AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT review

You’d be forgiven for getting excited in regards to the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT. A model new RDNA 2 graphics card, with ray tracing help, that’s each simple to search out in inventory and accessible at a relatively approachable £200 / $230? Within the midst of a years-long parts scarcity, exacerbated by all method of price-gouging bollocks, it’d be solely comprehensible if upgrade-starved PC house owners went for this like my cat goes for unattended crisp packets. Particularly in the event that they’re completely satisfied to stay to enjoying at 1080p.

Alas, the RX 6500 XT isn’t simply an inferior low-end choice to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 (among the finest graphics playing cards, and maybe the outright greatest for finances builds proper now). It’s an offputtingly gradual, generally bizarrely-designed GPU on the whole; as a substitute of offering long-overdue aid to a really fudged {hardware} market, it finally ends up feeling like extra an try to simply promote any previous second-rate equipment to an viewers that’s been left determined for one thing, something that’s new and considerably reasonably priced.

On the mannequin I’ve examined, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6500 XT, Sapphire have a minimum of tried to perk up the clock speeds with manufacturing unit overclocks: the utmost increase frequency is up from the inventory 2815MHz to 2815MHz, whereas the extra generally achievable ‘Recreation clock’ velocity is up from the inventory 2610MHz to 2685MHz. They’ve additionally fitted a quiet but efficient cooler, which retains the core temps from reaching above 61°c below load.

Even the inventory clock speeds are, in equity, extremely excessive by any GPU requirements. It’s simply that they’re balanced by a comparatively low variety of cores, 1014, in addition to the piddly 4GB of GDDR6 reminiscence.

That’s half of the RTX 3050’s VRAM, and hardly places the RX 6500 XT in good stead for video games with higher-quality textures, or for forays into 1440p. AMD would doubtless level out that the RTX 3050 prices a good bit extra, which is true: the most cost effective fashions I’ve discovered begin at £299, with most touchdown someplace between £300 and £400. That doesn’t change how making an attempt to get by with 4GB – not more than the Radeon RX 550 from 2017! – is enjoying with hearth, so far as fashionable {hardware} calls for are involved.

An AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card, showing its backplate.

The RX 6500 XT additionally doesn’t assist itself by solely utilizing a PCIe 4.0 x4 interface, that means it will probably solely make the most of 4 PCIe lanes regardless of becoming into an x16 (16 lanes) slot on the motherboard. The RTX 3050 doesn’t make full use of the bandwidth both, utilizing a PCIe 4.0 x8 interface, however between this and its 8GB of VRAM it’s much less prone to sport textures getting caught in a bottleneck. And the RX 6500 XT’s efficiency will get worse – doubtlessly lots worse – when you set up it in an older system that’s nonetheless counting on PCIe 3.0.

First, although, let’s see the way it runs in additional beneficial situations, particularly our PCIe 4.0-based check rig (specs on the appropriate). To offer the RX 6500 XT some credit score, it’s not incapable of clean body charges: at 1080p and with Extremely high quality settings, Hitman 3 managed a 92fps common in its Dubai benchmark and 72fps in its Dubai benchmark. 1440p was doable right here too, with 57fps in Dubai and 49fps in Dartmoor – once more on Extremely settings.

Forza Horizon 4’s built-in benchmark landed dead-on 60fps when operating Extremely settings as effectively, and this solely dropped to a playable 49fps at 1440p. Horizon Zero Daybreak couldn’t fairly make it to 60fps at 1080p/Final, although its 54fps outcome got here shut. Participating FSR, AMD’s upscaling tech, additionally pushed HZD’s 1440p/Final common from 40fps as much as 50fps.

There are, nonetheless, two issues with these outcomes. The primary is that they’re uniformly decrease than what the RTX 3050 produced in equivalent situations, with solely the Hitman 3 1080p Dubai benchmark coming shut (Nvidia’s card scored 95fps). In any other case, it’s clear which is the 1080p king, with the RTX 3050 averaging 67fps in HZD, 86fps within the Hitman 3 Dartmoor check and 119fps in Forza Horizon 4. Another body and that’d be double the RX 6500 XT’s effort.

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

The second downside is that outcomes like these of Forza and Hitman 3 are in a minority: even at 1080p, most video games will battle to recover from the 60fps line with out demanding high quality sacrifices. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is getting on a bit nowadays, however even this solely made it to 57fps on a mix of the Highest preset and essentially the most primary SMAA choice. At 1440p, this plummeted to 34fps. And though Complete Battle: Three Kingdoms might pump out 87fps in its Battle benchmark on Medium high quality, making an attempt to make use of Extremely high quality sees it droop to 38fps. And once more, that’s simply at 1080p – attempt to improve to 1440p, and that 38fps turns into 20fps.

Last Fantasy XV was one other to come back inside greedy distance of 60fps at 1080p, however on its Highest graphics preset it might solely common 50fps. This setting doesn’t embody the flamboyant TurfEffects grass and boyband-grade HairWorks tech both: turning these on slapped it all the way down to 33fps. Granted, the RTX 3050 solely averaged 39fps with these extras, however with out them might handle a visibly smoother 69fps. It was significantly better for 1440p too: at this decision, the RX 6500 XT produced simply 31fps with out TurfEffects and HairWorks, and 23fps with them.

Again on 1080p, Murderer’s Creed Odyssey was a minimum of playable on its Extremely Excessive settings, averaging 35fps; dropping to Prime quality additionally produced a slick 79fps. The newer, ostensibly extra demanding Murderer’s Creed Valhalla really received a barely higher 39fps on Extremely Prime quality, although that’s nonetheless not terribly spectacular for a brand new graphics card in 2022. Switching to Excessive supplied smaller features than Odyssey too, finally averaging a so-so 43fps.

The display outputs on an AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card

The RX 6500 XT put Metro Exodus in comparable straits, averaging 39fps on Extremely settings and needing a drop all the way down to Regular for 70fps. Attempting to run Extremely settings at 1440p additionally produced the GPU’s worst exhibiting but, sputtering out simply 10fps: a fraction of the RTX 3050’s 37fps. Subsequent to battle was Watch Canine Legion, which at 1080p might handle 59fps on Excessive, however solely 30fps on Extremely. Make that 22fps for Extremely on 1440p, as effectively.

Elden Ring did shut the hole between the RX 6500 XT and the RTX 3050, considerably: the AMD card’s 50fps at 1080p/Most wasn’t painfully far behind the Nvidia GPU’s 56fps. That’s nonetheless greater than a ten% benefit within the RTX 3050’s favour, thoughts, and the RX 6500 XT’s 1440p/Most results of 37fps wasn’t as clean because the RTX 3050’s 42fps.

If you happen to have been being profoundly beneficiant, you could possibly say the RX 6500 XT by no means technically fails to achieve playable efficiency at max-quality 1080p – however whether or not you’re spending £200 on a brand new GPU or £1200, I don’t suppose “simply above 30fps” is the extent you must aspire to. Even the comparatively geriatric GeForce GTX 1060 can extra outpace this card at 1080p, and the GTX 1660 will downright embarrass it – the latter being accessible for about £260.

What’s extra, one of many RX 6500 XT’s supposed upgrades on the RX 5500 XT – ray tracing help – hurts greater than it helps. There’s merely not sufficient energy right here to deal with the additional pressure of all these reasonable lighting and shadow results: including Extremely-quality ray traced shadows to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, at 1080p with the Highest preset, dragged its unique 57fps common all the way down to an untenable 20fps. It took dropping to Medium high quality, plus Medium ray tracing, to easily climb again as much as 37fps.

A close-up of the 6-pin PSU connector on an AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card.

Metro Exodus couldn’t address the rays both, collapsing to 13fps after including Extremely-quality RT results to the final Extremely preset. Reducing the non-ray tracing settings to make up the distinction will an choice in any RT-supportive sport, however then doing so makes the sport uglier, defeating the purpose of enabling these results within the first place.

The RTX 3050 additionally feels the load of ray tracing, and to make certain, might solely actually deal with them in my testing with assistance from DLSS upscaling. However that’s one thing else the RX 6500 XT doesn’t have, and even when FSR was supported in Metro Exodus (it isn’t), its easy spatial upscaling not often appears as sharp and clear because the AI-powered DLSS. Radeon Tremendous Decision is an alternate, although it doesn’t actually do something that Nvidia Picture Scaling doesn’t for GeForce playing cards. And though FSR is supported in some video games that don’t additionally help DLSS, that’s not even a purpose to decide on an AMD graphics card, as a result of FSR works advantageous on Nvidia {hardware} too.

This all basically leaves the RX 6500 XT’s cheaper price as its primary interesting high quality. I get it – instances are robust for PC construct costs, and the additional £100 that an RTX 3050 would value might simply go in the direction of a extra spacious SSD or among the finest CPUs. However when you’re trying to improve an current system, one during which the CPU/motherboard mixture nonetheless solely helps PCIe 3.0, you received’t be getting your cash’s value.

The AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card propped against an open PC case.

After tinkering with my check PC’s BIOS to make use of PCIe 3.0 as a substitute, I re-ran a number of video games benchmarks, and located an usually nasty downgrade from PCIe 4.0. Metro Exodus was the one one to get away virtually unscathed, averaging 37fps at 1080p/Extremely – only a 1fps drop. Horizon Zero Daybreak, then again, stumbled from 54fps on 1080p/Final to 46fps, a noticeable drop in smoothness.

Watch Canine Legion, already on the precipice of unplayability at 1080p/Extremely, sank from 30fps with PCIe 4.0 to simply 24fps with PCIe 3.0. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, on 1080p/Final/SMAA, dropped from 57fps to 49fps, with Murderer’s Creed Valhalla getting the worst of it: its 39fps common on Extremely Prime quality received chopped in half to 19fps.

Even very highly effective graphics playing cards can lose 1-5% of their body charges when utilizing PCIe 3.0’s a lot decrease bandwidth, nevertheless it’s often nothing like the large drops we will see right here. It’s the RX 6500 XT’s distinctive mixture of meagre VRAM and minimal PCIe lane utilization that will get it in bother: with so little reminiscence to work with, the PCIe bus must take up the slack, however even on a 4.0 interface that’s missing in bandwidth too. Apply the identical stress to a naturally slower PCIe 3.0 interface, and efficiency suffers much more.

You possibly can possibly claw a number of frames again by pairing the RX 6500 XT with an excellent AMD Ryzen CPU, just like the Ryzen 5 5600X: this is able to allow RDNA 2’s Sensible Entry Reminiscence function for higher VRAM efficiency. However SAM’s impression varies by video games, and in any case, it wouldn’t be sufficient to make up a critical PCIe 3.0-induced dip like that of Valhalla – nor wouldn’t it put this card on equal phrases with the RTX 3050. I do know, GPU costs suck and have accomplished for years, however you are able to do higher than the RX 6500 XT even when it means trawling the used market.

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