Shiny Thing Syndrome Strikes Again!
It’s just as well I write about my upgrades here at DCT because otherwise, I’d find it difficult to keep track, but true to form I appear to be sticking to a three-year cycle of GPU upgrades. In January 2018 I moved from an Nvidia GTX 970 to an AMD Radeon RX-580 which I wrote about in Asus ROG Strix RX580 8GB OC Graphics Card Overview, where I was surprised at so little difference in performance, especially in the benchmarks. On this occasion, however, it’s a very different scenario with the RX 5700XT almost doubling its performance over the RX 580, both in synthetic benchmarks and real-world gaming.
I’d been mulling over an upgrade for some time because games such as Far Cry – New Dawn, Rage 2 and Watch Dogs 2 were pushing the RX 580 to the limit, and in order to achieve a stable 60 fps, I had to dial back the detail considerably. I had also just bought Cyberpunk 2077, a graphically demanding game in which I was lucky to achieve 40 fps, even on medium graphic settings, so it was time to bite the bullet.
AMD RDNA Architecture
AMD’s Navi had been spoken about for many years and in order to get back in the fight against Nvidia, the company needed to up its game– enter RDNA which is based on a 7nm process, first seen in the Radeon VII card. In May 2019, AMD launched the 5000 series in direct competition with Nvidia’s RTX 2070 line up. Naturally, I’m talking about a generation before AMD’s current RX 6000 series GPUs vs Nvidia’s RTX 3000 Amperes series, which is another battle of the titans.
I had considered an Nvidia RTX 2070 Super, but most of the reviews that I read put the RX-5700 XT ahead by a whisker on performance. Not that it was the deciding factor since I would happily have gone Nvidia simply for a change and also to experience ray tracing. I also wanted to stick to the Asus ROG series for the build quality, triple fans, and RGB. However, although Asus also makes Nvidia cards, I could only find used Asus ROG RTX 2070 Super cards and for my main rig, I only ever buy new cards. Although prices here are crazy, I managed to track down a new Asus ROG Strix RX-5700 XT (don’t you just love those names?) and through some weird economic alchemy, I managed to buy it below $500.
Fitting The Card
The RX-5700XT is roughly the same size as the RX-580 with a length of roughly 30.5cms (12″), 2.75 slots, and weighing 1.68kg (3.7lbs). Make no mistake, this is a very hefty GPU and it draws a lot of power, requiring 2 x 8pin power connectors and a minimum PSU of 600 watts. My PSU is a Corsair RM850X modular with plenty of free power connectors.
Fitting was easy and since the card uses the same drivers, no further driver update was necessary. Asus Aura for the RGB, on the other hand, was fiddly as expected and after a couple of reboots, I managed to get all the RGB synced up.
Heatsink Issue Fixed By Asus
One of the first batches of these GPUs was released with a serious manufacturing error, where the screws holding the heatsink to the metal backplate weren’t long enough, causing the heatsink to drop through gravity when the card was fitted. This caused serious overheating to over 95C and could only be rectified by replacing the screws, either yourself (in your kitchen) or through RMA. Fortunately, this quality control issue has now been fixed by Asus and my card suffers no such deficiency. This was first reported by Steve at Hardware Unboxed who was quick to raise the issue with Asus, who in turn didn’t exactly rush to confront it.
I had already seen and read numerous reviews of the RX-5700 XT, especially when it was pitted against the RX-580, with most showing a doubling of performance, so I was curious to see how it stacked up in my own rig. I used the built-in benchmark in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider first and whilst an improvement from 72 to 98 fps may not sound like a lot, in real-time gaming, the new GPU performs exactly as I was hoping, with all detail ramped up to the highest settings.
I then ran Unigine Heaven, having already run it for the RX-580 and this synthetic benchmark gave an impressive result as you can see in the image below:
In the end though, it’s the everyday gaming that’s important to me and the card’s performance in my favourite games such as Watch Dogs 2, Far Cry 5/New Dawn, Shadow Of the Tomb Raider, and many others, confirm that this GPU upgrade is the most significant I’ve made in many years.
Combined with a Ryzen 2600X, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, and a well ventilated water-cooled system, the RX-5700XT meets all my expectations. It does run much hotter than the RX-580 (max 65C), often peaking at 76C when gaming. But the massive heatsink does an excellent job of dissipating all that heat via the three huge fans and I’ve yet to hear any significant coil whine.
It’s entirely possible that I may even upgrade the CPU to the current generation Ryzen 5000 series which again would ramp up performance, but that all depends on when Shiny Thing Syndrome strikes again.