PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT ITX Review 31

PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT ITX Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The PowerColor RX 5600 XT ITX is currently listed online for $300.
  • Faster than the GeForce RTX 2060
  • Very compact design
  • Extremely quiet in gaming
  • Idle fan stop
  • Much better energy efficiency than Polaris or Vega, now on par with NVIDIA Turing
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • Dual-slot design
  • 7 nanometer production process
  • GPU and memory overclocking limited by slider range
  • Higher temperatures than other RX 5600 XT cards
  • No backplate
  • Wrong fan-control configuration, a little bit of RPM overshoot as the card heats up
  • No hardware-accelerated ray tracing
The PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT ITX was originally released in Japan only, but was so successful that PowerColor decided to make it available world-wide starting this month. The first RX 5600 XT cards in the channel required a BIOS update to achieve optimum performance, which isn't the case for the PowerColor ITX—all cards come with the right BIOS preinstalled. Out of the box, the card ticks at 1750 MHz memory clock and 1750 MHz Boost clock, which is the highest AMD allows for the RX 5600 XT. Overall, when averaged over our testing suite at 1080p resolution, we see the PowerColor card beat the NVIDIA RTX 2060 with a slim 2% lead—an important win. The card also slightly beats AMD's aging Radeon RX Vega 64, which is just as important a victory. The NVIDIA GeForce 16-series is far behind, as the GTX 1660 Ti is 17% slower and the GTX 1660 Super is 18% slower. AMD's next-fastest SKU, the Radeon RX 5700, is only 7% faster and much more expensive. NVIDIA's RTX 2060 Super is 11% faster than the RX 5600 XT. Compared to other RX 5600 XTs, the PowerColor card shares the throne with the ASUS STRIX, MSI Gaming Z, PowerColor Red Devil, Red Dragon, and Sapphire Pulse—they're all exactly as fast. It seems AMD's Boost algorithm works a little bit too well as all cards end up at the same real-life GPU clocks. Overall, the RX 5600 XT is a great card for 1080p gaming with plenty of headroom for future titles, but it can also handle 1440p well, maybe not at ultra details in every single game, but it'll be a very decent experience overall.

The unique selling point of PowerColor's RX 5600 XT ITX is without doubt its compact size. The board and cooler seem to be physically identical to the PowerColor RX 5700 ITX. It stays within the height limits of a standard PCIe slot cover and is only 17.5 cm long. Thanks to a dual-slot cooler design, it should fit into most small-form-factor cases that support a discrete graphics card. In the past when you heard "ITX" or "small form factor," it often meant noisy fans, or extreme performance compromises to avoid overheating. The PowerColor ITX is different—as mentioned before it runs just as fast as its bigger full-size RX 5600 XT colleagues, and our noise testing shows it to be just as silent. With 29 dBA, the card is whisper quiet during even heavy gaming. Technically, the ITX is one of the louder RX 5600 XT cards we've tested if you look at our long table on the thermals and noise page, but that's only because all other RX 5600 XT cards are very quiet, too. The actual differences are small, barely noticeable subjectively, without measuring equipment. Given the low noise levels and the compact physical size of the card, it's not surprising that temperatures are higher than on other RX 5600 XTs. With under 80°C, temperatures are still fine and perfectly safe, and there should be sufficient headroom to account for a badly ventilated case. Personally, I'd think these are the best-possible fan settings given the target market and heatsink capabilities. Kudos to PowerColor for not chickening out and running at higher fan speed than necessary just to artificially lower temperatures. For an SFF graphics card there's nothing more important than noise levels in my opinion, and PowerColor did a good job here. They also included the highly popular idle-fan-stop capability that shuts off the fans completely during idle, desktop activity, and media playback. This is another important feature for the ITX because you obviously don't want to hear your GPU fans while watching a movie.

Power consumption of the PowerColor RX 5600 XT ITX is in-line with other RX 5600 XT cards, no losses in efficiency to report. With just 150 W during gaming and 190 W as the worst case in Furmark, the card is very gentle in its PSU requirements, which is important for an SFF system, as the power supply choices are often limited. Idle power consumption of the PowerColor RX 5600 ITX is worse than on other cards. For some reason, the card no longer goes to the "0 MHz/0 V" power state, which means idle power draw is a few watts higher than on other RX 5600 XT models. We saw exactly the same thing happen in our most recent ASRock RX 5600 XT and PowerColor Red Dragon review. It seems AMD changed their VBIOS firmware in some way that increases idle power consumption. While 11 W sounds high in idle, it's not the end of the world. Even at Europe's high energy prices, it'll mean maybe a buck more per month with heavy usage. Multi-monitor power consumption has been high on AMD for years because they run the memory at full speed in that state, but that's an unlikely scenario for an ITX card.

Back when NVIDIA launched the RTX 2060 with 6 GB VRAM, the Internet was full of hate. Now, AMD does exactly the same, and it still makes perfect sense for me. 8 GB VRAM on a card that's targeted at 1080p/1440p isn't worth it, especially if you have to meet a certain price point to make the card attractive. Looking through our performance results I can identify only a single clear case: Assassin's Creed Origins. Here, we see the RX 5600 XT fall behind at 1440p, but all the other games are running fine. If you absolutely must have 8 GB VRAM, be ready to pay for it: the RX 5700 and RTX 2060 Super have you covered. It's not something I would do in this case where money matters.

The next and certainly bigger controversy will be real-time ray tracing support. NVIDIA's RTX 2060 supports hardware accelerated ray tracing, and the RX 5600 XT does not. While proliferation of RTX is limited today, several big titles with RTX support are coming out this year. Next-gen consoles will also have support for hardware ray tracing, which will further push game developers to embrace the new technology. Still, I would say ray tracing isn't the most important capability to have right now in this market segment. On the other hand, the RTX 2060 is barely more expensive than the RX 5600 XT and has that unique selling point, making this a close call.

PowerColor's RX 5600 XT ITX is currently available for $300, which is a $20 increase over the AMD base price of $280. Considering it's an ITX card, which usually comes with a special small-form-factor tax, the price increase is reasonable. What I'm not happy about is the lack of a backplate; that's simply unacceptable for any product in this price range, even a $1 plastic backplate would have made a difference. If you are strictly looking for compact graphics cards then your options are limited anyway. One noteworthy option is the Palit GTX 1650 KalmX, which doesn't require an additional power connector and is a completely passive design—no fan noise ever. But that also means performance is seriously reduced. The PowerColor ITX can easily handle 1080p and dips into 1440p—the KalmX struggles with reaching 60 FPS at 1080p. Another option is the Palit RTX 2060 StormX OC, which is shorter than even the PowerColor ITX, has RTX support, but a significantly worse cooler, so it'll be louder. That card also extends a few centimeters beyond the standard PCIe slot height, so it might not fit many ITX cases. For a compact high-performance gaming rig, the PowerColor RX 5600 XT ITX is definitely a choice worth considering.
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