Updated | It's all AiBs now: AMD reportedly discontinuing production of Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, RX 6900 XT reference design cards
In response to a query, AMD's Scott Herkelmann has confirmed on Twitter that the reference design builds are being extended indefinitely due to popular demand (tweet embedded below).
We've just officially extended the reference design builds indefinitely due to popular demand. Thanks for the feedback.— Scott Herkelman (@sherkelman) December 9, 2020
Well, that was quite short-lived. As if prospective buyers not being able to get their hands on new AMD cards isn't enough, we are now getting to know that the production of new reference Radeon RX 6000 series cards will be discontinued.
French publication Cowcotland is reporting that Made by AMD (MBA) reference designs of the Radeon RX 6800, RX 6800 XT, and RX 6900 XT will no longer be made. A machine-translated excerpt from the report reads,
...the RX 6900 XT MBA, therefore Made By AMD, is already at the end of its life even though the latter has not yet been launched. Just like the RX 6800 MBA and the RX 6800 XT MBA, production has been one shot for this card. A brand told us that they only have about forty cards for France, not one more. Suffice to say once again that it's just nada, that tchi, walou, skin of zob, and that those who manage to have an RX 6900 XT MBA will have a real collector in their hands."
Though the translation reads as end-of-life (EOL) for the RX 6900 XT MBA, it actually means that the production is being discontinued. EOL would mean that the card is past the support period, which is obviously not applicable in this case.
What is happening here is that AMD has produced only a limited number of MBA cards, intended for system integrators, reviewers, and initial store inventory. Once these cards, those in circulation or the ones being currently produced, are exhausted, there will be no more reference designs available on the market.
In fact, several retailers have been informed by AMD that the RX 6000 series reference cards are a "one-off" release and won't be restocked. AMD's Scott Herkelmann also seemed to indicate the same last month, when he replied to a tweet that AMD reference cards will be made through early 2021.
While this indeed helps add-in board (AiB) partners to have a more predictable supply of GPUs, not being able to buy a reference design card can be irksome for many. Moreover, this generation of cards actually have a much better cooling solution with triple axial fans compared to the blower fan design of the RX 5700 XT.
The other concern in not having reference designs is that it may not be possible to get AiB cards at AMD MSRP prices. Of course, the slight premium that AIB cards command will go into even better cooling, possibly better binning, OC capabilities, and even RGB bling, but those who have been eagerly anticipating an US$649 RX 6800 XT MBA or an US$999 RX 6900 XT MBA may have no option but to opt for custom cards from now on.
For perspective, do note that NVIDIA's RTX 30 series Founders Edition cards are also not reference designs but custom boards. So, as long as AMD's AiBs are able to improve their supplies and at least bring the prices close to MSRP, prospective buyers need not really be concerned.
That being said, we are also hearing that AMD is working with AiBs to ensure the latter's cards match the reference MSRP pricing. However, it will take time for AiB prices to settle down to that level owing to component supply constraints due to the ongoing pandemic. The added logistics costs at a time when the first COVID-19 vaccines are about to be shipped in the coming months are also likely to contribute to higher retail prices.