Welcome to the future of gaming where everything is 4K clear and framerates are as smooth as butter. If you managed to catch AMD’s reveal of the Radeon RX 6000 Series, you’ll know that Team Red’s new graphics lineup is nothing short of impressive. The clock speeds, memory, and power usage for all models are top tier. Equally impressive is the fact that AMD has managed to catch up to Nvidia’s RTX 30 Series on almost all performance tiers. In some cases, AMD is even outperforming the competition though, thanks to some proprietary new technologies like Rage Mode.
Now it’s no secret that manufacturers often pad performance statistics with controlled testing scenarios. In this case, we saw AMD post “boosted” RX 6000 framerates that exceeded the competition’s performance figures at various tiers. As we already stated, the enhanced performance figures were achieved with specific technologies. While the results are exciting, there are some key details that users need to understand in order to leverage the technologies, as well as protect their purchases.
Smart Access Memory works in tandem with Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs. By allowing the CPU to access the full amount GPU memory, all-AMD systems are able to deliver additional levels of performance in games. This is to be expected, as there are usually advantages to designing cooperative system components under the same roof. Naturally, AMD would want to do this to encourage more sales, but also to make the products more efficient. It’s pretty straightforward in understanding the premise of this technology and comes in as a general perk of going with Team Red.
The other AMD framerate-boosting technology is called Rage Mode, and this one is a bit more confusing when you dig into the details of the presentation. During the reveal, AMD called it a “one click overclocking button,” which sounds great at first. Rage Mode “automatically takes advantage of the overclocking headroom,” to deliver better performance. It’s all done through official AMD software, too.
Potentially rage inducing
So what could be the problem? Well, the end of the presentation had this to say:
“Overclocking AMD processors, including without limitation, altering clock frequencies / multipliers or memory timing / voltage, to operate beyond their stock specifications will void any applicable AMD product warranty, even when such overclocking is enabled via AMD hardware and/or software. This may also void warranties offered by the system manufacturer or retailer. Users assume all risks and liabilities that may arise out of overclocking AMD processors, including without limitation, failure of or damage to hardware, reduced system performance and/or data loss, corruption or vulnerability,” as seen in the livestream.
Naturally this alarmed us, as it made Rage Mode sound as if it would void AMD RX 6000 product warranties if used. It’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach either, as overclocking any product traditionally voids the warranty. Once a user unshackles the product from manufacturer-set parameters, the product is considered vulnerable to overheating or voltage malfunctions. These factors can cause permanent damage to the performance and lifespan of a product or just outright kill it. Therefore, it seemed strange for AMD to apparently advertise overclocked performance without accepting liability for the results of Rage Mode. Especially when described as a defining technology that outperforms the competition. Naturally, we reached out to them for clarification.
AMD responded to our inquiry about Rage Mode and warranties with a very different explanation than what was delivered during the presentation. It turns out that AMD Rage Mode is not a genuine overclocking feature. Instead, the company likened it to a user profile. AMD officially categorizes it as a Radeon Software Performance Tuning Preset. Likewise, we can expect a few options for running our RX 6000 GPUs. We already know about Rage Mode, but there will be a Quiet and Balanced mode as well.
Rage Mode does not exceed the factory parameters of the GPU clocks or voltages. Instead, it works more like a power slider option to deliver a little more juice at the cost of power efficiency, fan noise, and temperatures. Nvidia Control Panel and Windows have similar features which allow users to crank up the power delivery a little more if desired. AMD Rage Mode sounds like a more aggressive version of that.
AMD also confirmed that the presets will not void warranties and intends to rewrite its EULA to more clearly reflect the distinction. “We would like to make it clear: that warning does not apply to the Performance Tuning Presets like Rage and Quiet modes. These operating modes are fully supported by AMD and will not invalidate the product warranty. In fact, we will be updating the EULA in Radeon Software to clarify.”
Real overclocking options are coming
True automatic overclocking can be found in EVGA’s Precision X1 overclocking software, as well as in MSI’s Afterburner. These programs alter clock speeds past the points designated by Nvidia, and attempt to find maximum stable settings. With Radeon Software, enthusiasts will be able to perform the same function. AMD said there will be “automatic overclocking with one-click options to undervolt the GPU and overclock the GPU or VRAM.” In addition to that, there will be “manual tuning, which offers precise control over a range of GPU operating parameters.”
The distinction is that these options will void warranties, as is traditionally expected. Users will have to agree to the EULA before using the features, and AMD is not liable for whatever you choose to do.
Results may vary
With the matter of Rage Mode and warranties now settled, it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for anyone to achieve the AMD-advertised results of different RX 6000 cards. However, Rage Mode only offers a mild boost over the entirely stock settings. Pairing these cards with the Smart Access Memory technology will be key to competing with and besting Nvidia. Potential customers will also want to pay close attention to AMD’s performance charts, as some of them fail to denote the gap between standard and enhanced performance.
This is particularly true for the RTX 3090 vs. the RX 6900 XT comparison chart, where AMD failed to show the differences. Charts like these make it a bit ironic to see AMD call the tool Rage Mode, as it could certainly induce that feeling in users who don’t feel they got what they thought they paid for. To be fair to AMD though, these graphics cards still sound like very capable products. The performance charts may be misleading, but they are technically legal claims.
In closing thoughts, there is an additional silver lining to the RX 6000 Series. Thinking beyond the reference models, it seems there is some clear overclocking headroom to be found. Given that AMD is confident in pushing things a little further with its own software, AIBs like MSI, Gigabyte, etc. may be able to achieve some impressive, real overclocks. All with the comfort and peace of mind provided by warranties.