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AMD Radeon RX 5500 XT vs. Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660: The Battle for Mainstream Gaming S
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GeForce Battles Radeon in the realm of $200 gaming cards.

AMD recently launched the Radeon RX 5500 XT, which aims to capture the attention of mainstream gamers with a mid-range budget to spend on a GPU. Following our review, we already know it’s not as powerful as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1660, but can it offer enough value to make up for what it lacks in performance? Let’s find out.

It’s an exciting time to be in the market for a new GPU, with several new products on the market in the last 12 months. Last year at this time, gamers were eagerly awaiting the reveal of AMD’s Navi architecture and the new line of GPUs that would reinvigorate the company’s Radeon Graphics brand. And Nvidia had not yet launched the RT and Tensor core-free 16-series Turing GPUs for the mid-range market.

Today, we’ve got myriad options from team red, including the recently launched Radeon RX 5500 XT, which introduces Navi to the high-volume segment of the market, in the $200 price range. AMD is no stranger to this price point. For several generations, the Radeon team has focused its attention on mainstream cards like the RX 480, 580, and 590 (all based on the same Polaris architecture).

However, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1660, which hit store shelves in March of 2019, is a strong contender for your gaming money. That GPU’s successor, the GTX 1660 Super, is somewhat more expensive ($230+), but the original model is still readily available and often sells for $210 or less.

Now the question becomes, which card should you choose if you’re in the market for a new GPU for roughly $200. We compared the features and benefits of the Radeon RX 5500 XT and the GeForce GTX 1660 in four categories -- featured technology, game performance, power consumption & heat output and Value -- to help you decide which of these two cards is right for you.

Featured Technology

AMD’s NAVI 15 XTX GPU features the same number of cores (1408) as the version of Nvidia’s Turing TU116-300-A1 chip found in the GTX 1660. Although it operates at a higher frequency and produces higher peak floating-point performance (5.2 TFLOPS vs the GTX 1660’s 5 TFLOPS).

AMD’s NAVI 14 XTX features 6.4 billion transistors, which is 200 million fewer than the Turing TU116, but AMD crammed its chip into a much smaller package. Thanks to TSMC’s 7nm finFET process, AMD’s GPU fits on a 158 mm² die. Turing GPUs are also manufactured on TSMC’s finFET process, but Nvidia is working with a larger 12nm process. As a result, the TU116-300-A1 is nearly twice the size of NAVI 15 XTX at 284 mm².

The RX 5500 XT also offers faster GDDR6 memory compared to the GTX 1660’s GDDR5 memory modules. Nvidia does provide a larger 192-bit memory bus versus AMD’s 128-bit memory bus configuration, but the faster memory more than makes up for the difference in bus size. Theoretically, the NAVI 14 XTX has 224 GB/s of memory bandwidth to work with, compared to the 192 GB/s that TU116 offers. The Radeon RX 5500 XT is available in 4GB and 8GB configurations. But for this comparison, we’re focusing on the 8GB version. The GeForce GTX 1660 falls right in the middle, with 6GB of graphics memory.

By the numbers, AMD’s RX 5500 XT appears to be the stronger of the two GPUs. It’s manufactured on a smaller, more efficient process, offers a higher base and boost clock speed, and has a higher theoretical performance limit. The higher capacity of faster GDDR6 memory also gives it a significant advantage.

AMD offers a variety of software features for the Radeon RX 5500 XT. The company’s Radeon Software allows you to monitor your GPU’s temperature, fan speed and voltage, adjust the graphics settings for your games, access performance reports and game states, and update your GPU drivers. The Radeon Software Adrenalin 2020 edition also lets launch games directly from the Radeon Software dashboard. It even offers integrated media capture and game streaming features, including screenshots, video, and instant gif capture as well as compatibility with many popular streaming services such as Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Facebook and more.

AMD also offers a feature called Game Boost, which monitors your framerate and dynamically adjusts the resolution of your games when it won’t impact the visual experience to maximize performance.

The Radeon RX 5500 XT also supports a technology called Radeon Anti-Lag, which aims to reduce input lag by managing the queue of work sent to the CPU and ensuring that the CPU can’t get ahead of the GPU. Also, Radeon Image Sharpening combines contrast-adaptive sharpening with GPU upscaling to produce crisper in-game visuals.

Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software is a reasonable equivalent to AMD’s Radeon Software Adrenalin. It enables you to keep your drivers up to date, offers performance-optimized game setting configurations, and allows you to launch your games from the GeForce Experience dashboard.

Nvidia’s software supports media capture and game streaming features that integrate with popular streaming platforms. The GeForce GTX 1660 takes full advantage of Nvidia’s NVENC hardware encoder technology, which lowers the CPU overhead associated with software encoding. NVENC allows the CPU to send a single set of instructions to the GPU, which the GPU uses to output to your display and broadcast without impeding performance.

GeForce Experience also includes Nvidia’s advanced screenshot capture technology, called Nvidia Ansel, which allows you to capture extremely high-resolution (up to 33x 1080p) images of supported games. Ansel also offers free-camera capture, which allows you to snap angles that aren’t possible in-game, and the ability to capture 360-degree images. Ansel even supports RAW EXR output, which allows you to make changes to the image in post-processing, such as create HDR-enhanced images.

Both AMD and Nvidia offer support for adaptive display technology. The Radeon RX 5500 XT supports both FreeSync and FreeSync 2, whereas the GeForce 1660 is compatible with Nvidia’s more-expensive G-Sync adaptive display technology. Nvidia also supports a select few FreeSync displays. And as for performance, both AMD and Nvidia offer dynamic clock speed boosting technologies that automatically overclock your GPU to maximize the capabilities of your hardware configuration.

Winner: Tie. Both AMD and Nvidia offer compelling feature sets for their budget-minded options. Each card supports automated game optimization, game streaming, and driver update software. And they both support performance optimization features that maximize your gameplay experience.
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