[Note: The following review was written by Arjun]
A few months ago, AMD launched the first graphics cards based on the Navi 10 GPU- the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT. Navi is the biggest generational step forward that AMD’s taken since GCN arrived in 2011. They’re competitive for what they offer, but the high volume, mainstream market calls for cheaper parts.
This is where Navi 14 and the RX 5500 XT come into the picture. Little Navi makes full use of the clock speed and transistor density advantages 7nm provides to deliver RX 590-levels of performance at mere 120W TDP. With a 158mm2 die size, Navi 14 is positively diminutive when compared to the 232mm2 Polaris. To put this into perspective, the TU104 GPU powering NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 Super is nearly four times larger at 545mm2.
The full Navi 14 GPU features 1536 shaders, 96 TMUs, and 32 ROPs. AMD is only providing a fully-enabled Navi 14 to Apple for its MacBook Pros. In the desktop space, the 5500 XT makes do with a slightly cut-down GPU. 22 out of 24 CUs are enabled. This means that we have 1408 shader cores available. You get 88 functional TMUs out of 96, and the ROP count remains unchanged. Thanks to the process node advantage, AMD’s managed to push boost clocks all the way up to 1845 MHz, though in-game clocks average in the 1700-1750 MHz range. You get the 5500 XT in 4GB and 8GB variants. With these kinds of specs, AMD’s gunning for the GeForce GTX 1650 Super. Priced at $169 (Rs. 12,799 plus GST) for the 4GB variant, $10 above the 1650 Super, AMD advertises the RX 5500 XT as delivering better performance. Does it? Let’s have a look at the card.
AMD provided us with a Sapphire Pulse RX 5500XT 4GB for review purposes. This is a solid dual-fan AIB card. Considering how the RX 5500 XT barely draws 130W, it’s honestly more than a little overengineered.
The card features a nice backplate, which is a rarity in this price range. There’s no RGB lighting, though. You get an 8-pin PCI-e connection for power, but this isn’t particularly helpful: Wattman only allows you to increase the power limit by 20 percent. Sapphire does ship the Pulse RX 5500 XT with a higher-than-stock 135 TDP, though.
You get your standard display outputs here, with one HDMI port and 3 DisplayPorts.The upshot to all this is excellent temps and no thermal throttling.
I’ve personally had a spotty experience with AMD’s mainstream cards. I’ve owned both a Radeon RX 480 as well as the RX 580. It feels, at times, as if I spent more time testing custom voltage curves than actually playing games with those cards. Thankfully, the Sapphire 5500 XT runs cool, quiet, and efficient right out of the box.
We tested the Sapphire Pulse RX 5500 XT with a number of games and synthetic benchmarks. I will mention here that stock (and overclocked) benches were run with a +20 percent power limit. Increasing the power limit is not overclocking and it does not cause system instability. Even if you don’t want to overclock your card, this is something we suggest everyone does. Here the specs for our testbed:
- GPU: Sapphire Pulse RX 5500 XT 4 GB (Game Clock: 1737 MHz)
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (Clockspeed: 3.4 GHz)
- RAM: 2x8GB 2933 MHz DDR4
- Motherboard: Gigabyte B450M DS3H
- Power Supply: Coolermaster MWE 600W
AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT 1080p Benchmarks
The RX 5500 XT is a solid step up from the GeForce GTX 1650 Super. At least the 4GB model is. The 8GB variant costs almost as much as the GTX 1660 while offering worse performance. The retail cards are still missing from the Indian market and we’ll update you before they arrive.
A quick note: we tried to benchmark Borderlands 3 with Radeon Boost enabled. However, the feature simply did not appear to work. Despite being enabled in the control panel, it never kicked in in-game: no amount of frantic mouse-waving triggered a resolution drop. We think this could be a quirk of the Adrenalin 2020 driver or something that was broken by a Borderlands 3 hotfix. We will investigate and update you.
Thermals and Noise
I live in a place with high temperatures and humidity. As such, idle temps for most GPUs are quite high. The RX 5500 XT idles at around 55 degrees C, which is par for the course from experience. In-game, however, this was anything but business as usual. Even with an overclock in place, and with 99 percent GPU utilization in FireStrike, the RX 5500 XT kept temps well under 70 degrees. The fans didn’t ramp up very high–we were in the 900 RPM range. The fans were almost completely inaudible.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that Sapphire took a very power efficient GPU and paired it with an overkill cooler. But, regardless, these are wonderful thermals, and in complete contrast to my experience with Polaris. Both my RX 480 and RX 580 had a bad habit of overheating, even when undervolted and with the fans cranked up. With the RX 5500 XT, stock voltage and stock fan settings are enough for a good experience.
We tested out the 4GB RX 5500 XT today. If you’re deciding between the GTX 1650 Super and the RX 5500 XT (4 GB), we’d happily recommend the latter. The 8 GB model is an entirely different question: the vanilla GTX 1660 is only $20 more expensive. And for just $30 more, you get 1070-levels of performance with the GTX 1660 Super. These prices are all stacked very close together.
If you’re building a new PC on a budget, our frank suggestion would be to cut back on some other part, save $60 and get the 1660 Super as opposed to any of these cards. But if you absolutely have to pick a sub-$200 card, the RX 5500 XT is a great value. There is another potential spoiler, though. Stocks are gradually running out but even now, 8 GB AIB RX 580s can be had for as little as $169. If you can get one at the price, it’s a no-brainer: RX 5500 XT levels of performance, with more VRAM. You could wait for the rumored upcoming Radeon RX 5600 XT if you’re looking for more performance.
At the end of the day, the 4GB RX 5500 XT is a great sub-$200 card when taken in isolation. But the number of alternatives in its price range makes it hard to fully recommend.
The AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT starts at Rs.12,990 from Indian retailers.