Sapphire Radeon RX 6500 XT Pulse tested

AMD introduced the Radeon RX 6500 XT on January 19th, and the Sapphire Pulse RX 6500 XT we have arrived a bit late, but now we can finally tell you everything about it. Sapphire’s Pulse brand is a value-oriented line of graphics cards that include everything you need to simply install and play. The Radeon RX 6500 XT is the world’s first gaming GPU built on the 6 nm silicon manufacturing node, which provides higher transistor density and power improvements than 7nm.

The Navi 24 silicon lies at the heart of the AMD RX 6500 XT. This chip has 1,024 stream processors spread across 16 RDNA2 computing units, each with a Ray Accelerator. AMD is able to operate them at 2.61 GHz engine clocks because of the 6nm technology. The card has 4 GB of GDDR6 memory, however, it’s distributed across a befuddling 64-bit wide memory bus, which is half the width of the RX 5500 XT. AMD sought to address this constraint by deploying their Infinity Cache technology, which combines a fast 16 MB on-die cache with the GPU to accelerate the memory subsystem.

Another odd design choice is the card’s PCI-Express 4.0 x4 system bus, which may be sufficient for the goal performance AMD expects for this SKU, but put it on older PCs with Gen 3 and you’ll only have half the bus bandwidth since the PCIe lanes stay at four. That being said, there are several prerequisites to be aware of if you wish to play this card to its greatest potential.

Among these prerequisites includes having an AMD Ryzen 3000 or 5000 series processor, a PCIe Gen4 compatible motherboard with the B550 or X570 chipset (and select 400 series chipset motherboards for that matter), and finally, enabling “Above 4G Decoding” and “Re-size BAR support” in the motherboard’s BIOS settings. It’s a few minutes of going through the BIOS settings but it is going to be worth it.

A closer look

Test setup

  • Processor – Ryzen 9 3900X (stock)
  • Cooler – MSI MAG C240 AIO cooler
  • Motherboard – MSI B550 Gaming Edge Wifi (AMD Smart Access Memory enabled)
  • Memory – G.Skill Sniper X 2x8GB 3400mhz
  • PSU – Coolermaster 650w Gold Rated ITX power supply
  • Operating System – Windows 11
  • Radeon Driver – Adrenalin 22.3.1 (WHQL)

Temperatures and Clock Frequency

The RX 6500 XT was able to go well above 2750mhz while maintaining an average temp of 68-70°C in all of our gaming tests. This is pretty well within spec and relative to expected gaming performance in 1080p resolution.

Gaming Tests

We put the RX 6500 XT to the test with several game titles to get a general idea if this card will pump out an acceptable amount of FPS if you intend to get this graphics card in Gaming. First off, in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive set in High Settings, we are able to reach a healthy 307 FPS average which is extremely important for an esport title like this one. It’s the same story with the sweatiest FPS title I’ve ever played, Rainbow Six: Siege which averaged around 244 FPS in High Settings (without the HD Texture pack installed). Pair this GPU with a high refresh rate FreeSync monitor and you’re off clicking heads in no time.

In AAA Game Titles, we see this GPU heavy at work as well having 100% GPU utilization almost all the time like in Dirt 5 averaging at 78 GPS in Medium Settings. In a more demanding game like Cyberpunk 2077, the game sat around 49-50 FPS giving an extremely playable experience. Being one of the few games with AMD FSR support, we decided to try this out and the game was able to run above 66 FPS which is pretty sweet. With FSR 1.0 however, image quality won’t be as exceptional and we look forward to having the recently announced FSR 2.0 integrated into this game. Finally, the latest game to hit the market, Elden Ring, was able to stay within its 60 FPS frame cap in Medium Settings making the experience within what you’d expect in a Souls-like game.

Final Thoughts

The RX 6500 XT is not a card that will break any performance records in the gaming space. There is so much to dislike about this GPU like its limited 4GB VRAM, limited PCIe Gen4 x4 lanes which will take a toll on performance for those who still do not have access to PCIe Gen4 motherboards and will not be able to turn on Smart Access Memory, lack of display outputs, and finally, it’s $199 price tag.

I really hoped for this graphics card to be under $150 more or less given that it’s not the best performing entry-level card there is right now. AMD would like to put the RX 6500 XT in the same tier as the GeForce GTX 1650 but the latter offers so much more features (NVENC, CUDA, VP9/H.264/H.265 decode) and had a lower launch price of $150. Pricing alone botched all the opportunities for AMD to be competitive once again in the entry-level GPU space.

So who is this graphics card for?

Pricing and features aside, the RX 6500 XT isn’t at all that bad of a card if you are just planning to play PC games within an “entry-level” spec. I’d say this is on par with console-like performance being able to maintain 60 FPS in AAA game titles and well above 200 FPS in esports FPS titles (more so if you meet the hardware requirements for PCIe Gen4 and Smart Access Memory). This is the current situation we’re in right now and I was hoping for a more viable comeback in the entry-level space for AMD. If you don’t mind all the missing features and 4GB VRAM, you are sure to enjoy PC games within reasonable graphical settings.

If you’re coming from an older graphics card like the RX 570/580 or GTX 1060, I’d recommend you to skip this graphics card and maybe go for the RX 6600 XT instead.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

To top