AMD’s Entry Level Radeon RX 6500 XT Launch is Not Going Well

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(Image: AMD)
Back at CES a few weeks ago, AMD invited people to “step up your game” with its upcoming Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card. It was marketed as the first “entry level” RDNA2 GPU from the company, and that status was confirmed by its low-ish asking price of just $199. The prospect of a budget-friendly GPU with advanced features is certainly appetizing, and quite welcome right now given the current GPU shortage. However, it seems the launch isn’t going very well, for one simple reason: the company graced the GPU with a measly 4GB of VRAM. It’s a bit embarrassing for AMD, given that it has railed against such low RAM loadouts in the past.

Of course, there’s other reasons for the card receiving sideways glances in online reviews. It has a minuscule 64-bit memory bus while offering 16 ray tracing cores, which seems totally pointless. Ray tracing would absolutely crush a card with this amount of horsepower, so it’s more of a marketing gimmick than a feature gamers would actually use. AMD did endow the card with 16MB of Infinity Cache, which does help with memory bandwidth, but with such a narrow pipe it’s really an uphill battle. It’s also limited to just four PCIe 4.0 lanes, which means if the card is dropped into an older system that only has PCIe 3.0, available bandwidth is cut in half, going from 8GB/s to 4GB/s. PCGamer writes: “Effectively you’re getting RX 580 performance, sometimes lower because of having half the VRAM.”

However, the biggest issue AMD is dealing with is its alleged attempt to conceal a blog post written in June of 2020, which argued that 4GB of RAM was insufficient for the the latest titles (which we covered here at the time). Kitguru noticed the post had been scrubbed from AMD’s website, which seemingly prompted the company to repost it in all its glory, but Kitguru noted that the post was missing for approximately four hours or so.

In the original post AMD declares, “Competitive products at a similar entry level price-point are offering up to a maximum of 4GB of VRAM, which is evidently not enough for todays games. Go Beyond 4GB of Video Memory to Crank Up your settings.” Despite its earlier proclamations, in January PCWorld interviewed AMD CEO Lisa Su and Radeon vice president Laura Smith about the card, and one of them exclaimed, “We have really optimized this one to be gaming first… You can see that with the way we’ve configured the part. Even with the four gigs of frame buffer, that’s a really nice frame buffer size for the majority of triple-A games…” To be fair to AMD though, the post was written by a Radeon Product Marketing Specialist named Adit Bhutani, and the blog post features this disclaimer at the bottom: “His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions.” Rightttttt.

Here’s AMD’s argument for why 8GB of RAM is better than 4GB. (Image: AMD)

The other issue with the card is that like any GPU released in the past two years or so, nobody actually believes it will sell for its $199 MSRP due to the GPU shortage. This means gamers who are interested in the card will likely end up paying $300+ for a 1080p GPU that runs AAA titles at medium settings, which just seems wrong. Though AMD’s 4GB RAM allotment might dissuade miners from scooping up all the available cards, looking at Newegg this morning there’s not a single card in stock, and some of them such as the the Asus TUF model are being offered for an insane $359 sticker price, but most of them are actually listed at $199, with a few hovering in the $269 region.

This is launch day availability on Newegg for a GPU designed to specifically be in-stock.

Though text-based review verdicts are mostly mixed, summarizing the situation as “it’s not that bad if you can find it for MSRP, which you probably can’t,” YouTubers seem to have their knives out for the newest member of the Radeon family. Hardware Unboxed labels its review, “Worst GPU,” calling the card the “Corner Cutting Edition,” while Gamers Nexus describes it as “Worse than 2016’s GPUs.” Hardware Canucks summarized the situation succinctly by simply asking, “WTF AMD!?”

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