Conclusion

Today we had a unique opportunity to compare and test gaming performance between a 4GB and 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT.  We compared directly a SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 8G GDDR6 and SAPPHIRE PULSE Radeon RX 5500 XT 4G GDDR6 video card in eight games.  We pushed those games and video cards to the limit testing at both 1080p and 1440p with various levels of game graphics settings.  This gave us an overall feel for the differences in performance and allows us to conclude and provide our opinions on Radeon RX 5500 XT purchasing decisions.

Before we summarize our results, let’s talk a little about the Radeon RX 5500 XT.  AMD launched the Radeon RX 5500 XT back in December.  It was touted as a 4GB video card, but with one advantage up its sleeve, the ability to also have 8GB variants.  This is something extra that the competition doesn’t offer. 

AMD offered two price points for the Radeon RX 5500 XT.  The 4GB model would have an MSRP of $169.99, which is acceptable.  However, to move up to 8GB would cost you at least $199.99 as the base price.  Consider that custom overclocked cards could be even higher.  It’s that large price gap that gave many pause, the 8GB model seems a bit overpriced, to begin with.  Therefore, unless it offers a tremendous performance difference over the 4GB model its value is questionable.  That’s where we stand today, we need to find out if it’s worth it.

Performance

Performance, well, was mixed, to say the least.  Out of eight games only three, maybe four showed a decent performance advantage with the 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT compared to the 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT. Out of those games, only a couple really made a gameplay experience difference between the two video cards.  It can be said that most of the game didn’t provide any advantage.

There was no difference in Red Dead Redemption 2, Metro Exodus, Gears 5, NFS Heat, and The Division 2 difference was only seen at 1440p at an unplayable setting. 

On the other side of the coin, there were a few games that did show a big advantage, and some were quite large depending on the settings.  Call of Duty Modern Warfare was just faster period.  However, that game was already playable at 1080p on the 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT anyway.  At 1440p though the 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT did make the game much more playable.  Shadow of the Tomb Raider was another game that benefited quite consistently from 8GB on the Radeon RX 5500 XT over 4GB.  It didn’t matter whether we were using SMAA 4X or SMAA 2TX, the game itself just likes more VRAM apparently and this helped improve performance. 

Finally, Ghost Recon Breakpoint showed us the largest differences.  That game was just purely faster on the 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT across the board.  It benefited from the 8GB video card at 1080p and of course 1440p.  Except when the quality settings were brought down to “Medium” where it used less VRAM, then performance was the same at 1080p and much closer at 1440p.  However, with the 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT, we were actually able to play the game at higher game settings compared to the 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT.  That game resulted in some real gameplay experience improvements with the 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT.

Game Dependency

At the end of the day what this testing really proves is how game dependent the differences are.  It is going to simply depend on the game you are playing as to whether that game will benefit from an 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT versus a 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT.  There will be some games that simply have no advantage.  Yet, there will be others that do because of their VRAM allocation. 

Our testing has proven that games can benefit from 8GB versus 4GB.  However, it is not a clear wash.  You cannot say that by having an 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT you will get better performance across the board in every game.  You just can’t say that. 

What you can say though is that having an 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT can, in some specific games and resolutions and game graphics settings provide a percentage increase over a 4GB model.  It has the potential to change the gameplay experience, but not always.  It is not something you can bet on, and it is highly inconsistent as to what games will benefit and which ones won’t.

Our Recommendation

If you are playing games at 1080p a 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT will suite you at “High” game settings.  We have proven that the Radeon RX 5500 XT GPU is not powerful enough to play many newer games at “Ultra” or maxed out settings at 1080p gaming.  That’s where the VRAM difference would make a difference if the Radeon RX 5500 XT were powerful enough. 

At the end of the day though, the Radeon RX 5500 XT’s weak spot is the Radeon RX 5500 XT itself.  It only has a certain level of performance to provide.  You would probably get more out of the Radeon RX 5500 XT by overclocking it, rather than spending the extra money on the 8GB model. 

We’d instead chose a high factory overclocked 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT over a moderate or reference clocked 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT.  The GPU frequency and memory frequency are going to be more important to your gameplay experience than the VRAM with this GPU.

Final Points

At the end of the day, it all depends on what games you play, your native resolution, and what game settings you want to play at.  If the games you are playing have been shown to benefit with 8GB of VRAM over 4GB, then an 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT would be advantageous.  However, if you are playing games at 1080p at a more moderate game graphics setting, and the games don’t benefit from 8GB then having an 8GB Radeon RX 5500 XT may be overspending on a video card.  Instead, going with a very high overclocked 4GB Radeon RX 5500 XT would suit your gaming experience better. 

Hopefully, this review has helped somewhat with your purchasing decision.  It’s all about the price, and hey, if you can find a good deal on an 8GB model, and it has a high factory overclock, for under $200, then that would be a good deal.  Look for discounts, rebates, sales, etc. and good luck!

Discussion

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3 Comments

  1. If I buy you guys a x570 chipset motherboard for your AMD CPU’s will you use it for testing? This was a great opportunity to show on a memory constrained card the difference in performance with PCIe 4.x.
  2. If I buy you guys a x570 chipset motherboard for your AMD CPU’s will you use it for testing? This was a great opportunity to show on a memory constrained card the difference in performance with PCIe 4.x.

    We have been backed up on video card reviews at the moment, but that very test is planned.

    This test we did today is very relevant because not everyone has an X570 chipset. The X470 and below, or Intel, are still very popular, therefore PCIe 3.0 is still very relevant for many gamers right now, today. There are probably more people not on X570 at the moment, then there are people that are on X570 in this world.

    That said, your idea is not far fetched, and we have been planning to do a system test such as that and upgrade our test bench. I am but one person, and we have many things we had to get to first before I can do the switch. I would continue to argue that X470 and below, and Intel, are more relevant to readers and gamers than X570, that is just one chipset, and not everyone is running it yet, so it’s important to see what the mainstream of gamers actually get in performance.

    Then when we do the comparison with PCIe 4.0 versus 3.0 we’ll have more data to reference, we can look back at this testing and see how that compares. This testing today gives us a good baseline to compare with. The testing we did today will be relevant for a lot of people not on X570 yet, and that’s a LOT of people.

    BTW, I have both a PCIe 4.0 versus PCIe 3.0 test planned and a gaming performance test between CPUs and platforms, please be patient with us as we get to it all. But if you want to see those things, definitely continue to check us out every week for new reviews.

  3. Yea I know. But if we want Intel and others to embrace PCIE 4.x we need to apply pressure and ‘lead from the bottom’ the way we do that is show the benefits of the PICe platform… or quite possibly the complete LACK of benefit.

    I’m down for either I bought into 4.x and I know it’s not the full market. I just think it would be nice to SEE if that is truly a boon or not. For cards that support it… which there will be more of if there is a boon to using it. If not I wasted money on it… but it’s less than I wasted on Star Citizen. ;)

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