With the RX 5700 and 5700 XT in-market since June, it was inevitable that AMD would refresh the lower end of its product family. Big Navi may not drop until 2020, but there’s plenty of room at the lower end of the market for a major refresh cycle. Since 2016, AMD’s Polaris family of cards has anchored this market, but the company has maintained its competitive standing by slashing prices and competing on raw performance as opposed to power efficiency.
This has made cards like the RX 570 absolutely killer deals compared with Nvidia’s GTX 1050 and even the GTX 1650. But Polaris is still three years old, and the RX 580 and RX 590 are selling well below their original price points. Companies often like to address a situation like this by launching a newer part on a smaller die.
Today, AMD is announcing both the RX 5500 and the RX 5500M. These two cards are intended for desktops and mobile, respectively, and they differ only in terms of their clock speed targets and RAM loads. Today is an announcement, however, not a wide launch. The specifications we’ll be discussing today are for OEM products that’ll go into systems, not for retail individual GPU shipments. OEM cards and retail cards sometimes vary in terms of specifications and clocks, so we may see different versions of these cards for the retail market. AMD has only committed to launching retail versions of these cards in Q4, without any specific ship date. All of the derived figures for texture and pixel fill rates could change depending on final card model clocks.
Let’s talk about specs. We don’t know everything about the RX 5500 family yet — AMD hasn’t revealed the number of ROPS, for example — but we’re already seeing some substantial performance improvements for these cards compared with the previous family members. The RX 5500 offers more fill rate than even the RX 580, with memory bandwidth that matches the RX 570. The RX 5500 uses GDDR6 rather than GDDR5, which is why memory bandwidth is as high as it is. The RX 5500 only uses a 128-bit memory bus — but it matches that memory bus with 14Gbps GDDR6 rather than slower GDDR5.
Based on what we’ve seen from RDNA in professional and gaming contexts, the RX 5500 should be capable of matching the RX 580, if not somewhat exceeding it. The performance-per-watt and die area comparisons AMD is offering also show significant improvements in both metrics.
The RX 5500 is still significantly larger than the old RX 560 (158mm2 versus 123mm2), but the RX 560 has a fraction of the resources of this card, with just 1024 cores, 64 TMUs, and 16 ROPs. The RX 5500 packs a significant increase in cores, ROPS, and texture units, with projected performance gains of 1.12x over the RX 480, and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption over that GPU. The RX 480 drew less power than the 580, so landing 30 percent below the 480 should represent a significant improvement over AMD’s 14nm hardware.
The only benchmarks we have available at this point are from AMD, so take them with a grain of salt.
There are rumors that Nvidia may be prepping an updated version of the GTX 1650, and we’d believe them. AMD has been hammering Nvidia in the entry-level and midrange GPU markets, and it appears to be prepping the RX 5500 to keep that cycle going. The GTX 1650 uses a media decode block from Volta rather than the newer hardware Nvidia deployed for Turing, while the RX 5500 uses the same display engine built for Navi, with support for up to five monitor streams (down from the six that the 5700 and 5700 XT support). PCIe 4.0 support is also included. TDP on the RX 5500 remains relatively high, at 150W, however. TDP for the mobile part is significantly lower, at 88W.
HP and Lenovo are expected to ship systems with the RX 5500 in November, with Acer following in December. Retail card availability is also expected in Q4 — but the big question here is price, and AMD doesn’t want to share that yet. This is where the other shoe could still drop. On paper, the RX 5500 family looks fabulous, but AMD has a big hole to fill in its product lineup and it’s been purposefully comparing against the RX 480, not the RX 570 or RX 560, which are the cheaper cards that currently compare the best against Nvidia hardware.
This is likely a bit of a marketing dodge, for the simple reason that AMD has a huge gap to fill. Right now, the RX 570 can be reliably had for $139 or below, while the RDNA-based 5700 starts at ~$349. Companies typically cover a gap this size with more than one SKU, which means the RX 5500 at the “top” of the stack — the one we’ve been talking about to-date — will probably be considerably more expensive than the $149 GTX 1650. The Radeon RX 5500 Mobile may represent a lower-end desktop SKU that we’d see competing against the 1650, while the RX 5500 OEM variant may be more comparable to what we’ll see going up against the GTX 1660.
There will be no reference designs released in-market for this launch, but AIB designs should be ready to go on Day 1 — whenever that happens later this quarter.
Overall, this product family looks like a step forward for AMD. But we’ll have to reserve judgment until we know how much it’s going to cost. These cards will also participate in the Radeon “Raise the Game” bundle option (detailed in the link below) through the end of the year.