AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT Review: Navi Attacks the Mainstream
Begun, the 1080p Wars Have
It’s finally here: mainstream Navi. If you haven’t been keeping track, AMD launched the first Navi GPUs back on July 7 with the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT, graphics cards that started at $349 and $399, respectively. These original RX 5700 Series cards target 1440p gaming in a bracket we might call “upper-midrange” for want of a better term, and they left a large gap in AMD’s Radeon product stack, with older products such as the RX 580 and RX 590 currently occupying the $200-and-under segment.
Interestingly, today’s launch of the Radeon RX 5500 XT – the consumer version of the previously announced OEM-only Radeon RX 5500 – does not fill the $150 gap between the aging RX 500 series and the current RX 5700 series. The starting price for the 4GB version is $169, placing it in direct competition with NVIDIA’s new GTX 1650 SUPER, and there is also an 8GB version that will start at $199 – positioning it against NVIDIA’s GTX 1660 (currently starting at $199 after some timely $10 discounts).
So AMD is essentially replacing those older Pascal-based RX 500-series GPUs with a new Navi GPU that promises to be considerably more power-efficient thanks to its 7nm RDNA architecture. But what about performance? Considering the $169/$199 starting prices for the 4GB/8GB cards does it make sense for AMD to position this new RX 5500 XT as a higher performer than even the RX 590? We’ll just have to test it and find out.
|AMD Navi GPUs|
|RX 5500||RX 5500 XT||RX 5700||RX 5700 XT|
|GPU||Navi 14||Navi 14||Navi 10||Navi 10|
|Base Clock||1500 MHz||1500 MHz||1465 MHz||1605 MHz|
|Game Clock||1670 MHz||1717 MHz||1625 MHz||1755 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1845 MHz||1845 MHz||1725 MHz||1905 MHz|
|Memory||4GB GDDR6||4GB/8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR6|
|Memory Data Rate||14 Gbps||14 Gbps||14 Gbps||14 Gbps|
|Memory Bandwidth||224 GB/s||224 GB/s||448 GB/s||448 GB/s|
|Die Size||158 mm2||158 mm2||251 mm2||251 mm2|
|Process Tech||7 nm||7 nm||7 nm||7 nm|
The SAPPHIRE Radeon RX 5500 XT NITRO PULSE
For this review AMD sent us SAPPHIRE’s 4GB NITRO PULSE version of the new RX 5500 XT, and this is a dual-fan design with some nice aesthetics including a full backplate.
This card is physically very similar to the RX 5700 XT PULSE we checked out earlier this year, and among the strengths of these cards from SAPPHIRE is actually on the software side with their unique TriXX Boost performance feature:
“TriXX Boost enables gamers to run games at a higher FPS by reducing the rendering resolution and up scaling the final output image by integrating Radeon Image Sharpening.”
And now for a look under the hood:
We’ve seen the card, now let’s see how it performed.
Using the freshly re-benchmarked under $250 GPU group from the recent GTX 1650 SUPER review for comparison, we’ll take a look at some 1920×1080 gaming results using DX11, DX12, and Vulkan benchmarks. We’re just looking at 1080p here as this is AMD’s target resolution for this product (and the most common gaming resolution by far).
For the following benchmarks “high” detail settings were used since we are testing the 4GB version of this card, and it’s possible to exceed 4GB even at 1080/ultra settings depending on the game.
|PC Perspective GPU Test Platform|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-9700K|
|Motherboard||GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO|
|Memory||Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4-3200 32GB (16GBx2)|
|Storage||CORSAIR Neutron Series XTi 480GB SSD|
|Power Supply||CORSAIR RM1000x 1000W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit (1903)|
|Drivers||Radeon Software Adrenalin 19.12.1, 19.12.2 (RX 5500 XT)
GeForce Game Ready Driver 441.20
Red Dead Redemption 2
For our first look at the new RX 5500 XT we check out RDR2 using the Vulkan API:
Considering the $169 base price of the 4GB RX 5500 XT, it is actually pretty impressive to see it finish this close to the RX 590 in this first benchmark. When the OEM RX 5500 was presented to the media it was compared to the performance of an RX 480, which led some of us to speculate that it was likely to fall a bit behind the RX 590. Not that a disparity of only 2.2 FPS from a card that’s drawing way less power isn’t a big deal.
As to NVIDIA, they have some competition here. The GTX 1660 has dropped a bit since launch, selling for $199 – $209 in recent weeks, but this $169 graphics card is really close in this test, with the GTX 1660 very close to the RX 590 at these settings. The GTX 1650 SUPER is just 0.9 FPS behind, giving the RX 5500 XT the slimmest of victories between these GPUs in this first test.
Next we look at a demanding DX12 benchmark, with Metro Exodus run at 1080/high preset settings.
With Metro Exodus AMD widens its lead vs. the GTX 1650 SUPER at 1080/high settings, finishing 3.7 FPS ahead. The RX 5500 XT also produced a smoother frame rate than the older RX 590 in this test (check out those 95th and 99th percentile numbers), though the RX 590 did manage to average 0.8 FPS higher overall.
Far Cry 5
For our first look at DirectX 11 performance we tested Far Cry 5 at 1080/high preset settings, leaving the HD textures off since they consume a lot of additional VRAM (again, this is the 4GB variant).
Things are a lot tighter here with Far Cry 5, and it’s particularly interesting to see just how close the RX 5500 XT gets to the GTX 1660 in this test. I continue to be puzzled as to why the 1660 wasn’t discontinued when the 1660 SUPER launched, considering the SUPER was just $10 more for nearly the performance of a GTX 1660 Ti.
Indeed, the GTX 1660 SUPER easily leads in all of these charts, and if you can find it for its $229 starting price is just a tremendous option in the $200 – $250 segment. But with today’s review we’re mostly focused on the $159-$169 price point of the 4GB 5500 XT and NVIDIA’s GTX 1650 SUPER, and while the SUPER card was close once again, it still falls short of the performance of AMD’s new Navi card (by 3.2 FPS in this particular test).
What about performance in another DX11 title just to validate this?
World of Tanks enCore
While a reliable benchmark, even at its “ultra” settings enCore isn’t as hard on a GPU as the games we’ve tested so far. Let’s see how high these FPS averages go with this group:
Ok, a less than stellar showing with this benchmark considering both the GTX 1650 SUPER and the GTX 1060 6GB were faster in this older DX11 test, but still we’re seeing higher performance with the 5500 XT compared to the RX 590 this time.
I haven’t talked about the GTX 1650 too much in this review, but for a card that launched this year at $149 it’s pretty staggering to see just how far behind AMD and NVIDIA’s $159-$169 cards it is now (40% lower frame rates in this test!).
We’ve taken a brief look at what the RX 5500 XT is capable with some 1080p benchmarks, but how efficient is this new Navi 14 GPU?
This was very close, as the RX 5500 XT consumes just a little more power (about 4W) more than the GTX 1650 SUPER and GTX 1660. NVIDIA’s similar power draw at 12nm is a testament to their architectural efficiency, but AMD seems to be favoring clock speeds over low power with these 7nm Navi GPUs. However, when you look at the RX 590 and its 302W (total system) power draw in the same exact test, it’s pretty shocking to see the strides AMD has made with their new RDNA architecture at 7nm.
Thermals and Noise
We always have to touch on this, though it needs to be noted that we were not testing a reference design from AMD here. The Radeon RX 5500 XT is a partner-only launch, and our card was the SAPPHIRE NITRO 4GB. We can certainly share our experiences with this particular card, which were pretty impressive.
We saw load temperatures of 62 C with a hot spot of 75 C, with the memory hitting 66 C (ambient 16.5 C). These temps came with a max fan speed of only 1168 RPM from our test runs, and at this low speed I couldn’t even hear the card (though the room was not silent).
Speaking of noise, we don’t have a decibel reading yet (I will add this) – but it’s somewhere below the room’s noise floor and, as I mentioned, it was inaudible over our CPU fan. In short, temps and noise are quite good, but we don’t have another 5500 XT card to compare this with right now.
With an overall edge in the benchmarks above, the Radeon RX 5500 XT is an exciting new 1080p option for the mainstream segment. It’s not quite as fast as the older RX 590 we tested, but it consumes 100W less power under load, too.
Here’s the benchmark breakdown vs. the GTX 1650 SUPER from our 1080p/high results above:
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (Vulkan): +1.58 %
- Metro Exodus (DX12): +7.66 %
- Far Cry 5 (DX11): +3.74 %
- World of Tanks enCore (DX11): -3.45 %
A mainstream GPU launch like this might not be as exciting as what we like to call “big Navi”, the expected GPU beyond the RX 5700 series’ Navi 10 that will compete with NVIDIA’s high-end offerings, but AMD did address the vital 1080p gaming segment with today’s release of the RX 5500 XT. It’s more than just competitive with the GTX 1650 SUPER, offering better overall performance in these tests and positioning AMD very well going into the new year.
How will NVIDIA respond? It may come down to just how important it is to lead in every benchmark in a given price segment – if you can call the $10 price difference between these cards a “segment”. And, really, they already have: the GTX 1650 SUPER was a needed infusion of performance after the lackluster original GTX 1650, and AMD’s slightly higher price only buys a slight performance advantage as tested.
I’d still love to see a price war. What would happen if NVIDIA dropped the GTX 1650 SUPER to $149, creating a direct replacement for the GTX 1650 at the earlier card’s launch price – and how would AMD respond? Then would we have a price war on our hands? (And we haven’t even mentioned the value-add of various game bundles, which are always a way to help differentiate a graphics card at retail.)
Bottom line, AMD has provided renewed competition in the 1080p gaming segment with the Radeon RX 5500 XT, and even bested NVIDIA’s new GTX 1650 SUPER in this $159-$169 price range (at least for now). Isn’t competition great?