the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU that we tested at 115-130W using the Ryzen 9 5900HX, so the same CPU. At 1080p the RX 6800M is 13% faster on average, which is quite decent, though it does consume more power during operation.
At 1440p, the RX 6800M is also faster than the RTX 3070 Laptop. There’s an 11% margin in favor of AMD on average across 18 game tests, so it could be argued that the RX 6800M sits closer to the RTX 3080 Laptop than it does to the RTX 3070 at this resolution and with a direct to dGPU display connection.
What We Learned
Overall, the AMD Radeon RX 6800M is an impressive new laptop GPU, marking the first time in a long while that we’re genuinely happy with the performance of an AMD mobile GPU. RDNA2 is clearly a significant step forward for AMD’s GPU efficiency and that helps them deliver true competition to the laptop gaming market.
Talking in pure terms of traditional game performance, the RX 6800M is able to match Nvidia’s RTX 3080 Laptop GPU at 1080p, while it comes in a bit slower at 1440p. It’s also ~10% faster than the RTX 3070 Laptop GPU on average, so in general I’d say the 6800M sits between the RTX 3070 and 3080 Laptop parts. This doesn’t give AMD the fastest laptop GPU on the market, but it appears to be very competitive at a similar power level and presents a significant improvement over prior AMD GPUs.
This is great news for consumers and gaming laptop buyers in general, because competition is the biggest contributing factor to driving the market forward. Now that AMD is taking the fight right up to Nvidia and at times matching their best, Nvidia is unlikely to rest on their laurels and will bring further competition to laptop GPUs, which in turn should lead to better products and pricing.
These days, performance isn’t the end of the story and there’s a suite of features that each brand brings to the table that must be considered. Currently Nvidia offers a more mature ray tracing implementation, so if that’s a must for you, the 6800M is not a great choice. Similarly, DLSS 2.0 is a big selling point and adoption is growing, which gives Nvidia the edge in some games, though it’s still a minority of the titles we are benchmarking.
On top of that, Nvidia also provides their encoder functionality, native CUDA support, and features like RTX Voice, which depending on your preferences and needs may also swing you over to team green.
On the positive side for AMD, having now tested SmartShift and Dynamic Boost 2.0, the wider power range and greater control that SmartShift provides in an AMD CPU+GPU laptop seems superior to what Nvidia offers. Sending the CPU as low as 20W and as high as 70W depending on how demanding the game is on the CPU led to consistently great results even in titles that hit the CPU hard.
Apparently AMD is also gunning hard for market positioning with a big price advantage. The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition we tested for this review is priced between $1550 and $1700 depending on the configuration. That’s at least $500 in savings than the most affordable RTX 3080 Laptop available at Newegg, Best Buy or Microcenter, a Gigabyte Aorus model which doesn’t even feature the 135W power configuration.
The Asus Strix G15 with the 6800M is also $100 or so cheaper than the Strix G15 with the RTX 3070, for what should be approximately 10-15% better performance. Having competitive performance and more attractive pricing is certainly a winning combination, so we hope to see wide adoption in gaming laptops as AMD is ticking quite a few boxes with the Radeon RX 6800M.