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AMD Radeon RX 7600 review: Another water-treading mid-range GPU for $269

Enlarge / AMD’s Radeon RX 7600.
Andrew Cunningham

Earlier this month, AMD briefed the press on its first mainstream RX 7000-series card, the RX 7600. A mostly incremental upgrade over the original RX 6600 but with many of the new features from the RX 7900 XTX and XT, it would come with a price cut, from the RX 6600’s $329 to $299. Nvidia then briefed the press on its new mainstream RTX 4060 series. The prices for the higher-end 8GB and 16GB RTX 4060 Ti are already set at $399 and $499. The price for the lower-end RTX 4060 was left undisclosed.

A few days later, presumably having caught wind of AMD’s pricing plan for the RX 7600, Nvidia announced the price for the RTX 4060: also a surprisingly low $299. (This entire time, review embargoes and briefings have been shifting by a few days here and there as the companies maneuver around each other.) Then, around 36 hours before this article was published, a new update came from AMD: The RX 7600 will now be launching for $269, $30 less than the RTX 4060 and $50 less than the old RX 6600.

This is what competition in the mid-range GPU market looks like after a years-long cryptocurrency-and-scalper-fueled shortage and many more months of Nvidia and AMD focusing on their pricey flagships. These are new, modern cards with modern features available at a price that can at least be called “literally affordable” even if they aren’t quite “budget.”

But the most common critique of them—and it’s a reasonable one—is that they don’t do much to change what you get when you buy a $250-to-$400 graphics card. Whether you’re talking about the RX 7600, the RX 6600 series, the RTX 3060 series, or the RTX 4060 series, you’re pretty much always getting a decent 1080p card, with 1440p within range with the right settings. Whether you’re an obsessive who talks yourself into upgrading every year or a more patient gamer who waits two or three generations between updates, the RX 7600 (like yesterday’s RTX 4060 Ti) doesn’t reward you much for your patience.

The RX 7600: RDNA 3 gets smaller

RX 7900 XTX RX 7900 XT RX 7600 RX 6600 RX 6600 XT RX 6650 XT RX 6750 XT
Compute units (Stream processors) 96 (6,144) 84 (5,376) 32 (2,048) 28 (1,792) 32 (2,048) 32 (2,048) 40 (2,560)
Boost Clock 2,500 MHz 2,400 MHz 2,600 MHz 2,490 MHz 2,589 MHz 2,635 MHz 2,600 MHz
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 320-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 192-bit
Memory Clock 2,500 MHz 2,500 MHz 2,250 MHz 1,750 MHz 2,000 MHz 2,190 MHz 2,250 MHz
Total board power (TBP) 355 W 315 W 165 W 132 W 160 W 180 W 250 W

This is only the third desktop GPU that AMD has released based on the RDNA 3 architecture (not counting laptop GPUs and integrated GPUs, of which there have been several), so it’s worth recapping what it brings to the table compared to older RDNA 2 cards.

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The biggest behind-the-scenes shift for RDNA 3 is a move to a chiplet-based design like the one AMD uses for Ryzen processors. Most of what you’d think of as the “GPU” (the compute units, shaders, media encoding and decoding block, and display output) are in a large graphics compute die (GCD) manufactured on a 5 nm TSMC process. The memory controllers and Infinity cache are built into separate 6 nm memory controller dies (MCD), each of which adds another 64 bits to the width of the bus and another 16MB of Infinity Cache. The RX 7900 XTX has six of these MCDs; the RX 7600 uses two.

Unlike Nvidia’s cards, AMD’s reference cards stick with the 8-pin PCIe power connector.
Andrew Cunningham

In theory, the move to a newer manufacturing process should save power, and the RX 7900 XTX and XT are both a good bit more efficient than the last-generation 6900-series flagships. Oddly, the RX 7600 doesn’t seem to benefit as much, using more power than the vanilla RX 6600 and about the same amount as the RX 6600 XT (the 6600 XT and 7600 have a very similar hardware configuration, too).

The architecture’s big new feature of note is the addition of hardware-accelerated encoding for the AV1 codec, which is poised to become the new baseline for video streaming as adoption slowly improves. It confers most of the same benefits as h.265/HEVC video—higher resolutions or better quality at the same bitrate as h.264—but without the royalties of h.265.

AMD also says that RX 7600 cards can support DisplayPort 2.1 but that it’s an optional feature. AMD’s first-party cards and third-party cards that use AMD’s reference design will all include it, but some others will trundle on with DisplayPort 1.4a. When in doubt, check the spec sheet.

AMD’s RX 7600 reference card uses the same design language as the RX 7900 XTX.
Andrew Cunningham

Nvidia restricts the new DLSS Frame Generation feature to its 4000-series GPUs, but AMD doesn’t have an equivalent feature, at least not yet. Version 3 of the company’s Fidelity Super Resolution upscaling tech will include a similar sort of frame generation, but we don’t know when it will come out or what its hardware requirements will be (FSR 2 runs on most modern graphics hardware, including Nvidia’s).

As for the card itself, AMD’s RX 7600 reference card uses the same design language as the RX 7900 XTX and XT, with small red highlights on the heatsink and backplate. It’s a small, cute GPU with a single 8-pin power connector that should have no trouble sliding into most desktop PCs.

Performance and power

Gaming testbed
CPU AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D (provided by AMD)
Motherboard Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero (provided by ASUS)
RAM 64GB DDR4-3200 (provided by Crucial)
SSD Western Digital Black SN850 1TB (provided by Western Digital)
Power supply EVGA Supernova 850 P6 (provided by EVGA)
CPU cooler 280 mm Corsair iCure H115i Elite Capellix AIO
Case Lian Li O11 Air Mini
OS Windows 11 22H2 with Core Isolation on, Memory Integrity off
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AMD’s promotional material focuses on comparisons between the RX 6600 and RX 7600, which is fair given their launch prices. But the vanilla 6600 is a $210–$230 graphics card these days. The RX 6650 XT is the card AMD has been selling for just under $300 lately, and the two have pretty similar hardware configurations, so we’ll spend some time comparing it and the RX 7600 to see whether AMD’s giving you more for your money today than it was yesterday (and how much RDNA 3 helps relative to RDNA 2).

We’ve tested the RX 7600, RX 6650 XT, RTX 3060 3060 Ti, and other competitors mostly at 1080p and 1440p, the resolutions most people will be buying them for. We try to test stock, non-manufacturer-overclocked cards when we can, though the Asus RTX 3060 and the MSI Radeon RX 6650 XT cards we tested both have extremely mild GPU overclocks applied out of the box; it shouldn’t be enough to change the results significantly.

In rasterized gaming tests—that is, a mix of DirectX 12, DirectX 11, and Vulkan titles at 1080p and 1440p with no ray-tracing effects enabled—the RX 7600 consistently either matches or beats the RTX 3060 12GB, in addition to the Intel Arc A750, which is also bouncing around in this price range. At its best, in titles like Borderlands 3 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the RX 7600 can even hang with the much more expensive RTX 4060 Ti.

Its performance gains over the RX 6650 XT are more muted, usually in the low single digits, but they’re consistent across the board. That said, unlike the RTX 4060 Ti, performance scales pretty similarly at both resolutions. The similarities in number of compute units and memory bus mean the cards have all the same strengths and bottlenecks.

One hope for RDNA 3 was that it would improve AMD’s lackluster ray-tracing performance relative to Nvidia’s. That isn’t really the case; the RX 7600 usually beats the RX 6650 XT by the same low-single-digit percentage as in the non-ray-traced games, the exception being Forza Horizon 5, where the 6650 XT using the Extreme settings preset exhibited weird stuttering issues I didn’t observe on any other card. But the RTX 3060—and even the Arc A750—easily beat the RX 7600 XT in Cyberpunk 2077Returnal, and Hitman 3 at all resolutions. Forza is, again, an exception, likely because it makes less-intense use of ray-tracing effects than the other games we’re testing with.

It is a little disappointing to see the RX 7600 improve so little over the RX 6650 XT. Intuitively, it feels like the same amount of RDNA 3 hardware running at similar speeds on the same 128-bit memory bus and at the same power level ought to be able to outrun RDNA 2. In practice, the two are pretty close, even if the 7600 comes out on top. Our best bet is that we’re seeing some small inefficiencies related to the communication between chiplets versus the RX 6650 XT’s monolithic GPU die.

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Andrew Cunningham

And it doesn’t look like AMD has improved ray-tracing performance in RDNA 3 compared to RDNA 2—the RX 7600 struggles here just as AMD’s cards have always struggled with these workloads. You might be able to hit 60 fps at 1080p if you use low to medium ray-tracing settings and FSR upscaling, but it’s not a sure thing.

Running in place

The AMD Radeon RX 7600.
Andrew Cunningham

The RX 7600 isn’t a bad card; given the choice between it and an RX 6600 XT or 6650 XT at the same price, the 7600 is the one you should buy. But it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed in it. It just barely manages to beat the RX 6650 XT that’s passing it the mid-range baton while not really improving efficiency or adding new features of note beyond AV1 encoding support (which some people will care about and some people won’t).

But the biggest problem for the RX 7600, whether it sells for $269 or $299, is still the upcoming RTX 4060. We’ll need to test it, obviously—like the 4060 Ti, it may come with a few issues and regressions. But if, as Nvidia says, it is around 20 percent faster than an RTX 3060, it’s easy to see it beating the RX 7600. And like all Nvidia cards, it will certainly beat AMD’s ray-tracing performance.

I do want to see more RX 7000 cards. If nothing else, AMD is threatening Nvidia enough to push GPU prices down a bit from their recent highs, which is good for everyone. But if you were hoping AMD would take advantage of Nvidia’s middling generation-over-generation performance gains, swooping in with an affordable RX 480-style card that would upend the mid-to-low-end of the GPU market, keep hoping. Maybe the RX 7600 XT, RX 7700, or RX 7800 will be different, presuming they exist.

The good

  • Good rasterized 1080p performance, with 1440p usually possible using some combination of lowered settings and FSR upscaling
  • Usually beats the RX 6650 XT, 12GB RTX 3060, and Intel Arc A750 at similar prices
  • Small design will fit in just about any PC
  • One of the cheaper ways to get AV1 encoding support, aside from the very low-end Intel Arc A380
  • $269 is an attractive launch price

The bad

  • Still mostly targets 1080p, just like its competitors and predecessors
  • Similar power efficiency relative to comparable last-generation GPUs like the RX 6600 XT and 6650 XT

The ugly

  • Ray-tracing performance still at a serious deficit compared to Nvidia’s