Earlier this year, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma. Due to some personal circumstances I’d rather not go into, I needed a new system, and I needed it fast. It’d been a while since I’d built myself a new PC from scratch, and given that my profession revolves around keeping up to date with the latest hardware, I decided that I was going to put my money where my mouth is and build something with plenty of gaming grunt but to a reasonable budget.
No RTX 4090s for me, I thought. I’d need to build myself something with great performance, but not ridiculous when it comes to the strain on my bank account. It could be done. I knew it could.
CPU, RAM and motherboard? Easy picks, and I treated myself to a platform upgrade with the latest AM5 gear. PSU, case, SSD? Child’s play. But like I suspect many of you building a new PC on a budget this year experienced, when it came to picking the GPU, things got difficult.
Here’s an admission. After a long day of writing about some of the best hardware in the world, comparing spec sheets and benchmarks and price comparisons, when I close my browser windows and boot up a game what I’m really looking for is easy. I don’t want to fiddle with too many settings, and run benchmark after benchmark in my own free time. I just want to sink into the warm bath that is a good PC game running smoothly, and so my quick and dirty hack is this: whack the resolution to 1440p, set the graphics preset to high (not ultra), and press play.
Cheating, I know, but for me and I’m sure many others, this is usually the sweet spot for stable, high frame rate gaming with great image quality on a good system. So what I was looking for was something with excellent 1440p high-setting performance, and I didn’t want to spend much more than £500.
The obvious choice here was the RTX 4070, and I came really, really close to buying one. Nothing wrong with ’em. Very good cards indeed. But that 12GB of VRAM bugged me a little, as it felt just a little on the tight side for a card I’d hoped would last me a while. And while I nearly pulled the trigger more than once, perhaps most importantly of all, it was difficult to find one near my target budget at that point in time. Too pricey. Just.
(Image credit: Andy Edser)
(Image credit: Andy Edser)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7700X
RAM: 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR5 6000MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte A620M Gaming X
SSD: Lexar NM790 2TB M2
Cooler: Thermalright Peerless Assassin
PSU: Be Quiet! 850W 80+ Gold
Case: Thermaltake S100 TG Black
GPU: XFX Qick Speedster RX 7800 XT 16GB
Then came the release of the AMD RX 7800 XT. And that really threw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons.
I’d always admired AMD GPUs, but if I’m honest, from something of a distance. Testing them in other machines was fine, good even, but when it came to my personal picks I always went Nvidia. Not out of some misguided brand loyalty you understand, but simply because whenever it came down to sizing up the amount of performance I’d get for my money, when it came time to lay down my cash it was always an Nvidia card that made the most sense.
Not so here, as the AMD RX 7800 XT gives the RTX 4070 a serious run for its money in the benchmarks, even outright beating it in many, and for less cash to boot. And so I thought, and I thought, flitting back and forth between the two. Fretting even. Dare I be brave?
And then I bought the AMD card, on offer for just shy of £500 at the time. And let me tell you: For my purposes, it’s been a delight.
Yes, I don’t get to revel in the glory that is DLSS 3. Nor is my new GPU much cop at ray tracing, a bug bear that I foolishly hope will be improved in future with some magical driver update, but let’s face it, won’t. But other than that, my RX 7800 XT has been, for want of a better word, brilliant.
(Image credit: Andy Edser)
This feels like a card designed to hit Nvidia where it hurts. It was designed to sway gamers like me, and I have to say it worked.
I went for a three fan model, and as a result it runs cool and quiet. Because I’d also picked an AMD Ryzen CPU all my primary driver needs are handled by AMD Adrenalin, and I haven’t heard a peep from it since it’s been installed. I remember the bad old days of AMD driver issues, but in my admittedly short term experience I have yet to experience a single problem. I hope fervently that this continues.
Performance? Well yes, the aforementioned ray tracing issues are not great. That being said, I’ve been hammering away at Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty in my spare time, and it’s been running at 1440p ultra settings (broke my own rule, I know) with ray tracing off and no upscaling at mostly over 100 fps. It looks great. It feels great. Do I feel a slight twinge when I see a puddle, and realise it’d be prettier if my card was better at handling ray tracing? Sure. Once or twice.
But ultimately, I want smooth, I want fast, I want hassle-free, and I don’t want to pay through the nose for it. Ultimately I just want to play my gosh-darn games at high frame rates and great image quality without any fuss, and for that the RX 7800 XT has been superb.
I can hear the rumblings already. It’s not really any faster than the RX 6800 XT it replaced. FSR isn’t quite as good as DLSS. The idle power draw, etc, etc. But this feels like a card that was designed to hit Nvidia where it hurts, and steal its lunch. It was designed to sway gamers like me, and I have to say, for me personally, it worked.
I shall not apologise. It’s been great, and each time I sit down to enjoy my games it quietly gets on with the job of delivering them to me, at speed, and it didn’t rampage through my savings account in order to do it. In real-world, day-to-day terms it’s my favourite piece of hardware this year, and yes, I will die on this hill.
I submit my personal rig to the altar of AMD. Please don’t ruin the drivers and let me down. I beg of thee.