AMD’s RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT Reviewed: RDNA Puts Radeon Back in the Game

Gaming

The AMD RX 5700 and AMD RX 5700 XT are Team Red’s latest salvos in the GPU market, and a major attempt to improve its competitive standing relative to Nvidia. While these new GPUs lack the ray tracing support Nvidia has been pushing as a major RTX feature, AMD is hoping that its own performance improvements, additional capabilities, and new card designs will attract fresh buyers.

Before diving into the data, we need to update you on pricing. When AMD announced the 5700 and 5700 XT, it set retail pricing for the two cards at $379 and $450. On Friday, AMD announced adjusted pricing — $350 for the 5700, and just $400 for the RX 5700 XT.

AMD’s price cuts were driven by necessity. Nvidia recently refreshed its own RTX GPU family with the 2060 Super, 2070 Super, and 2080 Super. The two GPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce that have launched thus far have both introduced significant performance improvements into the stack, though not better prices. The RTX 2060S performs virtually identically to the old RTX 2070 (but costs $400 instead of $500) while the RTX 2070S is ~96 percent as fast as the RTX 2080. The SKUs we’re most interested in comparing in this review are charted below:

GPU-Comparison-Chart

The Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT will square off with the RTX 2060 and RTX 2060S / RTX 2070. Pay attention to the Radeon RX 5700 versus Vega 64 match-up. On paper, Vega 64 has a massive texture rate advantage, almost as much pixel fillrate, and even more memory bandwidth. You’d expect it to win any tussle.

You’d be wrong.

The 5700 and 5700 XT continue the understated, almost industrial design that the Radeon VII debuted earlier this year. The reference RX 5700 is a squared-off, rectangular design, while the 5700 XT adds a little variation with an irregular depression in the GPU shroud.

The Match-Up: What We’re Looking For

Even before Navi launched, it had already had an impact on the graphics market; Nvidia didn’t cut Turing prices out of the goodness of its heart.

The big question for AMD, here, is whether it can establish some momentum around its GPUs. It’s been six years since AMD decisively seized the performance crown from Nvidia with Hawaii. The GPU families that have followed — Fury, Polaris, Vega — have struggled, to one degree or another. AMD has often had to push its architectures as far as it possibly could in order to match or nearly match Nvidia’s performance. Running a chip at the far end of its clock curve tends to hit power efficiency quite hard, and AMD’s GPUs haven’t been particularly competitive with Nvidia in overall power consumption since Pascal debuted.

When it unveiled its RDNA architecture at E3, AMD talked up the 5700 and 5700 XT’s improved efficiency, higher instruction execution rate, and better power consumption. Now that it has made the jump to 7nm, customers are going to expect considerably better performance and efficiency than what it shipped on 14nm three years ago.

AMD has also made the decision not to integrate ray tracing support into its current lineup of PC products, despite Nvidia heavily pushing the feature for the past year. This introduces another wrinkle into the value comparison between the two companies. GPU manufacturers aren’t required to match each other on every feature, but customers typically want to see equivalent value. We’ll have to see if the RX 5700 and 5700 XT can measure up.

We’ll be comparing the 5700 XT’s overall efficiency and performance to both the Radeon Vega 64 and the Radeon VII. The Vega 64 is the closest 14nm AMD GPU to the 5700 XT as far as expected performance, while the Radeon VII is AMD’s first 7nm GPU design, but built on the older GCN architecture. We don’t expect the 5700 XT to beat the Radeon VII, but how close they are in terms of overall performance will tell us some interesting things about RDNA versus GCN.

Test Setup

All of our test results were generated using a Core i7-8086K CPU and an Asus Prime Z370-A motherboard with 32GB of DDR4-3200 and the version 2201 UEFI. Nvidia’s 430.86 WHQL driver was used for testing all NV cards. AMD GPUs were tested using the 19.30.01.09-Adrenaline launch driver provided by AMD, except for the Radeon VII, which was tested using the Adrenaline 19.5.2 driver (6/3/2019). A 1TB Samsung 970 EVO handled storage requirements.

Our Windows 10 testbed used the May 2019 Windows Update and had all additional security patches installed. Spectre, Meltdown, and similar security patches were all left in their default states.

All power consumption measurements were made using a Kill-A-Watt meter installed at the wall and a Thermaltake RGB 1250 80 Plus Titanium power supply. Power measured in Metro Last Light Redux at 1080p Very High detail with SSAA enabled. Power measurements were taken on the third benchmark run to allow for system warm-up.

All of the test results in this review, including power consumption measurements, were run fresh for this series of reviews. We’ve kept the older GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti in this suite of reviews as well, to measure how well Pascal is keeping pace with this new generation of cards.

The RTX 2060 is the direct comparison for the Radeon RX 5700, but the RTX 2070 should be considered as a stand-in for the RTX 2060S, as that’s the GPU the RX 5700 XT will compete against. The Gigabyte Aorus RTX 2080 is a stand-in for the RTX 2070S,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce but keep in mind, that GPU is still $100 more expensive than the RX 5700 XT. The 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 / 2070S near-equivalent are included here for reference, not because they represent the direct competitors for these two GPUs.

  • We aren’t displaying minimums for Hitman because Excel couldn’t display them properly when using this modified template. These values are typically quite low (5-10fps).
  • Warhammer II’s DX11 implementation is vastly better for Nvidia cards than its DX12 path, while the opposite is true for AMD. In this benchmark, we use the best path for each GPU.
  • The Core i7-8086K is functionally identical to the Core i7-8700K and can be viewed as a stand-in for that CPU.
  • Metro Exodus is tested in Extreme detail, but with Advanced PhysX and Hairworks disabled. As with Last Light, we benchmark with SSAA enabled.

Our results are embedded in the slideshow below. Each slide can be clicked to open it in a separate window.

Power Consumption, Noise

While I don’t have a dB meter sensitive enough to measure GPU fans in a trustworthy way, I don’t need one to tell the difference between the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT and pretty much every other AMD reference card manufactured since 2013.

The 5700 and 5700 XT are quiet. No, they aren’t inaudible — but they’re head and shoulders better than any high-end reference card AMD has launched in this approximate price bracket for a very long time. When we met with AMD at E3, we were told that the blowers were locked to a maximum sound level of 42 dBa. That sounds (no pun intended) about right to us.

So. The RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT offer moderately better performance than the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070, respectively. They’re much quieter than the Vega 64 or Radeon VII. How do they compare on power consumption?

5700-GPU-Power

There are a few different ways to look at this data. First, let’s take the RX 5700 versus Vega 64. The RX 5700 matches Vega 64’s performance in virtually every case, but draws almost a third less power. The Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT both draw more power than the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070, but they’re also faster cards. Adjust for that difference, and the slightly higher power draw of both AMD cards is actually in-line with their performance advantage.

Of course, the trumpeting elephant in the room, in this case, is the fact that AMD’s GPUs are built on a brand-new 7nm process node, while Nvidia’s are still stuck back on 12nm. This is a very fair point, and it implies that AMD is still playing catch-up on overall power efficiency compared with Nvidia.

This is not surprising. More than five years passed from when AMD hired Jim Keller to when Ryzen launched. When Vega debuted to disappointing reviews in August 2017, scuttlebutt suggested the GPU’s development cycle had been hampered by the all-hands-on-deck scramble to finish Ryzen and get it out the door. While AMD has since devoted additional engineering resources to improving the GPU side of its business, those changes haven’t had nearly as long to bake. The time scales are different and so is the reasonable degree of expected relative improvement.

Navi doesn’t close the power efficiency gap in one fell swoop, but it’s far more efficient than anything AMD has shipped in recent memory and its competitively efficient with what Nvidia has to offer, even if AMD is leaning hard on a node advance to do it. Your utility company doesn’t care what process node your appliances are built on, just how much power they use.

Conclusion: Higher Performance, Fewer Features

I’ve got more to say about Navi, the current state of the graphics market, and the wisdom of investing in ray tracing now that Nvidia has cut GPU prices. With two CPUs and two GPUs launching on the same day, I’m going to have to ask for a bit of time to pull my thoughts together.

Overall, though, I’d say Navi is easily the most impressive AMD GPU since at least the HD 7970. That might seem surprising, given that it isn’t in an overall leadership position and it doesn’t deliver a killer knockout blow to Nvidia’s product stack — though we’d be writing a very different conclusion to that point if Nvidia hadn’t just cut its own prices.

AMD has been playing second-fiddle to Nvidia in the GPU market for years, now. It needed a GPU that could compete on power and performance. It needed an architecture that could hit its target clock rates. Ever since Fury, it has felt as though AMD and GCN were hard up against an efficiency and scaling wall, clawing for every scrap of performance they could find. With Navi, it feels like the company can breathe again.

I’m going to have more to say about features, positioning, ray tracing, and the like. But what I’ll leave you with is this: More than it needed any particular feature, AMD needed to demonstrate that it could still build competitive, well-positioned cards. The RX 5700 and 5700 XT deliver on this promise. They’re faster than the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 and the price cuts AMD introduced will keep them quite effective against the RTX 2060 / RTX 2060S. If the company can continue to improve its designs and boost overall efficiency, the rumored “big Navi” (expected in 2020) should be something to see.

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