In an age where video cards are worth their weight in gold, the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT is the desktop graphics option the industry needs right now. Even after years, the increased demand and the crypto industry have made it very hard to find any GPU at a reasonable price. Thankfully, the Radeon RX 6500 XT is here to bring 1080P performance and ray tracing, all for around $200, and despite some gripes, delivers where it needs to.
In the modern PC landscape, a graphics card at the $200 mark is almost unheard of. This is why, beyond the new TSMC’s 6 nm manufacturing technology, and the speed of up to 2.85GHz, the Radeon RX 6500 XT is so exciting. It is a new generation GPU that the general public can afford, and hopefully won’t be snapped up by crypto miners. It is not perfect and does not move the needle on performance compared to past midrange offerings, but should you be looking for a new 1080P GPU, the 6500 XT may be the perfect fit.
Radeon RX 6500 XT features, specs, and price
As mentioned above, the Gigabyte Radeon RX 6500 XT is built on the new 6 nm process, and uses AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture. For buyers, this means you will be getting all the latest efficiency improvements and modern features that were previously not available on a GPU near this price.
On paper, the RX 6500 XT is a very odd video card. On one hand, it boasts a blazing 2.8GHz boost clock and 2.6GHz typical Game Clock, along with 16 ray accelerators, and many other features that are normally found on higher end cards. But it is also limited, to only featuring 16 compute units, 32 ROPs, and 16 MB of AMD’s radical Infinity Cache, it feels under powered compared to its bigger brothers, the Radeon RX 6600 XT, and Radeon RX 6600.
The other notable downgrade compared to other cards in the RDNA 2 range of cards is the inclusion of only 4 GB of memory. While it is newer DDR6 modules that are clocked at a staggering 18Gbps speeds, it is still much less than you would find on almost any other GPU offering from the past few years. This is both a blessing and a curse. With the lower capacity, it is not a great option for Ethereum miners, so it may actually be available to purchase, but it also means buyers will be limited when they want to play some of the more modern games.
The other odd choice by Team Red is the RX 6500 XT only uses a 64-bit bus, compared to the 128-bit memory bus seen on modern GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia. While the 16 MB of onboard Infinity Cache and 18Gbps VRAM clock should mitigate some issues this could cause, it is still a very odd choice that could mean gamers need to be careful about what settings they want to enable to get a good experience.
AMD has positioned the RX 6500 XT as a 1080P gaming card that can play the latest and greatest at medium to high settings. In practice, they delivered this. The GPU is able to push more polygons than it looks like on the surface, but as I mentioned above, the configuration means you will need to be careful about what you enable in settings, since it is not hard to push the 4 GB of memory to the limits, leading to stuttering and overall diminished experiences.
“AMD has positioned the RX 6500 XT as a 1080P gaming card that can play the latest and greatest at medium to high settings.”
This brings us to the next odd choice with the RX 6500 XT, the four PCIe lanes. Most modern GPUs run at the full x16 PCIe, with some cards opting for x8, but four is something not seen very often, especially with a modern GPU. Thankfully, the card is built to take advantage of PCIe Gen 4.0, meaning each one of the four lanes will deliver much more bandwidth, provided you have a CPU and Motherboard that supports it. If you are running an older system and are stuck with a PCIc Gen 3.0 or lower, this is not the card for you. Realistically, you will want an 11th-gen Core series, or AMD Ryzen 3000-series CPU or higher to make the most of the 6500 XT.
If that were not enough, the 6500 XT lacks some decoding and encoding capabilities. For people looking to build an editing rig, it is good to note that AMD has removed the AV1 decoding, as well as the H.264 and H.265/HEVC encoding. It also has limited connections, only featuring a single HDMI, and DisplayPort connections, making it a less than ideal card for streamers or content creators looking to make the most out of the hardware.
Putting the Radeon RX 6500 XT to the Test
To test out the RX 6500 XT, we put it in our newest test rig, featuring an Intel i9-12900K, 32 GB DDR5 RAM, Gigabyte Aorus Z690 Ultra, with a Seagate Firecuda 530 NVMe SSD. With it all powered by an MSI MPG A850GF 850W, leaving plenty of room to let the system breathe, while pushing what could be possible on the RX 6500 XT. The last thing we want to do is hold the GPU back, leading to skewed test results.
With that out of the way, it was time to dive into the tests. We wanted to give a wide range of games a try, from games we use for all our tests, to a bit more taxing, just to see how the RX 6500 XT would fare for the average gamer looking to get the most out of their new video card.
First up, we have Metro Exodus, a game that features some of the latest tech, that can push even a modern video card pretty hard. It supports DirectX 12 API and supports DXR, along with NVIDIA’s RTX real-time ray tracing and DLSS, making it a game that can push video cards very hard should you turn everything on. We opted to turn DXR/RTX off to ensure every card tested was on a fair playing field.
Next on the chopping block, we decided to dive into Doom Eternal, one of the most optimized games on our list. Running on id Tech 7 engine, the game manages to push some amazing visuals, and effects while managing to run on a wide variety of hardware. With it running on the Vulkan AP, the game delivers great results, even on some slightly older hardware. For the tests, we opted to run things on Ultra, to really push all cards in the lineup to their limits.
Next, we decided to jump into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to give the RX 6500 XT a taste of a slightly more modern experience. This is a game that uses some of the latest tech and manages to look fantastic even on lower-end hardware. With a range of environments, settings, and level of characters on the screen, it felt like a great starting point, and with the game taking advantage of DirectX 12, should be a good way to see how the card compares to other GPUs on the market.
One of the more impressive games visually of the past few years, Cyberpunk 2077 manages to push most GPUs very hard. Thanks to all the visual flare and settings that make Night City such an engaging place to get lost in. Cyberpunk 2077 is also a title that manages to take advantage of DirectX 12 Ultimate, and features RTX real-time ray tracing, support for NVIDIA DLSS, and AMD FidelityFX CAS, so it felt like a great game to put the RX 6500 XT to the test.
Finishing things off, we wanted to run the RX 6500 XT on our test bench staple, Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Built using the internal Eidos Foundation engine, the game takes advantage of DirectX 12, and supports NVIDIA RTX and DLSS. This makes it a particularly great game to test the card, although we did disable DLSS and RTX to ensure every card tested would be equally matched.
While the RX 6500 XT did not manage to stand up next to mid-range to high-end cards in any of the tests, the entry level AMD GPU did hold its own, especially at the price point. This is a card that is built for gamers on a budget who are looking to play the latest and greatest at high at very respectable framerates. As mentioned above, due to the GPUs limitations of the card, the visual settings can make or break a playable experience for a game.
But considering the prices of older cards, including the Radeon RX 570, or GTX 1650 being north of $300 on eBay, the concept of a new card that can match blow for blow, as well as feature some newer AMD features including ray tracing capabilities, is downright mouth-watering. This is where the RX 6500 XT really shines, making a solid entry-level GPU offering that is more than playable at a fair price.
The RX 6500 XT is more than capable of playing the latest games on Steam at high, and even pushes things further if you are open to dropping things down to medium. With features like Smart Access Memory, Radeon Boost, and should a game support Radeon Super Resolution, things get even more interesting.
For people building a new PC and want the newest features, the RX 6500 XT is far more appealing than a used GPU, especially as prices still have a way to go before they feel normal. Should you be able to find this card at close to MSRP, it is a great offering for a new entry level build. That’s a big ‘if’ though, since once the RX 6500 XT goes north of $300, it is near impossible to recommend.
The RX 6500 XT is a fascinating offering, and one that is built to hit a very specific market. It features some of the newest features, along with some blazing fast speeds, but thanks to the compromises made to make it hit the price, you must be willing to accept the card’s limitations to make it a good value. While it is limited, this is the video card the industry needs right now, and hopefully it will take some pressure off as the GPU market slowly comes back to earth. For new builders looking for a great 1080P offering and want to avoid the used market, look no further than the RX 6500 XT.