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AMD Radeon RX 5700/ RX 5700 XT review: head-to-head with Nvidia Super

Price vs performance champions?

AMD's long-awaited Navi graphics cards are finally here, combining the firm's new RDNA architecture with the advanced 7nm process that spawned the Radeon 7. The resultant $349 Radeon 5700 and $399 Radeon 5700 XT are capable of superior frame-rates than last year's RTX competitors at a similar price point, while also consuming less power and generating less heat than their Vega predecessors.

It looks like an open goal for Team Red, but Nvidia put two new players into the game: the RTX 2060 Super and 2070 Super. These cards are more expensive than their Radeon counterparts - thanks to a price drop from AMD two days before launch - but Nvidia's new cards are powerful performers in their own right. So, which mid-range card offers the best value for money? That's what this review intends to answer, as we take a look at how the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT measure up against both Nvidia's original RTX 2060/2070 duo and the firm's last-minute Super substitutes.

Considered outside the scope of Nvidia's new releases, the Radeon 5700 cards are impressive. The 7nm process and RDNA architecture means that AMD's new GPUs produce considerably more graphical horsepower than the 14nm Vega 64 - 1.25x the performance per clock, according to AMD, despite possessing fewer compute units and less memory bandwidth - so gen-on-gen teraflop comparisons mean nothing here, except to emphasise what an impressive job AMD's engineers have done.

The new Navi cards look impressive too, with a aluminium alloy shroud, a single cooling fan in a 'blower' configuration and a seven-phase VRM for overclocking. In terms of power connectors, both cards require one eight-pin and one six-pin input. I/O is quite standard, with three DisplayPort 1.4 connectors and one HDMI 2.0 port; you don't get the DVI-D input of the RTX 2060 Super or the USB-C VirtualLink port found on both RTX Super cards.

An overview of the Navi range, which a review focus on the RX 5700.
GPU cores Boost Clock TFLOPs Memory Mem Bandwidth TDP
Vega 56 4096 1474MHz 10.6 8GB HBM2 410GB/s 210W
Vega 64 4096 1546MHz 12.7 8GB HBM2 484GB/s 295W
RX 5700 2304 1725MHz 7.5 8GB GDDR6 448GB/s 185W
RX 5700 XT 2560 1905MHz 9.0 8GB GDDR6 448GB/s 225W
Radeon 7 3840 1800MHz 14.2 16GB HBM2 1024GB/s 295W

It's also worth considering the new features AMD is introducing with the RX 5700 series. There's no hardware-accelerated ray tracing, the hallmark of Nvidia's RTX series, but AMD is introducing a more widely applicable alternative to another RTX feature: DLSS upscaling. Rather than add support for this AI-powered upscaling on a per-game basis, which is Nvidia's approach, AMD instead relies on a more broadly applicable sharpening effect called Radeon Image Sharpening (RIS). The idea is that you can run games below the native resolution of your monitor to increase frame-rates, then turn on this sharpening feature to get a cleaner upscaled image. RIS is contrast-sensitive, which AMD claims will help it avoid the halo artifacts that crop up in more naive sharpening methods. You can also use RIS at your monitor's native resolution to counteract the softening effect of anti-aliasing methods like TAA.

While RIS works on a much wider swathe of games than DLSS, there are some limitations: DX9, DX12 and Vulkan games will all work, but DX10 and DX11 games will not; HDR is also off the table. The technique also provides more fine-grained control than DLSS, as you can choose to run at any rendering resolution to trade off between performance gains and image fidelity.

AMD is also courting the esports market with the inclusion of Radeon Anti-Lag, which aims to minimise the delay between when an input is made (eg firing a gun, calculated by the CPU) and the effects of that input showing on screen (calculated by the GPU) in GPU-limited situations. This is achieved by stalling the CPU on the next frame calculation, ensuring the most recent frame being rendered by the GPU also contains the most recent inputs that the CPU has calculated. In a best-case scenario, you save a frame of latency, equivalent to 16ms at 60Hz or 4ms at 240Hz. The Anti-Lag feature works in DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 games, which includes most esports titles where the feature would be most useful.

The Radeon 5700 series cards also support new hardware standards, joining the RTX series in supporting DisplayPort 1.4 with Display Stream Compression. This offers an alternative to chroma subsampling for 8K HDR 60Hz or 4K HDR 144Hz displays. AMD's new releases are also the first PCIe 4.0 graphics cards on the market. Graphics cards aren't constrained by last-generation PCIe 3.0 in the vast majority of workloads, but some content creation tasks and synthetic benchmarks may benefit from having twice as much bandwidth available over the PCIe.

One of the most notable differences between Nvidia and AMD's wares this time around is price. AMD has chosen to be more aggressive here, announcing price cuts before the cards went on sale to deliver more competition against Nvidia's Super launch. The new prices are $349 for the RX 5700 and the $399 for the RX 5700 XT, a reduction of $30 and $50 from the originally announced prices, respectively. Here's how each company's high-end lineup looks now:

A closer look at how RX 5700 XT challenges RTX 2060 Super, sometimes even matching the more expensive RTX 2070 Super.
AMD Radeon Nvidia GeForce Suggested Pricing
Radeon RX 5700 RTX 2060 FE $349
Radeon RX 5700 XT RTX 2060 Super $399
RTX 2070 FE (discontinued)
RTX 2070 Super
Radeon 7 RTX 2080 FE
RTX 2080 Super (July 23rd)
RTX 2080 Ti FE $1199

To further sweeten the pot, AMD is also offering three months of Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass for PC service, which includes access to over 100 recent games. While previous AMD bundles have included two or three free games, yours for perpetuity, some may prefer the chance to play a much larger range of games for three months instead.

Now that we've covered the specs and features, let's move onto the real meat and potatoes: in-game performance. We'll compare the Radeon 5700 series against Nvidia's original RTX 2060 and RTX 2070, the new RTX Super cards and a range of predecessors from both Team Red and Team Green. Let's get started.

AMD Radeon 5700/ Radeon RX 5700 XT Analysis

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Will Judd

Deputy Editor, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DigitalFoundry.