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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Strange Brigade

Strange Brigade ($50 on Humble) is a cooperative third-person shooter where a team of adventurers blasts through hordes of mythological enemies. It’s a technological showcase, built around the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies and infused with features like HDR support and the ability to toggle asynchronous compute on and off. It uses Rebellion’s custom Azure engine. We test the DX12 renderer with async compute off.

strange brigade Brad Chacos/IDG

Here’s an interesting anomaly: Strange Brigade performs much better on all the older Polaris GPUs than the newer Radeon RX 5500 XT and GTX 1650 Super. The modern models draw even with the Radeon RX 570’s performance—a card you can often find on sale for $120, and sometimes less. The game seemingly likes larger memory capacities. Either way, Trixx Boost helps the Pulse make up the lost ground.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Humble) concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with DX12. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG

The Radeon RX 5500 XT is slower than the GTX 1650 Super here, as well as the ancient Radeon RX 580. It’s much slower than the Radeon RX 590. Again, Trixx Boost helps the Pulse make up some of the difference, but it’s a discouraging result for AMD’s new card—especially at 1440p resolution.

Ghost Recon Wildlands

If you crank all the graphics options up to 11, like we do for these tests, Ghost Recon Wildlands ($50 on Humble) and its AnvilNext 2.0 engine absolutely melt GPUs, even with a sequel due later this year. It’s by far the most strenuous game in our suite, even with newer stunners like Division 2 in the mix. Sequel Ghost Recon Breakpoint recently launched but has been receiving frequent tweaks, so we haven’t swapped over to it for our testing yet.

grw Brad Chacos/IDG

Ghost Recon’s Ultra graphics preset hammers budget graphics cards. The Radeon RX 5500 XT turns in another disappointing result here, with performance falling between the Radeon RX 570 and RX 580, all these years later. Even with Trixx Boost active, the Pulse can’t keep up with the GeForce GTX 1650 Super.

F1 2018

The latest in a long line of successful games, F1 2018 ($60 on Humble) is a gem to test, supplying a wide array of both graphical and benchmarking options—making it a much more reliable (and fun) option that the Forza series. It’s built on the fourth version of Codemasters’ buttery-smooth Ego game engine. We test two laps on the Australia course, with clear skies.

f1 2018 Brad Chacos/IDG

The Radeon RX 5500 XT puts in a good showing here, albeit one roughly on a par with the Radeon RX 590. The GTX 1650 Super just puts in a better one.

Next page: Gaming, power, and thermal benchmarks

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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