PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT Red Dragon Review 7

PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT Red Dragon Review


Value and Conclusion

  • The PowerColor RX 5600 XT Red Dragon is currently listed online for $300.
  • Faster than the GeForce RTX 2060
  • Very quiet in gaming
  • Idle fan stop
  • Much better energy efficiency than Polaris or Vega, now on par with NVIDIA Turing
  • Backplate included
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • Dual BIOS
  • Dual-slot design
  • 7 nanometer production process
  • GPU and memory overclocking limited by slider range
  • Price seems $10 too high
  • Wrong fan-control configuration, RPM overshoot as the card heats up
  • No hardware-accelerated ray tracing
The PowerColor Radeon RX 5600 XT Red Dragon is the company's "middle" SKU for the RX 5600 XT. They also have the flagship RX 5600 XT Red Devil and highly affordable RX 5600 XT OC 3DH—the Red Dragon slots between both: $280, $300, and $320. While the Red Devil is a triple-slot design, the Red Dragon makes do with only two slots, which helps compatibility in some cases. To ensure competitiveness, PowerColor was wise to pick the right BIOS settings for their Red Dragon. You get 1750 MHz memory clock and 1620 MHz Boost clock, the latter is lower than the maximum rated boost of 1750 MHz we've been seeing on some other cards. However, since AMD's clock ratings are pure fantasy, the RX 5600 XT Red Dragon is actually just as fast as all the other high-clocked competitors. In real-life, we measured an average clock frequency of 1712 MHz on the Red Dragon. Other RX 5600 XTs run 1707, 1709, 1712, 1716, 1723, or 1733 MHz in the same test—differences not worth talking about. The only thing that really affects RX 5600 XT performance is whether the memory ticks at 14 Gbps or 12 Gbps, which results in around a 5% performance difference. This situation is good for the Red Dragon because you can buy a more affordable card that will punch above its weight—out of the box and with no tweaking required. Overall, when averaged over our testing suite at 1080p resolution, we see the PowerColor RX 5600 XT Red Dragon beat the NVIDIA RTX 2060 with a slim 2% lead, which is 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, with the GTX 1660 Ti being 17% slower and the GTX 1660 Super 19% behind. AMD's next-fastest SKU, the Radeon RX 5700, is only 6% faster and much more expensive. NVIDIA's RTX 2060 Super is 10% faster than the RX 5600 XT. 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.

PowerColor's dual-fan, double-slot cooler is identical to the thermal solution of the RX 5700 XT Red Dragon, which makes sense as they can buy in larger quantities for better discounts. PowerColor is also using the same PCB design as on their RX 5700 XT. The only differences are that two memory chips and two GPU phases have been left out, which results in 6 GB VRAM size and makes the additional 6-pin PCIe power connector unnecessary. The thermal solution of Red Dragon is good, achieving 73°C under load, which is comparable to other premium RX 5600 XT cards. Memory and VRM temperatures are also in the middle of our test group, nothing special to report here. While we measured noise levels to be a tiny bit higher than on competing boards, the differences are minimal and hard to make out subjectively. With 30 dBA, the card is really quiet when fully loaded, quieter than most competing NVIDIA designs. PowerColor includes a dual-BIOS feature with their card, which offers a "quiet" BIOS. In my testing, the differences were small. I would have wished for a larger noise reduction for it to really compete with the best cards out there—the cooler should be able to handle it. PowerColor also included the highly popular idle-fan-off capability with their card, which completely shuts off the fans in idle, browsing, productivity, and light gaming. Some competing NVIDIA cards lack that feature, too.

Idle power consumption of the PowerColor RX 5600 XT 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 cards. We saw the exact same thing happen in our most recent ASRock RX 5600 XT 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. For cards with the 1750 MHz memory BIOS update, this increases power draw above cards that stay at 1500 MHz. Gaming power draw is quite low for the performance on tap, which puts the card right into NVIDIA Turing territory: slightly below the RTX 2080 and above the RTX 2070 Super.

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 Radeon RX 5600 XT Red Dragon is currently available for $300, which makes sense from their perspective. The cheapest OC 3DH variant is $280, and the more premium Red Devil is $320. Looking at just the Red Dragon alone, I find the $20 price increase very reasonable: faster memory, fan-stop, and the better cooler justify it. However, the problem is that the Sapphire Pulse is just $290, just like the ASRock Phantom Gaming, which are both just as fast, yet run a bit cooler and quieter. As mentioned several times in this review, the differences are small, but given these economics, I'd say $10 less for the Red Dragon would help the product's positioning. RX 5600 XT models above $300 are hard to justify these days because they don't offer any significant benefit. At that price point you're also getting into RTX 2060 territory, which offers ray tracing.
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