Just when we thought that Nvidia had succeeded in asserting its dominance with the new GeForce RTX Super series, AMD played a tried and true card, cutting prices to regain the advantage. Nvidia timed its launch to hurt AMD as much as possible and prevent favourable comparisons against its own offerings, and for a few days, the upcoming Radeons were being written off as “dead in the water” in forums and discussions online. We might never know whether AMD had this surprise planned all along, or whether it repositioned its products on the eve of their launch out of desperation, but this has to be one of the finest examples we've ever seen of how competition benefits buyers.
Regardless of which company looks like it outmanoeuvred the other, AMD is competing only with Nvidia's mid-range. Priced at Rs. 30,990 and Rs. 26,990 respectively (excluding tax), the Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT are positioned against the GeForce RTX 2060 and GeForce RTX 2060 Super. That still leaves huge swathes of the market exclusively to the green team, but has AMD at least managed to carve out a little niche for itself with this clever pricing move? Let's find out.
Previously codenamed ‘Navi', the RDNA (Radeon DNA) architecture underpinning the new Radeon RX 5700 GPUs has been in the works for years. It replaces the GCN (Graphics Core Next) designs that AMD has been iterating on for the past several generations. What's interesting is that this is the same basic framework that will go into AMD's semi-custom GPU designs for the next-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles as well as Google Stadia and potentially Samsung smartphones in the future.
Fans have been hoping that AMD might be able to pull off a complete reinvention on the GPU side like it did with the Zen CPU architecture, and the company does say that RDNA has been engineered from the ground up. It's is a big improvement after to the minor GCN refreshes we've seen year after year since 2011 – AMD claims 1.25x performance per clock and 1.5x performance per Watt. Of course AMD is also using its 7nm manufacturing process which helps reduce power consumption and allows for more transistors doing more work in the limited amount of space available.
AMD tells us that the design of its GPU compute units is completely new and much more efficient. The execution pipeline itself is more capable and flexible, and there's also a new cache hierarchy, which makes it easier for data and instructions to get to where they are needed.
Along with AMD's Ryzen 3000 series processors, AMD has also brought PCIe 4.0 support to the Radeon RX 5700 series GPUs. This standard doubles the theoretical bandwidth of each PCIe lane, for a total of 16 Gigatransfers per second per lane. This isn't immediately relevant for gamers, but AMD says you can see the benefits right now in bandwidth-intensive tasks such as playing 8K 60fps video.
One major thing that's missing is any form of ray tracing acceleration. Nvidia is hyping this feature up with its GeForce RTX series, and this list of current and upcoming games that will support ray tracing keeps growing. It might be niche, and not critical to core gameplay mechanics, but it will be important over the next few years.
Instead, AMD has introduced what it calls Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS). This is an algorithmic image quality adjustment filter based on contrast-adaptive sharpening. Game developers to do anything to support it; you enable RIS from within the Radeon Settings driver control panel and it works at the graphics API level. By analysing frames to determine where object edges lie, RIS is said to be able to improve object surfaces without making gradients look fake or interfering with smooth antialiased lines.
That works in concert with GPU Scaling, AMD's system-wide resolution scaling setting. Just like Nvidia's DLSS can compensate for a performance hit by reducing the resolution a game actually runs at and then upscaling it, AMD says you can get better image quality on low-end PCs by using a low resolution and then enabling RIS.
Both, the Radeon RX 5700 XT and the Radeon RX5700 are essentially the same chip, though the more affordable version has a few sections disabled and runs a little slower. The Radeon RX 5700 XT features 2,560 execution units that AMD calls “stream processors” arranged within 40 Compute Unit clusters, while the Radeon RX 5700 has 36 such active clusters and 2,304 stream processors.
Base speeds for the two GPUs are 1605MHz and 1465MHz respectively, and the boost clocks are 1905MHz and 1725MHz. AMD is introducing some confusion to this situation with a new rating that it is calling “game clock”. These speeds – 1755MHz and 1625MHz for the two GPUs respectively – are targets that each GPU is meant to achieve while under constant load, such as when playing a game. This means that these GPUs can't achieve their boost speeds for sustained periods, only bursts.
Both GPUs feature 8GB of GDDR6 memory running at 14Gbps on a 256-bit bus for up to 448GBps of memory bandwidth. TDPs for the two products (total board power, not just the GPUs) are 225W and 185W respectively, which is nice to see.
AMD has also announced the Radeon RX 5700 XT 50th Anniversary Edition which is identical to the Radeon RX 5700 XT, except with higher base, game, and boost speeds and a slightly higher TDP. Like AMD's other 50th anniversary products, it has gold accents, but also offers higher performance. This overclocked variant hasn't been introduced in India, and it isn't likely to in the future since AMD sells it exclusively through its own website.
At the moment, all Radeon RX 5700 series graphics cards in the market use AMD's reference blower-style cooler. Units from Sapphire, Asus, MSI and Gigabyte are available in India, but they're all identical apart from their outer packaging. Cards with custom coolers and potentially some factory overclocking will be available in the coming weeks and months.
We're reviewing reference units sent to us directly by AMD. The Radeon RX 5700 XT has an attractive dark grey shroud with a unique asymmetrical indentation on the top, and stripes that warp around it. The Radeon logos on the front and top light up in red, and there's a red racing stripe accent just for show. There's also a thick backplate and the rear is open for ventilation.
The Radeon RX 5700 on the other hand is more demure, with a simple grey metal shroud and non-illuminated Radeon logos. This card doesn't have a backplate at all. The only hint of flair is the shiny bevelled circumference of the blower fan's hole. Despite its positioning, we actually prefer the understated look of the lower-end product.
Both cards require one 8-pin and one 6-pin PCIe power connector. Both also feature three DisplayPort 1.4 outputs and one HDMI 2.0 output. AMD hasn't announced support for the VirtualLink standard that uses a USB Type-C port for single-cable connections carrying data, visuals, and power to VR headsets.
On the software side, AMD's latest GPUs work with the Adrenalin 2019 drivers and Radeon Settings utility. They both support ReLive for game recording and streaming, Radeon Chill for prioritising power efficiency, the AMD Link app for remote streaming and configuration, and WattMan for overclocking and fan control. New with this edition is Radon Anti-Lag, which claims to improve responsiveness by making sure your CPU and GPU are working together effectively rather than waiting for each other.
AMD has offered some compelling high-value game bundles of late, but sadly the offer introduced with the Radeon RX 5700 GPUs is not applicable in India. Instead of specific games valued at several thousand rupees as it has offered in the past, the company has worked out a three-month Xbox Game Pass subscription. This would have meant unlimited access to several top-tier games including the upcoming Gears 5. AMD hasn't clarified why this offer isn't available to Indian buyers and hasn't provided any substitute, which is a shame.
We're reviewing both new GPUs with our standard test rig, comprised of an AMD Ryzen 2 2700X CPU, Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 Wifi motherboard, 2x8GB of G.Skill F4-3400C16D-16GSXW DDR4 RAM, a 1TB Samsung 860 Evo SSD, a Corsair RM650 power supply and an Asus PB287Q 4K monitor. Unfortunately we didn't have the opportunity to test these new GPUs using the Ryzen 9 3900X or Ryzen 7 3700X to see whether PCIe 4.0 makes any noticeable difference, but the majority of users today won't be using this platform anyway.
We used the publicly available Radeon 19.7.1 driver and Windows 10 (1903) with all the latest updates and patches installed. We'll be comparing the performance of these two new GPUs against the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 and the brand new GeForce RTX 2060 Super, and we have some performance numbers from the older Radeon RX Vega 64 for comparison. None of the AMD GPUs ran 3DMark's ray tracing tests, so those numbers are excluded from the table below.
|AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT||AMD Radeon RX 5700||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Super Founders Edition||Asus ROG Strix GeForce RTX 2060 OC 6GB||AMD Radeon RX Vega 64|
|3DMark Port Royal||NA||NA||4,998||3,904||NA|
|3DMark Time Spy||8,696||7,794||8,771||7,953||6,575|
|3DMark Time Spy Extreme||3,862||3,521||4,044||3,616||NA|
|3DMark Fire Strike||20,756||19,041||18,682||16,578||15,689|
|3DMark Fire Strike Extreme||11,447||10,221||10,049||9,005||9,531|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra||6,051||5,355||5,285||4,552||5,310|
|Unigine Valley (1920x1080, Ultra, 8xAA)||107.2fps||99.9fps||95.5fps||92.3fps||74.1fps|
As we can see, AMD actually steals the lead in many test conditions. Several of our benchmarks and games show that the Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 have slight leads over the GeForce RTX 2060 Super and GeForce RTX 2060 respectively.
Benchmarking these GPUs with Far Cry 5 using the Ultra preset with 8xAA at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, we saw that the Radeon RTX 5700 XT stayed slightly ahead of the GeForce RTX 2060 Super, while the Radeon RTX 5700 was almost exactly at par with it and comfortably ahead of the GeForce RTX 2060. At those three resolutions, we got 50fps, 84fps, and 88fps with the Radeon RTX 5700 XT, and 45fps, 81fps, and 86fps with its less expensive sibling.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also gave AMD the advantage. At the same three resolutions, using the Ultra preset with TAA enabled, we got 35.8fps, 66.9fps, and 74.8fps respectively with the Radeon RX 5700 XT, while the Radeon RX 5700 gave us 32.5fps, 61.6fps and an anomalous score of 82.3fps respectively. Nvidia's scores when we reviewed the GeForce RTX Super were 28.9fps, 52.9fps and 74.6fps respectively.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider showed the Radeon RX 5700 practically tied with the GeForce RTX 2060 Super. At the Highest quality setting with TAA enabled, we got 36fps, 70fps and 104fps with the lower-priced AMD GPU, while the premium model gave us 39fps, 76fps, and 115fps respectively at 4K, 1440p and 1080p. Sadly there is no way to test the game with ray tracing enabled when using an AMD Radeon GPU.
Finally, Metro: Last Light Redux ran admirably on both the GPUs we're testing today, using the Very High preset with 4xAF enabled and SSAA turned off. We got 53.04fps, 110fps and 140.96fps with the Radeon RX 5700 XT, while the Radeon RX 5700 pushed out 47.81fps, 99.31fps and 147.22fps respectively at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p.
In addition to benchmarks, we also spent time playing through a few games to check real-world performance. Battlefield V is an interesting game to compare AMD against Nvidia with, since it has to run without any of its ray tracing effects on the new Radeons. We saw frame rates averaging between 120-130fps at 1920x1080, and 95-105fps at 2560x1440 using the Radeon RX 5700 XT. With the more affordable Radeon RX 5700, those ranges were very similar at around 115-125fps and 85-95fps respectively, and the game was no less enjoyable.
As for Radeon Image Sharpening, we perceived only slight differences with or without it enabled, in both Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We also saw no drops in performance, using the Radeon Settings performance overlay. Your mileage will vary depending on what your target resolution is, but we think it's still nice to have considering that there's no performance penalty. As more stressful games come out over the next few years, it might help deliver a little boost when it's needed.
Blower-style coolers are never ideal in terms of noise, but AMD has done a reasonably good job with the thermal and acoustic design of both GPUs' coolers. We did hear a light whooshing noise when each of these graphics cards was being stressed out completely in our tests, but they were otherwise silent.
Had AMD not cut its prices to match Nvidia, the new Radeon RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 simply would not have been competitive. Even as it stands, they are not clear-cut winners, but they are very viable alternatives to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 and GeForce RTX 2060 Super. AMD and Nvidia are on an even footing, at least in this price segment – and that's one of the best things we've been able to say about AMD's graphics performance in a long time – but if Nvidia doesn't need 7nm to be in its present position, it will only get stronger when it does make the jump.
When you factor in noise and power consumption, AMD's PCIe 4.0 advantage, Nvidia's future-ready ray tracing support, and even the game bundles that both companies are offering right now, we think a lot of people will choose the green team. Of course, your decision could also come down to what kind of monitor you have – Nvidia's G-Sync standard has now expanded to support some AMD FreeSync monitors, but the two ecosystems are still largely exclusive.
If you do decide to go with either the Radeon RX 5700 XT or Radeon RX 5700, you won't be disappointed with their performance. There isn't much of a gap between the two, so your choice between them depends on whether you want to save a bit or splurge a bit. We'd advise buyers to wait and see how custom-designed graphics cards from Asus, Sapphire, MSI, Gigabyte, and others are priced and how they perform. We hope that these two GPUs are the first of many more competitive products from AMD across a wide range of prices, because Nvidia isn't sitting still and Intel is just about to join the party.
Prices (official reference MRPs):
AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT: Rs. 30,990 + taxes
AMD Radeon RX 5700: Rs. 26,990 + taxes
Ratings (out of 5)