AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT meta-review: even desperate gamers should think twice
You’ve heard that PC graphics cards are nearly impossible to find, or that you’ll have to pay exorbitant sums. But if you were hoping the $200 budget AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT was about to change that, we have some very bad news. Reviewers are positively ripping it a new one, and not just because of its cost, or the fact it only has 4GB of VRAM — but apparently because this brand-new GPU is laughably bad.
“[T]his is the worst GPU release since I can remember, and I’ve been doing this job for over two decades,” writes TechSpot’s Steven Walton.
“AMD RX 6500 XT is worse than 2016’s GPUs,” declares Gamers Nexus.
“WTF AMD!?” and “WTF is AMD thinking?,” ask Hardware Canucks and KitGuruTech respectively. “A GPU you might be able to buy… but shouldn’t,” writes Linus Tech Tips. “Worst GPU,” declares Hardware Unboxed.
“Gigabyte’s RX 6500 XT Gaming OC card gives us our first bitter taste of what a ‘budget’ GPU means in 2022,” writes PC Gamer, adding “as a modern graphics card it looks like pretty weak sauce.”
“The year 2022 just started, and this potentially looks to be the most insufficient graphics card series of the year,” concludes Guru3D’s Hilbert Hagedoorn.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a graphics card dragged this hard.
Even relatively respectful outlets offer few compliments, with PCWorld’s Brad Chacos suggesting that AMD may be able to tap “an unserved market” if it can actually hit $199 and calling it “a capable budget option” for medium to high settings at 1080p. Tom’s Hardware thinks $199 is optimistic, though. “At least buying an RX 6500 XT guarantees you’re getting a brand-new card, which can’t be said for the various used GPUs being sold on eBay and other second-hand markets,” writes Jarred Walton, damning with faint praise.
According to reviewers, the problem is multifaceted but fairly simple to sum up: AMD cut serious corners on a GPU while also failing to improve performance. They point out that performance is roughly equivalent to the card’s direct predecessor, the RX 5500 XT — a card that came out two years ago, for less money, with more video outputs. (Here, you only only get one HDMI and one DisplayPort.)
And if you look further back, like Gamers Nexus and others did, you might notice performance hasn’t meaningfully improved over AMD’s RX 580 and Nvidia’s GTX 1060 — mid-range cards from 2017 and 2016 respectively. (The RX 580 seems to beat it in some of the benchmarks I’m seeing — if AMD sometimes loses to a five-year-old card that originally retailed for $229, that seems bad, no?)
But it gets even worse if you’ve got an older PCIe 3.0 motherboard, some point out, because AMD reportedly decided to limit the card’s bandwidth to 4x, instead of the full 16 lanes of bandwidth, when it’s plugged into a PCIe 3.0 slot. Here’s TechSpot again, talking about testing Shadow of the Tomb Raider using one of those older boards:
The average frame rate also fell by 28% and this saw the 6500 XT go from 65 fps to just 47 fps. It also meant although it was able to match the 5500 XT when using PCIe 4.0, when installed in a PCIe 3.0 system you’re looking more at base GTX 1650 performance, which is worse than the RX 570.
Here are some other choice quotes from reviewers attempting to find a silver lining in the RX 6500 XT (power consumption seems to be a bright spot):
Of the six games with ray tracing that we tested — and admittedly, we used more demanding RT games, as otherwise the effects are largely wasted — only one qualified as even remotely playable: Fortnite. And even it wasn’t without trouble.
But the modest GPU and bizarre memory configuration mean you’ll need to be careful about the settings you use. If you crank visuals up to ultra or run into a game with especially high memory demands, the limited memory capacity and bus width could result in jarring frame-time spikes when your PC exceeds the 4GB barrier and needs to tap into your system’s general RAM pool for help. Don’t push this GPU harder than it’s intended for and you should be fine.
The new Radeon RX 6500 XT is one of the more power-friendly GPUs of the bunch. Despite offering much better performance (more often than not) then the GeForce GTX 1650, the 6500 XT consumes only slightly more power. In comparison to the Radeon RX 5500 XT and Radeon RX 570, however, the new 6500 XT uses significantly less power when under load.
Maybe sit out this one.