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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GTA V

We’re going to wrap things up with a game that isn’t really a visual barn-burner, but still tops the Steam charts day in and day out. We test Grand Theft Auto V ($30 on Humble) with all options turned to Very High, all Advanced Graphics options except extended shadows enabled, and FXAA. GTA V runs on the RAGE engine and has received substantial updates since its initial launch.

gtav Brad Chacos/IDG

While GTA V has traditionally been a big win for Nvidia GPUs, it loves AMD’s new Navi architecture. The Radeon RX 5500 XT shines here, keeping pace with the $200 GTX 1660, and surpassing it with Sapphire’s Trixx Boost active.

Power draw, thermals, and noise

We test power draw by looping the F1 2018 benchmark for about 20 minutes after we’ve benchmarked everything else and noting the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter. The initial part of the race, where all competing cars are onscreen simultaneously, tends to be the most demanding portion. (Note that we did not retest power with Trixx Boost active.)

power Brad Chacos/IDG

AMD’s move to 7nm, GDDR6, and the new RDNA architecture paid off. While Radeon GPUs have been hot and power-hungry compared to their GeForce rivals for several years running, the Radeon RX 5500 XT draws less energy than the GTX 1650 Super. (It’s also less powerful, however.)

The real question is how the cooler design handles all that power and the heat this beastly overclock throws off. The answer? Exceptionally. We test thermals by leaving GPU-Z open during the F1 2018 five-lap power draw test, noting the highest maximum temperature at the end. (Note that we did not retest temperatures with Trixx Boost active.)

temps Brad Chacos/IDG

Sapphire’s Pulse isn’t as ludicrously chilly as the monstrous ROG Strix cooler on the GTX 1650 Super, but don’t let that fool you: This is a damned good design. The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT stays at 63 degrees Celsius or below, an outstanding result for an affordable cooling solution. Better yet, it’s virtually silent even with the default Performance BIOS. Thanks to the idle fan stop feature, it’s literally silent on the desktop. The Pulse makes AMD’s power-efficient GPU even better with a fine custom cooler.

Next page: Should you buy the AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT?

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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