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Some Radeon RX 5600 XT graphics cards are much faster than others

AMD’s $279 Radeon RX 5600 XT launched this week, and it goes toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s powerful $350 GeForce RTX 2060, nearly matching even AMD’s own $350 Radeon RX 5700 in several games. Sometimes. Other times, it’s merely an okay alternative to the $279 GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, which itself was effectively rendered obsolete by the launch of the $230 GeForce GTX 1660 Super last fall. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. It all depends on which custom model you buy, and whether that card has the correct software preinstalled.

What a mess.

We explained the drama in our Radeon RX 5600 XT review, but the last-second releases of new, performance-enhancing VBIOSes are worth highlighting separately because it means that some models are much faster than others. We also spent over an hour untangling the mess on our Full Nerd podcast, which you can watch below. End users should almost never have to worry about what VBIOS their graphics cards are running, but it’s critical with the Radeon RX 5600 XT.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Update: This article originally published on January 22, 2020, shortly after the release of AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT. On May 4, AMD began advertising 14Gbps models, saying “Radeon RX 5600 XT graphics cards are now available with 14 Gbps of memory speed, giving you higher performance out of the box or as a downloadable update for many existing GPUs.” But 14Gbps versions of the graphics cards have been available since the GPU’s launch, as we explain below.

Our advice (and criticism) still stands, but it’s nice to have a landing page showcasing the available 14Gbps Radeon RX 5600 XT models. Shopping smart is easier now. The original article continues below.

Why AMD made the Radeon RX 5600 XT faster (sometimes)

AMD announced the Radeon RX 5600 XT at CES 2019. It features the same GPU as the more powerful Radeon RX 5700, but clocked at lower speeds, and paired with slower, less spacious GDDR6 memory. AMD pitched it as the ultimate 1080p graphics card, surpassing the similarly priced GTX 1660 Ti. And it does, albeit barely!

But Nvidia pulled a sneaky on AMD. Rather than competing against the Radeon RX 5600 XT by slashing the price of the GTX 1660 Ti, it instead cut costs on the $350 GeForce RTX 2060, its entry-level ray tracing and 1440p gaming option. EVGA revealed the $300 GeForce RTX 2060 KO at CES 2019 (which we’ll be reviewing soon). The week after, Nvidia dropped the price of its own GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition to match. Other board makers then hit $300 via sales and promotions. Suddenly, AMD’s newest graphics card was competing against a much more powerful Nvidia GPU.

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