Drama about the new graphics card: Worse than the predecessor from 2016?

How among other things PC Gamer reports, the technical specifications of the Radeon RX 6500 XT presented at CES compared to the RX 480 from 2016 are currently causing a stir. This is against the background of the identical MSRP of $199 (although the MSRP is only theoretical in the current crisis).

The rough tenor: How can it be that more than five years later a new graphics card in the same price segment comes onto the market that is worse? When answering this question, however, it plays a major role on what this is based on worse relates.

In any case, technical data that is unfavorable on paper does not automatically mean lower performance in games. We take a closer look at how the old RX 480 compares to the new RX 6500 XT and what to expect in terms of gaming performance from the January 19 graphics card.

Speaking of RX 6500 XT data: In this separate article you can find out how AMD wants to protect itself from excessive demand from cryptocurrency miners with the technical capabilities of the graphics card or, more precisely, with deliberately rather little video memory:

The RX 6500 XT should save what has long been considered a no-go


more on the subject

The RX 6500 XT should save what has long been considered a no-go

More is not always better

At first glance, the data from the PC gamer comparison clearly speaks for the RX 480: more computing units, wider memory connection and higher memory bandwidth, more teraflops – only the lower power consumption is in favor of the RX 6500 XT.

Technical specifications RX 6500 XT RX 480
shader units 1.024 (RDNA-2 architecture) 2.304 (GCN architecture)
texture units 64 144
grid units 32 32
Storage 4,0 GByte GDDR6 4,0 GByte GDDR5
storage connection 64 Bit 256 Bit
memory bandwidth 144 GByte/S 224 GByte/s
Theoretical computing power 5,77 Teraflops 5,83 Teraflops
TDP 107 Watt 150 Watt

At least two important factors, which are mentioned in the article itself, are missing from this table: The clock rate, which is very important for the performance of a graphics card, and the new Infinity Cache of the RX 6000 series, which in this case is 16 MB in size.

The former is much higher with values ​​in the range of 2.6 to 2.8 GHz on the RX 6500 XT (RX 480: approx. 1.1 to 1.3 GHz). The latter is very fast and should be able to compensate for the narrower memory connection and bandwidth to a certain extent. In addition, the memory compression that does not yet exist with the RX 480 is an additional factor.

Finally, with a view to the number of processing units and the theoretical processing power in teraflops, you cannot simply compare them directly across different GPU architectures. The fact that a graphics card has higher numbers here does not automatically mean that it is also faster in games.

How fast will the RX 6500 XT be now?

We won’t know for sure until we’ve been able to test the card ourselves. Getting a suitable test sample is a bit difficult at the moment. In principle, however, we still assume that we will be able to carry out suitable measurements very soon after the release on January 19th and at the latest in the week after. Until then, we’re left with AMD’s official benchmarks, which were shown at CES:

The numbers refer to the comparison with Nvidia’s GTX 1650. The size of the bar charts also gives an average lead of 21 percent over the RX 570. Since the RX 480 is a few percent faster, the plus of the RX 6500 XT should be in the range of 15 percent.

However, it should not be forgotten that these are manufacturer benchmarks that mostly primarily show best-case scenarios. So it may well be that in independent benchmarks there is only a lead of about ten percent left for the RX 6500 XT – five years later that would certainly not be a revelation at the same RRP.

Speaking of price: Asus states RRPs of 299 or 334 euros for its RX 6500 XT models, in retail we ultimately expect costs of around 350 to 400 euros. The RX 480 with 4.0 GB VRAM, on the other hand, is traded on eBay for prices of around 200 to 250 euros.

The RX 6500 XT has two more hooks

In terms of performance, the PCI Express interface could also prove to be an issue depending on the PC and game. While graphics cards have always relied on an x16 connection for a long time, AMD has been taking a different approach since the RX 5000 series with support for PCI Express 4.0. This also applies to the RX 6500 XT.

It offers a maximum of four lanes or x4. With the current PCIe version 4.0, this corresponds to PCIe 3.0 with eight lanes (x8) or a bandwidth of 8.0 GB per second. If the card is used on a mainboard that only offers PCIe 3.0, only 4.0 GB per second remain, as this table also shows:

PCIe-Lanes x1 x2 x4 x8 x16
PCI Express 3.0 1,0 GByte/s 2,0 GByte/s 4,0 GByte/s 8,0 GByte/s 16,0 GByte/s
PCI Express 4.0 2,0 GByte/s 4,0 GByte/s 8,0 GByte/s 16,0 GByte/s 32,0 GByte/s

This is particularly important when the VRAM is full and data has to be loaded from the SSD or hard drive. Since the RX 6500 XT offers a maximum of 4.0 GB VRAM, this can happen quite quickly. How relevant this fact is in practice depends on many factors such as the game, the resolution and the level of detail.

Finally, there are the limited codec capabilities. It is not possible to encode videos during production with H264/H265 GPU-accelerated (but decoding while watching videos is possible). In addition, decoding is not supported by the AV1 codec (the latter also applies to the RX 480).

So overall there is good reason to be critical of AMD’s new graphics card. However, the overall picture is too complex to be adequately presented by simply comparing technical data.

How do you see the upcoming RX 6500XT from AMD, also in comparison with the much older RX 480? Technically a clear step forward, far too little for a new GPU in this price range or something in between? Feel free to write it in the comments!