AMD released the Radeon RX 6500 XT yesterday (Jan 19th), and the Sapphire Pulse RX 6500 XT we have with us today dropped at our doorstep a little late, but we can finally tell you all about it. The Pulse brand represents Sapphire's value-oriented brand of graphics cards that have everything you need to just install and game. The Radeon RX 6500 XT is the world's first gaming GPU built on the 6 nm silicon fabrication node that offers improved transistor-density and power gains over 7 nm. It is based on the same RDNA2 graphics architecture as the rest of the RX 6000 series. It logically succeeds the RX 5500 XT from the previous generation, but with full DirectX 12 Ultimate capability.
At the heart of the AMD RX 6500 XT in this review is the Navi 24 silicon. This tiny 107 mm² chip packs 1,024 stream processors across 16 RDNA2 compute units, each with a Ray Accelerator. Thanks to the 6 nm process, AMD is able to run them at a scorching 2.61 GHz engine clocks. The card is endowed with 4 GB of GDDR6 memory, but over a baffling 64-bit wide memory bus that's half that of the RX 5500 XT. AMD attempted to overcome this limitation by deploying its Infinity Cache technology—a fast 16 MB on-die cache with the GPU, which speeds up the memory sub-system. Another surprising design choice is the card's PCI-Express 4.0 x4 system bus, which may prove enough for the target performance AMD intends for this SKU, but install it on older machines with Gen 3 and you half the bus bandwidth, as the PCIe lanes remain at just four. We dug deeper into this in our Radeon RX 6500 XT PCI-Express Scaling article
The design goal with the RX 6500 XT is essentially unchanged from the RX 5500 XT—1080p e-sports gaming with moderate settings. To turn up the eye-candy, you could use the FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) feature. Another dividend of the 6 nm node is the card's tiny typical board power figure of just 107 W. It can make do with a single 6-pin PCIe power connector. The Sapphire Pulse RX 6500 XT tops AMD's work with a compact version of its Dual-X cooling solution with an aluminium fin-stack heatsink, and a pair of 80 mm fans to cool it. The heatsink is longer than the PCB underneath, so some of the airflow from the second fan flows through the heatsink and out a large vent on the backplate. Sapphire is running the RX 6500 XT Pulse at default clocks—there is no factory OC. There is no official price guidance, but we expect this card to go for around $300–400, a huge premium over AMD's imaginary $199 SEP.