The Nvidia RTX 3050 and AMD RX 6500 XT are two of the most affordable entry-level graphics cards available in their respective generations. If availability isn’t an issue (though it often is), both cards offer accessible pricing for budget-conscious gamers. But how do they stack up against each other?
Pricing and Availability
Neither of these graphics cards are currently on the market, but they are set to release soon. The Nvidia RTX 3050 is slated for release on January 27 with a recommended retail price of $249. The AMD RX 6500 XT has an earlier release date of January 19 and is priced at a recommended $199.
It’s worth noting that actual prices may vary, especially in different regions. For example, the European retail price for the 6500 XT has already been inflated to around $340. Therefore, it’s essential to wait until the release to see the actual retail prices.
At this point, there are no third-party tests available for these graphics cards, so it’s challenging to determine their exact performance. However, by analyzing the specifications and comparing first-party data provided by AMD and Nvidia at CES 2022, we can make a relative estimation of their performance.
Both the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT are designed as 1080p graphics cards, replacing older models such as the GTX 1650 and RX 570/580. Nvidia’s testing indicated that the RTX 3050 is capable of delivering over 60 frames per second (fps) in major games like F1 2021, Control, and Doom Eternal. However, it’s worth noting that these results were achieved with the use of deep learning super sampling (DLSS), which is not supported by older cards like the GTX 1650 and not universally available in all games.
On the other hand, AMD’s benchmarks showed the RX 6500 XT to be approximately 23% to 59% faster than the GTX 1650 in games like Age of Empires 4, Apex Legends, and Resident Evil: Village. While these numbers are promising, they do not provide specific frame rates.
Considering the specifications, the RTX 3050 has a significant advantage in enabling advanced visual settings due to its double the GDDR6 memory. Although the bandwidth of the RTX 3050 remains unknown, it is expected to be higher than that of the RX 6500 XT. However, AMD’s Infinity Cache may help close the performance gap, as observed with its higher-end RDNA 2 graphics cards.
Moreover, the 6500 XT boasts a higher clock speed than the RTX 3050, which might provide competitive performance against the Nvidia GPU.
Until unbiased real-world testing is conducted, it is challenging to determine with certainty which card will be more powerful. Nevertheless, given the pricing strategies of both companies, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the RTX 3050 slightly ahead in terms of power, with AMD closely trailing and even surpassing it in specific games.
Upscaling and Ray Tracing
Both graphics cards support upscaling technologies that enhance performance in compatible games. The RTX 3050 utilizes Nvidia’s Tensor Cores, enabling the use of DLSS for significant performance gains in select games. This technology can make a noticeable difference, especially when gaming with an entry-level card like this.
While the RX 6500 XT lacks dedicated hardware for in-game upscaling, it can take advantage of AMD’s Fidelity FX Super Resolution in compatible games. This technology has garnered positive reviews. Interestingly, the RTX 3050 can also utilize Fidelity FX Super Resolution, and some games even offer the option to choose between FSR and DLSS.
Both cards also support ray tracing. However, due to the relatively weaker accelerators in the 6500 XT, it is unlikely to be practically utilized without a substantial performance hit. Nonetheless, having the option to enable ray tracing for gameplay improvements, even if it reduces the frame rate, is beneficial.
Interfaces and Media Encoding
One area of concern with the 6500 XT is its limited PCIe x4 interface. While this shouldn’t pose an issue on newer motherboards with PCIe 4 support, older motherboards with PCIe 3 may experience bandwidth constraints that limit overall performance. Considering that this card targets gamers with older PCs, this design choice by AMD seems puzzling.
In comparison, the RTX 3050 takes full advantage of PCIe x16 interfaces. Although it won’t utilize the maximum bandwidth, it avoids any bottleneck at the slot, even on older motherboards.
Another surprising decision made by AMD is disabling H264/HEVC encoding and AV1 decoding on the 6500 XT. This may cause difficulties with streaming at higher resolutions and limit compatibility with Oculus Quest headsets. Although not major deal breakers for a card targeting 1080p gaming, it is disappointing to see these standard features stripped from the card.
The 6500 XT: A Suitable Option
Between the two cards, the RTX 3050 appears to be the more powerful option upon release. Its larger memory configuration, DLSS support, and higher price suggest superior performance. However, the presence of 8GB RAM in the RTX 3050 opens up the possibility of cryptocurrency miners using it for Ethereum mining. On the other hand, the 6500 XT’s limited 4GB GDDR6 makes it unattractive for mining, potentially making it easier to find and purchase.
While the availability of both cards in sufficient quantities to counter scalping remains uncertain, AMD has expressed confidence in supplying ample volume of this entry-level GPU. If the relatively accurate $200 price holds, the 6500 XT is likely to become a popular choice among gamers. If gamers can get their hands on it, it could be a solid purchase in a market where finding any reasonably priced graphics card is no mean feat.
The RTX 3050 may have the advantage in terms of performance, but its higher specifications might work against it.
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