Review of AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT

You will be forgiven for admiring the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT. A brand new RDNA 2 graphics card with ray tracing support that is easy to find in stock and available at a relatively affordable price of £ 200 / $ 230? In the midst of a long-running shortage of components, exacerbated by all sorts of price nonsense, it would be understandable if PC owners suffering from upgrades went for it as my cat searches for packages unattended. Especially if they enjoy playing 1080p.

Unfortunately, the RX 6500 XT is not just a low-end version that is inferior to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 (one of the best graphics cards and perhaps the best for budget builds). It’s a stunningly slow, sometimes surprisingly designed GPU as a whole; instead of providing a long-overdue relief to a truly cunning hardware market, in the end it’s more like trying to just sell any old second-rate kit to an audience that desperately wants something. anything it is new and somewhat affordable.

On the model I tested, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6500 XT, Sapphire at least tried to increase the clock speed through factory overclocking: the maximum gain increased from the standard 2815 MHz to 2815 MHz, while the most achievable “clock speed” increased from the standard 2610 MHz to 2685 MHz.They are also equipped with a quiet but efficient cooler that does not allow the core temperature under load to exceed 61 ° C.

Even standard clock speeds, in fairness, are incredibly high by any GPU standards. They are simply balanced by a relatively small number of cores, 1014, and a meager 4 GB of GDDR6 memory.

It’s half the RTX 3050 video memory, and is unlikely to benefit the RX 6500 XT for games with better textures or for 1440p raids. AMD would probably point out that the RTX 3050 costs a bit more, which is true: the cheapest models I’ve found start at £ 299, and most cost somewhere between £ 300 and £ 400. That doesn’t change the way you’re trying to do with 4GB – no more than the Radeon RX 550 from 2017! – plays with fire, as far as the requirements of modern equipment are concerned.

The RX 6500 XT also doesn’t help itself by using only the PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, which means it can only take advantage of four PCIe lanes, despite being installed in an x16 slot (16 lanes) on the motherboard. The RTX 3050 also doesn’t make full use of bandwidth using the PCIe 4.0 x8 interface, but between that and its 8GB of VRAM it’s less susceptible to the game’s textures getting stuck in a bottleneck. And the performance of the RX 6500 XT will deteriorate – potentially much worse – if you install it in an older system that still relies on PCIe 3.0.

First let’s see how it works in a more favorable environment, namely in our PCIe 4.0-based test setup (specifications on the right). To pay tribute to the RX 6500 XT, it is not capable of smooth frame rates: at 1080p and with Ultra quality settings, Hitman 3 managed an average of 92 frames per second in the Dubai benchmark and 72 frames per second in the Dubai benchmark. 1440p was doable here as well, with 57 frames per second in Dubai and 49 frames per second in Dartmoor – again at Ultra settings.

Forza Horizon 4 the built-in test also reached 60 frames per second when running the Ultra settings, and that dropped to just 49 frames per second at 1440p. Horizon Zero Dawn failed to reach 60 frames at 1080p / Ultimate, although its result was close to 54 frames per second. Attracting FSR, AMD’s zoom technology, has also pushed the average 1440p / Ultimate HZD speed from 40 frames per second to 50 frames per second.

However, there are two problems with these results. First, they are uniformly lower than the RTX 3050 under identical conditions, and only the test Hitman 3 1080p Dubai is approaching (the Nvidia card got 95 frames per second). Otherwise, it’s clear who is the king of 1080p, with the RTX 3050 averaging 67 frames per second in HZD, 86 frames per second in the Hitman 3 Dartmoor test and 119 frames per second in Forza Horizon 4. Another frame and that’s it would be twice the effort of the RX 6500 XT.

AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card running inside a PC.

The second problem is that results like the Forza and Hitman 3 are in the minority: even at 1080p, most games will fight beyond 60 frames per second without requiring sacrifices of quality. Shadow of the Tomb Raider these days it’s getting a bit, but even that has only reached 57 frames per second when combining the highest setting and the most basic SMAA option. At 1440p it dropped to 34 frames per second. And though Total War: Three Kingdoms can pump 87 frames per second in its Battle benchmark for average quality, if when trying to use ultra quality, it drops to 38 frames per second. And again, this is only at 1080p – try upgrading to 1440p, and these 38 frames per second will be 20 frames per second.

Final Fantasy XV there was another that matched 60 frames per second at 1080p, but at the highest graphics setting it could only average 50 frames per second. This setting also does not include the intricate technology for TurfEffects grass and the HairWorks boyband class technology: enabling them reduces the speed to 33 frames per second. Of course, the RTX 3050 with these applications averaged only 39 frames per second, but without them you could do with a noticeably smoother 69 frames per second. It was much better for 1440p: with this resolution, the RX 6500 XT produced only 31 frames per second without TurfEffects and HairWorks and 23 frames per second with them.

Return to 1080p, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at least you could play at your ultra-high settings, averaging 35 frames per second; the decline to high quality also yielded 79 frames per second. Newer, supposedly more demanding Assassin’s Creed Valhalla actually got a bit of the best 39 frames per second in Ultra High quality, although it’s still not very impressive for the new 2022 graphics card. The move to High also yielded smaller benefits than the Odyssey, ultimately averaging 43 frames per second.

The display goes to the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT video card

Delivered RX 6500 XT Metro Exodus in similar channels, averaging 39 frames per second on Ultra settings and requires a drop down to normal for 70 frames per second. An attempt to run Ultra settings in 1440p also led to the worst GPU performance, producing only 10 frames per second: a fraction of 37 frames per second in the RTX 3050. There was a struggle nearby Watch Dogs Legionwhich in 1080p can control 59 frames per second at High, but only 30 frames per second at Ultra. Also make 22 frames per second for Ultra at 1440p.

Elden’s Ring somewhat reduced the gap between the RX 6500 XT and RTX 3050: 50 frames per second AMD card at 1080p / maximum is not far behind the 56 frames per second in Nvidia’s GPU. That’s still more than a 10% advantage in favor of the RTX 3050, mind you, and the RX 6500 XT 1440p / maximum 37 frames per second wasn’t as smooth as 42 frames per second in the RTX 3050.

If you’ve been very generous, you might say that the RX 6500 XT can never technically achieve playback performance at 1080p maximum quality – but whether you’re spending £ 200 on a new GPU or £ 1,200, I don’t think that “just above 30 frames per second” is the level you should aim for. Even the relatively older GeForce GTX 1060 may be more ahead of this card in 1080p, and the GTX 1660 will simply confuse it – the latter is available for around £ 260.

What’s more, one of the supposed upgrades of the RX 6500 XT to RX 5500 XT – support for ray tracing – does more harm than good. There just isn’t enough power to handle the extra strain of all these realistic lighting and shadow effects: the addition of superspeed shadows in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, in 1080p with the highest preset, dragged its initial average of 57fps to an unbearable 20fps. To simply rise to 37 frames per second, it took a reduction in quality to medium, as well as ray tracing.

Close-up of a 6-pin PSU connector on an AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT video card.

Metro Exodus also failed to cope with the beams, curling up to 13 frames per second after adding RT effects in superspecies to the overall Ultra preset. Reducing the settings without tracing the rays to compensate for the difference would be an option in any game with RT support, but it makes the game worse, primarily depriving it of the ability to enable these effects.

The RTX 3050 also feels the weight of ray tracing, and could definitely only handle them in my testing by increasing the DLSS. But there is nothing else in the RX 6500 XT, and even if FSR was supported in Metro Exodus (this is not the case), its simple spatial magnification rarely looks as sharp and clean as DLSS based on artificial intelligence. The Radeon Super Resolution is an alternative, though it doesn’t actually do anything that Nvidia Image Scaling doesn’t for GeForce cards. And although FSR is supported in some games that also do not support DLSS, this is not even a reason to choose an AMD graphics card, because FSR works great on Nvidia hardware.

All this, in fact, makes the lower cost of the RX 6500 XT its main attractive quality. I understand – time is tough for PC build prices, and the extra £ 100 that the RTX 3050 costs can easily switch to a more spacious SSD or one of the better processors. But if you want to upgrade an existing system in which the CPU / motherboard combination still only supports PCIe 3.0, you won’t get your money’s worth.

The AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT video card is attached to the open PC case.

After I got into the BIOS of my test PC to use PCIe 3.0 instead, I re-ran a few game tests and found the often nasty version of PCIe 4.0. Metro Exodus was the only one to go almost whole, averaging 37 frames per second at 1080p / Ultra – just 1 frame per second. Horizon Zero Dawn, on the other hand, stumbled from 54 frames per second at 1080p / Ultimate to 46 frames per second, a noticeable drop in smoothness.

Watch Dogs Legion, already on the verge of not being able to play in 1080p / Ultra, dropped from 30 frames per second with PCIe 4.0 to 24 frames per second with PCIe 3.0. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at 1080p / Ultimate / SMAA, dropped from 57 frames per second to 49 frames per second, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla got worse: his average 39 frames per second in Ultra High quality was halved to 19 frames per second .

Even very powerful graphics cards can lose 1-5% of their frame rate when using much lower PCIe 3.0 bandwidth, but usually this is not like the huge drops we see here. This unique combination of meager VRAM memory and minimal use of the PCIe line causes problems in the RX 6500 XT: with such a small amount of memory to run, the PCIe bus should take up space, but even on the 4.0 interface, which also lacks bandwidth. Apply the same pressure to the naturally slower PCIe 3.0 interface, and performance suffers even more.

You could maybe take a few shots back, pairing the RX 6500 XT with a good AMD Ryzen processor such as the Ryzen 5 5600X: this will enable Smart Access Memory RDNA 2 for better VRAM performance. But the impact of SAM varies by game, and in any case it would not be enough to make a serious decline caused by PCIe 3.0, as in Valhalla – and it does not put this card on par with the RTX 3050. I know , GPU prices suck, and that’s been the case for years, but you can do better than the RX 6500 XT, even if it means trawling the used market.

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