AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT review
Ryzen processors have given AMD all the weapons it needed to wage its underdog battle against Intel. But AMD fights its war on two fronts, and in the graphics department, the company hasn’t picked up nearly as much momentum in the past couple of years.
With the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT, AMD hopes to change all that. Armed with a new graphics architecture, these Radeon cards have their eyes set on Nvidia’s RTX 2060 and RTX 2070. With the new “Super” versions of those cards, though, can the RX 5700 and 5700 XT still make the strong showing AMD needs?
Making a dent in the market
The Radeon VII had its strengths, but it wasn’t the power move AMD needed to match the absolute brawn of the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti. More than that, it didn’t undercut the price of the RTX 2080 by any significant amount.
AMD hopes to take a more aggressive approach with the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT. These are the first cards in the new RDNA graphics architecture. More importantly, these cards are AMD’s effort to undercut Nvidia in price and over-deliver in power across mid-range price points.
Anticipating the impact of Nvidia’s RTX Super cards, AMD countered with a price drop, even before the cards actually dropped. The RX 5700 XT received a $50 price cut from its initial announcement price, coming down to $399. That’s a full $100 below the RTX 2070 Super. The RX 5700 was cut by an additional $20, bringing it down to $349, which is now $50 less than the RTX 2060 Super.
There’s plenty to say about the price drop, but it clearly places the RX 5700 XT in a different category than the RTX 2070 Super. As you’ll see in the performance results later, this was likely AMD’s only choice.
With all the last-minute price shuffling in the mix, here’s how the high end of AMD’s graphics card lineup now stacks up:
|Radeon VII||Radeon RX 5700 XT||Radeon RX 5700||Radeon Vega 64||Radeon Vega 56|
|Architecture||GCN 5th gen||RDNA||RDNA||GCN 5th gen||GCN 5th gen|
|Memory||16GB HMB2||8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR6||8GB HMB2||8GB GDDR6|
From the specs alone, you might be a little confused as to how AMD intends to distinguish each of these cards from each other. Trying to understand the difference between the Radeon VII and the Radeon RX 5700 XT isn’t as simple as it should be.
As for the physical design of the cards themselves, they have a basic, minimal aesthetic. They’re nothing special. If anything, the RX 5700’s grey plastic looks a bit drab, even compared to previous designs like the Vega 64 or Vega 56. The RX 5700 XT’s “dent” in the middle of the shroud is certainly head-turning, but perhaps not for the reason AMD might want.
Similar to its predecessors, the RX 5000-series cards are blower-style designs, with a single fan compared to the three on the Radeon VII. While it’s not quite as loud as that card, AMD’s newest are still louder than their competitors.
Connectivity on both cards is limited to DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI. Though quite a large power requirement differentiates them, both cards use a six-pin power connector. That’s different from Nvidia’s new RTX 2060 Super, which uses a four-pin connector and includes both a USB-C port and even an old-school VGA port. AMD keeps it simple.
Can they game?
Let’s get into the real promise of these new cards. Power and value. When AMD was first pitching its new RX 5000-series, its competitors were the RTX 2070 and RTX 2060. But as of this week, those cards have been replaced by newer, more powerful Nvidia cards, and now the targets have moved.
I tested all five of the following cards on the same system, which included a six-core Intel Core i7-8086K processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB M.2 SSD. Here’s how they lined up in our first test, 3DMark’s Time Spy.
This DirectX 12 benchmark showed me right off the bat that AMD was in a bit of trouble. The RTX 2060 Super doesn’t just beat the RX 5700, it’s even taking down the RX 5700 XT. The 5700 XT keeps 8% between itself and the 5700, but it’s neck-and-neck with the Radeon VII.
That means AMD has two expensive graphics cards, neither of which can surpass the RTX 2060 Super. That’s not a good sign. The RX 5700 XT is 20% cheaper than the RTX 2070 Super and 11% slower. The RX 5700? It’s 15% less than the RTX 2060 Super and is 9% slower. But thanks to AMD’s last-minute price cut, the 5700 XT now competes more directly with the RTX 2060 Super. In that match-up, they’re neck-and-neck.
If you compare two popular options from the previous generation of cards, the GTX 1080 and Vega 64, AMD was within 2% of its rival in this benchmark. They were both $499, but they lined up a bit more closely in terms of performance. In this generation, AMD can’t compete on the high-end but the middle ground leaves some opportunity for these cards to shine.
That’s just one benchmark, so let’s get to some games.
Our first test game, and the one you’re most likely to play yourself, is Fortnite. The RX 5700 and 5700 XT are both high-end cards, so they both play the game beautifully in 1080p and 1440p on the highest graphics settings. These high framerates are perfect for 144Hz refresh rate monitors, which are increasingly popular.
But when you look at the competition, the picture isn’t quite as pretty. The RTX 2060 Super beats the RX 5700 by 9%, while the RTX 2070 Super’s lead on the RX 5700 XT is a bit more substantial at 18%. In higher resolutions, the RTX 2060 Super even begins to edge past the 5700 XT.
The differences in performance between the RX 5700 XT and its competitors aren’t as noticeable in Civilization VI, at least not in lower resolutions. The powerful CPU in our rig was doing most of the heavy lifting there. But not with the RX 5700. That little guy delivers framerates a worrying 26% behind the RTX 2060 Super. Civilization VI is another example of a popular game where the RTX 2060 Super smashes the RX 5700.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a tough game for even the most powerful graphics cards to run well, and these AMD cards don’t change that. It’s nearly unplayable at 4K without lowering graphics settings, though they average over 60 FPS in 1080p at the maxed Ultra High settings.
Comparatively, though, AMD is behind. In all of our runs across settings and resolutions, the RX 5700 is always a few FPS behind the RTX 2060 Super. Here, it’s the 5700 XT with the uphill climb, lagging behind the RTX 2070 Super by as much as 14% in 1080p at maximum detail.
As I noted in my review of the RTX Super cards, the one big exception in all our results is Battlefield V. It’s a game the Radeon VII excelled at, and these new cards are no different. Even the RX 5700 hits a buttery smooth 117 FPS (frames per second), a solid 8% over the RTX 2060 Super. The 5700 XT just barely slides in over the RTX 2070 Super. As I moved higher up in resolution, the AMD cards performed admirably, with the 5700 XT averaging 60 FPS in 4K. The other cards can manage that feat too, but only at medium detail.
AMD still has a lot to prove
While the $699 Radeon VII wasn’t shy about competing with the skyrocketing prices of Nvidia’s cards, the 5700 and 5700 XT feel more modest.
The RX 5700 XT undercuts the GeForce RTX 2070 Super by $100, while the 5700 is now $50 cheaper than the GeForce RTX 2060 Super. When you look at the performance differences, those prices make sense. The RX 5700 XT in particular sits in an excellent position as a $400 graphics card, now competing directly with the RTX 2060 Super. In that match-up, AMD’s card stands a chance. However, in the majority of our test games, the RTX 2060 Super still edges past the RX 5700 XT.
The real problem for AMD is its missing high-end competitor. Even setting ray tracing aside, right now, Nvidia is likely the more compelling option for most gamers. AMD has made impressive strides in this generation, but it still has work to do.