– With the Radeon RX 5500 XT, AMD is replacing the Polaris generation on the desktop, currently in the form of the Radeon RX 570, RX 580 and RX 590. Unsurprisingly, the new GeForce GTX 1650 Super is the direct opponent at Nvidia. The GPS graphics card performs well, but the price is too high to start with.
On June 29, 2016, almost three and a half years ago, AMD introduced the Radeon RX 480 and thus the Polaris GPU generation. Since then, the same GPU has been used in AMD's mid-range and entry-level classes, albeit with a different production. And time has left its mark. In terms of performance, it still looks decent compared to the direct competition. In terms of features and efficiency, Polaris is miles behind Nvidia (Turing).
That will change the Radeon RX 5500 XT, because with the model AMD's new RDNA architecture is entering the desktop market, so that the Navi generation now consists of an entry-level (RX 5500) and a mid-range (RX 5700). The high-end market will only be served next year. Despite the addition "XT", the Radeon RX 5500 XT is very similar to the Radeon RX 5500 for the OEM market, which has been able to attract customers for two months. Why the retail trade had to wait so much longer is unclear.
The Radeon RX 5500 XT will of course not only replace Polaris, but also attack Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 1650 Super. According to AMD, the new Navi-Radeon should be faster and also be available with 4 or 8 GB of memory. The test clarifies whether this, in conjunction with the entry price of 180 (4 GB) and 210 euros (8 GB), is enough to become a worthy successor to the Radeon RX 580.
Sapphire and PowerColor with 4 GB and 8 GB in the test
For the article, the Sapphire Radeon RX 5500 Pulse with 4 GB and the PowerColor Radeon RX 5500 XT Red Dragon with 8 GB have been compared. In addition to the Polaris models, both graphics cards have to prove themselves against the MSI GeForce GTX 1650 Super Gaming X.
If the cooling system is removed, both Navi graphics cards reveal the same PCB, even if there are differences in the power supply and the selection of the soldered components.
The Radeon RX 5500 XT relies on the Navi 14 GPU, which is the second processor after the Navi 10 on the Radeon RX 5700 (XT) (test), which is based on AMD's new RDNA architecture. However, Navi 14 with a size of 158 mm² and 6.4 billion transistors is significantly smaller than its big brother – 37 percent and 38 percent, respectively, are less than Navi 10. The RDNA architecture itself is identical, as is the 7- nm production by TSMC.
Navi 14 has 24 compute units and thus over 1,536 shader and
96 texture units. Almost exactly in line with the chip size and the transistors, these are 40 percent fewer CUs on the Navi 14 than on Navi 10. However, the Radeon RX 5500 XT does not use the full Navi 14, which is at least exclusively available for Apple in the MacBook Pro 16 inches and next year also in the Mac Pro. There was a comparable situation in 2016 with Polaris 11 on the Radeon RX 460. In the desktop market there will probably be full expansion with the next generation.
With only 60 percent of the ALUs faster than an RX 580
Two compute units are switched off on the Radeon RX 5500 XT. With the 22 CUs, 1,408 ALUs and 88 TMUs are still available. AMD specifies a base clock of 1,607 MHz, a "typical game clock" of 1,717 MHz and a boost clock of up to 1,845 MHz for the graphics card and specifies a computing power of 5.2 TFLOPS or 10 for the product. 4 TFLOPs with half precision (FP16 instead of FP32).
On the other hand, the memory interface on the Radeon RX 5500 XT has the full Navi 14, which in turn is exactly half a Navi 10. Four 32-bit controllers result in a 128-bit memory interface. In conjunction with the 7,000 MHz fast GDDR6 memory, this leads to exactly half the memory bandwidth at 224 gigabytes per second compared to its big brother. The Radeon RX 5500 XT may consume a maximum of 130 watts for full performance. The GPU then consumes about 100 watts.
It is worth noting that AMD's Navi 14 halved the number of PCIe lanes, as was the case back then on Polaris 11. Instead of 16 there are only 8 PCIe lanes on Navi 14. This should not have a negative impact on the entry-level graphics card. Especially not if this is operated with PCIe 4.0, because the new PCIe standard currently only offered by Ryzen 3000 is supported by the GPU.
Radeon RX 5500 XT will only be available as partner designs, although the PCB of many models should be at least similar.
The Sapphire Radeon RX 5500 XT Pulse 4 GB in detail
The 4 GB Pulse variant from Sapphire has been published. Sapphire will also have a Radeon RX 5500 XT Nitro +, which will only be released at a later date. The Radeon RX 5500 XT Pulse tested here, on the other hand, is the manufacturer's entry-level solution, for which a recommended retail price of 190 euros is set.
The Radeon RX 5500 XT Pulse is based on the design of its bigger brother, the Radeon RX 5700 Pulse (test), but everything is one size smaller. The dual slot cooler is shorter at 23 cm and not quite as high at 12 cm. It clearly surpasses the PCB towards the end of the card, because the PCB with the seven voltage transformer circuits measures only 18 cm.
The graphics card does not rely on several small heat sinks, instead there is only one large one. This is made entirely of aluminum, the only one is an embedded copper block above the GPU. Three heat pipes are intended to improve heat transport, the same applies to the attached backplate. Two axial fans with a diameter of 95 mm are responsible for the fresh air. These switch off at low temperatures.
Sapphire gives the clock speeds of AMD's reference specifications for the Radeon RX 5500 XT Pulse with 1,607 MHz, 1,717 MHz and 1,845 MHz. Unfortunately, the manufacturer does not give an indication of the GPU power, but the afterburner shows about 100 watts. 135 watts is allowed for the entire graphics card, which is 5 watts more than the reference specification. The model is thus minimally overclocked. The 4 GB GDDR6 memory clocks at 7,000 MHz. If you prefer to have an 8 GB memory, but are generally interested in the Pulse, you can rest assured: The same model will also be available with the mentioned amount of memory.
A second BIOS with minimal power consumption
Sapphire does without most luxury such as RGB for the Radeon RX 5500 XT Pulse. But there is a second BIOS. This should reduce the board power from 135 to 120 watts, which in practice should result in 100 fan revolutions less and thus a marginally lower volume.
Monitors can be connected to the graphics card using three DisplayPorts 1.4 with DSC and an HDMI 2.0b connection. Sapphire leaves it the standard for more expensive graphics cards like the larger Navi models.
The PowerColor Radeon RX 5500 XT Red Dragon 8 GB in detail
With the Radeon RX 5500 XT Red Dragon, PowerColor is launching a mid-range model, a Red Devil is not planned in this class. There is no price quotation from PowerColor for the graphics card, but AMD's RRP of 210 euros will probably be targeted. The Red Dragon is optically largely identical to the in-house Radeon RX 5700 Red Dragon and thus looks simple and high-quality.
The dual-slot cooler of the Radeon RX 5500 XT Red Dragon consists of three rather small aluminum heat sinks, which are connected to each other by means of three heat pipes, and a copper block directly above the GPU. The power supply and the Navi-14 GPU have their own cooling block, the smallest of which has direct contact with the GPU. Even if the blocks themselves are small, they ensure the entire length of the graphics card, because the PCB itself is significantly shorter at 18 cm. Incidentally, the latter is almost identical to the counterpart of the Sapphire card, so it can be assumed that both manufacturers use AMD's reference PCB.
Two axial fans with a diameter of 85 mm provide the necessary fresh air on the PowerColor graphics card. These switch off at low GPU temperatures, so that the red dragon then works completely silently. The cooling system is rounded off by a massive backplate.
The GPU power is significantly higher than that of the reference
PowerColor names a base clock of 1,685 MHz, a game clock of 1,737 MHz and a turbo of 1,845 MHz for the Radeon RX 5500 Red Dragon. As with its bigger brother, the Radeon RX 5700, the specified clock rates are hardly meaningful for the Radeon RX 5500 either. The maximum permitted GPU power, which PowerColor fixes at a maximum of 130 watts, is primarily decisive for the clock. That is significantly more than AMD's 100 watts read by afterburner on the Sapphire model. However, the value seems exaggerated, at least in the test, the graphics card according to Afterburner did not want to use more than 115 watts. An eight-pin power connector is required for operation.
The tested Radeon RX 5500 XT offers 8 GB of storage, but PowerColor is also planning a 4 GB version. the memory clock is the normal 7,000 MHz. The graphics card comes without any gimmicks. There is no RGB lighting and there is also no second BIOS.
Monitors can be connected to a DVI, an HDMI 2.0b and a DisplayPort 1.4 output with DSC compression. PowerColor has also adapted the connections for older monitors.
On the next page: The clock rates and benchmarks in Full HD