AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Review 160

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to AMD, the Radeon RX 5700 XT will retail at $399.
  • Large performance improvement, beats RTX 2070 and is nearly as fast as the Radeon VII
  • Decent pricing
  • Power efficiency improved
  • Backplate included
  • Microsoft Xbox Game Pass for PC for three months included
  • PCI-Express 4.0
  • 7 nanometer production process
  • Support for DSC 1.2a enables 8K 60 Hz
  • FidelityFX and Radeon Anti-Lag
  • Noisy in gaming
  • Overclocking is complicated
  • Driver bugs
  • High temperatures
  • No support for raytracing acceleration
  • No idle fan stop
  • High multi-monitor power draw
  • CrossFire no longer supported
We're finally publishing our AMD "Navi" reviews today—the architecture we've heard so much about over the previous years. This review covers the Radeon RX 5700 XT flagship, and a second review looks at the Radeon RX 5700 in depth. Both cards are based on the new Navi 10 silicon, which introduces the AMD RDNA graphics architecture, succeeding the company's aging GCN architecture. Also new is the use of GDDR6 graphics memory, which is simpler to use and more cost efficient than the HBM2 memory we've seen on recent Vega cards.

The Radeon RX 5700 XT is a beautiful card that continues the theme AMD set for their reference designs, yet is able to improve on. I love the new metal fan shroud with its milled stripes that immediately convey a feeling of "high-quality product" when you hold the card in your hands, thanks to the coolness of the metal and feel of the surface texture. The included metal backplate is nice to have, too.

We made sure to use the latest drivers for our testing, which were released by AMD just 30 hours ago—the third set of drivers provided throughout the creation of this review, and it does include some performance boosts over the earlier versions, which shows that there is definitely some room for driver improvements, which is probably as expected given how new of an architecture RDNA is.

Averaged over our whole test suite, we see the Radeon RX 5700 XT 2% ahead of the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070. This makes the card a whopping 20% faster than Vega 64 and puts it just 8% behind Radeon VII, which is really impressive. Just last week, NVIDIA countered AMD's Navi plans by preemptively releasing the RTX 2060 Super, which is nearly as fast as the RTX 2070—the 5700 XT is 5% faster. Also new is NVIDIA's RTX 2070 Super, which is actually based on the RTX 2080 GPU—that card is 12% faster than the RX 5700 XT. The RTX 2080 Ti is still the king of the hill, delivering 50% more FPS than the RX 5700 XT, though at more than twice the price. With those performance results, we can definitely recommend the RX 5700 XT for maximum details gaming at 1440p resolution, or high-refresh-rate gaming at 1080p.

Abolishing CrossFire support might seem sad at first, but I think it's actually a good thing. Why invest time into a feature that is barely used by 1% of your customers? That's probably also why game developers haven't really been investing into it for quite a while, and this move will free up developer resources at AMD that are better spent elsewhere; for example, on game-ready support at launch day, something AMD has been spot on with in recent times.

AMD's new architecture brings in significant improvements over GCN we highlighted in the architecture section of this review. One important cornerstone is the long overdue reduction in power draw to make up lost ground against NVIDIA. In our testing, the RX 5700 XT is much more power efficient than anything we've ever seen from AMD, improving efficiency by 30%–40% over the Vega generation of GPUs. With 220 W in gaming, the card uses slightly less power than RX Vega 56 while delivering 30% higher performance. Reduced PSU requirements are not only important for builders on a budget, they also matter a lot for system integrators, to control cost. Our power consumption testing results show that the RX 5700 XT has caught up with NVIDIA's last-generation Pascal architecture in this department. Turing-based graphics cards are still up to around 20% more efficient than the RX 5700 XT. For the Radeon RX 5700 (non-XT), AMD has implemented undervolting with impressive results, reaching parity with even Turing—more on that in our RX 5700 review.

The improved power consumption of Navi helps with thermal management because all power consumed on a graphics card is emitted as heat the cooling solution has to get rid off somehow—more heat requires faster-spinning fans, which results in added fan noise. Unfortunately, noise levels of the RX 5700 XT reference design are not good. Essentially, they are identical to what we've seen on RX Vega and Radeon VII: 43 dBA. Part of the problem is that AMD insists on sticking with blower-type coolers, which simply aren't up to the task. NVIDIA switched their cooler design for the RTX Founders Editions, and it helps them a lot. The RTX 2070 Super, for example, consumes a similar amount of power, but runs a LOT quieter with only 33 dBA, and is significantly cooler at the same time with 76°C. Temperatures of our RX 5700 XT were quite high, reaching up to 92°C during gaming; the "Hot Spot" thermal sensor even went up to 110°C. While the card does not include the idle-fan-stop feature, AMD has tuned the idle fan speeds very well. The card is whisper quiet in idle, and you won't notice it over other components in your PC.

What is shocking are the absurd number of driver bugs I encountered during the review. I listed some of them on the overclocking page, and while they can all be fixed easily with driver updates, it still makes me wonder whether anybody test these cards. Some of the issues are so obvious, I can't imagine nobody noticed them. While overclocking is possible, it is somewhat complicated and requires you to turn off most of the card's clock and power management just to gain a few percentages of performance—5.6% in our case. Especially memory overclocking was disappointing. Both companies use the exact same GDDR6 memory chips from Samsung. On NVIDIA, we can easily reach above 2000 MHz on the memory; on the RX 5700 XT, a 1840 MHz memory OC was the end of the line, probably held back more by driver/BIOS bugs than the memory ICs. Guess we'll see if they can improve that with future driver updates.

Initially announced at $449, AMD just yesterday adjusted the price of the RX 5700 XT down to $399, which helps a lot, especially when comparing to NVIDIA's recent RTX Super release. At that price point, the RX 5700 XT is $100 cheaper than the RTX 2070 Super, offering 10% better price/performance. Compared to the RTX 2070, which is $480 now, the RX 5700 XT even has a 20% advantage. The RTX 2060 and RTX 2060 Super are breathing down AMD's neck though, with price/performance being essentially identical to that of the RX 5700 XT and much better power/heat/noise, fewer bugs, and Raytracing hardware acceleration. I have no doubt AMD will fix those bugs in the near future, but if noise matters for you, you'll have to wait for AMD's board partners to release custom Navi variants with better coolers in the coming months. On the topic of raytracing, I'm sure you've already made up your mind whether it's something you're interested in or not, but I don't doubt for a second that NVIDIA, with their excellent developer relations, is pushing the technology very hard, and it looks like the adoption rate is improving. Today, it's not a big deal, but it could become relevant in the years to come. Both companies are including a game bundle with their cards; NVIDIA is handing out two games, while AMD has partnered with Microsoft to give you three months of the Xbox Game Pass, which lets you play a large selection of games for free, but they're not yours to keep. While I'm sure it's not in AMD's best interest to start a price war with NVIDIA, I feel like the current pricing is just a little bit high, and that a price point of around $349 would really start bringing in the sales. As we've seen yesterday, prices can be adjusted quickly anyway.
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