Conclusion

Today we reviewed the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G GDDR6 video card. This video card sports the more budget-friendly Radeon RX 5500 XT, but backs it with a healthy 8GB of VRAM and a factory overclock.  AMD has the MSRP on the Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB set at $169.99, while the 8GB variants have a much higher $199.99 MSRP.  However, the specific SAPPHIRE PULSE we are reviewing today has a price premium making it $229.99 currently at Amazon. 

In our review today we looked at its default out-of-box performance, and we also overclocked it as high as possible.  We focused on the 1080p gaming experience, which is the resolution of gaming that this video card is geared for.  We also compared it with an ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 SUPER O4G GAMING, which gave it some tough competition.  We also overclocked that video card and put the two head-to-head overclocked to see which one comes out on top.  We wanted to see if having 8GB of VRAM would give the Radeon RX 5500 XT the advantage over the 4GB GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER. 

Gaming Performance

There is one conclusion we can firstly make in regards to the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G video card, and that it is the Radeon RX 5500 XT GPU is built for 1080p gaming.  In all of our gameplay testing, most of the graphically challenging games were only playable at “High” settings (not Ultra or Max) at 1080p.  That means we could not max the settings out, even at 1080p, on this video card in many games.  The easier games that are less intensive could be, but the harder ones like Red Dead Redemption 2, or Metro Exodus could not be. 

That said, there were several games that were playable at the highest settings, and they offered varying performance.  The Division 2 only pulled an average of 50FPS, so that one could be iffy in some situations.  Other games that are easier on graphics like Call of Duty Modern Warfare, NFS Heat and Gears 5 all provided a decent level of performance.  However, in NFS Heat there were a few areas in the mountains that dropped into the 40’s while gaming. 

For the most part, 1080p gameplay is going to be in the “High” setting area.  The game will depend a lot if it’s a graphically intensive game Medium to High may be the playable settings.  However, in graphically easy games, maybe those can go up to the highest settings at 1080p.

Compared to GTX 1650 SUPER

The performance when compared to the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER is very interesting.  Firstly, we are not comparing the SAPPHIRE PULSE to a reference clocked GTX 1650 SUPER, which this card would beat on every front.  Instead, we chose a highly factory overclocked video card from ASUS, and then we overclocked that video card which overclocks very high.  It’s tough competition for the SAPPHIRE PULSE, but in our opinion actually shows how competitive the Radeon RX 5500 XT really is.

In most games, the two video cards were either performing exactly the same at their default performance or the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G was actually a little faster.  When we overclocked both video cards, we again saw the same pattern.  In some games, they are equal in performance, and in others, the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 SUPER is faster. 

For the most part, when the cards are not manually overclocked the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G can have the advantage in some games.  However, overclock them both and they are either equal or the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 SUPER can have the advantage.  We think this is mostly due to the ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 SUPER being able to overclock so well.

Therefore, when it comes down to it these two video cards are very competitive, neck and neck.  When one has the advantage all you have to do is overclock the other and that advantage is taken away.  When both are overclocked, they offer a similar level of gameplay experience. 

Overclocking

We only managed to overclock the memory on this video card to 14.8GHz versus the default 14GHz.  We also could not unlock the voltage on the GPU.  In our review, we managed to overclock the GPU up to around 1915MHz, which is higher than the 1830MHz default frequency. The default frequency at 1830MHz was also much higher than the quoted 1737MHz game clock.  Therefore, this video card already boosts well over the game clock, and very near the total 1845MHz boost clock.  It overclocked with ease.   

Considering the small overclock we achieved on the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G we received a larger than expected performance gain.  This tells us that if we could only overclock the Radeon RX 5500 XT higher, we think it has what it takes to actually beat an overclocked GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER. 

The only reason why it cannot is because of the hardware locks in place keeping the voltage locked, and the memory frequency locked.  If these were unlocked, combined with a robust cooling solution, we think the Radeon RX 5500 XT could very much exceed an overclocked GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER.  It is a shame that the Radeon RX 5500 XT is being held back.  It actually might have some strong enthusiast capability if it were allowed to.

8GB VRAM

Now to the big feature of this video card, the fact that it has 8GB of VRAM versus 4GB on standard Radeon RX 5500 XT.  This is one advantage that AMD has stated that the Radeon RX 5500 XT has over the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER at 4GB. 

In our testing we really didn’t see any scenarios that screamed out to us that the VRAM addition was providing an advantage compared to the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER.  We were never able to run at higher game settings because of the 8GB on board, and the playable settings were the same between the SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G and ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1650 SUPER O4G GAMING. 

We also experienced no difference in smooth gameplay or lagging or pausing while gaming.  There were no stuttering issues in games on either video card.  Performance was also very close between video cards and it seemed that 8GB wasn’t providing any real advantage.

Here’s the issue, the Radeon RX 5500 XT is only so powerful and allows a certain level of gameplay experience.  That performance level isn’t high enough to realize the advantage of higher game settings or resolutions to make that 8GB worthwhile. 

However, to fully test this out we are going to run specific and direct gaming performance tests between a 4GB SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT and this 8GB SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT.  We will have a follow-up article where we put the two video cards head-to-head in games at “Ultra” game settings at 1080p and also will test 1440p.  In that article, we will see if 8GB has any advantage at all over 4GB in performance with these two cards. 

What we learned in this review is that compared to the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER it doesn’t look like 8GB on the Radeon RX 5500 XT is of any advantage due to the level of performance that is playable.

Final Points

The SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G GDDR6 offers a good 1080p gameplay experience.  It offers great out-of-box performance with a factory overclock that allows very high frequencies well over the game clock.  The video card runs silent and is very compact.  This is a well-made video card by SAPPHIRE with appealing features.  

It lacks overclocking potential due to hardware locks by AMD and the manufacturer.  It has a very small margin of overclocking, but that small margin does buy you 5-9% more performance.  This puts performance running similar to highly overclocked GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER video cards. 

The 8GB of VRAM shows no signs really of providing any advantage at 1080p in our testing.  You will probably want to look more toward the 4GB SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT to save some money and get the same performance. 

At the $229.99 price tag of this video card, the price premium for 8GB doesn’t seem like a great value upfront.  You can find the 4GB SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT at Newegg for a more palatable $179.99.  If you look at Newegg you can see that there are actually other 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT brands at lower prices than this video card, even down at the MSRP of $199.99 which would be more appealing if you wanted an 8GB variant in the Radeon RX 5500 XT GPU.

Discussion

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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5 Comments

  1. Nice review. The card tested as I expected it. The additional VRAM isn’t really needed as the card just can’t crunch the #’s quickly enough to do 1440p (where the 8Gb would come in handy).
  2. Just curious… would testing it on a system with PCIE 4.0 make a discernible difference in performance? Sapphire lists it as a PICE 4.0 supporting card.
  3. Just curious… would testing it on a system with PCIE 4.0 make a discernible difference in performance? Sapphire lists it as a PICE 4.0 supporting card.

    Unlikely, unless you were constrained purely by VRAM and it was having to cache out of local VRAM often, which doesn’t seem to be the case in our testing.

    However, we will re-run benchmarks and test directly PCIe 3.0 versus 4.0 in the future. We have many good articles planned, and that is one of them.

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