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RTX 3050 vs RX 6500 XT: Which GPU is right for you?

Putting Nvidia's and AMD's entry-level graphics cards head to head.

Two graphics cards side by side Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

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Nvidia’s RTX 3050 and AMD’s RX 6500 XT graphics cards were made for gamers on a budget. Both are entry-level GPUs, so they can’t perform gaming miracles, but both can handle some of the most demanding games with ease—if the graphics settings are not cranked to the max that is.

However, when you look in-depth at both cards’ performance and specifications, it’s clear that one stands out significantly more than the other with higher frame rates and better encoding/decoding support.

Buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050

Buy the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT

Specs

A top-down view of a graphics card
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

Thank you, Nvidia, for including 8GB of VRAM in the RTX 3050.

All graphics cards are made of the same basic parts, but it’s the amount of VRAM and memory bandwidth that affects overall performance the most, not just clock speeds. To start, the biggest, most eye-popping difference between Nvidia’s RTX 3050 and AMD’s 6500 XT is the amount of VRAM—8GB in the RTX 3050, but just 4GB in the RX 6500 XT.

VRAM is where image data is temporarily stored on a graphics card. The more VRAM you have, the faster in-game images can load, and the higher the frame rates will be. Even though the RTX 3050 has slower memory bandwidth (128 GB/s versus 144 GB/s) and a slower boost clock speed (1552 MHz versus 2815 MHz) than the RX 6500 XT, it’s still the faster card.

The RTX 3050 averages 86 frames per second (fps) on the highest graphics settings at 1080p while the RX 6500 XT averages 67 fps. Not even AMD’s 16MB of Infinity Cache—which works like a “bandwidth amplifier,” according to AMD—can boost frame rates enough on the RX 6500 XT to compete with the RTX 3050.

Also, like all of Nvidia’s RTX 30-series cards, the RTX 3050 has dedicated ray tracing (RT) cores that handle ray tracing effects in games when available. This pushes ray tracing performance way beyond what AMD can do with its 6000-series cards because AMD’s ray tracing hardware components are integrated into its compute units, or main graphics processors (more on that below).

Separating the ray-tracing components from the main graphics processor allows the GPU to process more of those realistic lighting effects faster, which in turn translates to a higher frame rate.

Our pick: RTX 3050

Performance

A desktop graphics card standing up next to its box
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

The RX 6500 XT may be cheaper than Nvidia's RTX 3050, but AMD cut too many features for it to be competitive.

As I already mentioned above, Nvidia’s RTX 3050 is faster than AMD’s RX 6500 XT in both standard game performance and ray tracing performance. On average, the RTX 3050 gets 20 frames more than the RX 6500 XT with the graphics cranked to the max at 1080p—and that’s regardless if you have ray tracing turned on or not.

To dig into our benchmarks a little more, the RTX 3050 pulls far ahead of the RX 6500 XT in games like Forza Horizon 4 (116fps versus 79fps), which isn’t as demanding on GPUs compared to games like Cyberpunk 2077. We discovered the same with regards to less demanding, ray tracing compatible games, too, like Battlefield V; the RTX 3050 gets an average of 74fps with ray tracing turned on compared to the RX 5600 XT’s 44fps.

The RTX 3050 also has a feature called Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) which uses AI to upscale the game resolution to increase frame rates. If a game supports ray tracing, it probably supports DLSS—however, the RTX 3050 doesn’t have enough oomph to hit a minimum of 60fps with ray tracing AND DLSS turned on in high-fidelity games. You will need to lower the graphics settings to get the frame rate to 60 or higher. Still, this is better than the RX 6500 XT.

AMD does have its own AI resolution upscaling tech, FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), but it doesn’t use the same super fancy deep learning tech as Nvidia’s GPUs do. FSR can run on any relatively modern GPU, unlike DLSS which is limited to the RTX 20-series and above.

But it does less work for AMD’s RX 6500 XT in graphically demanding games compared to DLSS. AMD’s card has a poorer average ray tracing frame rate, so even though DLSS can be hit or miss on Nvidia’s RTX 3050, it’s still the better option.

Our pick: RTX 3050

Price and value

A top-down view of a desktop graphics card
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

The dual-fan version of the RX 6500 XT is small enough to fit into some external GPU cases and mini PC desktop cases.

Graphics card prices have leveled out over the last several months, so they are not nearly as inflated as they were towards the beginning of 2022. When we first compared the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT soon after their respective releases, their price and value weren’t at all reflective of the performance they offered. But now we can make a better comparison.

First, let’s look at MSRP. For $50 more, the RTX 3050 nets you significantly better overall performance, plus video encoding and decoding abilities that you don’t get with the RX 6500 XT. The RX 6500 XT isn’t “future-proofed” because it lacks AV1 encoding and decoding, and anyone looking to edit videos on a budget will be disappointed by AMD’s omission of H265/HEVC encoding.

However, the RTX 3050’s average price now is around $350-$380, which is at least $100 more than its $250 MSRP. The RX 6500 XT has an MSRP of $200 and currently sells at MSRP or slightly lower, which brings the actual price difference between the two cards to around $150. If the RTX 3050 was cheaper, I’d say it has the better price and value, but it doesn’t have enough of a performance difference compared to the RX 6500 XT to justify spending $150 extra.

Our pick: Tie

And the winner is…

A GPU standing on its side
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

Nvidia's RTX 3050 has nearly identical performance to its older GTX 1660 Super, but the 3050 has one thing the 1660 Super doesn't have—ray tracing.

It’s a no-brainer to call Nvidia’s RTX 3050 the better all-around, entry-level GPU compared to AMD’s RX 6500 XT. Standard and ray tracing performance are significantly higher, and the RTX 3050 supports both encoding and decoding for AV1 and H265/HEVC.

Things get confusing when it comes to the price and overall value of both cards; the higher the cost of the RTX 3050 compared to the RX 6500 XT, the more value it loses. Depending on how much a faster card like the RTX 3060 or RX 6600 costs, getting a higher-tier card might be a better value, especially if you want the best ray tracing performance possible within your budget.

But if ray tracing doesn’t matter to you, a lower-tier card like the GTX 1660 Super or RTX 2060 might be a better value since those get roughly the same performance as the RTX 3050—if you can find either at a lower price.

The RX 6500 XT is a fine choice for entry-level gaming, but you won’t be able to use it for video encoding, so again, the RTX 3050 still wins in this area even though it costs, on average, $150 more than the RX 6500 XT.

Buy the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050

Buy the AMD Radeon RX 6500 XT

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.