AMD’s Radeon RX 5600 XT launch was a muddled affair, but the company has now clarified which models have faster memory out-of-the-box, and which require a BIOS update to be applied for a not inconsiderable performance boost.
AMD’s announcement on Twitter put, shall we say, a positive spin on things, noting that the 5600 XT can hit 14Gbps (as opposed to the initially intended 12Gbps) in terms of memory speed either right off the bat, or with a downloadable BIOS update which provides a claimed 10% boost in gaming performance. (That’s about what we found in our tests back at launch, roughly, albeit slightly less in some benchmarks).
Fast just got faster. Radeon RX 5600 XT graphics cards are now available with 14 Gbps of memory speed, giving you higher performance out of the box or as a downloadable update for many existing GPUs.May 4, 2020
However, the full picture behind what’s going on here is a pretty thorny affair, which we fully explored in-depth back at the time of the messy launch of the RX 5600 XT. To try and summarize it briefly, Nvidia ran interference with the launch of the RX 5600 XT by dropping the price of the RTX 2060, and AMD reacted by pushing up the performance of the 5600 XT via that aforementioned BIOS update.
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Now, some RX 5600 XT graphics cards came with that update applied by the manufacturer, so it was in place out-of-the-box, and other GPUs required the update to be applied by the user to get the memory speed boost.
What AMD has done here is officially clarified which RX 5600 XT cards have the refreshed BIOS and therefore hit 14Gbps with nothing needing doing, and which will need an update to be applied by the owner. The full list is available at AMD’s website, linking to the necessary instructions where the update process is required to be carried out.
This seems to cover every 5600 XT model we can see on sale, but if you own a GPU which isn’t listed, then you’re out of luck for now. AMD observes: “This list will be updated as more models are added and further instructions become available.”
Proceed with some caution
Note that updating the BIOS of a graphics card is an endeavor which needs to be treated with some caution. For example, in the instructions from Asus, the motherboard maker labels this as an optional BIOS update, and mentions its tool which is needed to flash the BIOS back in case something goes awry.
We’ve seen at least one complaint on AMD’s Twitter thread where a user says their PC is now crashing following the update – at least in one certain game – and while that’s just one anecdotal tale, as mentioned, some care needs to be exercised here. A power cut which turns your PC off in the middle of flashing the BIOS, for example, could cause untold trouble for seriously unlucky folks.
Certainly those looking to purchase an RX 5600 XT now would probably be wise, if at all possible, to stick to the graphics cards which are confirmed to come with the BIOS update already applied and a 14Gbps memory speed out of the box.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).