Things are not looking ideal for anyone planning to build a PC. The world is in a global pandemic, and supply deficiencies are mixed with high demand. One of the categories that is affected the most is the GPU market: even the cheapest graphics cards from the latest generation are inflated in price to over 500 bucks, across both AMD and Nvidia options.
Because of this, many people are buying graphics cards from the previous generation: Those cards offer a good bang for the buck, and excellent performance. With a budget of 200 bucks, you can get a pretty solid card. Both AMD and Nvidia offer good options, in the form of the RX 5500 XT (4 GB) and the GTX 1650 Super, respectively. Today we are opposing these two cards against each other. Which one should you pick?
When they’re out-of-stock from their primary distributors, even these older cards seem to be going for exorbitant rates (often around $400)—but they can be found in-stock more often than their newer siblings. And when they are in-stock, both tend to sit around the $175 mark, with the GTX 1650 Super being slightly cheaper.
Power draw is very close (30-watt difference) between the two GPUs, and the models we’re looking at have the same VRAM capacity. The GTX 1650 Super has a little lower clock speed, both base and boost. The RX 5500 XT has a little bit of an advantage with VRAM speeds, too. But how do these specifications transpose to actual real-world performance?
Most people utilize their graphics cards for gaming. Therefore, it would be logical to see how these two perform against each other in games. From looking at benchmarks in popular games, both cards perform very similar, with sometimes the 5500 XT being better, and sometimes the 1650 Super. As a result, it is hard to draw an immediate conclusion.
But why is this? Shouldn’t the specs lead the 5500 XT to an easy victory?
Well, the RX 5500 XT doesn’t perform consistently, and this is a known problem for AMD cards. The drivers from AMD are not the most reliable. However, AMD has consistently fixed and improved their drivers over time. What does that propose then? Right now, the 1650 super performs slightly better in most games, but this can change as AMD continues to develop their drivers.
So, if you are a person who upgrades their GPU every 1-2 years, you should be going for the GTX 1650 Super. Right now, it is both cheaper and better. If, however, you plan to use the card for the coming 3+ years, the RX 5500 XT is likely a better pick. But since it might take a while for that choice to pay off, it would only be advisable to go for it if you are both patient and very confident you won’t be upgrading in the near future.
Rendering, Recording, and Streaming
If you are interested in other things than gaming alone (such as 3D rendering, video editing, and streaming/recording), then there’s more to look at. For 3D rendering, VRAM speeds are of high value, since scenes can use a lot of textures, and may be at resolutions of 4K or even 8K. With its fast memory speeds, it would be advisable to pick the 5500 XT for a rendering build. Between its VRAM speed advantage (2 Gbps more) and raw clock speed advantage (120 MHz more), the 5500 XT is the winner here. Those differences may not seem very big, but they should translate to ~5% faster renders. So, when you intend to use your graphics card for 3D rendering, we would advise going for the 5500 XT.
But does this advice remain the same when considering video editing, recording, and streaming too? Short answer: no. The 1650 Super comes with the NVENC encoder from Nvidia. This encoder is very efficient, resulting in fast video editing in programs that support it, as well as a smooth streaming and recording experience. Streaming or recording with the NVENC encoder has less impact on performance than a normal encoder, resulting in higher FPS when compared to, for example, streaming with h264 (another very popular encoder). So, if you want to stream your activity and/or record and edit footage, the 1650 super would be the most suitable pick.
So, a quick recap:
When purchasing for gaming alone, and not planning to upgrade in the coming 3-5 years, the RX 5500 XT is likely the best. When upgrading in the coming 1-2 years, the 1650 Super is a better choice for gaming. For 3D rendering, pick the 5500 XT. And for video editing/streaming/recording, pick the 1650 Super.
(Quick disclaimer: In this comparison, we compared the 4 GB variant from the 5500 XT for price parity. But there are 8 GB variants, too. The 8 GB cards will perform better than 4 GB versions.)