AMD's RX 6500 XT runs Elden Ring far better than it has any right to

A Gigabyte Radeon RX 6500 XT graphics card in front of a monitor with the Elden Ring main menu screen displayed.
(Image credit: Future)

Elden Ring's performance is a hot topic at the moment, but not because it's surprisingly great. No, quite the opposite, the game has some performance issues that are causing a bit of a headache for some wannabe Elden Lords. That said, what is surprisingly great is the performance that AMD's rather lacklustre Radeon RX 6500 XT is capable of delivering in-game. 

I honestly didn't expect quite so much out of this budget GPU born out of the chip crisis.

AMD's Radeon RX 6500 XT is the cheapest discrete graphics card in the RX 6000-series. In fact, it's the cheapest modern graphics card you can buy today—even Nvidia's budget GeForce RTX 3050 is pricier than AMD's most affordable offering. You get what you pay for, though. The RX 6500 XT is quite a bit slower than Nvidia's loosely comparable RTX 3050, and it generally leaves a lot to be desired even at 1080p.

For a graphics card released in 2022, the RX 6500 XT sure has a tough time competing with AMD's GPUs from generations prior, like the RX 5500 4GB and RX 580 8GB. It even falls short of AMD's own marketing, thanks to a less than generous dollop of GDDR6 VRAM at 4GB. We were really hoping for a little more than that for gaming in 2022 and beyond.

The RX 6500 XT's mild-mannered specs

Gigabyte RX 6500 XT Gaming OC

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

Architecture: RDNA 2
Shader Cores: 1,024
Memory: 4GB GDDR6
Memory bus: 64-bit
Board power: 107W
Price: $199

Which is all to say it's not a card we liked all that much. We awarded it just 47% in our review, and not much has changed our feelings since.

What has changed, though, is that we now know that the RX 6500 XT is the only graphics card regularly available to purchase at its MSRP. No trickery, no lotteries: just a graphics card available to purchase at a somewhat fair price in 2022. That means this card might be the choice of many gamers, whether it's particularly great value or not. 

The 6500 XT offers a way into PC gaming at a fairly low price, and that's actually super important right now due to the ongoing silicon shortage and the tight supply of graphics cards causing prices to rise exponentially. 

And what do most gamers want to do with a graphics card in 2022? Play Elden Ring. Or at least it seems that way from all the hype surrounding that game. I'm not a stranger to that hype, either. I've been playing the game for a little while now and honestly I'm really enjoying it, even if I have mostly been running in circles attacking the same five soldiers to collect fps benchmarks.

Being able to pick up the cheapest and most widely available graphics card going and get a reasonable return on it in Elden Ring is a real win for PC gaming right now.

The RX 6500 XT does hit all the necessary demands of Elden Ring's minimum system requirements. Namely over 3GB of VRAM and enough graphical grunt to take on a GTX 1060 3GB or RX 580 4GB. It kind of scrapes by the skin of its chips, but it is safely over the minimum requirements demanded of it to play Elden Ring.

Still, I hadn't set my hopes too high for this card's lack of real gusto when it comes to gaming at 1080p. It is also far shy of Elden Ring's recommended specifications, which demand a GPU of GTX 1070-grade or higher and at least 8GB of VRAM.

But loading into the game, it's clear that actually all is rather well with Elden Ring on AMD's lowest-tier GPU. I'd even go as far as to say it's perfectly playable.

Widely intrusive stuttering notwithstanding, that is. Elden Ring's PC performance issues are not fully solved as of yet and stuttering is still a major issue in-game. I ran into my fair share with the RX 6500 XT, though no more so at Medium or Low settings than I did with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super or AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT inside my machine at 4K. This stuttering is not an issue seemingly tied to graphical ability, and more to do with the game's engine itself. I'm not discounting the stuttering in terms of playability, then, but the RX 6500 XT is no worse a victim to it than any other GPU I've tested today, and hopefully that means it's also in line for a fix with later game versions and patches.

So with that in mind, I ran my little benchmark run, backstabbing and bashing some poor and defenceless soldiers along the way, and noted down some numbers. I also travelled around by horse, took on an outpost near the starting area of the game, and took in the sights to get an impression of what performance might be like with this GPU for the better part of Elden Ring.

And to my surprise, it's really quite good.

PC Gamer test rig: Gigabyte RX 6500 XT Gaming OC, AMD Ryzen 7 5800X, 32GB DDR4 RAM @ 2,666MHz effective, 850W PSU, 1TB WD Black SN750, MSI Godlike X570.

As you can see above, I ran through each of the main presets at 1080p to collect numbers and get an idea of the performance of AMD's budget card. Elden Ring has a 60fps cap, if you didn't already know, so that's what you really want to aim for. It's well within reach on the RX 6500 XT, however.

High and Maximum presets are too rich for the RX 6500 XT's blood, but you can happily game at Medium or Low presets and expect to hit an average of 60fps near enough all the time. What you want to look out for, though, are those minimum frame times. To ensure those stick around the 50–55fps mark, you will need to be considerate of which settings you crank up to Medium or High, as any drop in the minimum fps—1% lows as we've recorded them—will also be a hit to stability and the feeling of smooth gameplay.

Granted, the rest of my test PC is a little overkill for a comparative system—especially the Godlike motherboard, though that won't really impact performance in any significant way. Our memory speeds should also be similar, if not slower, than a great deal of modern systems today, even budget ones (I've been meaning an upgrade), and CPU load shouldn't be game-breaking in Elden Ring. CPU utilisation maintains a steady 20–35% in my testing, meaning even a cheaper chip should suffice here and get similar numbers. At 1080p the CPU will make a difference, but the Elden Ring system requirements are fairly low-rent when it comes to CPU demands, anyways.

I also used the best settings I previously devised for our Elden Ring PC settings to see how far I could push it on the RX 6500 XT, and actually, it was playable using these settings. That said, the occasional use of the High setting in our recommended options does cause the game to run at a lower minimum fps than I'd really want it to. That does make it a clunkier experience.

A better blend of settings in my testing would be to trim these back to Medium for a better go at that 60fps cap most of the time, but then you're basically just gaming at the Medium preset anyways.

Overall the RX 6500 XT returns really admirable performance in a game that I wasn't expecting to be too friendly to budget cards. That's pretty great for a whole range of reasons. Most of all, though, considering the near-flawless review scores of Elden Ring and the anticipation for this game's release over many years, being able to pick up the cheapest and most widely available graphics card going and get a reasonable return on it in Elden Ring is a real win for PC gaming right now.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.