The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT “upgrade” was really a surprise, even for AMD’s partners
When AMD bumped up the clocks on the Radeon RX 5600 XT just days before the launch, I personally suspected it was all a planned gimmick. It wasn’t, apparently. Partners like MSI were actually caught off-guard, and have explained why they have cards that have the newer clocks and some that don’t.
Of course, throwing on clocks that are higher than even the much pricier Radeon RX 5700 on presumably poorer binned silicon isn’t going to be easy, and surely trying to force VRAM rated to run reliably at 12 Gbps to run at 14 Gbps is just generally not a good idea. But apparently AMD thought it was, as that’s exactly what they did, telling their manufacturing partners to flash the faster vBIOS just so they have a better position against NVIDIA’s offering.
Just to really hammer in how weird the situation is, MSI’s product stack features the Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming, Gaming X, Mech and Mech OC. Out of these, the Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming and Radeon RX 5600 XT Mech won’t get the new vBIOS, while the other three will enjoy the faster clocks of up to 1750 MHz on the GPU, but MSI will be maintaining the 12 Gbps memory clock on all the aforementioned cards. MSI will be bringing out a Radeon RX 5600 XT Gaming Z with 14 Gbps memory and fast clocks a bit later.
The reason for this peculiarity is because MSI believes that running the 12 Gbps GDDR6 at 14 Gbps might result in instability and a higher failure rate. And I do agree because that’s just how binning works. Memory chips that are validated to run at 12 Gbps aren’t guaranteed to run well at 14 Gbps. You may overclock it yourself, but of course, the standard at your own risk disclaimer applies. MSI validates every card off their assembly line, so they should know better on what can and cannot be done on their cards.
MSI will reportedly be looking into bringing 14 Gbps memory to the other cards via a BIOS update, but it will depend on whether they manage to get the cards running reliably at that speed. Meanwhile, the cards that aren’t getting the updated vBIOS are the more affordable ones that are just designed to run perfectly at the slower clocks and lower power target of the initial specifications and aren’t over-specced to allow for AMD’s shenanigans like the pricier cards.
So yeah, there will be some higher-end Radeon RX 5600 XT cards out there that will fully support the updated vBIOS, and there will be more affordable offerings which won’t, thus will end up about 12% slower than the faster Radeon RX 5600 XT cards. Yes, there’s barely any difference in naming here. We see that happen even in MSI’s own lineup, so you can only assume the situation when we factor in all the Radeon RX 5600 XT from all of AMD’s manufacturing partners.
If you are getting a Radeon RX 5600 XT, make sure to check the clocks before you hand over the cash. So far all the cards we have spotted in Malaysia feature the 1750 MHz boost clock and 14 Gbps. You can check them out here.
Pokdepinion: Well it seems that it wasn’t AMD playing NVIDIA… But the other way around.