AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT was a bit of a confusing mess. The company pushed out a last-minute vBIOS update that unlocked higher clock speeds and memory speeds for its GPUs. And that meant you could see drastic differences in performance from one 5600 XT to the next, depending on whether or not the manufacturer packed in the better software. That left me recommending everyone go for the Sapphire Pulse RX 5600 XT. Back in January, it was the only card that I knew would have the faster vBIOS out of the box. But now, AMD is working with partners to address that confusion. And that led to products like the updated PowerColor Red Dragon Radeon 5600 XT, which has 14Gbps memory speed (instead of 12Gbps) out of the box.
To be clear, while PowerColor is updating its Red Dragon, this product still experiences the same issues the RX 5600 XT had at launch. AMD’s updated software obviously caught companies like PowerColor unprepared. And now it’s trying to correct that. But this is still an RX 5600 XT, so don’t expect a serious improvement over something like the Sapphire Pulse.
So, what should you expect? Ideally, I would like to see the Red Dragon deliver Sapphire Pulse-like framerates and thermals. That would make it easier to recommend the card. And that’s pretty much what I got from this GPU.
PowerColor Red Dragon has the RX 5600 XT performance you want
The 5600 XT is an excellent 1080p GPU. Like I said in my review, it has more than enough power at that resolution. It also fares respectably at 1440p. And really, it’s at 1440p where the faster memory is going to make a much bigger difference. So for my testing, I put the Sapphire Pulse and Red Dragon head-to-head at 1440p. I mostly want to see that the PowerColor card is in the same range as the Sapphire card.
I tested with the following rig:
- Z490 Aorus Master
- 32GB HyperX Predator memory @ 3200MHz
- NZXT E850 PSU
- 500GB Samsung 860 Evo Sata SSD
Also, to force more of the load onto the GPU, I tried to max out settings at 1440p. In benchmarks like Gears Tactics, that put 100% of the load onto the video card for the duration of the test. In reality, you would likely turn down many of these graphical features if using the 5600 XT at 1440p. So don’t expect these numbers to exactly reflect how the game will perform. I’m just trying to see how one card compares to the next.
Here are the results:
In Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, the PowerColor Red Dragon came out ahead of the Sapphire Pulse. It is 10% faster in terms of the average framerate. But it also has an overall more stable framerate, which you can see from the 1% and 0.1% lows.
But in the rest of the games, the Sapphire Pulse finished out in front. Sometimes the Sapphire card is just around 2% faster (Hitman 2), but in Gears Tactics it was a whopping 19% faster. While maybe something else is going with the game in that instance, it’s clear the Sapphire Pulse is still the RX 5600 XT to beat.
And that makes sense. While the Red Dragon got the memory boost to 14Gbps, it doesn’t have the same boost to clock speeds as the Sapphire Pulse. The former can consistently boost up to a game clock of 1560MHz, while the latter hits 1615MHz.
I would still recommend the Sapphire Pulse over the Red Dragon. But I’ll concede that the 5600XT landscape is slightly less confusing than it was, and I think that was AMD’s goal. If you go out to buy a 5600XT today, you’ll still have to do your research. Make sure you’re getting that 14Gbps memory speed in the specs sheet. But finding that is easier now than it was in January and February.
I think you’re probably pushing both of these cards too far if your goal is 1440p gaming. But at 1080p, either one is overkill. And it’s a good sign that the Red Dragon does so well in a massive Ubisoft game like Odyssey.
In terms of thermals and noise, both cards are great. Again, the Sapphire has the edge, but I had no complaints about the Red Dragon — especially when it came to fan noise.
At $300, the PowerColor card is more expensive than its Sapphire counterpart. But if Pulse sells out, the Red Dragon is a fine alternative.