MSI Radeon RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio Review: Power Hungry

The AMD Radeon RX 6950 XT launched last month, along with RX 6750 XT and RX 6650 XT, which provides 18 Gbps GDDR6 memory along with increased clocks and higher power requirements. The Sapphire Nitro + Pure that we initially considered performed quite well. Today’s MSI Gaming X Trio is only a hair’s faster, but to get there it seems that MSI has significantly increased its power over its competitors. The RX 6950 XT ranks as one of those best graphics cardand even has the top spot for 1080p and 1440p gaming this spring GPU references hierarchy (but not with beam tracking), but MSI’s variant would not be our first choice.

Here’s a look at the specifications for AMD’s reference 6950 XT together with the MSI and Sapphire cards we’ve had to consider – AMD chose not to try media with the reference design, which helps ensure slightly higher overall performance, just as Nvidia did with RTX 3090 Ti.

GPU specifications
Graphics card RX 6950 XT MSI RX 6950 XT RX 6950 XT Sapphire RTX 3090 Ti
Architecture Navi 21 Navi 21 Navi 21 GA102
Process technology TSMC N7 TSMC N7 TSMC N7 Samsung 8N
Transistors (billions) 26.8 26.8 26.8 28.3
Nozzle size (mm ^ 2) 519 519 519 628.4
SMs / CUs 80 80 80 84
GPU cores 5120 5120 5120 10752
Tensor cores NOW NOW NOW 336
Ray Tracing Cores 80 80 80 84
Boost Clock (MHz) 2454 2310 2435 1860
VRAM speed (Gbps) 18 18 18 21
VRAM (GB) 16 16 16 24
VRAM bus width 256 256 256 384
ROPs 128 128 128 112
TMUer 320 320 320 336
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost) 25.1 23.7 24.9 40
TFLOPS FP16 (tensor) NOW NOW NOW 160 (320)
Bandwidth (GBps) 576 576 576 1008
TBP (watts) “340” claimed 335 ~ 370 450
Release date May 2022 May 2022 May 2022 March 2022
Launch price $ 1179 $ 1099 $ 1249 $ 1,999

Interestingly, MSI shows a power consumption of only 340W for its RX 6950 XT Gaming X Trio, but it feels more like TDP for GPU instead of full card power. We actually tested two different cards (the first died after a few days for unknown reasons), and both consumed far more than 340W at the default settings. In fact, the second card used a few more watts than the first card. We’ll get to the actual power measurements later, but we saw closer to 430W out of MSI’s card, and activating Rage mode (with 10% bump in power limits) pushed it up to 440W. Basically, it was right in the same ballpark as the RTX 3090 Ti.

The core specifications are largely identical among the three RX 6950 XT cards, with GPU boost clocks and TBP as the only real difference. AMD provides a reference clock of 2310 MHz, Sapphire pushes it to 2435 MHz, and MSI turns on another 19 MHz for 2454 MHz. While previous generation AMD GPUs often listed a theoretical boost clock that was higher than you usually see in practice, that changed with the RDNA 2 architecture and the RX 6000 series GPUs. By default, we saw average GPU clocks of more than 2.5 GHz, and with Rage mode, the MSI card actually broke 2.6 GHz.

The big concern right now with the RX 6950 XT is that we expect AMD to launch an RX 7900 XT before the end of the year, possibly as soon as October. It’s not that far off, and AMD has publicly stated that they expect RDNA 3 to deliver 50% improvement in performance per watt. It will be too first GPU to use chiplets, and although the topology of such a design is not entirely clear, this may be the “largest Navi” yet. In the midst of falling GPU prices and the pending next-generation architectures, it’s hard to recommend rushing out to buy a soon-to-be-dated GPU for over $ 1000 right now.

When we talk about it, it is interesting that the retail prices of the RX 6950 XT have dropped rapidly. Officially, the GPU has an MSRP of $ 1,099, and at launch we saw several companies pushing factory-clocked models for $ 1,249 or more. Right now, Newegg has multiple RX 6950 XT cards (opens in new tab) sells for MSRP and we have seen some sales come and go as prices dropped as low as $ 1030. MSI Gaming X Trio is one of the cards sold for MSRP, which puts it $ 150 below Sapphire Nitro + Pure, but when the cards were launched last month, both were aimed at the same price point of $ 1250 – MSI accidentally corrected faster.