With a new spin of the Navi 21 GPU, the ASRock Radeon RX 6900 XT OC Formula is a contender for the best of all AMD graphics cards. Yes, here we go again, another drool worthy flagship graphics card that’s facing limited availability and offensively inflated pricing.
But is there light at the end of the tunnel? The crypto market crash has shaken the resolve of some miners. With many coins dropping in price it’s suddenly become harder to recoup such a hefty outlay on the top cards. Does this mean RX 6000 and RTX 3000 cards will find their way into the hands of gamers and not those of miners? We just have to wait and see. A single Elon Musk tweet can upend everything.
The ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula is built to extract the maximum performance from AMD’s flagship Navi 21 GPU and go head-to-head with the best Nvidia has to offer. We’re also really happy to see overclocking-focused products make a return. These days OC tends to be associated with clouds of LN2 and irrelevant benchmark results, but overclocking still means higher performance, and that means more frames per second. That’s something gamers and overclockers can equally appreciate.
GPU: AMD Navi 21 XTXH
Base clock: 2,125MHz
Boost clock: 2,475MHz
Memory: 16GB GDDR6
Memory speed: 16Gbps
Video ports: 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.1
Power: 3x 8-pin
Recommended PSU: 1,000W
The ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula uses the fully unlocked Navi 21 silicon common to all AMD RX 6900 XT cards. It packs in 5,120 stream processors across 80 RDNA2 compute units with 80 Ray Accelerators. You also get 16GB of GDDR6 memory connected via a 256-bit bus. A 128MB on-die cache, or Infinity Cache in AMD parlance, helps to offset the effect of what would be considered a rather narrow bus on a flagship 2021 card.
It’s got a rated boost clock speed of 2,475MHz, this compares to the already impressive 2250MHz of the regular RX 6900 XT, that means the OC Formula has a 10% OC, down to the MHz.
Where the regular RX 6900 XT, and most of the partner cards, use the so-called Navi 21 XTX GPU, the ASRock OC Formula uses a higher binned variant referred to as the Navi 21 XTXH. This is the highest bin of Navi 21, and therefore of all RDNA2 GPUs. It’s evidently able to run at higher clock speeds than the vanilla RX 6900 XT.
If you want the fastest AMD card of all time, the ASRock OC Formula is definitely a contender.
The OC Formula is a big triple slot card. The triple fan cooler features a very attractive and subtle grey and black color theme, mixed with a hint of green. It may not appeal to everyone, but to this reviewer it's one of the nicer looking flagship cards on the market. Around the back you’ll find a metal backplate with a cutout to allow air to pass through it. There are thermal pads on it too, which pull a bit of heat away to be dissipated over the backplate.
The cooler is, in a word, monstrous. The VRM and memory are all cooled via pads and with eight heatpipes it’s physically as capable as any cooler on any card.
You also get dual BIOS, with performance and quiet modes, though under regular running conditions, our ears couldn’t detect any difference in noise level. There’s also a small switch to disable all the RGB without needing to install software. That’s a nice touch.
Display connectivity consists of three v1.4 DisplayPort connections and one HDMI 2.1 port. Triple PCIe power connectors provide the juice. When combined with the 75w available from the PCIe slot, this gives you a minimum of 525w on tap. ASRock recommends you have a 1KW power supply on hand to juice up the OC Formula, because this is one thirsty card.
You’d expect the ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula to feature a PCB built to deliver world records, and indeed it does. A total of 21 phases power the GPU and memory, high current capability is expected, and high-end Infineon and IR components are all capable of extracting the maximum from the GPU with or without LN2 cooling.
Is it overkill compared to a regular RX 6900 XT? Probably, but if you’re going to drop this kind of money on a graphics card, you might as well go all the way. It’s cheaper than a car hobby, I guess.
Yes, pricing is painful. For $2,270 the ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula is as offensively priced a graphics card as you will find this side of Ebay. There's no justification for this sort of sticker price and this is a huge black mark against its name.
But this is a card built for performance, so how does it do? We were surprised to see some impressive gains over the reference 6900 XT. A 3% gain would be meh, a 5% gain pretty good, but we saw the OC Formula 10% faster in some cases, and that’s very impressive indeed for an overclocked SKU.
Sadly we didn’t have a GeForce RTX 3090 on hand for exact side-by-side testing, but it’s safe to say the OC Formula beats out the GeForce RTX 3080 except in games with ray tracing enabled. The new GeForce RTX 3080 Ti of course fares better.
If only all these cards were available at reasonable prices. It would be a great battle and a great time to be a PC gamer.
During testing the card settled into a long run average of 2,550MHz. How good is that?! Not long ago that would have been a decent CPU clock speed. It’s easily the highest we’ve seen from any of AMD's RX 6000-series cards.
Ray tracing performance
Temperatures were also very good with a peak reading of 73°C, though that is with an open air test system. Under default conditions the card does become audible, but the sound is one of a low pitch whirr rather than the annoying shriek of the old AMD leaf blower cards.
It appears that ASRock tuned the cooler for low temperatures at the expense of ultra-quiet operation. That’s fine with us though, this is a performance oriented card. And honestly we couldn’t detect any audible difference when selecting the silent BIOS.
Power consumption is high, and it may be the secret behind the Navi 21 XTXH silicon. Where an otherwise equal RX 6900 XT system pulled 454W from the wall under a full gaming load, the OC Formula saw 534W. That tells us the card itself is pulling some 70W+ more than a reference RX 6900 XT. It’s up to you whether this loss in efficiency is worth the extra performance or not.
We can’t say goodbye to the OC Formula without testing out its OC prowess, albeit with the stock cooler. ASRock might not appreciate us dusting off the old LN2 pot for a spot of 3DMark fun... We increased the clocks to 2,790MHz on the core and 2,140Mhz on the memory. It was actually stable higher than this but power limitations led to lower benchmark results. There are ways around this though if you scour the internet. Using TimeSpy Extreme this gave us a boost from an already impressive 8573 to 8913 when overclocked. That's higher than the top score we pulled from the Zotac RTX 3080 TI AMP Holo, and seriously impressive.
The ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula is a fast card, then. Seriously fast. Its problem is that it’s listed for $2,270 direct from Newegg. I mean, come on. That's not a price some dodgy Ebay reseller has priced it at, that's 'proper' retail. That would get you a real nice holiday. But diminishing returns always set in once you go to the top end of the market. And let’s hope that this situation won’t last forever.
It’s a contender for the fasted card on the market, even beating the RTX 3080 Ti in many cases. Nvidia retains a lead in ray traced applications, and particularly in games that make use of DLSS, but eye candy isn’t really the aim of this card. It’s here to produce maximum FPS and higher results in benchmarks.
It overclocks well, it runs cool and it looks awesome. But is it worth the cost? Absolutely not at the current inflated prices, but that goes for every other high end GPU too. Value kind of goes out the window when you’re looking at flagship products. It’s all about whether your bank balance can handle the hit or not, and whether you can stomach being the chump who paid out over twice the price of an RX 6900 XT for 10% higher gaming performance.
But if you want an AMD, and don’t mind paying an extreme price for the best graphics card the red team's silicon will allow, the ASRock RX 6900 XT OC Formula won’t let you down.