GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming Review: 7nm Navi on a Budget

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AMD has some goodies in store for us just before Christmas this year. They are launching their 1080p-focused RX 5500 XT GPU and with it, the new Adrenalin 2020 driver. The new driver is said to bring performance up across a few titles, a redesigned GUI, and more.

AMD is also releasing an RX 5500 GPU that is strictly for OEM systems, and they also touched on their RX 5600 XT GPU which is slated for January 2020.

Specifications

These new cards are based on AMD’s “NAVI” core, using their all-new RDNA architecture. Built around the new 7 nm process from TSMC, AMD claims their new 1080p card delivers 1.6X performance per watt when compared to their previous GCN offerings.

The new RX 5500 XT will not be offered as a Reference model and will only be available through AIB partners. They are offering 8 GB and 4 GB versions, and as you can see above it has been widely adopted by their partners and will be available in stores on 12/12/2019.

The RX 5500 XT is intended for 1080p gaming and the core has been pared down to 22 Compute Units (CU) and 1408 Stream Processors (SP) from the 40 CU and 2560 SP found in the RX 5700 XT.

The sample we received is GIGABYTE’s Gaming OC version which has 8 GB of GDDR6 memory. GIGABYTE is using four Micron 2 GB IC’s running over a 128-bit bus which delivers 224 GB/s of total bandwidth.

The RX 5500 XT clocks in at 1685 MHz base and 1845 MHz maximum boost speed. You’ll also notice a Game Clock listed in the specs below. The boost clocks on the RX GPUs are determined on a per GPU basis and dependent on thermal and electrical conditions as well as die to die variances. The Game Clock is the minimum expected GPU speed while gaming under standard thermal and electrical conditions. This is not set in the BIOS and should be used as a guide to set expectations while running a typical gaming workload. The sample provided by GIGABYTE always ran at or near to its maximum rated boost speed of 1845 MHz.

More details in the list below.

Specifications RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 and RX 5500 XT
GPU RX 5700 XT RX 5700 RX 5500 XT
Architecture NAVI (RDNA)
Process 7 nm
Transistors 10.3 Billion 6.4 Billion
Die Size 251 mm² 158 mm²
Compute Units 40 36 22
Stream Processors 2560 2304 1408
ROPs 64 32
Texture Units 160 144 88
Base Clock 1605 MHz 1465 MHz 1685 MHz
Game Clock 1755 MHz 1625 MHz 1717 MHz
Boost Clock 1905 MHz 1725 MHz 1845 MHz
Memory 8 GB GDDR6 4 or 8 GB GDDR6
Memory Bandwidth 448 GB/s 224 GB/s
Memory Interface 256-bit 128-bit
Peak Texture Fill Rate 304.8 GT/s 248.4 GT/s 162.4 GT/s
Peak Pixel Fill Rate 121.9 GP/s 110.4 GP/s 59 GP/s
TDP (Watts) 225 W 185 W 130 W
MSRP $449.00 $379.00

$169.99 4 GB Model

$199.99 8 GB Model

GPU-Z

Here’s a GPU-Z shot of the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming. As you can see we have 8 GB of GDDR6 and boost clock speed of 1839 MHz. This was one of the lowest boost clocks observed during testing – it typically boosted to 1843 MHz.

Features and Architecture

The features and architectural changes were covered extensively back in July with the launch of AMD’s new mainstream GPUs which you can find in this link. The RX 5500 XT using the new Adrenalin 2020 driver leverages all the previous features and introduces a feature called Radeon Boost.

Radeon Boost

Radeon Boost is particularly interesting as it is designed to provide a faster, more fluid, and more responsive gaming experience in supported games. Radeon boost works by watching for specific inputs based on fast movements such as camera rotation. When boost detects these movements it instantly and dynamically reduces the render resolution to improve frame rates. As soon as the movement ends, Boost scales the resolution back up without affecting gameplay. This reduction in detail is said to slip by unnoticed due to limits in human perception and display technology but the improved feel and responsiveness will be appreciated.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

The packaging for the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming OC 8 GB card has a simple black and red theme to it. Front and center is GIGABYTE’s big mechanical eye and a band of red designating the Radeon RX 5500 XT. To the left, we can see it’s an OC edition with Windforce cooling and RGB Fusion 2.0 compatibility.

Turning the box over reveals a few more details and a system requirements list. We also find a list of some of the key features in addition to the pictures of the cooler, RGB Fusion 2.0, and the backplate that came with this sample.

Sliding out the inner box we have GIGABYTE across the top flap with another smaller box inside. This box only had a warranty card, but I can’t be certain that some things weren’t missing as this sample came directly from AMD and not GIGABYTE.

Inside we see the card is wrapped in an anti-static bag and packed in tight-fitting foam very well protected from accidental damages.

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Meet the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming OC 8G

The RX 5500 XT from GIGABYTE sports a three fan Windforce cooler with plastic shrouding. It also has a protective backplate which is also made from plastic, it won’t help with cooling but does protect the PCB from accidental damages. The majority of the coloring is black with a hint of silver-grey that should be able to blend into nearly any themed build.

Radeon RX 5700 XT

A Closer Look

According to AMD the AIBs have a lot of freedom when it comes to assembly so the specific layouts will differ from model to model. This one from GIGABYTE has the same I/O layout as both the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT reference cards. It has three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs with support for display stream compression. In addition, it also has one HDMI output with 4k60 support. The RX 5500 XT Gaming from GIGABYTE has ample power available with an 8-pin PCIe power connector allowing up to 225 W of power when combined with the PCIe slot.

Below you can see the RX 5500 XT disassembled with a nice close-up of the NAVI 14 GPU die to the left. As you can see, it came with plenty of TIM but this is fairly typical with graphics cards. To the right is GIGABYTE’s Windforce cooler which has thermal tape and contact points for all the important bits keeping then nice and cool during use.

Below we can see the power section of the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT with its 6+1 phase design, this is the same as the reference 5700s. To the right, we have the IR 35217 PWM controller for the seven power stages. Lastly, we can see the Micron 2 GB GDDR6 IC’s needed because of the limited real estate on this PCB.

GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming OC 8 GB on the test bench:

Test System and Benchmark Methods

Our test system is based on the latest mainstream Intel platform, Z370, and uses the i7-8700K 6c/12t CPU. The CPU is overclocked to 4.7 GHz on all cores/threads with cache set to 4.3 GHz. The clock speeds used provide a good base to minimize any limitations the CPU may have on our titles, particularly when using the lower resolutions, and should be attainable with a good air cooler or better. The DRAM is in a 2×8 GB configuration at 3200 MHz with CL15-15-15-35-2T timings which is a middle of the road option that balances performance and cost.

Test System Components
Motherboard ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex
CPU Intel i7 8700K @ 4.7 GHz / 4.3 GHz Cache
CPU Cooler EVGA CLC 240
Memory 2×8 GB G.Skill Trident Z 3200 MHz CL15-15-15-35
SSD Toshiba OCZ TR200 480 GB (OS + Applications)
Power Supply EVGA 750W G3
Video Card GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming 8 GB

Thanks go out to EVGA for providing the CLC 240 CPU Cooler and 750 W G3 Power Supply to cool and power the system, G.Skill for the Trident Z DRAM, and Toshiba OCZ for the 480 GB TR200 SSDs storage running the OS, benchmarks, and games. With our partners helping out, we are able to build matching test systems to mitigate any differences found between using different hardware. This allows for multiple reviewers in different locations to use the same test system and compare results without additional variables.

   

Below are the tests we run with a brief description of the settings. We have made some significant changes since the last update adding a few new titles and dropping some of the older games. More details can be found in the GPU Testing Procedure article which we have updated with our latest benchmarks.

  • UL 3DMark Time Spy – Default settings
  • UL 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) – Default settings
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider – DX12, “Highest” preset (will add RTX when it has been patched)
  • The Division 2 – DX12, Ultra preset, VSync Off
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation – DX12, Crazy preset, GPU focused
  • Far Cry 5 – Ultra defaults
  • F1 2018 – Very High defaults, TAA, and x16 AF, Australia track, show FPS counter
  • World of Tanks: Encore Benchmark – Ultra defaults

****  Ideally we would have liked to compare the RX 5500 XT to the GTX 1650 since that is its direct competitor but unfortunately that is data we do not have.

Synthetic Benchmarks

Our first set of benchmarks hails from Underwriters Laboratories who acquired Futuremark back in 2014. Earlier in 2018, a rebrand occurred and since that time, Futuremark is now UL. The benchmarks have not changed, just the name. We chose to stick with 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) and 3DMark Time Spy as these tests give users a good idea of performance on modern titles.

3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) is a DX11-based test that UL says the graphics are rendered with detail and complexity far beyond other DX11 benchmarks and games using 1920×1080 resolution. 3DMark Time Spy is a DX12 benchmark designed for Windows 10 PCs. It supports new API features such as asynchronous compute, explicit multi-adapter, multi-threading, and runs at 2560×1440 resolution.

As you can see above, the RX 5500 XT GPU did well in Firestrike Extreme. Moving to our DX 12 Benchmark things seemed to spread out with Nvidia having a definite lead over all of the AMD contributions. Even overclocked, the RX 5500 XT was still a bit behind the GTX 1660 with the 1660 Super dominating the pack.

Gaming Benchmarks

Moving on to the gaming benchmarks, we have updated our testing suite to bring more modern titles into the mix. Gone are GTA V, Crysis 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, which were replaced with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, World of Tanks: enCore benchmark, F1 2018, Battlefield V, and Far Cry 5. We also updated to The Division 2 and Ashes of the Singularity to AOTS: Escalation. The games should provide a good view of the overall performance of the card with many of these are DX12 games.

Here we see the RX 5500 XT holding its own or better compared to its predecessors but again the GTX 1660s are outpacing it by a fairly good margin.

Testing during Far Cry 5 and The Division 2 results for the RX 5500 XT were almost identical to the GTX 1660 but in Division 2 the older Polaris GPUs still have an advantage over the RX 5500 XT.

During our last set of 1080p tests, the RX 5500 XT held its own against the RX 580 and 590 but was still edged out by the Nvidia GTX 1660.

8 GB Vs 4 GB

It should be mentioned that there will be a performance difference between the 4 GB and 8 GB models. The model tested here today was 8 GB which allows it to stretch its legs a bit more without any VRAM limitations. The differences will depend on the titles and quality settings. We didn’t have a 4 GB model to test so we’ll just reiterate some of AMD’s internal testing. As you can see by the graph below the impact can be significant with up to a 20 % performance hit in some scenarios.

1440p

Typically we test our cards at the same settings for higher resolutions but we changed things up a bit. The goal was to find a preset in the games that would still allow the RX 5500 XT to maintain 60 FPS or better. World of Tanks encore was still playable at the Ultra preset all other titles aside from AOTSe were playable by just dropping down one preset from the highest which we normally use. Ashes, on the other hand, didn’t achieve 60 FPS in our 1080p test when using the “Crazy” preset and required a drop of two settings down to the High preset to score just over 60 FPS. In the graph below you can see the results. The letter beside the game title denotes the preset that was used.

Overclocking

Overclocking of the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming OC was all done using AMD’s new Adrenalin 2020 software which does include a tuning section. We started with a custom fan profile to take advantage of the Windforce cooler which tends to work very well. Keeping the GPU die a bit cooler will typically yield a much better stable overclock and the Windforce coolers are nice and quiet so sound levels weren’t an issue.

The GPU core was raised from 1845 MHz boost up to 2010 MHZ which was as high as it would go and remain stable. The memory, on the other hand, was limited by the software to a speed of 1860 MHz which was a bit disappointing. From experience, the Micron GDDR6 is typically stable up to the 2000 MHz ballpark so I felt there was a bit left on the table because of the imposed limit. As you can see in the graphs above, there were improvements throughout our testing suite between five and six percent.

Firestrike Extreme

Time Spy

As mentioned above Radeon’s new Adrenalin 2020 software suite was used for overclocking. This year AMD has done a fairly extensive overhaul on its software. Overclocking options are found in Radeon Settings under the Performance section and Tuning tab. From this initial window, you can do an automatic overclock of the core and memory or even undervolt the GPU. There’s also a “manual” button which will take you to a new screen.

As you can see, the manual option is broken down into four tuning options: CPU, VRAM, Fan, and Power. Each of these sections has a button that needs to be enabled which will open up some sliders that will allow you to changes settings. These sliders work on a percentage basis but there are also advanced overclocking options available. Enabling the advanced option presents you with an adjustable fan curve, CPU/Voltage cure, and a memory slider that shows the actual memory speed. The core speed/voltage slider is a bit awkward as it doesn’t really report what speed you are applying, but there is a fine-tuning option as a drop-down just below the curve for more precise adjustments.

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As has been the custom this time of year, AMD has released its newest addition to the “Adrenalin” series labeled 2020 for the coming year. They boast a 12% performance improvement year over year. This new driver also introduces a new feature called Radeon Boost which was covered earlier on in this review.

The new Adrenalin 2020 has an overhauled interface with a new faster installer to get you into the game sooner. One thing of interest is some profiles that AMD has included which will enable certain 3D settings depending on your choice. First, is the “standard” preset which as the name implies is standard and doesn’t activate any of the AMD specific features leaving all the settings at defaults. They also have a “Gaming” and “eSports” profile which will enable specific Radeon feature to best fit your gaming style. Gaming tends to lean toward a visual experience while eSports is all about FPS and latency. Here’s a small chart showing the different settings for the profiles.

Standard Gaming eSports
FreeSync X X X
Enhanced Sync X
Radeon Image Sharpening X X
Radeon Anti-Lag X X
Virtual Super Resolution X
8x Tesselation  X

AMD has added new features and improved existing ones, there’s a gaming center that can be used as a centralized launching point for all of your games. They have a streaming dedicated section to control your output, the list goes on and on. We have included a slideshow below which will show all the features and where to access them in the new Radeon Adrenalin 2020 software.

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Temperatures and Power Use

We test power consumption by running through the game benchmarks of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and F1 2018 at stock speeds. We monitor temperatures throughout this testing with the peak temperature what is listed in the data below. In order to more accurately simulate real gaming conditions, the benchmarks are extended (time) to allow the card to settle.

As we can see above the temperatures of the GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming were very well controlled reaching a maximum of 70°C during Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Thanks to the Windforce cooler and a custom fan profile the maximum temperature was 5° lower while overclocked at a steady 65°C.

Power use on this 130 W card peaked at 246 W (system) overclocked and 220 W while at stock both during our SOTR test. A quality 500 W PSU should be plenty including overclocking both CPU and GPU and still allowing for headroom and quiet operation.

Conclusion

Overall, the performance from the RX 5500 XT was right where AMD said it should be slipping into the upper end of 1080p gaming. Though we didn’t test it, it should perform right around GTX 1650 Super level while beating it in some titles. With the shrink to 7 nm and an overhaul to the core design, Radeon has made many improvements that show in the real world by adding performance and dropping power consumption over similar products from their GCN line.

The Windforce cooler on this GIGABYTE performed very well as expected and managed to keep the temperatures controlled nicely at both stock and while overclocked. GIGABYTE also did a great job feeding power to this 8 GB model with an 8-pin PCIe connector and the 6+1 power stage arrangement there was more than enough clean, stable power to push this 130 W card.

AMD keeps filling out its product stack starting with the RX 5700 XT in July, and now we have the RX 5500 XT which handles 1080p gaming very well with all the eye candy maxed out. We should be seeing an RX 5600 XT sometime next month as well but at this point, there is very little information available.

On to pricing. AMD is offering both variants of the RX 5500 XT below the $200 mark with an SEP of $169.99 for the 4 GB models and $199.99 for the 8 GB models. The GIGABYTE RX 5500 XT Gaming OC 8 GB tested here has an MSRP of $219.99 which is to be expected with the upgraded power and cooling that it has. We weren’t surprised that within 30 minutes of getting pricing details for AMD’s new RX 5500 XT we were forwarded an announcement that Nvidia is also repricing its lower end SKUs to beef up the competition. They are now offering the GTX 1650 Super as low as $159 and the GTX 1660 for $199, this is very reminiscent of what happened during the RX 5700 XT launch.

In the end, AMD has done a fine job with a nice “entry-level” gaming card. The RX 5500 XT handled everything we threw at it very well and won’t break the bank. I have no issues giving this one a thumbs up!

– Shawn Jennings (Johan45)

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Discussion
  1. Dear Sir,
    I have a few Questions from your article.
    1) AMD claims their new 1080p card delivers 1.6X performance per watt when compared to their previous GCN offerings.
    ** Which Previous cards are they referring to and do we have our own review of them??
    2) Ideally we would have liked to compare the RX 5500 XT to the GTX 1650 since that is its direct competitor but unfortunately that is data we do not have.
    ** Will this be included at a later date??
    Thank You For a great article :thup:
    1. RX 480/Polaris according to their slides - not sure offhand on reviews, or if the method was even the same back then... you can find them though by searching on the from page.
    2. Doubtful unless we get one for review. 1650 was also 'replaced' by the 1650 Super. That said, the GTX 1650 SUPER is the direct competitor by both price and performance.