There's no denying that AMD's Radeon RX 6700 XT is a powerful graphics card for those after a 1440p graphics card that can play games on max settings at 60fps, but compared to its nearest Nvidia rivals, the RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti, AMD's reference design for their new Big Navi GPU left me feeling a little underwhelmed when I reviewed it last week. But what about the myriad of third party RX 6700 XT GPUs out there? Do they offer any tangible improvements on AMD's reference design? I've been testing XFX's Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition to find out.
Straight off the bat, this XFX GPU is quite a bit larger than AMD's reference design for the RX 6700 XT, measuring 323x132x51mm. Indeed, if I hadn't already removed some of the HDD cages from my case in order to test some of the larger third party models of Nvidia's RTX 30 series, I definitely would have had to do so to fit the Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition in my PC properly. It's a long 'un and a big 'un, this one, as it also fills 2.6 PCIe slots rather than just the normal two. As such, it may block some of the other PCIe slots on your motherboard, which is something to bear in mind if you've got lots of extra expansion cards.
The good news is that its increase in size and the number of fans at its disposal doesn't seem to have affected the card's overall noise levels. Indeed, I found the Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition to be just as whisper quiet as AMD's reference design under load, which is arguably more important in my books than its slightly cumbersome design.
Another important difference to note is that the Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition uses two 8-pin power connectors instead of AMD's reference 8 + 6-pin design. In fairness, most power supplies with dual GPU power connectors do come with those extra two pins these days, but it's worth checking before you buy if you're unsure.
Specs-wise, though, the Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition comes with the same 12GB of GDDR6 VRAM as AMD's reference design, but XFX have raised its GPU clock speed to a maximum boost clock of up to 2622MHz. It also has a higher 'Game Clock' of 2548MHz, too, which is the speed AMD say you'll see more often when playing games. These figures are up from AMD's reference specs of 2424MHz and 2581MHz respectively, which is an increase of around 5% and 1.5% respectively.
What does that translate to in-game? Well, only an increase of around 1-3fps in a lot of cases, and that's both at 1080p and its intended resolution of 1440p. That might be enough to tempt some of you out there if the Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition ever comes within spitting distance of the RX 6700 XT's original starting price of £429 / $479, but I don't think it's going to make the RX 6700 XT as a whole any more appealing than Nvidia's RTX 3070 or RTX 3060 Ti when prices eventually return to normal.
As you can see from the graphs, the extra few frames offered by the XFX Radeon RX 6700 XT Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition does manage to put it on a more level playing field with the RTX 3060 Ti, but it's still not enough to make a material difference to your overall gaming experience. Indeed, the only game in my benchmarking suite where the RX 6700 XT really excels over its Nvidia rivals is Assassin's Creed Valhalla. If there were more big games like this in the RX 6700 XT's pocket, then it would be easier to recommend it as a worthy alternative to its Nvidia competition. Unfortunately, though, Valhalla appears to be very much the exception to the rule here.
Ultimately, XFX's Radeon RX 6700 XT Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition has left me feeling much the same way about AMD's latest Big Navi card as the company's own reference design. It's a great GPU for 1440p gaming, but in many cases it's still only producing similar speeds to the (theoretically) cheaper RTX 3060 Ti as opposed to chasing the coat-tails of the RTX 3070.
The same goes for its ray tracing performance, too, which showed a similar 1-3fps bump over AMD's reference design. However, when both the RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 have Nvidia's upscaling DLSS tech to help bump up those frame rates in a lot of today's big ray tracing games, there's simply no competition. Until AMD release their DLSS-alike FidelityFX Super Resolution tech sometime later this year, no AMD RX 6700 XT card is even going to be in the same league as their Nvidia counterparts. Ray tracing isn't the be all and end all, of course, but it is a big part of why you'd probably want to upgrade to a new GPU at the moment, even if the number of games that support it right now is still relatively small. As things stands, though, the RX 6700 XT still feels like a slightly compromised GPU purchase at time of writing, regardless of whether you opt for AMD's reference design or a third party model like XFX's Speedster Merc 319 Black Edition.