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AMD Radeon RX 5700 & RX 5700 XT Review

By Christopher Coke on July 07, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

AMD Radeon RX 5700 & RX 5700 XT Review

It’s July 7th, the day AMD fans have long been awaiting and the launch day for both a brand new generation of CPUs and GPUs. We were lucky enough to get the new AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT in house to test ahead of launch. They’re built on the new RDNA architecture and bring neat features such as Anti-Lag the promise a competitive edge, but are they the next-generation leap we’ve been hoping for? Join us as we find out. This is our review of the AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700XT.


Specifications

Current Pricing

  • AMD Radeon RX 5700: $349
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT: $399
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition: $449

It’s quite the exciting day for PC gamers. Not only did AMD release its latest and greatest generation of gaming CPUs but it’s also unleashing the long awaited Navi GPUs, officially branded the RX 5700 series. Three GPUs are making their way to market today with the RX 5700, RX 5700 XT, and the RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition. These three cards have been the subject of incredible interest over the last year with multiple rumors on details and announcements come and gone. We first heard about the RX 5700 series when it was announced at Computex and then even more at E3, so to say I was excited to finally try these cards would be an understatement.

There’s lots to know about these new cards, so let’s get right into it.

The first thing to know is that they’re not targeting 4K. They can each play at 4K to some degree but the target resolution is 1440p. This is wise, especially for how the cards are perceived, but also for practically pushing the market further onward from 1080p. Looking purely at the console world and the cadence of televisions, you might think that the next natural jump from FHD would be straight to 4K or UHD. But, for PC gamers who value 60 FPS or more gameplay, the performance impact is staggering. Instead, making the jump to a 1440p resolution is often a much better choice, allowing for a much crisper image without nearly the performance burden. In fact, a graphics card that might struggle in the 45FPS area at 4K can often game in the triple digits at 1440p, which opens up the door to high refresh rate displays and an even better gameplay experience.

And so, as we look at the new Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT, their mantra of leadership performance in every category they target rings particularly important. By so clearly targeting 1440p, they’re making a claim that the RX 5700 series will leave Nvidia following in the wake of their price to performance ratio. We should all hope so, and I’ll tell you if they do soon, but it’s that kind of stake in the ground that drives PC gaming forward with better products and prices for us all. Competition is exciting and it’s good to finally see that reignited in the hardware space.

Price Update: In a surprising and very welcome change, AMD decided to reduce the price of each card only two days before their release. The updates are as follows:

  • AMD Radeon RX 5700: WAS $379 -> IS NOW $349
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT: WAS $449 -> IS NOW $399
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition: WAS $499 -> IS NOW $449

With Nvidia’s RTX Super series recently releasing and delivering competitive performance to AMD’s RX 5700 cards, these changes sufficiently undercut them and make RX 5700 an excellent value.

A New Architecture - RDNA

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a new GPU architecture from AMD and it’s good to finally be moving on from Polaris (though AMD isn’t moving on from VEGA yet). These new GPUs are built on a new design AMD is referring to as RDNA. It’s quite technical and, frankly, a good deal over the scope of this review, however, the important takeaways are these:

Thanks to the redesign, the new RX 5700 series feature more bandwidth and less latency. In fact, AMD asserts that the new design, built on the 7nm process, delivers up to 1.25x performance per clock on top of being more power efficient. That’s quite an improvement. Spec-wise, the 5700 XT delivers 40 compute units made up of 2560 stream processors with a 1905 Boost Clock and 1755 Game Clock. The RX 5700 features 36 compute units composed of 2304 stream processors and a 1725 Boost Clock/1625 Game Clock.

The new cards also feature a shift away from the pricey HBM2 memory and toward GDDR6, akin to Nvidia’s latest cards. Combined with the redesigned architecture, the cards have a wide-open 448 GB/s memory bandwidth for high-end gaming at 1440p.

Radeon Display Engine, Display Stream Compression, and Radeon Media Engine

With RDNA also comes the new Radeon Display Engine. As you can see, on the launch cards, there are four display outputs for HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4 HDR. With support for these new standards, the cards could theoretically support 4K 240Hz, 4K HDR 120Hz, or even 8K HDR 60Hz (though you’d obviously never run these particular GPUs that high). Still, it’s a solid move that points toward the future of gaming monitors and graphics rendering.

RDE also supports Display Stream Compression, which will allow you to produce those amazingly high-res, HDR images without the need for chroma subsampling or multiple cords.

Finally, the RX 5700 series brings with it the latest generation of the Radeon Media Engine. This new version brings improved hardware-level decoding support for H.264, H.265, and VR9 decoding.

Radeon Anti-Lag and Image Sharpening - 4K quality at 1440p?

On the software front, AMD is bringing interesting and exciting improvements both competitive and casual gamers. On the competitive side, we have Radeon Anti-Lag (RAL). In essence, RAL monitors CPU processes while you’re gaming to keep them better in sync with the processing being done by your CPU. Keeping better sync between components, AMD is able to prevent overlap between the work being done and offer a 1-2 frame improvement in responsiveness - or a difference of about 20ms. This technique can have a performance impact, however, and is only recommended in cases where you’re limited by the GPU.

The latest update to AMD Radeon’s Adrenelin software also brings with it two forms of image sharpening. The first, Contrast Adaptive Sharpening, has to be enabled by developers while the second, Radeon Image Sharpening is based on this technique but can be enabled for any game. RIS is more than just an image filter. Instead of applying a sharpening effect to the whole screen, it runs an algorithm to identify only the areas that need sharpening and applies it there. So, if you’re running a low cost anti-aliasing setting that happens to apply a little more blur, you can enable RIS and restore crispness and clarity to your image.

Particularly interesting in the reviewers guide is this line: “When paired with Radeon GPU scaling, RIS allows gamers to configure their games to run at lower resolutions to optimize performance while still enjoying crisp, detailed full-screen visuals.” Reading this, it struck me as very similar to what Nvidia is attempting with DLSS, minus the neural network and need for developer/Nvidia support. Indeed, reading on, that’s exactly what they’re going for - 4K quality visuals with the impact of 1440p gaming.

I tested this and, though I don’t think it’s quite as crisp as native 4K, it does make the image much better than traditional 1440p with only a couple frames lost. This is the killer feature I almost let fly under the radar and am glad I didn’t. GPU Scaling/Radeon Image Sharpening is fantastic and a decent work around to the performance impact of actually running 4K.

Without further ado, let’s get into how the cards performed.

Benchmark Results

Test System: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, AMD Ryzen R9 3900X CPU, NZXT Kraken X72 AIO Cooler, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 16GB DRAM Kit, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply.

For our testing, our aim is always to dig into the real world performance of each piece of hardware we benchmark. Due to medical leave I had to take for a surgery, I was not able to test the Nvidia SUPER line-up in time for this review. We plan to cover these in the future once I’ve fully recovered and provide that additional context; however, if you need that context urgently, I encourage you to visit a site I also do work for, PC Perspective.

For ease of reading these charts, I have highlighted the RX 5700 results in blue and green.

As you can tell from these results, it appears that AMD wasn’t blowing smoke when they claimed “best to best” competitiveness against Nvidia’s RTX 2070 and superior performance than the RTX 2060. By and large, the RX 5700 outperforms the RTX 2070, though the margin varies from game to game. I will be especially interested to see how they compared against the SUPER variants, but knowing what we do, I expect them to be neck and neck, again, with variance from game to game. Considering the new pricing, however, a few frames differences feels like a minor concern to me.

While the Radeon RX 5700 series is perfectly poised for 1440p gaming (and 1080p, obviously), it doesn’t fare so well at 4K. It routinely pulls above 30 frames a second, which is a playable framerate, though not ideal for the best experience. Still, it’s doable, as 30 FPS console games so clearly show. So there is some 4K capability here, at least at 4K30.

Still, the better option would simply be to utilize Radeon Image Sharpening at 1440p resolution and enjoy an image that is “close enough” to be worthwhile. Make no mistake, these cards can make games look better than they would at 1440p with only 3-5 frames of impact, on average. That, in my opinion, makes them a better choice for the money even if it’s not “true” 4K.

I tested these cards in a room that was 25C ambient. They did acceptably though could become rather loud when fully ramped up. The RX 5700 XT definitely earned a few extra degrees when under full load but I didn’t observe any thermal throttling even in my warm room during these benchmarks and “for fun” gaming sessions.

Final Thoughts

At $349 and $399 respectively these cards are currently the best value in 1440p gaming. They don’t have raytracing, that’s a draw back, but considering the level of support and performance-cost RT features bring, frankly, I don’t much mind. Much more important is that they deliver better-than-2070 frame rates for less than the cost of a 2070 while at the same time offering image enhancement to give you a better, crisper image. If you’re in the market, my recommendation would be to save up and buy the “XT” but as the results show, even the normal model offers “leadership performance” at this price point.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight