Is there a way to set a max number of search results, so it only shows max 500 producs?
At the moment the search results can contain every single product, so the entire catalog, which is unnecessary a heavy load.
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Commonly, we only retrieve from 10 to 50 products per page in Magento category page. So, I understand you have setup your system to display 500 products?
As for the number of results, if the system displays even 5000, that should not have an impact on the page load as the figure 5000 is a query that counts the number of products for the current category. But in no way, the query fetches product details for 5000 products.
If the above is ok with you, you might want to clarify what you are aiming for. If your category page is slow and you believe it is because either of the scenario above happens to you, then I'd suggest to look into customised code to be code reviewed.