When AMD’s Navi GPUs were announced, many gamers were understandably hyped about them, and for a couple of good reasons. First, it was supposed to be AMD’s first foray into the upper mid-range and the high-end, so AMD fans could finally hope to receive better performance than what the company’s dated Polaris lineup could offer today.
Apart from that, it was good news for Nvidia users, too, because more competition always means lower prices and better features. However, Navi wasn’t all about taking on Nvidia in the high-end, and the lineup consists of a few budget-friendly models, too, including the RX 5500 XT.
Now, if you decided to get an RX 5500 XT, then you’re probably wondering about which model you should get.
After all, there are some variations to keep in mind, and in this buying guide, we’ll be discussing those, as well as listing some of the best RX 5500 XT models that you can get in 2021!
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- Solid design, complete with a backplate
- Decent performance
- Shroud feels cheap
- Only 4 GB of VRAM
The first entry on the list is a rather budget-friendly version of the RX 5500 XT coming from MSI – MSI RX 5500 XT Mech.
The card doesn’t look like much at first glance, which is understandable considering that it’s a no-frills budget model. It features the same black-and-gray color scheme that MSI has been using for most of their newer graphics cards, albeit the shroud feels considerably cheaper than what you’d see in their Gaming X series.
On the other hand, it actually features a good-looking backplate with a brushed metal texture that gives it a more premium vibe.
Now, on the performance front, the card is cooled by dual Torx 3.0 fans, which are usually very quiet, although the cooling isn’t really on par with what the slightly pricier alternatives can offer.
Plus, this is a 4 GB card, which makes it cheaper but also means that it might struggle in some VRAM-heavy games, especially if you’re thinking about gaming in 1440p, and it’s not exactly a future-proof solution.
As such, this RX 5500 XT is only worth getting if you’re really pinching pennies, as there are better alternatives if you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks.
- Neutral shroud design
- 8 GB of VRAM
- A bit costly with standard pricing
The next card comes from a manufacturer known for their affordable yet reliable cards, XFX, and the model that we’ll be taking a look at is their RX 5500 XT Thicc II Pro.
Meme-inspired naming aside, the Thicc II Pro is a rather good-looking card, which is a satisfying surprise. Many older XFX cards (such as the RX 590 Fatboy) didn’t exactly shine in this department, as they included cheap-looking shrouds.
The simple black shroud has rounded edges and matches perfectly with the backplate, presenting a very good-looking card if you like a more neutral design approach. On the other hand, if you prefer cards with aggressive angular details and color highlights, then the Thicc II Pro might look somewhat bland, but that’s a very subjective matter.
This card offers some extra performance compared to the MSI Mech variant, owing mainly to the extra VRAM capacity, as this is an 8 GB card. As far as the clock speeds and the cooling are concerned, there is no huge difference worth mentioning, given the two cards are almost equivalent in that department.
All in all, this is a solid graphics, especially if you can catch it at a discount. Originally, this model retailed for $230, which is way too expensive for the kind of performance it offers, but considering that you can find it for as low as $200 these days, we thought we’d mention it as another budget-friendly model.
- Good cooler
- Solid OC performance
- Appealing shroud and backplate design
- LED lighting is non-customizable
Moving on, we have an RX 5500 XT model coming from Asus’ budget-oriented EVO series – the Asus RX 5500 XT EVO.
The shroud and backplate design on Asus’ new EVO cards is quite good as far as we’re concerned. It has enough details so as not to look bland, but it isn’t overly detailed to the point where it would look too gaudy. Its simple matte black exterior makes for a neutral look that allows the card to blend in easily with most builds, all the while Asus even threw in a small LED strip on the side for good measure.
When it comes to performance, this EVO model fares quite well. The fans are quiet, and the temperatures are a bit lower than the competitors. Moreover, it can be adjusted for a bit of extra performance, although the factory overclock should be more than enough for most people’s needs.
All in all, with its good-looking exterior, efficient cooling, solid performance, and reasonable pricing, this is one of the better RX 5500 XT models that you can get right now when the overall value is concerned. The only downside here is that the lighting is non-customizable, but it’s not a significant issue considering everything else.
- Good triple-fan cooler
- Quality build and design
- Some basic RGB lighting
- Won’t fit small cases
- On the pricey side
Our next pick comes from Gigabyte, another company that has a reputation for manufacturing reliable cards that look good and won’t put a hole in your wallet. This time, it’s the Gigabyte RX 5500 XT Gaming OC.
As with the rest of Gigabyte’s latest Gaming series cards, this RX 5500 XT features a neutral black shroud with gray accents and a sleek-looking backplate, making for a very balanced exterior, much like that of the Asus EVO version. As a bonus, Gigabyte threw in some RGB as well, though it is limited to the company logo on the side of the card.
Regarding performance, you’ll immediately notice that the card comes with three Windforce fans, which makes for slightly better and slightly quieter cooling. On the downside, this also makes the card a fair bit longer than a dual-fan model would be, so it’s a poor fit for smaller cases.
Moreover, seeing as it usually goes for $220 these days, it’s a bit pricey for the kind of performance it offers, but it is still a very good graphics card if you want a triple-fan cooler, RGB, or you just like the overall design.
- Great Twin Frozr 7 cooler
- Beautiful metallic design
- RGB lighting
Moving on, we have yet another competent solution coming from MSI, and it’s an RX 5500 XT which belongs to their Gaming X series.
We have to say, MSI really did a good job redesigning this series with the arrival of Turing and Navi. While Turing cards boast a more angular and aggressive shroud, MSI opted for a smoother brushed metal texture that goes extremely well with the metal backplate. The red highlights apply quite smoothly here, and much like the previous model from Gigabyte, there’s an RGB-lit logo on the side.
So, this is a very good-looking card, but how does it perform? Well, MSI’s Twin Frozr 7 cooler performs admirably in most cases, and this one is no exception. The load temperatures aren’t as low as with some other models, but the fans are about as quiet as you’re going to get, plus there is some extra overclocking headroom to work with.
Ultimately, the RX 5500 XT Gaming X is among the better-performing RX 5500 XT models, so combine that with its unique exterior design, and you’ve got yourself one good graphics card. Granted, much like Gigabyte’s Gaming OC, it goes for $220 at the moment, so it’s not exactly cheap.
- Quality cooler
- Lower temperatures
- Simple design
- DVI port
- Shroud looks cheap
Moving on, we get to PowerColor and their Red Dragon RX 5500 XT, an unassuming graphics card that performs surprisingly well when put to the test.
The first thing you’ll notice is the card features what is probably some of the simplest shroud design that you’ll find these days. It boasts an unimpressive boxy black shroud and backplate with silver rings around the fans that save it from coming across as too bland and dull.
When it comes to performance, the card actually fares better than what you would expect, as it runs several degrees cooler than MSI’s Gaming X variant when under heavy load, being just as quiet along the way. That said, it can be tweaked for a decent overclock, and all of this immediately explains why this somewhat cheap-looking card comes with a $220 price tag attached.
Ultimately, PowerColor’s RX 5500 XT is on fairly even terms with the previous two MSI and Gigabyte models, as it runs a tad cooler and can achieve slightly higher clock speeds. As before, $220 is a bit high for a card offering this kind of performance, so that still applies here.
We do, however, have to note PowerColor’s unusual choice of ports. Whereas most Navi models come with the standard configuration of three DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.0 connector, PowerColor used one HDMI, one DisplayPort, and one single link DVI-D connector for this model, which could make the card more appealing for those who still use DVI.
- Superb cooling
- Low temperatures
- Detail-heavy design
- No RGB
If you’re looking for a more serious RX 5500 XT that can offer better performance and lower temperatures than most other models, look no further, the Sapphire Pule RX 5500 XT has arrived.
When running under load, this card runs significantly cooler than the competition, usually hitting a maximum of 65 degrees Celsius, whereas most other RX 5500 XT models easily go over 70. At the same time, it is also among the quietest (if not the quietest) variant of this card currently available, so with that said, you can rest assured that this is some of the best cooling that you’ll find in an RX 5500 XT.
As far as the design is concerned, it is reminiscent of the rest of Sapphire’s current Pulse lineup, albeit with less color. The more powerful GPUs come with some more color, but the RX 5500 XT has a black shroud, and we feel that this is more effective and neutral than the black-white-red combo that you can see in, say, the RX 5700 XT. The patterns and details, however, are mostly the same.
So, all in all, if you want an RX 5500 XT with top-notch cooling and are willing to pay extra for it, then the Pulse is the card for you. However, it pushes the pricing even higher, and at $230, it is among the most expensive RX 5500 XT models currently available. At that price point.
- Great performance and cooling
- Low temperatures
- RGB lighting
- Very expensive for an RX 5500 XT
- Dubious value
And for the final entry, we have another quality offering from Sapphire that is a sort of one step forward one step back compared to the Pulse – the Nitro+ RX 5500 XT.
The Nitro+ offers performance comparable to what the Pulse has, that is to say, it provides low temperatures, low noise generation, and a little bit of extra overclocking headroom compared to some cheaper models. However, the main difference between the two cards is the design.
Namely, in the case of the Nitro+, the black shroud comes with a cleaner hexagonal pattern, it has a striking black-and-white backplate, but perhaps most importantly, it comes with more extensive RGB lighting that works really well with the card’s translucent fans.
Now, as you might have guessed, the Nitro+ is even more expensive, tacking an additional $10 on top of the already hefty price tag of the Pulse RX 5500 XT. That said, performance-wise, it is pretty much the same deal as the Pulse, and it will mainly appeal to those who really want some better RGB in their graphics card, as this is a feature not commonly seen in budget models.
How To Pick The Right Graphics Card Card For Your Needs
Now that we have gone over our selection of the best RX 5500 XT models available at the moment, what are some things that you need to keep in mind when choosing between different version of the same GPU?
When compatibility is concerned, one of the main factors to consider is the physical size of the card. If you want to ensure that the card you’re getting can fit inside your case, the two key dimensions to keep in mind are length and width.
Some graphics cards are longer than others, be it due to a longer PCB or a longer cooler that extends past the PCB. In either case, you should always ensure that the card can fit and that it won’t be obstructed by the HDD/SSD rack.
As for width, some cards take up more vertical space inside the case due to having a bulkier cooler, usually due to a thicker heatsink. This can lead to two potential issues:
- They might obstruct some of the PCIe slots on the motherboard, thus preventing you from installing any additional PCIe expansion cards in those slots.
- They might be too close to the bottom of the case, and even if there is enough room to fit the card, being too close to the bottom or to a bottom-mounted power supply could inhibit the cooler’s air intake, thus leading to higher temperatures and higher noise generation.
Now, most RX 5500 XT models are not as huge as some high-end graphics cards, and they utilize a standard dual-slot design, so there shouldn’t be any real compatibility issues on this front.
Regardless, it’s always a good idea to be safe and to compare the dimensions of the card you intend on buying with the dimensions of your case or the case that you plan on getting in the future.
The graphics card is where most of the heat generated by your PC comes from, and AMD GPUs have a reputation for running much hotter than the competition. As such, like any other component that generates a lot of heat, the graphics card needs active cooling.
Modern graphics cards utilize three main types of cooling solutions:
Open-air coolers are the most common, and all of the graphics cards currently listed in this article utilize them. For the most part, open-air coolers are the best solution for the majority of gaming PCs because they feature good overall heat dissipation and can benefit more from case fans. These coolers can use anywhere from one to three fans, but budget models commonly arrive with either one or two.
As for blowers, they contrast open-air coolers in that they feature a closed heatsink and a single blower fan that blows the hot air out of the back of the card, directly out of the case. This prevents heat buildup inside the case, which makes the blower good for smaller cases with limited airflow. However, blower-cooled cards are almost always much hotter and noisier than their open-air counterparts.
Finally, liquid cooling is the most efficient cooling method by far, which makes it ideal for overclocking. Liquid-cooled GPUs can hit higher clock speeds, all the while running at significantly lower temperatures than their air-cooled counterparts. However, they are not necessarily quieter, as they still need a pump to cycle the liquid and fans to cool the radiator.
Now, due to its high cost, liquid cooling is usually reserved for high-end GPUs and presents very poor value for budget ones such as the RX 5500 XT. After all, a good AIO liquid cooler can cost over $100, and you could easily get an RX 5600 XT or another more powerful mid-range card for that kind of money.
Ultimately, liquid-cooler cards are a niche product that will mainly appeal to hardware enthusiasts, and they are simply not worth it when it comes to budget graphics cards.
But since all the RX 5500 XT models here utilize open-air cooling, what else is there to say on this subject?
Well, as mentioned above, open-air coolers can utilize one, two, or three fans. In the case of the RX 5500 XT, most models come with two, and we have included only a single triple-fan model.
Now, the differences in this department are simple: single-fan coolers are smaller and louder, triple-fan coolers are larger and quieter, all the while dual-fan coolers provide a balance between size and noise generation.
However, the above is just a generalization, as the quality of the fans is often the biggest factor when it comes to how loud the cooler is. After all, the MSI Gaming X, the PowerColor Red Dragon, and both of the Sapphire models are all dual-fan cards that are either as quiet or even quieter than Gigabyte’s triple-fan model.
Now that we have touched upon cooling, we have to say a few words about overclocking. In case you’re not familiar with it, overclocking is the act of pushing a GPU’s clock speed beyond the default clock speed set by the manufacturer.
Now, the RX 5500 XT is not the most powerful GPU out there, and it can run really hot, so how much extra performance can you really squeeze out of it through overclocking?
Well, generally speaking, an overclocked GPU can get you roughly 5-15% more frames per second compared to a card running with reference settings, but this will inevitably vary from game to game.
In the case of budget GPUs such as this one, however, this boost in performance is mostly negligible. Granted, with some minor tweaking, you could get a few extra frames that could smooth out your gaming experience, especially if you’re struggling to keep the framerate stable in games.
VRAM – 4 GB vs. 8 GB
As you probably know, every graphics card comes with its own dedicated video RAM, VRAM, for short. Much like system RAM, this is random-access memory used to temporarily store relevant data that the GPU needs to render whatever is shown on your screen.
As you can see from the article, the RX 5500 XT comes in two versions that differ only in regards to how much VRAM they come with – 4 GB or 8 GB. So, how important are these extra 4 gigabytes of VRAM, do they make a difference when it comes to performance, and are they worth the extra cost?
Well, in 2021, the most VRAM-heavy setting in any game’s options menu is the resolution.
On average, if you compared the 1080p performance of a 4 GB and an 8 GB RX 5500 XT, the difference would vary wildly from game to game based on how demanding the game in question is. The performance gap could be nonexistent, or it could go up to about 10 FPS, and if you up the resolution to 1440p, then said gap usually gets even wider.
However, another thing to keep in mind is future-proofing. Namely, while a 4 GB card might still be passable for budget cards and 1080p gaming in 2021, it is guaranteed to age faster than an 8 GB variant, and you are bound to notice a steeper drop in performance as time goes by.
At the end of the day, the more VRAM you have, the better the experience. However, if you’re really pinching pennies and don’t want to spend extra on an 8 GB version of this card, a 4 GB variant would do fine, especially if you only play less demanding games.
You’ve probably noticed that we talked about the card design a lot in the article. And sure enough, aesthetics are more important than ever, with the rising popularity of translucent cases and RGB lighting. As a result, the OEMs are trying harder than ever before to make their cards visually attractive, both because of that and because a better-looking card makes for a more marketable product.
So, if you’re getting a translucent case or are building an open rig and want to make sure your setup looks good, what should you keep in mind when it comes to your future graphics card’s design?
First and most noticeably, we have color. Only a few years back, many graphics cards had specific color highlights that served as something of a manufacturer’s signature. For example, Gigabyte had orange, Zotac had yellow, and MSI had red, although the design varied from series to series.
However, most OEMs have moved away from this design approach, and for two reasons: consistency and RGB lighting.
Naturally, for it to look aesthetically pleasing, a build must have a consistent color scheme, and by painting their shrouds and backplates a specific color, OEMs made it more difficult for their cards to blend in with different setups. Now, cards mainly have black shrouds with more subtle gray or white highlights, something that makes them more neutral.
Then, there’s the RGB lighting, which is a better solution on virtually every front if you want to add some color to your setup. It is flexible and allows you to easily establish and change the color scheme across different components whenever you feel like it. However, as you can see from the article, it’s not exactly common among budget models, which makes sense if the manufacturer is trying to offer an affordable product.
Finally, there’s the backplate. Much like RGB, backplates are slowly making their way to the lower price ranges, and in 2021, it’s not uncommon to find them even in budget graphics cards such as the RX 5500 XT.
Most can agree that backplates look great, but what purpose do they serve?
Well, the main purpose of a backplate is just that – they look cool. In practical terms, however, they do protect the PCB, preventing it from bending, and they also make it easier to get the dust off the back of the card, which is always convenient.
Something that a backplate does not do, however, is help with the cooling. Despite what some OEMs might claim, tests have shown that having a metal backplate doesn’t help with heat dissipation at all, so graphics cards with backplates won’t be hitting higher clock speeds or running any cooler than their backplate-less counterparts.
Conclusion – The Best RX 5500 XT For 2021
With all that said, which of the models listed here would we pick as the best RX 5500 XT for gaming in 2021?
Well, as is usually the case with any piece of computer hardware, preferences and budget constraints differ from person to person. As such, we picked not one, but three cards.
First, we have the budget pick, which is the MSI RX 5500 XT Mech. As previously mentioned, it offers decent performance and cooling, plus it is among the most affordable models currently available, which makes it the most appealing card if you’re working with a limited budget.
On the other hand, if you want the best performance that you can get out of an RX 5500 XT, then the Sapphire Pulse RX 5500 XT is definitely the card to choose. It has some of the best cooling that you’ll find, and the design works well, too. If you’re willing to spend an additional $10 on RGB, then the Nitro+ variant would perhaps be the better choice, but we find the Pulse more appealing.
Then there’s value i.e. the card that offers the best performance for your money, and several of the cards listed here could easily fill that spot, but we decided to go with the Asus RX 5500 XT EVO. The card runs remarkably cool, albeit a bit louder than most of the slightly pricier models, but with that and its simple and effective design, as well as the approachable price tag, it makes for a great value pick.
Speaking of value, we should also point out that the RX 5500 XT, unfortunately, wouldn’t be the best GPU when it comes to overall value. Many agree that AMD dropped the ball with this GPU, and for the first time in ages, Nvidia actually has better budget deals.
The GTX 1650 Super offers comparable performance to the RX 5500 XT all the while being noticeably cheaper. Meanwhile, the GTX 1660 Super is a bit pricier so you’d pay a bit more, but it offers better value i.e. more frames-per-dollar.
But if you still want to go with “Team Red”, keep in mind that the above are only our picks, and any of the models listed here are bound to make for a good purchase, as long as you keep their pros and cons in mind.