Upgrade Path!


Is the new Radeon RX 5600 XT a good upgrade path from AMD’s three-year-old Radeon RX 580 Polaris video card? That is the question we are going to answer today. 

The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT has launched on January 21st just a couple of weeks ago. We reviewed the XFX Radeon RX 5600 XT THICC II Pro video card for $279.99.  Then, in a reaction to NVIDIA lowering pricing on GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition to $299 it was decided that the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT could actually be pushed higher.  Add-in-board partners released new BIOS’s with faster clock speeds.  We tested the new BIOS that XFX has released for the XFX Radeon RX 5600 XT THICC II Pro which raised the game clock from 1460MHz to 1560MHz. 

Upgrade Path

At the heart of this launch was AMD’s claim that the Radeon RX 5600 XT provided a good upgrade path for video cards 3+ years old.

In the first press slide above AMD made it clear that the top three graphics cards used on Steam are 3+ years old.  In the second slide, it was shown that the most used graphics cards on steam deliver sub-par 1080p FPS gaming experiences in today’s games at ultra-quality settings in 1080p gaming.  In the third screenshot, taken directly from AMD’s Reviewer’s Guide it was demonstrated to us reviewers that the Radeon RX 5600 XT was, in fact, a good upgrade path from AMD’s own previous AMD Radeon RX 590 Polaris generation GPUs. 

To test this claim, and see if indeed the Radeon RX 5600 XT is a good upgrade path from the previous generation Polaris GPU, we are going to test one and find out.  In today’s article, we are going to test the reference performance of the AMD Radeon RX 580 at 1080p and compare it directly to the performance on the XFX Radeon RX 5600 XT THICC II Pro.  We will see what kind of a performance upgrade the Radeon RX 5600 XT offers over the Radeon RX 580 in case you are considering upgrading. 

The Radeon RX 580

We do wish we had a Radeon RX 590 to test this claim directly with, however, we do not have one.  What we do have though is an MSI Radeon RX 580 GAMING X 4GB OC video card to use.  This will stand in just fine as it is still a Polaris GPU and the only difference between the two is clock speed.  Also, the Radeon RX 580 came out almost exactly 3 years at this point. 

In an unfortunate event, the MSI RX 580 video card we have is damaged from having run Ethereum Mining for years.  However, we were able to successfully downclock it to standard reference Radeon RX 580 clock speeds and memory speeds and get the tests we needed.  So, we won’t be running the video card at its factory overclock, but instead at the reference specifications for a Radeon RX 580, so it represents a stock standard reference card in performance.

The Radeon RX 580 is a 14nm Polaris 20 XT GPU released in April of 2017.  The Radeon RX 580 is actually a refresh of the previous AMD Radeon RX 480 14nm Elesmere XT GPU released in June of 2016.  Both video cards are based on the GCN architecture.  The Radeon RX 580 runs at 1340MHz boost clock versus 1266MHz boost clock on a Radeon RX 480.  Both video cards have 2304 streaming processors, 144 texture units and 32 ROPs.  Both video cards have 4 or 8 GB of GDDR5 running at 8GHz.  Also, both video cards debuted at an MSRP of $229.99.  Basically, the Radeon RX 580 is a faster RX 480 but at the same price and released a year later in 2017.      

Now, just for comparison, a Radeon RX 590 is a refresh of the Radeon RX 580. The Radeon RX 590 was released in November of 2018, so it is 1 year and 2 months old at this point.  It is based on a newer 12nm manufacturing process but is still a Polaris 30 XT GPU with the same GCN architecture.  It still has the same 2304 streaming processors, 144 texture units and 32 ROPs as the 580 and 480.  However, it runs at a boost clock of 1545MHz.  It also has the same 8GHz GDDR5.  So, the only performance difference is again a higher clock speed versus the RX 580.  However, it did get a price boost, the Radeon RX 590 debuted at $279, the same price as the new Radeon RX 5600 XT. 

So, when it comes to performance, the Radeon RX 580 is a faster RX 480 by clock speed only, and the Radeon RX 590 is a faster Radeon RX 580 by clock speed only.  From the Radeon RX 580 to the Radeon RX 590 there was however a price increase with the MSRP from $229 to $279.

Video Card Setup

As we mentioned, we would have loved to include a Radeon RX 590 in this comparison, but we simply did not have one.  When you look at the release date though, the Radeon RX 590 is only a year old.  To closer match AMD’s claim of upgrading from 3-year-old video cards, the Radeon RX 580 is actually a closer match to that time frame. 

Therefore, we are using our MSI Radeon RX 580 GAMING X OC and downclocking the factory overclock on it to reference Radeon RX 580 clock speeds.  We simply had to this because our video card would not run at its factory overclock anymore. It was only a small overclock though, to begin with, a 40MHz overclock from 1340MHz to 1380MHz.  It was nowhere near Radeon RX 590 clock speeds and would have never been able to overclock that high.

We think this is a good representation of an upgrade path.  The Radeon RX 580 was a popular video card, and people who have had them for 3 years now are probably wondering what an upgrade would get them.  So, let’s find out if the Radeon RX 5600 XT is a good upgrade from the Radeon RX 580.    

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer oriented...

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  1. Thank you Brent! This was one of the analysis angles I was looking for when the 5600/5700 series of cards were released. I’m inclined to get 5600 XT’s for the wife and kids at this point, as they really don’t hammer the cards hard, and are all playing @ or below 1080p..

  2. I would have liked to see a 8gb version of the 580 vice 4gb which for a few of those games may helped the 580. I too think the price is a little high for the 5600XT, game bundle helps if one likes and would want to play those games. Still the cards that are out there for the 5600XT are rather high quality which is very good.

    As for the 5600XT, 6GB is a long term consideration and actually maybe short term. A good sell on a 5700 with 8gb of memory with a faster wider bus just makes the 5700 a better deal if one can swing $40-$50 more – which in the long run will be more viable for a longer period of time making the initial investment better in my estimation. Then again 5600XT will eventually see these types of sales as time goes on if one waits. I would say do what one can and get a 5700 or wait a little while and get a 5600XT when there is a good deal or combo package.

    These are very important type of reviews which can help folks pick the right product for themselves. Making an inform decision is always valuable and hope to see more comparisons in the future. Thanks.

  3. [QUOTE=”noko, post: 9985, member: 69″]
    I would have liked to see a 8gb version of the 580 vice 4gb

    Sorry man. That’s all I had that I could scavenge from my kids’ computer on short notice.

  4. Thanks for the write up. I enjoy these types of reviews — particularly useful for real world situations… when upgrading most people are in fact upgrading from something a few years old and want to see what their options are relative to where they’re coming from.

  5. I went the 5700xt route myself. I do have a box with an aging rx480 that still sits in the 1080 realm. This could be a decent upgrade for it

  6. good review.
    i tried and tried to find a 5600xt but ended up with a 5700 and it dances circles around my 580 8GB. for the price difference of only $40CAN it was worth it.

  7. Really appreciate this article again now that I have a friend looking to upgrade from his RX480 Same card, No Regardless it still gives a good enough baseline to give him a recommendation based on where he wants his system to be.
    Thanks Brent! (y)

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