Tech

Radeon RX 6500 XT vs. RX 580 and GeForce GTX 1060: Worth upgrading?

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6500 XT sunImage: Brad Chacos/IDG

Calling all PC gamers! Are you sick of the GPU shortage causing a disruption in the space-time continuum? Are you not looking to pay out the nose for a new graphics card? Well, today you’re in luck. The AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT is a newly released graphics card that finally enters the $199 to $299 landscape. That said, when compared to a few older GPUs, it comes with a few technological compromises.

The Radeon RX 580 is from 2017, for example, but can it hold a candle to the newcomer in 1080p performance? How about the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 from 2016? It’s a legend in its own right. Let’s see how the AMD RX 6500 XT compares in terms of performance, pricing, and availability to these old favorites!

Price – Like we’ve never seen before

The battle worn AMD RX 580 and Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB are still worth a pretty penny on the used market due to the “Great GPU Shortage.” They both seem to regularly fall in that $200-$300 range, much like the new AMD RX 6500 XT. The GTX 1060 also comes in a 3GB variety – which can often be found for under $200. Much like the 4GB 6500 XT, the lower VRAM means that crypto miners aren’t interested in this version and you should likely opt for the 6GB one.

This pricing is historically atypical. Generally speaking, you’d want a steep discount on tech that’s 5 years old, especially graphics cards. These are also the entry level cards of their generation, so this pricing back then was similar or cheaper to today’s pricing. We’re not even talking about a depreciated GTX 1080 Ti here, either! They’re worth more now, too.

Thiago Trevisan/IDG

Where does this leave a brand spankin’ new RX 6500 XT? With pricing ranging from $199 to a more realistic $270 or so, it’s similar to the older offerings above. Sounds OK, right? Not exactly. It comes with some serious performance drawbacks that don’t move the needle ahead as much as we’d like. However, it’s one of the few readily available GPUs without insane inflated pricing.

Performance

The 6500 XT is, realistically, a medium-settings 1080p GPU. At higher settings, the limitations with its VRAM and PCIE lanes boggle it down significantly.

Brad Chacos/IDG

In Watch Dogs Legion, medium settings nets you some good performance against the older GTX 1060 and RX 580. For a complete breakdown, check our full Radeon RX 6500 XT review.

Brad Chacos/IDG

A fast paced game like Gears Tactics leads to a pretty close GPU brawl. As you an see in the above graph, the Radeon RX 6500 XT barely edges out the older GPUs. It flat out loses to the older 5500 XT, which isn’t something you’d typically like to see in a newer product.

Keep in mind that these performance numbers are against some GPUs dating as far back as 2016 on medium settings. Nothing too impressive here. It’s just enough performance.

While the 6500 XT technically does offer ray tracing, it’s nothing you should care about due to the performance levels on display here. This is a GPU for 1080p medium settings and if you’re conservative with those expectations, it will be fine in most titles.

Power and thermals

One area where the Radeon 6500 XT offers some improvements is in the RDNA 2 architecture’s power efficiency. While both the RX 580 and GTX 1060 are no power hogs, they’re certainly more thirsty than the 6500 XT.

All three should have well controlled thermals but do keep in mind the physical condition of the older GPUs, especially if you purchase them used. Over time, dust and wear on the fans can cause them to operate with less efficiency, so it’s important to make sure they’re dusted off and ready to roll.

Thiago Trevisan/IDG

Important considerations

While the Radeon RX 6500 XT has limitations compared to most modern GPUs, it also will have some advantages. First, you’ll have a brand new warranty with this GPU as opposed to buying used. Secondly, it does share some great AMD technology with its bigger brothers that will be beneficial when gaming.

For example, Smart Access Memory can help increase performance. Radeon Boost and FidelityFX Super Resolution can also help gain some extra frame rates without too many visual compromises. While the 6500 XT does have ray tracing, it’s too limited to be usable.

Another thing to consider is you’ll have limited monitor connections with only a single HDMI and single displayport. On The RX 580 and GTX 1060, you’ll typically have more. You’ll also have more bottlenecks with the 4GB of VRAM in conjunction with older PCIe 3.0 rigs.

If you’re a content creator or streamer, this GPU lacks video encoders found in most other offerings.

What do you buy? 

Radeon RX 6500 XT

Radeon RX 6500 XTRead our reviewPrice When Reviewed:$199Best Prices Today:$189 at B&H | $200 at Newegg

So, if you’re in the market for a budget GPU, which of these should you buy? If you’re strictly a 1080p gamer and content with medium settings, it’s not a bad option, especially if you find it for closer to its $199 MSRP. Pushing visual settings beyond that will result in increasingly worse performance, though. Also, make sure you won’t need the other features like more monitor support or content creation capabilities.

If you can actually find a good condition, fairly priced RX 580 or GTX 1060, they’re still competent for 1080p gaming. With their higher VRAM, they may even have some benefits at higher visual settings.

The real answer here is that it’s a difficult market and none of these are ideal. If GPUs such as the RTX 3050/3060 or AMD 6600/6600XT were more available at their “official” MSRP, they’d all be far better options for all gamers. Unfortunately, they’re either sold out constantly or carry very high pricing taking them to $400, $500, and beyond. When you’re looking for a $200 GPU, those are just too expensive.

Retail pricing trends seem to have reached new highs in 2022 and future prospects are complicated for the budget GPU segment. Unfortunately, your options come down to these limited GPU offerings for now. Best case scenario is if GPU pricing on the 2nd hand market trends lower, then you’ll have a better shot at something like a GTX 1080 Ti or RTX 2060 GPU at more reasonable pricing and gaming performance.

With all of that in mind, there’s no reason to upgrade to the 6500 XT if you already have a RX 580 or GTX 1060.

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