AMD’s entry-level Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card and the Navi 24 GPU that powers it have received a lot of criticism for its rather lacklustre specs. AMD has multiple explanations why Navi 24 is what it is, but it looks like originally the company planned to make it an entry-level notebook or OEM GPU not exactly aimed at gamers. The story, found via VideoCardz, originates from a post made by an AMD employee on the Phoronix forums.
“The primary use of Navi24 will be in laptops paired with a Rembrandt APU, which has full video functionality and [PCIe Gen4],” said John Bridgman, Principal Member of Technical Staff at AMD responsible for Linux drivers over at Phoronix forums. “My impression was that it was just encode that was limited in Navi 24, not decode — still not sure if that limitation is real or just a typo on the product page. Trying to find out a definitive answer.”
Officially, AMD says that it cut down its Radeon RX 6500 XT severely to make it unattractive for miners and to some degree scalpers. Yet its 64-bit memory bus and 4GB of memory can limit performance in games and therefore make it unattractive to gamers as well. Furthermore, lack of encoding support and lack of AV1 decoding support makes the GPU unattractive to media enthusiasts too.
The company also explains that since “over half of Radeon Pro users only use one monitor,” it eliminated two out of the four RDNA 2 display pipelines from its Navi 24 graphics processor. That’s why the Radeon Pro W6400, along with all other Navi 24-derived products (like the Radeon RX 6500 XT), only come with only two display connectors.
While AMD’s official explanations make some sense, the Radeon RX 6500 XT still feels too slow in many games. As noted in our review, it basically matches the RX 5500 XT 4GB card that it’s supposed to replace, and trails the 8GB variant by quite a bit — even at medium/high settings. It’s difficult to imagine positioning this as a gaming solution for 2022. The chip design was likely finished in 2020, and nobody back then could have predicted the severe shortage of desktop graphics boards in 2022 (as well as the increased demand by miners) to justify such severe compromises in chip design.
But it looks like AMD originally positioned its Navi 24 as a discrete GPU for laptops based on its next-generation Ryzen 6000-series ‘Rembrandt’ APU, which already has a decent media engine and additional display pipelines. While the Radeon RX 6500 XT in its desktop form featuring a 107W TBP is way too hot for laptops, a fully enabled Navi 24 could be a good notebook GPU (even for basic gaming) while working at lower clocks and installed next to the upcoming APU.
But there’s a problem with positioning Navi 24 as a laptop GPU as well. First up, it’s going to take some time for AMD’s Ryzen 6000-series to ramp, so there will be dozens of Ryzen 5000-series-based machines with Navi 24. Keeping in mind that AMD’s Ryzen 5000 only supports PCIe Gen3, this is going to be a limitation for games. Furthermore, since AMD’s Ryzen 5000 has an outdated media engine from 2016, notebooks equipped with these APUs and Navi 24 GPU will have crippled media playback capabilities.
While AMD’s Radeon RX 6500 XT hardly belongs on a list of the best graphics cards, it can still be used to upgrade or repair some outdated systems — just don’t expect it to be great in more demanding games. Yet at the same time, it may not be a bad laptop GPU when it is installed into systems with AMD’s next-generation Ryzen 6000-series ‘Rembrandt’ or other modern processors (i.e. Alder Lake) with decent media playback capabilities. At least, AMD’s semi-official explanation why Navi 24 is so cut-down implies just that.