AMD Radeon RX 6800M Review: A worthy competitor to Nvidia's GeForce

Ryzen 9 5900HX plus Radeon RX 6800M makes for a worthy competitor.

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Moving on to “eSports”-class games that don’t tend to be as graphically intense, we start with the immensely popular Counter Strike: Global Operations. Both GeForce RTX 3080’s actually end up being mostly a wash despite the different CPUs and the different-wattage GPUs. Even though both Asus ROG Strix laptops use the same CPU, the one with the GeForce GPU spits out 35 percent more frames per second compared to the one with Radeon RX 6800M.

6800 csgo high IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is another graphically light, but immensely popular eSports game. The Radeon RX6800M keeps up better than it did in Counter Strike, but it’s still clearly in third place, with the GeForce units 9.5 percent and 13.7 percent faster, respectively.

6800 rainbow six ultra IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

We’ll close out the gaming benchmarks with a score from Strange Brigade, which we run using its Ultra preset and the Vulkan API. Unfortunately, the Ryzen/GeForce laptop refused to run the game. We can see from the Intel/GeForce laptop that GeForce still holds the lead, but Ryzen/Radeon is breathing down its neck.

6800 strange brigade ultra IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

Content Creation and Compute Performance

While these big gaming laptops are often purchased for gaming, a high-performance GPU can help with applications as well. For the following content-creation and computer performance tests, we’ll include scores from older and lower-end GPUs such as the GeForce GTX 1650, GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q, and GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop in the results. Like the charts above, bars that mix blue and green indicate Intel and Nvidia; charts that use red and green indicate AMD and Nvidia; while an all-red bar indicates all-AMD.

Our first result is the popular Geekbench 5.4.1 test. The OpenCL test measures GPU performance on such tasks as particle physics, fast fourier transform, Gaussian blur, and face detection techniques. 

The big winners are the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPUs, which have a sizeable lead over the Radeon RX 6800M. Although we don’t have a GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop result, we’d guess it would match or outperform the Radeon, as the GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop is looking right over its shoulder.

6800 geekbench 5.4.1 opencl IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

Our next test uses UL’s Procyon benchmark, which measures the performance of Adobe Premiere Pro while exporting a video project with various effects applied. Unlike the previous OpenCL test, Adobe Premiere Pro 15.1 is greatly influenced by the CPU. That makes the overall winner the newest Gigabyte Aorus 17G, with its 11th-gen Core i7-11800H and 105-watt GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU.

If you’re looking for a more direct comparison that reduces the CPU influence over the score, that would be the Asus ROG Strix G17 and the ROG Strix G15, which both use the same Ryzen 9 5900HX but differ in GPUs. That gives the 130-watt GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop a healthy 18.5-percent performance advantage against the Radeon RX 6800M.

We’d guess some of that performance gap comes from NVidia’s early involvement with Adobe and GPU acceleration of its products.

6800 procyon video dgpu on IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

Our final content creation test switches gears to photo editing, using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom Classic and a set of scripted runs from Procyon. Both applications are very dependent on CPU performance but can see a boost from a fast GPU. The overall winner is Intel’s Core i9-11980HK paired with a GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU. It just edges out the Core i7-11800H paired with a GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop. Tiger Lake H is no joke, folks.

Just to highlight the CPU’s impact, notice that although both of the Gigabyte Aorus 17G laptops use the same GPU with the same rated wattage, the older 10th-gen Core i7 handily loses to the newer 11th-gen Core i7-11800H Tiger Lake H.

But what about the Ryzen/Radeon combo? If you’re trying to hone in on the Radeon’s performance against the GeForce in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic, look again to the ROG Strix G17 and the ROG Strix G15, which use the same Ryzen 9 CPUs. The GeForce-based laptop comes in at 15.6 percent faster than the Radeon-based laptop. 

6800 procyon photo dgpu on IDG

Longer bars indicate better performance. Green indicates Nvidia components. Blue indicates Intel components. Red indicates AMD components.

Power consumption

Overall, we think the Radeon RX 6800M shows off very well in gaming, with the results slotting right around, or better than, a 105-watt GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. One issue we’re certain Nvidia would take with that interpretation is the wide range of wattage of the GeForce cards, from 80 watts to 150 watts or more. We know Nvidia will say a 130-watt GeForce vs. a ‘145+’-watt Radeon isn’t fair.

That’s a good point, because despite the innocent-sounding ‘145+,’ we found that number to be very conservative. For example, pushing it with the the power stress test Furmark, the Radeon would bump its head on 185 watts. To try to get a bead on just how they compare, we took both the Ryzen 9-based Strix laptops and simultaneously measured the amount of power consumed at the socket while running 3DMark Time Spy Extreme. This is probably the most realistic comparison, because you pay for the power you use, not the power just your GPU uses.

During our tests we disabled all of the RGB and set both of the screens to their minimum brightness of a barely visible 12 nits. Both laptop’s batteries were full as well, so there was no additional power going to recharge the batteries.

Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition Gordon Mah Ung

The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition and its Ryzen 9 5900HX and Radeon RX 6800M run from a bulky 280-watt PSU.

As you can see below, the (red line) Ryzen 9 / Radeon RX 6800M consumes considerably more power than the (green line) Ryzen 9 / GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop duo. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most, but the GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop is easily winning the power efficiency battle on laptops, a reversal from the desktop.

The test actually shows two GPU-focused tests (the first two humps), and then a CPU-focused test (the last hump), using more cores at the end. The last hump could potentially be a ray of sunshine. That’s because we would have expected both of the laptops to settle down closer in power consumption on a CPU-focused test.

We suspect AMD’s SmartShift is at play. Smart Shift works directly between AMD CPUs and AMD GPUs and lets both intelligently gauge load in real time, then shift the thermal and power budget where needed.

radeon vs geforce IDG

We simultaneously recorded the power consumed at the socket by the Nvidia-based Strix G17 (green) and the AMD-based Strix G15 (red) while running 3DMark Time Spy Extreme. 

To give you an idea of how SmartShift works, we ran 3DMark Time Spy on the ROG Strix G15 and monitored the shifting in real time. For the GPU load during the run, the SmartShift’s change was fairly small, only about 3 percent to 5 percent going to the GPU. You can see this is in the graphic below, where the graph on the left side moves up the X axis to indicate a power shift toward the GPU.

smartshift gpu IDG

AMD’s SmartShift with its Ryzen 9 5900HX and Radeon RX 6800M in action. We see it moving about 3 percent of the power to the GPU in this GPU load.

As you saw previously, 3DMark first runs a GPU-intensive test and then shifts to a CPU-intensive test designed to measure CPU-based game physics performance. During the CPU portion, we now see a very sizeable 29-percent shift. You can see it in the screen cap below, where it moves down the X-axis to indicate a shift to the CPU. 

We should say in a handful of games we looked at, SmartShift didn’t offer up the same dramatic changes, even though we expected it to, so we’ll continue to investigate. But we are still nonetheless impressed by what could come of AMD’s SmartShift.

smartshift cpu IDG

We saw an impressive 29 percent moved to the CPU’s power budget during this CPU-bound test from AMD’s SmartShift technology.

Conclusion

We’ll break this down into the four areas you should be concerned about before buying your next performance laptop.

The first is ray tracing performance. Despite its rocky start with Nvidia’s original GeForce RTX 20-series, ray tracing is becoming increasingly important to PC gaming. Still, the vast majority of games people play today do not support those advanced features, and the shift will be gradual. Even the games that do support ray tracing let you switch off that support and will fall back to conventional modes. As we said previously, if you buy into that bright, shiny, reflective future, then Nvidia’s GeForce line is the best option.

The next area is content creation and compute performance. Although we don’t think Geekbench is the final word on compute performance, the advantage appears to go to GeForce. GeForce also gets the nod for content creation in Adobe products, which is the suite preferred by most occupants of Planet Earth. The Radeon RX 6800M performs respectably, but content creators may want to lean green.

If all this doesn’t sound great, we’ll bring up perhaps one of the most important drivers of gaming laptops: actual games. There, Radeon RX 6800M solidly trades punches with the lighter-wattage GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPUs. Yes, a GeForce RTX 3080 at its 150-watt configuration would likely be even faster, but Radeon RX 6800M’s performance is still in the neighborhood in many of the games we tested. Consider this combined with the last area that may matter the most: value.

The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition you see here is expected to sell for a very aggressive price of $1,650. Sure, there’s just 16GB of RAM and a moderately sized 512GB SSD, but that pricing falls right into the neighborhood of gaming laptops with GeForce RTX 3060 or stripped-down GeForce RTX 3070 laptops—many of which have slower CPUs or lower-end displays. Our full review of the ROG Strix G15 is still in the works, but from what we’ve seen, we’d snap one up at this price, which may very well represent how AMD shakes this whole thing up.

So you can see why despite its power-hungry nature and soft areas against GeForce, the Radeon RX 6800M indeed poses a real threat to Nvidia’s iron-fist lock on gaming laptops.

Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition Gordon Mah Ung

The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition features an AMD symbol on its lid.

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