When it comes to graphics cards, AMD has had a few stinks over the years, and the Radeon RX 6400 has to be counted among them. For $130, it’s a terrible deal for most gamers, and the practical requirement for a recent CPU and motherboard is frustrating.
That is to say for more players. Despite what I knew to be true about the RX 6400, I recently went out and bought one. No, I haven’t had a nervous breakdown or psychotic episode. I actually had a very good reason for buying a 6400, and while it’s a terrible card to most people, it actually has a good reason to exist.
RX 480-level performance for just 40 watts
When you think about what makes a good GPU, performance is king. That’s certainly what the average GPU buyer has in mind when scouring the web for benchmarks and performance data.
But power consumption is also important. Really important.
In 2016, I was one of the first people to buy a Radeon RX 480, one of AMD’s best GPUs to date, due to its great performance, low price, and decent power efficiency. . I enjoyed how easily it played games like the witcher 3, Hitman (2016)and Skyrim with high or maximum graphics at 1080p while maintaining a frame rate of 60 frames per second (fps) or higher. Even today, it is a good level of performance.
The RX 6400 draws 100 watts less than the RX 480. That’s a big deal.
But in terms of power efficiency, the RX 6400 puts its predecessor to shame. It’s almost as fast as the RX 480, and despite its small size, it consumes less than a third of the RX 480’s power budget. As many reviewers’ results show when tested against the RX 570, which can replace the RX 480, the RX 6400 is only about 6% behind the average frame rates, while consuming 100 less watts of power. It’s a big problem.
Of course, an important caveat is that the RX 6400 requires PCIe 4.0 to run at its peak. With only PCIe 3.0 enabled, the performance of the RX 6400 apparently drops by 15%. This is a particularly thorny issue for the RX 6400, as it means it underperforms on hardware prior to PCIe 4.0’s debut in 2019; ironically, most budget Ryzen 5000 CPUs don’t have PCIe 4.0, although all Ryzen 3000 chips do. Fortunately, Intel supports PCIe 4.0 on all of its Alder Lake processors, even its sub-$100 models, the type you’d want to pair with the RX 6400.
Reasonable Low Profile GPU Pricing Finally
The RX 6400 is a low-profile GPU, which means it’s physically quite compact and meant to fit easily into smaller ITX builds where open space is limited. While the RX 6400 is impressive compared to older GPUs, it’s worth pointing out that it has almost identical performance to Nvidia’s older GTX 1650, released in 2019, three years before the RX 6400. That’s right – the GTX 1650 also comes in low profile sizes and consumes roughly the same amount of power. So what does the RX 6400 do that the 1650 can’t? Well, it all depends on availability and price.
For years, the prices of low-profile GPUs have skyrocketed, even before the GPU shortage appeared. For reference, I bought a low-profile 2GB RX 460 for $94 in 2017, which was actually a really good deal because the low-profile GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti cost a lot more – sometimes even up to $150. I even remember seeing low-profile 460s, 1050s, and 1050 Tis costing nearly $200 through 2018 and 2019.
While supply was a factor, the real nail in the coffin was the lack of New Discrete GPUs to take over. From 2016 to 2018, the only new low-profile GPU was the GT 1030, which is extremely slow, low-end, and as a result failed to bring prices down or deliver a worthwhile experience. In 2019, the GTX 1650 was released and it showed promise for its high performance and efficiency, but it was just too expensive, usually selling for over $200. Even today, most cost between $225 and $250, with a Gigabyte model currently available for $175.
Last month I bought my RX 6400 for only $130.
The fact that the RX 6400 exists, especially at its price point, makes it an extremely unique graphics card.
The RX 6400 has apparently enjoyed a good supply since its release and sometimes even sells below $160. As of this writing, two RX 6400s are selling for $150, but last month I bought my RX 6400 for $130. For those who want to build a cheap, low-profile PC, saving $30 is a big deal when it means they can go for a better PCIe 4.0-capable processor.
I could be more bitter about the price of the 6400 when I paid less than $100 for a good low profile GPU in 2017, for a very similar PC you see in the image above. The thing is, low-profile cards for gaming aren’t just a niche – they’re a niche within the ITX-sized gaming PC niche. People who like to build small computers (myself included) just have to take what they can get these days. I’m grateful the RX 6400 exists, as it’s the first low-profile GPU in a long time worth the cost.
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