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When it comes to video cards, not much has changed in the last three years for people using 1080p 60Hz monitors. The RX 480 debuted in 2016, and it proved more than enough for just about any game running at that resolution. And since most people run a 1080p60 display, it’s easy to point people to the RX 480 (or the slightly updated RX 500-series). But now AMD and Nvidia are both shaking up this category. And with the AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT and the Nvidia GTX 1650 Super, we can begin to leave those older cards in the past.
The Radeon RX 5500 XT is launching this month in $170 4GB and $200 8GB configurations. That puts it head-to-head with Nvidia’s 1650 Super, which you can get starting at $160. And at those prices, these cards are aiming at a mainstream, entry-level market.
But looking specifically at the 5500 XT, it’s an upgrade over recent, comparable cards. That’s thanks in large part to its much more energy-efficient 7nm design process as well as its fast GDDR6 memory. But it’s not necessarily the 1080p gaming king due to its price.
I tested the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB.
What you’ll like
Great for 1080p gaming
To reiterate, it’s tough to go wrong in the 1080p60 space right now when choosing a GPU. An RX 480 and its successors are still going to work great. The 1650 and 1650 Super are also more than powerful enough for almost any game. But the RX 5500 XT is still pushing things forward.
And it’s going to deliver what you are paying for. In my testing, the 5500XT was able to surpass an average of 60 frames per second at 1080p and high/ultra settings in many of the most recent games.
Here’s the rig I tested on:
- AsRock X570 Taichi
- Ryzen R7 3700X
- NZXT Kraken X62 CPU cooler
- 16GB HyperX Predator CL16 memory at 3600MHz
- Samsung 970 Evo 500GB SSD
- EVGA 1000W PSU
For this testing, I’m not necessarily looking for the raw capability of the RX 5500 XT 4GB. I’m trying to determine its real-world performance.
Here are the results for the average frames per second in the following games:
- Grand Theft Auto V (ultra): 105
- Resident Evil 2 (maxed out): 71
- Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (high on DX12): 71
- The Witcher 3 (high): 73
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (high): 61
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (high): 65
Most games are going to run at high or ultra with no issues on the RX 5500 XT. You may need to drop some settings to maintain a smoother framerate in the most demanding games, however. Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey both averaged over 60fps, but they also saw some significant drops. So you may end up playing those games on medium — or pair the card with a FreeSync monitor to smooth out noticeably variable frame rates.
Much more energy efficient than previous 1080p AMD cards
The RX 5500 XT is 30% more energy efficient than the RX 480, according to AMD. And that’s exactly what you would expect from the smaller 7nm manufacturing process. But despite using significantly less wattage, the card is about 12% more powerful than an RX480. That is a massive improvement in the performance-per-watt category.
This makes the RX 5500 XT ideal for energy-conscious gamers. If you play a lot of games and don’t want to see that reflected in your power bill, this is a smart option.
Excellent for quiet builds
That energy efficiency has other benefits. For example, the Sapphire card I tested is extremely quiet. The 7nm process is obviously producing less excess heat, and the GPU’s coolers are easily dealing with that.
For me, this makes the 5500XT an ideal video card for a media PC or a gaming PC to put in your living room next to your TV and where you sit. You can pop it into a small chassis, and you’ll never even hear it.
What you won’t like
It’s slightly too expensive
In my comparison testing, the RX 5500 XT loses some of its luster. Yes, it’s more energy efficient and quieter than previous-generation AMD cards. But the Nvidia 1650 and 1650 Super both use even less energy.
And when it comes to performance, the RX 5500 XT is about on par with the less expensive 1650 Super. In some games, the 5500 XT is slower than an RX 580 or standard 1650. That begins to break down the price comparison for AMD.
It’s not that the RX 5500 XT is a bad deal at $170. But it’s far from a slam dunk. If you are in this section of the market and you want to feel like you’re getting the best bang-for-your-buck, it’s possible that may end up being a 1650 Super or even an overclocked RX 580 (as long as you don’t mind giving up some efficiency).
If you’re in the market for a new, budget-friendly PC, the RX 5500 XT is definitely one of the cards you should consider. But it is not the obvious choice. You’ll want to shop around and get the deal that’s best for you. It’s worth noting, however, that AMD’s card comes with Monster Hunter: World and 3 months of Xbox Game Pass at no additional charge.
I think it’s fair for AMD to argue that anyone gaming at 1080p60 doesn’t need much more power than what the RX 580 already deliver. And as a more energy efficient, quieter version of what we already had, the 5500 XT is wonderful. I just wish it was at least $20 less expensive.
The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT is shipping this month for $170. AMD provided a sample unit for the purpose of this review.
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