Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 review

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600

The Radeon RX 6600 from AMD is a new contender in the entry-level gaming graphics card market. This $330 (on paper) card uses AMD’s high-end RDNA 2 architecture, which should be good for 1080p gaming. But is it actually good? We’ll see with our Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 review.

For those of you who are still playing 1080p games on Steam with an older card like the GeForce GTX 1060 and Radeon RX 580, the new RX 6600 may be a tempting upgrade.

AMD revealed that it will cost $330 (on paper), the same as Nvidia’s RTX 3060’s SRP, but the latter now costs up to $700 in the actual market. However, several people today straddle the fleeting concept of ‘entry-level.’ The $379 RX 6600 XT from AMD is already available, while the $329 RTX 3060 from Nvidia is the cheapest. Both are far from entry-level in the traditional sense, but that’s what we’re dealing with here, and that’s what AMD’s RX 6600 is up against.

Radeon RX 6600 in a nutshell

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600

The AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT uses the Navi 23 GPU, one of the latest second-gen Navi chips based on the excellent RDNA 2 architecture. It’s another TSMC N7 (7nm) GPU, but it’s the smallest of the current AMD GPUs. In spite of its compact size, it has more transistors than the Navi 10 chip in the RX 5700 XT. Finally, the chip has 32 compute units (CUs) and the RDNA 2 dual-CU workgroups have 2,048 stream processors total.

The RX 6600 has a high GPU frequency. In gaming conditions, the current card’s ‘game clock’ is sitting at 2,044MHz compared to the RX 5700 XT’s 1,755MHz. On the other hand, its Ampere silicon competitor with the RTX 3060 rarely exceeds 2GHz, which is why AMD has been able to close the gap with its competitors’ best cards.

Furthermore, it neatly fits a gap behind the Radeon RX 6600 XT in the red team’s RX 6000-series line-up. However, there are a few things to observe between the two, which make it all the more crucial to consider spending the extra money for the XT model if possible.

To begin, let’s look at the significant parallels. AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture is the company’s best to date, and it’s already found its way into a slew of graphics cards. This is a good thing in general, as the RDNA 2 architecture has proven to be a significant improvement over AMD’s first-generation RDNA. The RDNA 2 architecture comes in handy for the RX 6600 when it comes to pushing performance per watt, and AMD’s new features such as FSR, which, as you’ll see later in this review, greatly complements the RX 6600 performance.

As for power draw, we consider the RX 6600’s 132W TBP, to be very good thanks to RDNA 2’s efficiency.

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600

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Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 Specs

Memory8GB GDDR6
Memory bandwidth (GBps)224
GPU clock (GHz, base/boost)2.0/2.5
Memory data rate/Interface14 Gbps/128 bit
Peak texture fill rate (gigatexels per second)279
Compute Units and Ray Accelerators28
Stream cores1,792
Texture mapping units112
TGP/min PSU (watts)140/500
BusPCIe 4.0 x 8 (16-bit slot)
Size2 slots; 7.6 in/193mm long
Connections1 x HDMI 2.1, 3 x DisplayPort 1.4
Price$329 (AMD target price)

The Pulse is a dual-slot card, but one that isn’t too close to its neighbours; this, combined with its low power draw, makes it a decent physical fit for upgrading older systems. Although the feature set isn’t extensive; it is simply a well-built implementation of the AMD GPU, with no flashing lights, or BIOS switching. Running at full load, the card remained cool and silent, maintaining a 2.3GHz GPU clock speed (a bit higher than the standard 2.2GHz), and the fans are quiet, with no annoying whine.

TEST SYSTEM

  • Ryzen 9 3900X
  • 2x8GB 3400Mhz DDR4 RAM
  • MSI X570 Gaming Edge Wifi

Gaming Performance

We put this graphics card to the test against the RTX 3060 in some games, which gives us a good look at where the RX 6600 can potentially stack up.

In the esports title Rainbow Six: Seige, running in DirectX mode using the Ultra graphics preset, we can see that the game ran comfortably, reaching above 300 FPS. A competitive esport gamer can easily reap the benefits of a high refresh rate monitor with this graphics card and will be able to click heads thanks to the competitive advantage of high frames in-game. 

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Next in Cyberpunk 2077, which is a graphically demanding tiple-A game title, the RX 6600 was able to push a consistent 65 FPS average in high settings. This allows us to experience a smooth high-end game title experience and enjoy the graphics fidelity and eye-candy Cyberpunk 2077 can offer.

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Finally, we have another tiple-A game title, Monster Hunter: World. This is a game that requires fast movements thanks to its hack and slash mechanics, but it also offers a lot of eye candy in terms of in-game graphics. Here in the highest graphics preset, we can see that the Radeon GPU was able to pump out a comfortable 79 FPS on average, allowing for fluid gameplay and high graphics fidelity.

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AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution is magic

FidelityFX Super Resolution is a feature that boosts game performance while sacrificing image quality to a minimum. The goal isn’t to reduce your game’s eye candy, such as textures, geometry detail, effects, and so on, but to render it at a lower resolution and then upscale the output to your chosen resolution while reconstructing details so it doesn’t feel like a low-quality image squeezed to fit. Because the computational cost of restoring details to the upscaled image is less than the cost of rendering the game at the higher resolution, framerates are increased.

We  tested this on Far Cry 6, a newly released action game that we feel is the gold standard in implementing FSR. Without enabling FSR, Far Cry 6 ran at a measly 45 FPS on average in the Medium graphics preset. Though the average FPS is above 30 FPS, it’s nowhere near the ideal 60 FPS average for triple-A game experience. Turning on FSR, however, raises the average FPS significantly. I was surprised at how good it was without sacrificing image quality. With FSR on Ultra Quality settings, we saw an increase of 177 FPS average. This just goes to show that the benefit of FSR is there and it should be implemented in more games. 

Changing the FSR preset to Quality didn’t make much of a difference in FPS and graphics eye-candy, but with Balanced and Performance modes we got 126 and 125 average FPS, respectively. Although in Perfromance mode, this was the worst looking image quality that made the game look like a low-resolution blurred mess. So I’d skip the performance preset altogether. I think the Ultra Quality FSR preset is what will give the gamer a comfortable gaming experience.

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FSR Tested in Far Cry 6

Conclusion

Whether you should buy the Radeon RX 6600 comes down to whether you can find an RTX 3060 12GB in stock and at a price close to its $329 MSRP. Nvidia has put together a generally more performant graphics card than AMD at this price point, and one which tends to perform well in most games you throw at it. While the Radeon RX 6600 requires friendly in-game optimisation, SAM, and PCIe 4.0 to churn out the best frame rate.

That’s not so easy nowadays, which means the Radeon RX 6600 might not be the graphics card you necessarily want, but the one that offers a fine alternative at a cheaper price close. Or, at the very least, while MSRP cards are still available at launch.

Overall, the RX 6600 is not a terrible graphics card. But if AMD is able to maintain supply and the $330 SRP, they could have a win in the entry level segment. We didn’t test any Ray tracing for now, as we strongly feel that the feature is not for graphics cards of this calibre. Plus, you’ll be better off turning on realtime ray tracing with higher tier cards like the RX 6700XT and above. The tradeoff for realtime ray tracing is lower FPS for unceccary eye-candy, which is not worth it in our opinion.

I see no reason why anyone woudln’t want to grab the RX 6600 for purely gaming purposes. It’s a fast graphics card that will give you high FPS in competitive esports, and it’s powerful enough for a triple-A game exeprience that will keep you busy for days.

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