AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT Challenges Nvidia’s GTX 1650, 1660 GPUs
This has been a hell of a year for AMD, and the company isn’t quite finished yet. So far in 2019, we’ve seen major 7nm refreshes in server and desktop CPUs, a new round of 12nm APUs, and two 7nm Navi-based GPUs that leveraged AMD’s new RDNA architecture to substantially improve performance and power consumption compared to their own previous generation of cards. The Radeon 5700 and 5700 XT haven’t made quite as big of a splash against Nvidia as Ryzen did against Intel in 2019, but they gave AMD a desperately-needed new architecture and an important boost to its overall competitiveness.
Up until now, however, AMD has filled in the lower-end of its product stack with older, Polaris GPUs like the RX 570, 580, and 590. These older 14nm cards have been shipping at fire-sale prices at multiple points in the past year, but it’s time to replace them with something more efficient. Enter the 5500 XT, based on the Navi 14 GPU.
The 5500 XT will debut in two flavors, 4GB and 8GB, based on the same GPU with 22 active compute units, 1408 cores, 88 texture mapping units, and 32 ROPS. The 5500 XT is a 1408:88:32 configuration with a game clock at 1717MHz. The chart below compares the RX 5500 XT against the other major GPUs in AMD’s current lineup.
The key to what keeps the RX 5500 XT competitive with its older cousins is higher clocks. AMD has pushed the card up to a 1607MHz base, 1717MHz game, and 1845MHz boost clock, compared with a maximum 1.2GHz boost clock on the RX 570. That substantial clock increase allows the newer GPU to beat the RX 570 on fill rate and texture rate despite featuring the same number of ROPS and fewer texture units. Similarly, the 128-bit bus on Navi 14 is turbo-charged by the use of GDDR6. 224GB/s of memory bandwidth is more than enough to comfortably feed a 1080p GPU. The 5500 XT is expected to sell at $199 for the 8GB card and $169 for the 4GB variant.
AMD sampled us on the RX 5500 XT, but I have been on vacation before coming down sick with bronchitis and haven’t had time to put the GPU through its paces.
The big goals for AMD with the RX 5500 XT is to breathe new life into an arena that badly needs a refresh. The 14nm Polaris GPUs AMD has tapped for this space are now over three years old, and while AMD has kept them price-competitive, they’re older cards with significantly higher power consumption.
Test results from Anandtech, Hot Hardware, and PCMag show that the 5500 XT does a solid job competing with Nvidia’s GTX 1650 and 1660 cards, but if you were hoping for a blowout win you may be disappointed. Let’s take a look at a few competitive scenarios:
From PCMag, here’s Far Cry Primal, with the RX 5500 XT sharply outperforming the RX 570 at 1080p and 1440p. Overall performance from the 8GB card is well-matched against the GTX 1660. No 4GB 5500 XT results are included here, but overall reviews show that the 4GB card offers somewhat less performance in certain titles while matching the 8GB card in others. Multiple reviewers voiced concerns about the long-term advisability of buying a 4GB card when we’re on the verge of a major uplift in console graphics. I tend to agree — we’re starting to see a gap between 4GB and 8GB cards, even at 1080p, and if you can squeeze out the extra $30 it may be worth stepping up to an 8GB card today.
From Hot Hardware, here’s Shadow of War, showing the Radeon cards maintaining higher frame rates than their GeForce equivalents, but only by a whisker. There’s very little gap between the 5500 XT 8GB and 4GB in this test, and they both narrowly outpace the 1660 Super.
Finally, from Anandtech, performance in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Here, we see a significant gap between the 5500 XT 8GB and 4GB cards, and the GTX 1660 manages to maintain performance leadership over the 5500 XT 8GB. The story on power consumption for these cards is similar to what we saw with the 5700 and 5700 XT in July — they’re an improvement over AMD’s older hardware (Anand has the RX 5500 XT drawing 179W in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, compared to 204W for the RX 570), but they aren’t quite as good as Nvidia (the GTX 1660 and 1650 Super draw 171W and 176W, respectively).
A Solid Hit, But No Homerun
The consensus on the RX 5500 XT is that the GPU is… fine. Anandtech has a handy table that shows how it compares relative to other cards in the same class:
Compared with older cards like the RX 570 and RX 580, the RX 5500 XT is a win as far as performance is concerned, but it’s also somewhat more expensive. These GPUs aren’t a major value play, and the low prices on GPUs like the RX 570 and RX 580 mean closeout volumes on these cards may still be attractive to people. Against Nvidia, the new GPUs are certainly competitive, but they aren’t smash hits. Nobody is sure that buying a 4GB 5500 XT is a smart idea, but the GTX 1660 has a bit of a performance lead over the 5500 XT, while the 5500 XT has more RAM. It’s a bit of a toss-up there as well, in other words.
Hot Hardware writes: “If you’d like to take advantage of AMD’s latest GPU architecture for a mainstream gaming PC, and the cards fall within your budget, they are worthy of consideration,” while PCMag summarizes the situation as: “Judging by our Sapphire sample, this isn’t a bad card, by any means, but to me it falls at launch behind the GTX 1650 Super, in both value and consistency.”
The Sapphire Pulse RX 5500 XT wins particular praise for a whisper-silent experience, though the cooler is large. If you like AMD and you like quiet GPUs, this is definitely a card to check for near-silent frame rates.