Recently we published a review of the SAPPHIRE Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT 4GB review and in it, we compared it to the GeForce GTX 1650 SUPER as well as the last generation cards that they were both replacing. The catch there was those older cards are now dirt cheap if you can find them on the market, but what about those sitting on about $200 cash for a new graphics card? The new features and efficiencies of the new cards are great, but what if you're trying to maximize the amount of power you're getting for the money you spend?
In new launch card reviews, I typically don't discuss the used market, not because I'm trying to pay favors to the new cards but it's because the used market is volatile as can be. And, when you're spending $400 or more on a graphics card knowing there is a standing warranty behind it and you know where it's been can go a long way in easing that purchase. But, when you're trying to squeeze the dollars as hard as possible in this price range what does the used market have to offer?
The $120-$140 GTX 1060's and RX 4/580s are attractive but what about the likes of the GeForce GTX 1070 and the Radeon RX Vega 56? Both offer higher tiers of performance, both have 8GB of memory and both were strong contenders in the last generation. The thing is now the GTX 1070 and RX Vega 56 can be readily found on Ebay here in states for around $180-$200 respectively (at the time of writing and I cannot stress that part enough). Sure, that's more expensive than the GTX 1650 SUPER and in the price range of the RX 5500 XT (even the 8GB model) but what does that performance look like when you put it in practice?
Test System and Method
All of the testings were done on our Intel Z370 test bench powered by a 5GHz Core i9-9900K. We ran all tests involving DX11 through 3 paces and averaged the results of all metrics to come to the final numbers. For DX12 and Vulkan we used the latest release of FrameView at the time. I took the average of average frame rates as well as the 99th percentile results from the run. I had been using 1% and .1% results but while working on an upcoming review, before starting this one, I had decided to move to a 99th percentile to represent the bottom end of the framerates for a more simple method of charting and reading for our readers.
For those uncertain of what the 99th percentile is representing is easily explained as showing only 1 frame out of 100 is slower than this frame rate. Put another way, 99% of the frames will achieve at least this frame rate. The representation of the 99th percentile is much more consistent in experience than the 1% and .1% lows, and this was ultimately done as a way to deliver better metrics to the audience.
|CPU||Intel Core i9-9900k @ 5GHz|
|Memory||16GB G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200|
|Motherboard||EVGA Z370 Classified K|
|Storage||Kingston KC2000 1TB NVMe SSD|
|PSU||Cooler Master V1200 Platinum|
|Windows Version||1909 with latest security patches|
Graphics Cards Tested
|GPU||Architecture||Core Count||Clock Speed||Memory Capacity||Memory Speed|
|SAPPHIRE Pulse RX 5500 XT||Navi 14||1408||1685/1737/1845||4GB GDDR6||14Gbps|
|Zotac GTX 1650 SUPER||Turing||1280||1530/1725||4GB GDDR6||12Gbps|
|RX Vega 56||Vega 10||3584||1156/1471||8GB HBM2||800Mps
|GTX 1070 FE||Pascal||1920||1506/1683||8GB GDDR5||8Gbps|
*note on the drivers* At the time of publication new drivers for both vendors have been released and the testing was all completed before those drivers went live and publication date followed immediately after.
Synthetics, Thermals, and Power
Firestrike is running the DX11 API and is still a good measure of GPU scaling performance, in this test we ran the regular version of Firestrike which runs at 1080p and we recorded the Graphics Score only since the Physics and combined are not pertinent to this review.
Time Spy is running the DX12 API and we used it in the same manner as Firestrike Extreme where we only recorded the Graphics Score as the Physics score is recording the CPU performance and isn't important to the testing we are doing here.
Thermals were measured from our open test bench after running the Time Spy graphics test 2 on loop for 30 minutes recording the highest temperatures reported. The room was climate controlled and kept at a constant 22c throughout the testing.
Power draw numbers were taken from the total system power draw by measuring with a Kill-A-Watt. We ran Unigine Valley for 30 minutes and observed the highest sustained load. Something to keep in mind when observing total system power draw is that there are times where a GPU simply being faster and requiring more from the CPU can cause the total system power draw to increase with the like of the Core i9-9900K. That said, the total system power draw is still important as it is how much power it is taking to run the system.
1080p Gaming Performance
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 carries on the open-world racing tradition of the Horizon series. The latest DX12 powered entry is beautifully crafted and amazingly well executed and is a great showcase of DX12 games. We use the benchmark run while having all of the settings set to non-dynamic with an uncapped framerate to gather these results.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, unlike its predecessor, does a good job putting DX12 to use and results in higher performance than the DX11 counterpart in this title and because of that, we test this title in DX12. I do use the second segment of the benchmark run to gather these numbers as it is more indicative of in-game scenarios where the foliage is heavy.
Rainbow 6 Siege
Rainbow 6 Siege has maintained a massive following since its launch and it consistently in Steams Top Ten highest player count game. In a title where the higher the framerate the better in a tactical yet fast-paced competitive landscape is essential, we include this title despite its ludicrously high framerates. We use the Ultra preset with the High Defenition Texture Pack as well and gather our results from the built-in benchmarking tool.
Far Cry New Dawn
Far Cry New Dawn brings the DX11 powered Dunia 2 engine back for another beating in Hope County. We test this game using the High Preset and follow the built-in benchmarking tool for consistency's sake.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the biggest release titles of the year on PC and we simply have to include results here. Running on the Vulkan version of the Rockstar Advanced Graphics Engine we manually set all of the graphics settings and sliders to the Medium setting and left anti-aliasing disabled. We took our results from the final 2 minute section of the built-in benchmark tool.
Borderlands 3 has made its way into the test lineup thanks to strong demand by gamers and simply delivering MORE Borderlands. This game is rather intensive after the Medium preset and since this is a budget-focused 1080p card Medium it is. We tested using the built-in benchmark utility
At the end are we really surprised to see the performance uplift for the money spent? There are some net wins with the last generation upper mid-tier powerhouses; extremely strong 1080p performance that will last you quite some time, 8GB for certain without worrying which model you get, and the ability to double up with SLI or Crossfire (if you're brave enough to fight those battles).
But, there are some downsides too. The biggest being warranty, with new cards you get that sweet sweet warranty and for anyone out there who has ever had to RMA a graphics card will tell you it is worth its weight in gold (or at least the cost of the card). The newer cards run much cooler and consume a lot less power, that's an undeniable long term saving on your wallet and ears. Game bundles, yes that's a plus on new graphics cards, especially if you can buy a card and get a couple of AAA titles to fire up without shelling out extra.
It is a tough predicament for sure and with the worry of the market becoming strained over current viral outbreaks and the apparent resurgence of crypto mining these used cards might dry up quickly and completely destroy any value proposition leaving the new cards as the only viable option until they too run out. So with the numbers laid out on the table, I'm interested in hearing where our readers would place their cold hard pair of Benjamins.