AMD Radeon RX 6000 graphics cards just got a big boost

AMD Radeon RX 6800
(Image credit: AMD)

Certain Big Navi cards — that’s the AMD Radeon RX 6000 series, if you don’t follow GPU parlance — just got a surprise update that could help them run cooler and quieter.

TechPowerUp found that the new Radeon Software Adrenaline 21.4.1 WHQL drivers makes thus-far-unannounced improvements to power consumption on the AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT, RX 6800 and RX 6900 XT (aka AMD Big Navi) cards. The catch? These efficiency gains don’t apply to gaming, the raison d'etre of all three GPUs.

The Radeon RX 6700 XT didn’t appear to benefit either, though it was already more efficient than its affected brethren. And the lack of improvement in gaming shouldn’t diminish what is a significant upgrade: lower power consumption is good for a graphics card’s health, even when the PC is idly or only running very low-demand software.

Indeed, TechPowerUp’s research found that the three RX 6000 GPUs all cut their idling power usage from above 25W to below 10W, while in media playback, they all went from using over 45W to using less than 30W.

Lower power usage means the GPU is likely running cooler, so won’t need the card’s fans to spin as fast or as often. And a quieter card when idling or watching videos means fewer distractions.

AMD didn’t mention these improvements in its Adrenaline 21.4.1 changelog, perhaps to keep focus on the features it adds, like the new remote play functionality in the AMD Link app. This works similarly to Valve’s Steam Link, letting you play stream games from your PC to a mobile device so you can play AAA games on your phone.

Of course, to take advantage of any improvements to Big Navi GPUs, you’d first need to get hold of one, and that’s easier said than done in the midst of a worldwide GPU shortage. Keep an eye on our guides on where to buy the AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT and where to buy the AMD Radeon RX 6800XT for the best retailers to check for restocks.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.