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AMD Radeon RX 6400 Review: Budget in Almost Every Way

Feels more like a $120 card

AMD Radeon RX 6400
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

AMD's Radeon RX 6400 is geared for a very specific niche. If you happen to fall into that niche, go ahead and add 1.5 stars to our score and pick one up. For most people, however, it's a relatively anemic card that basically matches the performance of Nvidia's three-year-old GTX 1650 for roughly the same price. That's not progress, though a lot of the blame lies with the pandemic, cryptocurrencies, and the supply chain issues of the past two years.

The target market is anyone needing a GPU that doesn't require any form of external power, and people that need a half-height GPU for a slim PC. Such users do get a mostly modern GPU, but as we noted in our RX 6500 XT review, AMD arguably cut features a bit too much with Navi 24.

The biggest issue is the outdated video engine. Yes, you can watch YouTube and NetFlix on the RX 6400, as it still supports H.264 (AVC) and H.265 (HEVC) decoding. What you can't do is any form of accelerated video encoding. That probably won't matter for a lot of people, but any budget gamers thinking about doing a Twitch stream will be disappointed — especially since you get both H.264 and H.265 encoding support with Nvidia's older GTX 1650. HTPC users that want to encode live streams for later viewing will also be disappointed.

If you do end up buying an RX 6400, note that AMD's Raise the Game Bundle is now live, and you'll get a free copy of the Saints Row reboot. No, you don't get the choice of one of the other games, sorry.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

AMD revealed that the Navi 24 GPU at the heart of the Radeon RX 6400 (and RX 6500 XT) was originally intended for laptops. As such, some of the missing features like video encoding support can be easily explained. On a laptop, the integrated graphics — either from AMD or Intel — would have handled video encoding and decoding. But the crazy GPU market of the past year caused AMD to rethink the product line and ultimately release dedicated GPUs for desktops.

The lack of video encoding hardware doesn't make this a terrible card, but it's one more factor to consider. We'd prefer Nvidia's GTX 1650 Super, which you can often find used for about the same price, or AMD's previous-gen RX 5500 XT 4GB. And while we would normally have concerns with buying a used graphics card, neither of those were likely to be used as mining GPUs, so they should be okay. But those GPUs need a 6-pin power connector and aren't available in half-height form factors.

The last two years of GPU and component prices were especially awful, but thankfully those days appear to be over. The RX 6400 at least makes some progress in providing an entry-level GPU that doesn't suck horribly (I'm looking at you, GT 1030 and RX 550), but we used to see $90–$120 budget GPUs, and now the best we can do is $160. AMD's RDNA 2 architecture manages to perform quite well for a chip that only has a 64-bit memory interface, but it's still not a step up in performance from the prior generation of hardware.

We wouldn't hold out hope for a better alternative from AMD or Nvidia, either. Nvidia's GTX 1630 might challenge the RX 6400 on price, but it will be slower than the existing GTX 1650, which is already basically tied with the RX 6400. The real potential savior for the budget market may come in the form of Intel's Arc A380. Specs and performance look like they could compete with the GTX 1650, if Intel can get its drivers up to snuff, and Intel will include one of the best video codecs around with hardware AV1 encoding and decoding support alongside H.264/H.265. Once the cards hit the US market, which should happen in the next few months, we'll see what Arc has to offer budget gamers.

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • King_V
    If ever there was a GPU that strode forth, and boldly declared "Meh," this is it. I will, however, grant it points for its performance/watt, relative to its competitors.

    I would be very surprised if the price held up where it is, though. Then again, a quick look at PC Part Picker for a GDDR5 version of the GT 1030 is showing a single passively cooled model for $90 directly from Asus, and the rest at $114 and higher. The horrible DDR4 version is just as pricey, which elicits a big DoubleYoo Tee Eff?

    Ouch.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    King_V said:
    If ever there was a GPU that strode forth, and boldly declared "Meh," this is it. I will, however, grant it points for its performance/watt, relative to its competitors.

    I would be very surprised if the price held up where it is, though. Then again, a quick look at PC Part Picker for a GDDR5 version of the GT 1030 is showing a single passively cooled model for $90 directly from Asus, and the rest at $114 and higher. The horrible DDR4 version is just as pricey, which elicits a big DoubleYoo Tee Eff?

    Ouch.
    Just waiting for the GTX 1630 to arrive... It should give a little bit more meh to the GTX 16-series, because Nvidia can't let AMD run unchecked in the meh market segment of graphics cards! LOL

    GPU price tiers:
    Enthusiast/Extreme
    High-end
    Mainstream/Midrange
    Budget/Entry-Level
    Meh
    Reply
  • Liquidrider
    King_V said:
    If ever there was a GPU that strode forth, and boldly declared "Meh," this is it. I will, however, grant it points for its performance/watt, relative to its competitors.

    I would be very surprised if the price held up where it is, though. Then again, a quick look at PC Part Picker for a GDDR5 version of the GT 1030 is showing a single passively cooled model for $90 directly from Asus, and the rest at $114 and higher. The horrible DDR4 version is just as pricey, which elicits a big DoubleYoo Tee Eff?

    Ouch.

    I can think of another GPU that strode forth and bodly declared Meh this is it.
    Do you mean competitors like Intel's ARC A380 which was just released in China only and cost more than AMD 6400 and is slower?

    Unlike Intel, however, at least AMD didn't build a bunch of hype around the 6400.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    Liquidrider said:
    I can think of another GPU that strode forth and bodly declared Meh this is it.
    Do you mean competitors like Intel's ARC A380 which was just released in China only and cost more than AMD 6400 and is slower?

    Unlike Intel, however, at least AMD didn't build a bunch of hype around the 6400.
    I'm not sure the A380 actually costs more than the RX 6400, and it has 2GB more VRAM, much better codec support... but questionable drivers at present. Yeah, it's not great, and the China-only business does not inspire any confidence in me whatsoever. But the theoretical price of the A380 is supposed to be under $150 as I understand things. And if Intel ever wants to be a real player in the GPU space, it absolutely has to fix the driver situation, which is something it knows and is working on. I'm pretty sure a big part of the delayed US launch is to give the driver teams three extra months of debugging and fixing. We'll find out in the next two months... But yes, I'm looking to be underwhelmed by first generation Arc performance. I'm also very hopeful that Intel will keep iterating and actually close the gap with AMD and Nvidia over time, because it would be great to have a third serious player in the GPU market.
    Reply
  • shady28
    It's pretty disappointing that the lower end of the market, around $150 MSRP, hasn't really moved in performance since the 1650 was released in Feb of 2019.

    Yes, 2 1/2 years and there is really no movement here. This wasn't always the case, the 750 Ti (2014) and 1050 Ti (2016) were great cards for their time that sucked people into PC gaming for a fairly low price.

    This failure to seed the market so to speak may backfire in coming years.

    Reply
  • -Fran-
    Thanks a lot for the review. This card actually had a lot of potential (much like the 6500XT) to come and save the day for a lot of people, but they both fell so darn flat it wasn't even funny. It's like one of those bad movies that is so bad it's good, but in this case, the movie was just bad... At least you can decode the movie, right? Heh.

    Anyway, I wish they'd pack a bit more features for <75W cards to justify them being half width for slim cases. I still have my case waiting for that one card that is worthy of going into it. Ah, the dreams and hopes burned, haha.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • King_V
    I don't think it's actually terrible for that niche it's supposed to cover... you need something in a system that doesn't have a PCIe connector, with the option of also having a low-profile, single-slot version.

    And, when I say that, I mean to include that the cooler itself is only single-slot height.

    After all, as Jarred said:
    AMD's Radeon RX 6400 is geared for a very specific niche. If you happen to fall into that niche, go ahead and add 1.5 stars to our score and pick one up.

    I agree that, even for what it is, it most certainly is overpriced. Then again, I seem to recall R7 250E/7750 cards that were single-slot-low-profile designs costing more than their normal sized counterparts. Likewise, it was difficult (impossible?) to find a 750Ti that fit that form factor at all (I was looking to squeeze something into a Dell Inspiron 3647 Small Desktop). They tended to be priced a little higher probably because of the cold calculation of "a captive audience with very few options."

    If a 1630 comes out, I can't imagine it being a contender. The 1650 and 6400 trade blows, with the 1650 dominating once the details are cranked up. The 1630 would probably be out of the running.

    That leaves the real contest for New Meh to the 6400 and the A380. Assuming that the A380 allows for no-PCIe, and offers low-profile-single-slot solutions. At 75W, I don't think that's going to be possible.

    Best case, A380 vs 6400 becomes the Battle For Meh! . . . but I'm starting to suspect that even the A380 won't be able to - it'll require physically larger cards/coolers, and, similar to the 1650, most will require a PCIe connector.

    That'll put it at A380 vs 1650, which the Intel card is going to lose, at a performance level, though likely win easily in the price/performance aspect.


    (edit: grammar/clarity)
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    I'm pretty sure a big part of the delayed US launch is to give the driver teams three extra months of debugging and fixing. We'll find out in the next two months... But yes, I'm looking to be underwhelmed by first generation Arc performance. I'm also very hopeful that Intel will keep iterating and actually close the gap with AMD and Nvidia over time, because it would be great to have a third serious player in the GPU market.
    We have to assume that amd and nvidia have decades worth of a head-start of soft and hardware IP to make games run better and three month is not going to make a difference for intel in closing that gap.

    Intel has to focus to the future and that's what they are doing, they provide all the tools and info to developers and have arc integrated to unity and unreal, they focus on future games being specifically optimized for their cards.
    It's still not a sure bet by any means that the cards will perform well in the future, but at least intel has the groundwork laid out.
    https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/developer/topic-technology/gamedev/overview.html
    Reply
  • thisisaname
    Liquidrider said:
    I can think of another GPU that strode forth and bodly declared Meh this is it.
    Do you mean competitors like Intel's ARC A380 which was just released in China only and cost more than AMD 6400 and is slower?

    Unlike Intel, however, at least AMD didn't build a bunch of hype around the 6400.

    Loved the sub heading on the articles, harsh but true :giggle:
    Reply
  • magbarn
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    I'm not sure the A380 actually costs more than the RX 6400, and it has 2GB more VRAM, much better codec support... but questionable drivers at present. Yeah, it's not great, and the China-only business does not inspire any confidence in me whatsoever. But the theoretical price of the A380 is supposed to be under $150 as I understand things. And if Intel ever wants to be a real player in the GPU space, it absolutely has to fix the driver situation, which is something it knows and is working on. I'm pretty sure a big part of the delayed US launch is to give the driver teams three extra months of debugging and fixing. We'll find out in the next two months... But yes, I'm looking to be underwhelmed by first generation Arc performance. I'm also very hopeful that Intel will keep iterating and actually close the gap with AMD and Nvidia over time, because it would be great to have a third serious player in the GPU market.
    Too bad for Intel as the train has already left the station. Knowing Intel, if Arc is a dud, they'll fire the whole team and we'll be back to the duopoly again. If they just started 6 months ago, Intel would've been as a savior of GPU market. Here's hoping that they give their GPU division at least 3 generations to catch up and get sizable market share.
    Reply