Radeon RX 6500 XT: For entry-level gamers, the crumbs

Board makes a lot of savings and ends up barely having anything to offer

We currently have the video card market divided into three segments: the high-end, with cards like the RTX 3080 and RX 6800; the mid-range, starting with graphics chips like the RTX 3060 and RX 6600; and below that a segment that can only be classified as “Scorched Earth”. When you lower the budget from R$ 3,500, you will only find rubble and old signs.

So even with the very low specs of the RX 6500 XT announced by AMD, I was still excited. At least it was a launch in a segment that the last relevant novelty was in 2019, with the GTX 1650. Almost three years later, something is better than nothing, right? Because the RX 6500 XT manages to be the best entry-level graphics card released in the last three years and still be pretty bad.

No releases since 2019, having an entry card again is better than nothing, isn’t it?

The Radeon RX 6500 XT is basically half the RX 6600 XT. It has 16 Compute Units, 4GB of GDDR6 memory, 16MB of Infinity Cache and a 64-bit memory interface. Yes, all numbers are strictly half of what is on an RX 6600 XT. But on the other hand, in computing things don’t scale linearly, and the fact that this card arrives with very high operating frequencies could result in “not that bad” performance. But actually, it’s bad:

The card performs a third that of the RX 6600 XT. And also memorize the difference between it and the RX 5500 XT in these graphs. The main influencing factor here, besides the reductions in computational units, is a serious bottleneck of this card: it operates on only 4 PCIe lanes. Entry models of video cards should operate without problems in configurations from 8 PCIe lanes, however 4 brings us to the level of SSDs. That’s very little, even for an entry-level video card.

As the card has only 4GB of video memory and has an extremely limited bandwidth on PCIe, which makes it difficult to exchange data quickly and compensate for the lack of space by constantly loading textures, the end result is a card that is totally “squeezed” by our battery. in FullHD in Ultra pre-set, delivering the same performance as the GTX 1650 in many cases. The exception, not for nothing, was the oldest drum game, GTA V.

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But this is not a card to play on Ultra, something that is evident by the 4GB of VRAM. What if we switch to an intermediate pre-set and see the same games? The result is much more favorable:

Here we have scenarios where the card starts performing similarly or even better than the Radeon RX 5500 XT, and starts to open up an advantage over the GTX 1650 that can go from 20% to 70% thanks to the good performance with FSR enabled. This shows how much performance there was on the 6500 XT’s GPU, but VRAM and PCIe limitations were holding back its performance.

All we’ve seen so far is putting the RX 6500 XT in its best case scenario, pairing it with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X in a system based on PCIe 4.0 technology. And that’s really the best-case scenario, as the entry-level crowd is very potentially someone who has an older bench.

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Speaking of Intel systems, only owners of 11th generation Core CPUs or newer have PCIe 4.0 available. At AMD the support is older, already present in the Ryzen 3000 series, but only in the 500 series chipsets.

But what happens on a PCIe 3.0 system? We have a noticeable reduction in bandwidth. Each PCIe 4.0 lane delivers up to 2GB/s, for a total of 8GB/s in a PCIe 4.0 x4 configuration. PCIe 3.0 has half the performance per lane, delivering 1GB/s in each lane and making the RX 6500 XT have to operate with only 4GB/s of transfer if powered on on a PCIe 3.0-based system. What does that do to this board?

In benchmarks it doesn’t show up so much. The biggest damage from this bandwidth is at high frame rates. In addition to the general performance loss, it’s in the above 100fps gameplay scenarios where we see this card being penalized the most for its lower bandwidth. This practically kills the model as an option for those who want to play competitive games, where even though there is performance on the graphics chip to deliver more performance, we see the frame rate not going up and the GPU usage not reaching 100%.

In Rainbow Six, performance, which was previously around 100FPS on a PCIe 3.0 system, rose to around 200FPS on PCIe 4.0, while COD Warzone managed to experience performance issues on both configurations. However in PCIe 4.0 they are more localized and then return to a good level of gameplay for longer periods, while in PCIe 3.0 they are more consistently bad.

If you’re having deja vu, it’s not all in your head. It wasn’t long ago that PCIe and Radeon lines sparked controversy. So much so that we tested whether the Radeon RX 6600 XT would be penalized for operating at x8 only, and in our tests we found no clear indications that the card would lose much performance running on PCIe 3.0. The answer was no, with differences of less than 5% happening over the battery of tests. With eight PCIe 3.0 lanes, it operates with 8GB/s of transfer, that is, twice as much as the RX 6500 XT.

But unlike the RX 6600 XT, PCIe 3.0 actually prevents the RX 6500 XT from operating at its fullest. If your computer runs on PCIe 3.0, it might cross the 6500 XT off the list of options for you.

What if you built a system with a B550 and a Ryzen 5 3600? It is worth it? There is no such thing as a bad product, it all depends on the price, and it is on pre-sale for R$ 2,200, which puts it in exactly the same price range as the GTX 1650. So, considering the 20 to 40 advantage % in some titles, would it make sense? Maybe not.

There’s another factor that I would weigh in the dispute with the GTX 1650. When it came time to cut the RX 6600 XT in half, AMD also cut support for H.264 and HEVC in half. It can decode this codec, that is, the card can open a video in this standard, but cannot encode these codecs. That means you can’t compress your videos via GPU acceleration, making the card practically useless for those who wanted to record their gameplays or especially stream in software like OBS, which will only have the possibility of using encoding via software – which falls on the processor and penalizes system performance a lot, unless you have a very powerful CPU and… well, we’re talking about the market of desolation input, then this should not be the case.

If you have an Intel Core processor (and 11th generation to support PCIe 4.0) there is still hope if you encode your gameplay via Intel QuickSync. Otherwise, forget about the RX 6500 XT for recording or streaming.

This is the moment when, despite having less performance, its more stable performance weighs in favor of the GTX 1650, especially on PCIe 3.0 benches, since it is left to operate even in PCIe 2.0, as it has x16 channels, and still brings the extremely competent NVENC codec for those who want to save their replays or stream with negligible impact on performance and with good results in image compression.

So we come to the end of this analysis by answering the question from the beginning: we haven’t launched for 3 years in the entry-level video card market. Is the Radeon RX 6500 XT better than nothing? Yes, under very specific conditions, in which the game has a bench modern enough to have PCIe 4.0, the player wants to play in intermediate FullHD quality, is not so worried about high frame rates in competitive games, he doesn’t see any possibility of wanting to recording or streaming your gameplay and for some reason you don’t think it’s a better idea to spend more on a much more relevant upgrade like an RX 6600, I think maybe this card makes sense. But I doubt that full profile exists.

Radeon RX 6500 XT struggles to prove itself a worthy upgrade versus a card from three years ago

Thanks for finally bringing something new, but in the end, the only merit of the Radeon RX 6500 XT is that it is the only entry-level video card released since the beginning of the pandemic.

About Raju Singh

Raju has an exquisite taste. For him, video games are more than entertainment and he likes to discuss forms and art.

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