AMD Radeon RX 560 benchmarks: the Red Team’s budget GPU simply isn’t powerful enough

At this point, we have to wonder – just how many Radeon RX 560s are on the market? When the graphics card first launched, there were both 2GB and 4GB versions. Some models had additional PCI Express power, some didn’t. Some had factory overclocks, while others remained at stock speeds. That’s confusing enough, but then a new version of the RX 560 with only 14 of the 16 available compute units enabled appeared – effectively a rebrand of the last generation RX 460. And then, multiple versions of that lower end configuration were unleashed upon the market as well.

So let’s help explain the situation by offering some initial recommendations if you are considering an RX 560. First of all, immediately disregard the 2GB versions of the card if you’re looking for any kind of longevity at all for 1080p gaming. Secondly, while the boost clocks for the RX 560 are in the region of 1220MHz to 1275MHz depending on the model, only cards with a PCI Express power input will be able to sustainably reach the max boost frequency. We tested a Gigabyte board without PCIe power and found that clocks could drop to 1190MHz and then fluctuate – though increasing the power slider using overclocking tool MSI Afterburner did counteract this behaviour.

With so many variations on the market, the question becomes this: which cards should we actually benchmark? We ended up settling on testing both the 14 and 16 compute unit versions of the RX 560, each with 4GB of RAM and equalised clocks. In effect, we’ve cherry-picked the very best RX 560 models out there, with only the compute unit count varying between them to give an idea of best-case performance.

We’ve rounded up the best graphics cards on the market, including our pick for the best value graphics card and a new GPU we reckon is the best budget graphics card.

And in the green corner, facing off against this line-up, we have Nvidia’s GTX 1050 triumvirate: the GTX 1050 2GB, GTX 1050 3GB and the GTX 1050 Ti, all of which were tested using models that don’t require a PCIe power input. The more expensive Ti card is the fastest budget GPU on the market, while the cut-down 1050 2GB holds its own remarkably well as the cheapest GPU in our line-up, but occasionally tanks hard with games that with heavier VRAM requirements (Battlefield 1, we’re looking at you). The recently released 1050 3GB seemingly offers the best of both worlds, with anywhere from slightly worse to far better performance than the 2GB model at the same RRP – although it’s still not easy to find at a reasonable price in many regions.

So here’s our data for the nine titles in our current test line-up. Our benchmark system is pretty advanced, but at the most basic level, the bar charts represent performance data expressed as an average and with bottom-end and top-end frame-rates too. Click on the bar chart to swap between frame-rate and percentage differentials with full mouse-over support. It’s pretty cool, but if you’re viewing this page on a desktop PC and you want to go even deeper, play the relevant video embed and watch frame-rate and frame-time telemetry play out for each card.

We begin with Assassin’s Creed Unity, the 2014 release of the near-annual series set in Revolution-era France. The game can be a stiff challenge for graphics cards with low amounts of VRAM, but the 4GB on both of our RX 560 cards should be enough to see off the challenge. However, the cards still fall down in comparison to their Nvidia rivals, coming in shy of the playable standard of 30 frames per second. The VRAM-starved GTX 1050 2GB sits just a couple of frames per second than the better RX 560, the GTX 1050 3GB is a few frames faster still, while the GTX 1050 Ti turns in the best result overall at a comfortable 37fps.

Next up we have our first DirectX 12 test, niche strategy game Ashes of the Singularity. This game is a popular benchmark, as it offers a good stress test even for more GPUs with plenty of tweakable settings. AMD cards tend to handle DirectX 12 a little better than their Nvidia equivalents, and indeed we see that the RX 560 cards outclass the GTX 1050 2GB here. However, the newly released GTX 1050 3GB does much better, with a score seven per cent faster than the best RX 560. The GTX 1050 Ti remains the overall winner at 32fps, which is 15 per cent ahead of the best AMD card.

Our third test is Battlefield 1, the 2016 title that focused on the trials of World War 1. As well as its trademark large-scale multiplayer, the game also includes a brief single-player campaign which makes a much more repeatable benchmark. The AMD cards do well here, with the two flavours sitting around 50 frames per second with a slight three per cent difference between them. The GTX 1050 Ti scores about 60 frames per second, while the GTX 1050 2GB shows its VRAM limitations with a dreadful result – whether you’re gaming at high or ultra under DX12, it’s a slideshow. The GTX 1050 3GB leaves the 2GB model in the dust with a respectable 48fps, nearly equalling the AMD cards.

Crysis 3 is still a tough game to run smoothly, even five years after its release, especially on the very high preset that we’re using in our tests. The RX 560 models fall behind their Nvidia competition here with the stronger card of the pair achieving just 37fps on average. In contrast, the GTX 1050 cards manage around 43fps and the 1050 Ti hits 47fps. These cards should be able to target 60fps by dropping from very high to high settings, assuming your CPU is up to the task.

The Division is our next DirectX 12 benchmark. This 2016 game is set in post-pandemic NYC, with impressive graphics and a convincing combination of MMO mechanics and third-person shooter gameplay. Our AMD cards again do better here than in DirectX 11 titles, with a confident 20 per cent lead over the GTX 1050 2GB, which simply doesn’t have the VRAM to get the job done. However, the GTX 1050 Ti continues its uninterrupted reign with a solid 33fps with the GTX 1050 3GB following close behind at 31fps.

Far Cry Primal is our next test for our four graphics cards. The RX 560s return to their usual position at the bottom of the pile, with both cards recording results around 30fps. Meanwhile, the two Nvidia cards show their dominance with results closer to 40 frames per second. Interestingly, we do have the HD texture pack enabled here, but it doesn’t seem to bother the GTX 1050 2GB – in the benchmark, at least. In fact the 3GB version of the card actually shows worse performance at just 37fps, likely due to its limited memory bandwidth.

Ghost Recon Wildlands is the most recent – and most demanding – title in our current benchmark suite. Here the GTX 1050 is able to outperform the RX 560 cards despite its limited VRAM, with the 16 Compute Unit version of the card sitting 7 per cent behind the GTX 1050 2GB. The GTX 1050 Ti is once again even further ahead, recording a score of 40 frames per second which works out to a deficit of 20 per cent for the AMD card.

Rise of the Tomb Raider from 2016 is the eleventh game in the Lara-led series that started in 1996. The most recent title supports a ton of modern graphical technologies, ensuring a good workout for our GPUs using the very high preset (with high textures) and SMAA. The better RX 560 draws level with the GTX 1050 2GB here (though the experience is less stable there owing to a lack of RAM), while the GTX 1050 3GB has a small but comfortable lead. Meanwhile, the GTX 1050 Ti cruises ahead with a leader of more than 15 per cent over the RX 560.

The Witcher 3 remains an incredibly popular title that also provides a unique graphical challenge, making it a strong choice for our benchmark suite. Unfortunately, the AMD Radeon RX 560 cards don’t perform well in this game from 2015, with a five per cent gap to the GTX 1050 and 15 per cent to the GTX 1050 Ti. In addition to poor average frame-rates, the RX 560 cards also have terrible stutter, which simply doesn’t materialise at all on either of the Nvidia offerings.

We’ll conclude with a look at how the RX 560 compares to its AMD family members, including the higher-end RX and Vega graphics cards and the older R9 Fury X. It’s worth bearing in mind that these are all higher-end components than the RX 560, so don’t expect miracles.

We hope these words, live charts and illustrative photos have made this confusing collection of graphics card models a little easier to understand. For more information, you could have a look at our review of the RX 460, the RX 560’s immediate predecessor.

Now that you’ve seen the benchmarks for one card, why not check out see which PC hardware we’d recommend to our friends and family? Here are the DF picks for the overall best graphics cards and for the best gaming monitors on the market.

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