AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT review: Bleeding-edge on a budget

It'd be a lot better if it cost $30 less.

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($350 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($395 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($420 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($230 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($130 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($78 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $169 Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT against the identically priced 4GB Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1650 Super, a kitted-out custom model that charges a $10 premium over the GTX 1650 Super’s suggested pricing. We’re also throwing in the 4GB Radeon RX 570, 8GB RX 580, and 8GB RX 590 graphics cards that the Radeon RX 5500 XT replaces, as well as the 6GB EVGA GeForce GTX 1660 XC Ultra to represent the GTX 1660 series, which now starts at $200. Be sure to read our guide to the best graphics cards for PC gaming for a more holistic look at the GPU landscape.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled, and temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) enabled to push these cards to their limits. If anything differs from that, we’ll mention it. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

We tested the Sapphire Radeon RX 5500 XT using its default Performance BIOS, rather than its secondary Quiet BIOS that increases efficiency and lowers fan speeds at the cost of performance. We’re also including benchmarks for each game that show the results of using the Trixx Boost utility with resolution downscaling set to 90 percent, as discussed in our introduction of the Pulse’s unique features.

Gaming performance benchmarks

Division 2

The Division 2 is one of the best looter-shooters ever created. The luscious visuals generated by Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine make it even easier to get lost in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. The built-in benchmark cycles through four “zones” to test an array of environments. We test with the DirectX 12 renderer enabled; it provides better performance across-the-board than the DX11 renderer, but requires Windows 10. (The Radeon RX 570 refused to complete a full benchmark run at 1440p resolution, crashing to the desktop repeatedly.)

d2 Brad Chacos/IDG

The Radeon RX 5500 XT is roughly as fast as the GTX 1650 Super, and the older Radeon RX 580—at least at the 1080p resolution the card’s intended for. Performance plummets at 1440p resolution. Sapphire’s Trixx Boost technology can propel the Pulse RX 5500 XT past even the $200 GTX 1660 with scaling set to 90 percent.

Far Cry: New Dawn

Another Ubisoft title, Far Cry: New Dawn drags Far Cry 5’s wonderful gameplay into a post-apocalyptic future of its own, though this vision is a lot more bombastic—and pink—than The Division 2’s bleak setting. The game runs on the latest version of the long-running Dunia engine, and it’s slightly more strenuous than Far Cry 5’s built-in benchmark.

fcnd Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD’s latest and greatest draws even with the Radeon RX 590 here, rather than the RX 580, and again ties with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1650 Super. Trixx Boost offers much less benefit at 1080p resolution here, though it pushes the game past the hallowed 60-fps standard when active at 1440p resolution.

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • AMD's Radeon RX 5500 XT brings its next-gen navi GPU architecture to the masses, with mixed results. It's a good budget gaming option that's priced slightly too high.

    Pros

    • Good 1080p gaming performance
    • Fast GDDR6 VRAM, PCIe 4.0 support
    • Great power efficiency
    • Bundled with Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Edition and 3 months of Xbox Game pass
    • Sapphire's cooler is whisper quiet and very cool
    • Sapphire Pulse has great features for the price
    • Trixx Boost software uses smart downscaling for FPS gains

    Cons

    • Doesn't outperform RX 580 or GTX 1650 Super in many games
    • Costs more than GTX 1650 Super and 8GB RX 580
    • Some cutting-edge Navi features aren't beneficial in budget GPUs
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