AMD Radeon RX 5700 Review 46

AMD Radeon RX 5700 Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • According to AMD, the Radeon RX 5700 will retail for $349.
  • Good performance improvements, faster than RX Vega 64 and RTX 2060
  • Very energy efficient, matches NVIDIA Turing architecture
  • 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
  • Same price/performance as the RX 5700 XT—should be cheaper
  • Fan control logic is broken
  • Overclocking is complicated
  • Undervolting not completely thought through
  • Driver bugs
  • No idle fan stop
  • No backplate
  • High multi-monitor power draw
  • CrossFire no longer supported
The Radeon RX 5700 is the smaller brother of the RX 5700 XT we reviewed separately here. 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.

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, as expected given how new of an architecture RDNA is, shows that there is definitely some room for driver improvements.

Averaged over our whole test suite, we see the Radeon RX 5700 beat both the Radeon RX Vega 64 and GeForce RTX 2060 by 5%, and the same goes for the last-generation GeForce GTX 1080. The recently released GeForce RTX 2060 Super is 8% faster, which is not a whole lot. Compared to its bigger brother, the RX 5700 is 14% slower than the XT. Overall, very decent performance results that ensure this card will handle all games at 1440p.

Just like the Radeon RX 5700 XT, the RX 5700 does not support CrossFire. While this might seem like a step backward at first, 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. We were shocked to see the Radeon RX 5700 beat the power efficiency of many NVIDIA Turing cards. AMD has achieved the unthinkable! Their secret sauce is undervolting—the chip runs at below 1 V all the time, whereas the XT card runs at up to 1.2 V. This move greatly reduces power consumption, but comes at the cost of maximum clock frequency, which explains why the RX 5700 is specced at considerably lower clocks than the XT. It's still not perfect, though, as AMD affixed all their voltage-frequency curve points to 0.987 V. Usually, you'd expect to see a gradual stepping pattern that drops to even lower voltages at lower clocks—a bit of efficiency is lost here. With 166 W in gaming, the RX 5700 matches the power consumption of the RTX 2060 almost exactly with more performance at the same time. The reduced power requirements will definitely fly well with people upgrading their system as there is no need for a more powerful PSU. For example, the old Radeon RX 480 used the same amount of power, too.

With such low heat output, you'd expect the RX 5700 to run quietly enough to take on NVIDIA's lineup—power draw and performance are close enough, so fan noise and temperatures should be similar, too. Unfortunately, AMD insists on sticking with blower-type coolers, which simply aren't up to the task. Noise levels reach 43 dBA, the exact same value as for RX 5700 XT, RX Vega, and Radeon VII and simply too noisy. Since the RX 5700 GPU spits out around 50 W less heat than the XT, temperatures dropped from 92°C to 79°C, but apparently, nobody seized that opportunity to adjust the fan curve to reduce noise levels—both cards are capped at around 2100 RPM. What makes things worse is the super weird fan curve the card uses. When the card starts out cool and a game is launched, temperatures will go up as expected. This increase in temperatures slowly makes the fan spin faster and faster to keep up with the heat—so far so good. Once the card reaches 72°C, fan speed will start dropping despite climbing temperatures. Over the next few minutes, fan speed will keep going down to about 1715 RPM (it should be running at 2100 RPM now), and only then, when temperatures have risen to around 78°C, does fan speed increase. I'm completely puzzled by how this could slip by everyone at AMD for them to send out review boards like that. It should be fixable with a BIOS or driver update, though. While the card does not include the idle-fan-stop feature, AMD has tuned idle fan speeds very well as the card is whisper quiet in idle and you won't notice it over other components in your PC.

While overclocking is possible, it is somewhat complicated and really doesn't yield much added performance—we gained 2.4%. Especially memory overclocking is poor. Both AMD and NVIDIA use the exact same GDDR6 memory chips from Micron. On NVIDIA, we can easily reach above 2000 MHz on the memory; on the RX 5700, the 1860 MHz memory OC was the end of the line, probably held back more by driver/BIOS bugs than the memory ICs themselves. Guess we'll see if they can improve that with future driver updates as well.

Initially announced at $379, AMD has just yesterday adjusted the price of RX 5700 down to $349, which helps a lot, especially when compared to NVIDIA's recent RTX Super release. At that price point, both the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT have the same price/performance ratio, which is quite uncommon. Normally, the slower model has better pricing because you're expected to pay a premium for the extra performance on the higher model. Price/performance also roughly matches the Radeon RX Vega 56—with better performance, of course. Compared to NVIDIA's lineup, both the RTX 2060 and RX 5700 are identical in price/performance, while the RTX 2060 Super is 5% worse, but offers 8% more performance. What NVIDIA has going for its cards, at least when compared with the RX 5700 reference design, is better noise levels, but I'm sure custom designs from AMD's board partners will address that later this year—remember, heat output is the same as for the RTX 2060, so there is no reason these cards won't be just as quiet as RTX 2060 cards, which is a huge win for AMD, especially with its better pricing. The RTX 2060 does feature support for RTX raytracing, but I'm not sure if the RTX 2060 even has enough raytracing horsepower to make a significant difference when raytracing support in games picks up, so it might not matter at all. On the other hand, next-gen consoles are expected to introduce raytracing, too, and since they won't be much faster than the RX 5700, there's hope that game developers come up with clever techniques to reap the benefits of raytracing without murdering performance. 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. If AMD can lower prices of the RX 5700 a bit more, say to around $320 or even $299, and custom designs manage to achieve heat/noise parity with NVIDIA, they should be able to capture a significant portion of the market back from NVIDIA.
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