Finally, budget GPUs from AMD and Nvidia are a reality again

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Nvidia and AMD announced new budget graphics cards at CES 2022: the $199 RX 6500 XT for AMD, and the $249 RTX 3050 for Nvidia. Even with the rumors of these cards floating around, I didn’t really expect to see them — and I didn’t expect AMD and Nvidia to cost them around $200.

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Graphics card prices have been rising, and for the past few generations, Nvidia and AMD have continued to cut their core products away from their budget offerings. CES 2022 forced AMD and Nvidia to adjust to current graphics card prices, and the RX 6500 XT and RTX 3050 seem like a winning pair at a time when graphics options are few and far between.


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Facing GPU Shortage

Jeff Fischer presents the RTX 3090 Ti.
RTX 3090 Ti? Who can afford it?

Nvidia never released the RTX 2050, at least not on the desktop. The company stuck with the $329 RTX 2060 as its cheapest card from the previous generation, allowing the older GTX 10-series and 16-series GPUs to fill in the gap for the budget crowd. AMD had the last generation RX 5500 XT, but before that there were flagships from AMD that could compete with the best of Nvidia.

Nvidia and AMD have both had budget options over the years — the RX 500 cards for AMD and the GTX 16-series for Nvidia — but they’ve never matched mainline cards. And moving to the current generation of GPUs, it seemed like nearly $200 graphics cards were all but dead, with Nvidia and AMD demanding higher prices and optimistic buyers were more than happy to pay it.

At CES this year, AMD and Nvidia needed to address the lack of GPUs, which has left many machines with graphics cards that are out of date. Answer: RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT. Priced at $249 and $199 respectively, these cards represent a shift toward budget GPUs.

Specs for the AMD RX 6500 XT graphics card.

You’ll pay more than the list price – I’ll dig into that more – but that doesn’t mean the price is pointless. The older RX 500 and GTX 16-series cards are still pretty expensive in the older market. It looks like these new cards aim to offer an alternative with modern features and performance at a similar price.

$200? yes right

OK, $200 is a pipe dream. For at least most of 2022, you can expect the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT to sell for a lot more than what AMD and Nvidia announced at CES. Unless you can score a card on release day—I recommend waiting for a third-party benchmark before shelling out your money—you’ll probably pay twice the list price and probably more.

Listing for the RTX 3080 on eBay.

This is outright unfair. You can’t get any current-gen AMD or Nvidia graphics cards for about $400, the budget cards I mentioned above fill those price points. The RX 5500 XT, RX 580, and GTX 1660 aren’t bad graphics cards, but they aren’t the best choices in 2022.

Performance-wise, the new RDNA 2 architecture on AMD and the Ampere architecture on Nvidia promise much higher frame rates overall, but that doesn’t excite me. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT support hardware-accelerated ray tracing and, critically, the RTX 3050 supports Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS).

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of DLSS. Since the introduction of GPU shortages, the problem has been that only a select few, expensive graphics cards can use it. AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution is an option, but it doesn’t look as good as DLSS.

COD Warzone is running with and without DLSS enabled.

I’m not expecting earth-shattering performance from these cards, and you shouldn’t either. But even at double the list price, the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT offer graphics options that are sorely lacking in the market right now. even though the performance Absolutely That’s exactly what we expected, considering what we’ve seen from other current-gen options.

No good option, only better option

AMD RX 6600 among other graphics cards.

There’s no good choice when it comes to the lack of a GPU, unless you’re lucky enough to score a card for list price on an in-store restock. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT will sell for much more than their price, and under most circumstances, I wouldn’t recommend buying them at any price they essentially set.

I also understand the reality of a lot of PC gamers, myself included. Many people have been waiting patiently for the upgrade for more than a year and a half, and something has to give. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT aren’t ideal choices, but they are better than cards that are several generations old and are selling for $500 or more.

Hopefully they will help with the supplies as well. The RX 6600 XT uses a smaller GPU to make up for the shortcomings, and you can already see that pay off. Although still expensive, a lot of the RX 6600 and RX 6600 XT models sell for closer to their list price than the higher-end cards in the range. Hopefully we’ll see something similar with the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT.

CES 2022 was about making the most of a bad situation, and that’s true of much more than graphics cards. My hope is that Nvidia and AMD don’t forget these budget options once supply issues settle down and we’ll continue to see GPUs around $200 for many generations to come.

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