If you’re searching for a good mid-range graphics card in 2021, AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT could be what you need.
After all, it can keep up with the pricier RTX 2060 Super, all the while staying ahead of the similarly-priced GTX 1660 Ti. That said, it offers great value for your money, so if you’ve decided on getting an RX 5600 XT, then you’re probably wondering which model you should get, seeing as there are quite a few to choose from.
There are multiple factors to consider when picking the right graphics card for your needs: performance, cooling, noise generation, aesthetics, the size of the card, etc.
To make the endeavor of finding your ideal graphics card easier, we are here to present a narrowed-down list of some of the best RX 5600 XT models currently available in 2021, complete with a brief overview of their strengths and weaknesses.
Table of ContentsShow
- Solid performance
- Neutral design
- MSRP pricing
- Fairly hot under load
- High VRAM temperatures
- Not much overclocking headroom
First up, we have a reliable and budget-friendly card that is also one of the most popular RX 5600 XT models at the moment – the XFX RX 5600 XT Thicc II PRO.
Something that you might notice straight away if you’re familiar with XFX’s older cards is the new design. The truth is, the company never seemed to put too much thought into their cards’ appearance, so when they tried to give them some of that “gaming flair” by throwing in sharp angles and red highlights, the result usually just made the cards come across as somewhat cheap.
With the latest Navi models, XFX opted for a clean and simple black shroud and backplate design, complete with rounded edges that work quite well here. Granted, this can make the card seem somewhat bland compared to what other companies are offering, but we much prefer this design philosophy to overly aggressive angular details that can be seen in some other models.
When it comes to performance, the Thicc II PRO isn’t really a performance-oriented card, so there isn’t much overclocking headroom to speak of. The card can be tweaked for a decent performance boost, but this is one of the hottest-running models when under load, particularly when it comes to VRAM temperatures.
However, the Thicc II PRO is still a better choice than the blower-equipped reference model, and it usually goes for $280 these days, which is the MSRP specified for the RX 5600 XT by AMD. This makes it a great budget pick if you’re struggling to make this GPU fit your build.
- Good overall performance
- Striking backplate design
- Shroud color scheme is a bit too much
The second card comes from none other than Sapphire, and it is another budget-friendly variant of the RX 5600 XT – the Sapphire Pulse RX 5600 XT.
The Pulse is also a dual-fan card that offers pretty much the same kind of performance as the XFX Thicc II PRO model. The core temperatures are a bit lower, and the card provides better VRAM cooling, all the while the fans are just as quiet as those on the Thicc II PRO.
That said, the more noticeable difference between the two models is the design. Sapphire had some really good shroud designs in the past, and in contrast to XFX, we really liked their older RX 400 and 500 series designs, more so than what they have going for the RX 5000 lineup.
With the latest Pulse series cards, they shifted to a much more aggressive exterior design. The shroud is detailed and features a total of three colors: black, white, and red. We feel this combo works better for the metal backplate than it does for the plastic shroud, but as always, it’s all a matter of taste.
At the end of the day, there are no major differences between the XFX Thicc II PRO and the Sapphire Pulse versions of the RX 5600 XT. Granted, Sapphire’s card has better VRAM cooling, but at the end of the day, we’d say just go with whichever one is cheaper one if you don’t care about the exterior design.
- Solid triple-fan cooler
- Neutral and effective design
- Dubious value
The third card on the list is yet another card from XFX, and this one offers somewhat better performance than the previous model – the XFX RX 5600 XT Thicc III Ultra.
So, what’s “ultra” about this one? Well, mainly, it is the triple-fan cooler, which allows the card to run at slightly lower temperatures while generating slightly less noise, all the while allowing for a bit of extra overclocking headroom. However, it’s not a major difference by any means.
You’ll notice that the design is pretty much identical to the cheaper Thicc II PRO, so there’s not much to say in that department. It looks the same, but the triple-fan cooler makes the card noticeably longer than its dual-fan counterpart, which is something to keep in mind if you have a smaller case.
Now, one very clear downside to this card is the $20 price premium compared to the previous two models, one which we don’t feel is justified given the negligible performance boost. However, it would still be a good pick if you can catch it at a discount. It solves the Thicc II’s VRAM cooling issue, and the design might be more appealing to some than the design of Sapphire’s Pulse variant.
- Good overclocking performance
- Runs much cooler than the competition
- RGB looks great
- Design is a bit dated
For the fourth and final entry, if you’re looking for a triple-fan card that can offer some extra performance to justify its increased price, then look no further than the ASUS ROG Strix RX 5600 XT.
Asus’ ROG Strix lineup is known for its quiet and efficient cooling. While this model might not be much quieter than the rest of the cards listed here, the card most certainly does run significantly cooler under heavy load, which in turn means the clock can be pushed slightly further.
Moreover, you’ll notice that it also comes with RGB lighting, which is present both on the shroud and on the backplate. Overall, this design is very effective, although it is a bit dated, seeing as how Asus hasn’t updated it since 2016.
On a final note, this card usually goes for about $330, which is much higher than the $280 MSRP, and it’s entirely up to you to decide whether the RGB lighting, the improved cooling, and some extra frames are worth the additional investment.
How To Pick The Right Card For Your Needs?
Now that we have gone over our selection of the best RX 5600 XT models available at the moment, what are some things that you need to keep in mind when selecting a 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, due to a longer PCB or a longer cooler that extends past the PCB. In either case, you should always make sure 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 5600 XT models are not as huge as some high-end graphics cards, but we can’t really call them compact either. As such, it’s always a good idea to be safe and 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 use 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 utilize anywhere from one to three fans, but RX 5600 XT models commonly come with either two or three.
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 require a pump to cycle the liquid and fans to cool the radiator.
Now, due to its high cost, liquid cooling is commonly reserved for high-end GPUs, as a good cooler can easily add over $100 to the price of a card. That said, liquid-cooled cards are a niche product that will mainly be appealing to hardware enthusiasts, plus a liquid cooler would offer very poor value for a mid-range solution such as the RX 5600 XT.
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 5600 XT is a powerful GPU that also runs really hot, so how much extra performance can you 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 mid-range GPUs such as this one, however, this is mostly a negligible boost that comes down to only a couple of frames. Granted, with some tweaking, you could get a few extra frames per second that could smooth out your gaming experience, especially if you’re aiming for high performance in 1080p.
In any case, the kind of performance that you can expect from all the models listed here is roughly on the same level, so comparing their exact overclocking performance would just be needlessly splitting hairs.
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, what 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 appealing, 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 evident, 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 much 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, not to mention that it is cheaper than ever and is now quite commonplace even among the more affordable graphics cards.
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 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Super.
Most can agree that backplates look gorgeous, 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 aid 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 5600 XT Of 2021
As we’ve mentioned above, all of the cards listed here offer roughly the same kind of performance, so the main difference lie in the price, the aesthetics, and the cooling efficiency.
If we had to choose which of these offers the best value for your money, we’d go with the Sapphire Pulse RX 5600 XT. True, the design will not agree with everyone, but the card comes with a quiet and efficient cooler, plus it is currently available for $280, which is the MSRP for the RX 5600 XT.
On the other hand, if you want the best RX 5600 XT that money can buy, then look no further than the Asus ROG Strix RX 5600 XT! This card runs drastically cooler than most other RX 5600 XT models, which also allows it to run slightly faster. Plus, while the design might be a bit outdated, the card still comes with excellent RGB lighting, which is a definite plus.
But as mentioned above, any of the cards listed here would prove to be good choices, provided that you keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind. Don’t forget that prices may fluctuate with time and depending on where you live, so the prices we’ve mentioned here might not be 100% accurate.