A great GPU with some (small) caveats.
In addition to the Radeon RX 5700 XT, AMD is releasing a slightly neutered version simply dubbed the Radeon RX 5700. It sells for $349 and is going up against the similarly priced RTX 2060 non-Super. It’s a mid-high-end GPU aimed at 1440p gaming, like its more expensive sibling. It replaces the Radeon RX Vega 56 in the lineup, and is one of AMD”s all-new RDNA GPUs with the codename Navi. It was first announced at E3 2019 and also had its price lowered from $379 to $349 in a classic “switcheroo” if you believe AMD’s side of the story.
AMD theoretically lured Nvidia into a trap by announcing higher than launch pricing, forcing Nvidia to go higher with its Super GPU pricing, then changed the prices two days before launch. If true, it’s a pretty clever strategy on AMD’s part, but it’s not clear if AMD anticipated the Super GPUs showing up, as the Radeon RX 5700 still targets the original RTX 2060 as its chief competitor. And though Nvidia dropped the price on the 2060 while replacing the 2070 as an end of life product, the new Navi cards don’t really factor Nvidia Super into the equation.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 – Design and Features
The overall design of the vanilla 5700 is extremely generic with a plastic and boxy blower shroud and no backplate, which is disappointing for a $350 GPU. Compared to the RTX 2060, well, there is no comparison; the Nvidia card just looks much more premium, and includes LED lighting, which this GPU lacks. The more expensive XT version looks a little better, and does have a backplate, but here’s where the cost cutting came in apparently, as this design is just plain boring.
The GPU is roughly 10.5″ long and has an eight-pin and six-pin connector, with a TDP of 185w. It sports 2304 streaming processors – which is the same number of CUDA cores found in the RTX 2070 non-Super. In fact, let’s have a look at the spec chart here:
In comparison to the RX 5700 XT, the changes are pretty small and boil down to looks, streaming processors, and clock speeds, but with the benefit of using less power. Here’s a chart AMD presented at E3 showing the main differences between the two:
Otherwise the cards are identical and the 5700 offers all the same features as its big brother, namely PCI Express 4.0 support, Radeon Image Sharpening and Anti-Lag, as well as the usual AMD stuff like Radeon Chill, ReLive, etc. I wrote about these features in the RX 5700 XT review, so I’ll paste that copy here for your perusal.
As the first GPUs with RDNA architecture to roll off the assembly line, AMD points out that these are entirely new animals compared to its previous GCN architecture. The company claims its improved performance-per-clock by 1.25X, and performance-per-watt by 1.5X. In the past, GCN cards weren’t terrible, but they always consumed more power and ran much hotter than Nvidia cards, so it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out this time around.
This is also one of the world’s first PCI Express 4.0 GPU, which offers double the bandwidth of PCI Express 3.0, though to take advantage of that you’ll need a motherboard that supports it, which are coming soon with AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs. I do not believe the extra bandwidth afforded in PCIe 4.0 will help with gaming, but AMD does say in its press materials it will benefit things like media encoding and playback for 8K files, so we’ll have to wait and see.
One other notable addition to this GPU is it supports DisplayPort 1.4 with Display Stream Compression, which allows for combinations of refresh rate and display output that’s not possible with other GPUs. For example, you could run an 8K panel at 60Hz with HDR, or run a 4K panel at 144Hz with HDR enabled and no color loss. With today’s GPU and displays, you’d need to run 8-bit color or lower the refresh rate in these scenarios as there’s not enough bandwidth available.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 – New Technologies
Along with the RX 5700 series AMD is launching several new technologies; some for gamers, and some for game designers. First up is Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS), which is based on a contrast-adaptive sharpening algorithm that doesn’t require developer involvement. It’s just a setting you can flip on or off in the Radeon software, and it should help make overall image quality better but it’ll probably be like Nvidia DLSS where you’d have to see it side-by-side to really notice it, in my opinion.
RIS only works on games that use DX9, DX12, or Vulkan APIs, and HDR is also not supported. It’s recommend to be used at lower resolutions and in combination with AMD’s GPU Scaling feature, so you’d run a game at 2,560 x 1,440 on a 4K display, then the software would upscale it to the native resolution (4K) but you’d still get 1440p performance, theoretically without any image quality penalty.
Next up we have Radeon Anti-Lag, which is designed to reduce input lag. AMD claims that by smoothing out the pacing by which the CPU is feeding the GPU frames to work on, it can theoretically reduce input lag by up to 16ms, which is roughly equivalent to one frame in a 60fps scenario. AMD notes that this can have an impact on frames per second, but the trade-off in responsiveness is worth it. AMD says it’s for GPU-limited scenarios, so we’re mostly talking about 4K scenarios as opposed to 1080p where you might be CPU-limited. This is also a user setting that can be turned on or off.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 – Benchmarks
To test the RX 5700 I strapped it into the IGN test bench, which consists of an Intel Core i7-7700K CPU, an Asus Prime Z270 motherboard, 16GB of DDR4 memory from Corsair, an EVGA PSU, and a SanDisk SATA SSD. Games were run at the three most common resolutions, and comparisons to all the Nvidia cards are included here as well. All tests were run at “ultra” settings with anti-aliasing disabled.
The real battle here is up against the RTX 2060 at 1440p, which is what both cards are made for. Overall, AMD has the advantage in all but two tests, so it’s not a knockout victory. Still, the pattern is that the AMD card is anywhere between 15- and 25-percent faster than the RTX 2060 depending on which game it is. The Nvidia card is still faster in The Witcher and Heaven 4.0, however.
Since these two GPUs are priced the same, it seems logical to declare AMD the winner but Nvidia does offer ray tracing at this price, along with much better aesthetics and software, in my humble opinion. As is usually the case in the GPU world, there’s rarely an open-and-shut argument for favoring one brand over another, but Nvidia isn’t completely out of this competition. AMD has really closed the gap, and done so with a GPU die that almost half the size of Nvidia’s; that’s impressive regardless of which company you like more. To hear Nvidia tell it, they’re fine at 12nm, and the per-watt performance speaks for itself.
At 1080p it’s more of a mixed bag, which both the RTX 2060 and the RX 5700 taking an equal amount of victories, so it really is a toss up at lower resolutions, but CPU-limitations are also a factor here as this Skylake CPU we use can be limiting at times. At 4K it’s pretty much a toss up as well.
Also, if you compare this GPU to the RTX 2070, which is now going for about $450 online, the Radeon RX 5700 a no brainer as it’s clearly faster in most tests and costs $100 less.
I also tested Radeon Image Sharpening by running Heaven at 2560 x 1440 on a 4K panel, with GPU scaling enabled. To my eyes it looked indistinguishable from a native 4k image, but this is one of those things where you will have to have a side-by-side comparison of the exact image and really stare at the details to notice them. In a moving game it looks just fine to me, so it theoretically does allow for “better” performance at high resolution, simply by running a lower resolution.
I also tested Anti-Lag at 4K but honestly couldn’t really tell the difference. This is one of those features that will have to be measured with a high-speed camera or something because to my fingers and eyeballs I couldn’t detect a difference with it on or off.
AMD Radeon RX 5700 – Thermals and Overclocking
As a baseline this GPU runs at about 70C under full load, so it’s a bit cooler than the RX 5700 XT due to lower clock speeds and fewer streaming processors, and about the same as the Nvidia GPUs. Overall I didn’t have a whole lot of success overclocking the RX 5700, just like I didn’t with the XT card. They still don’t overclock like Nvidia cards, where it’s all very straight forward and you simply move the offset slider on your application of choice, and the clock speed goes up until something bad happens.
Using MSI afterburner I’d move the sliders around and the GPU would just ignore what I was doing, for the most part. I then opened the Radeon Wattman software and let it overclock itself, and it kind of ignored that too. The application said the ideal clock speed for the GPU was 1830MHz, but it ended up at 1777Mhz and 75C. Overall that’s not too shabby, and certainly in the ballpark of where a GPU like the RTX 2060 would be, which is typically between 1800 and 1900MHz. Even if you argue Nvidia cards can OC to 2GHz, which is rare in my experience, the difference in performance between a card at 1900MHz and one at 2000MHz is probably less than one percent, so it’s not worth arguing about. Performance uplift after overclocking was approximately 4.8 percent, with the penalty of some additional fan noise.
The AMD Radeon RX 5700 has an MSRP of $349.99 and should be available to purchase today. AMD is offering three free months of Xbox Game Pass if you buy one of these GPUs or a new Ryzen processor, sweetening the deal a tad. Availability and pricing of partner cards (AIBs) is TBD.