At E3 2019, AMD revealed not only its full stack of Ryzen 3000 CPUs, but also its new-generation of “Navi” graphics cards, now known as the RX 5700 series. Based on a new RDNA architecture and built on a 7nm process node, just like AMD new-generation CPUs, the RX 5700 series is the most advanced line of graphics cards AMD has ever released. At the top of the line is the RX 5700 XT, the flagship of that range with some serious performance capabilities.
But how does it stack up against the competition? AMD is pitting it against the Nvidia RTX 2070 on price and performance, but if we pit the Nvidia RTX 2070 versus the AMD RX 5700 XT in terms of pure specs, how does it compare?
Nvidia’s RTX 2070 and AMD’s RX 5700 XT might be competitive on a number of fronts, but they look decidedly different from one another. Nvidia’s GPU comes in a variety of third-party flavors, having been available for almost a year at the time of writing, but its Founders Edition was a major step away from classic designs for Nvidia. Featuring dual-85mm fans that pull air directly onto the large, it comes with an aluminum heatsink with a copper baseplate underneath. This has proved a capable design, that although improved by board partners which added additional fans or more capable heatsinks, is enough to allow for automated overclocking out of the box. It does get a little noisy, but it keeps the card nice and cool.
AMD’s RX 5700 XT uses the typical AMD blower-style vapor chamber cooler which we’ve seen on most of its previous generation first-party cards. These are great for systems without decent case airflow, as it pulls all the hot air right out of the case, but the coaxial fans on these sorts of coolers do tend to be rather noisy. We don’t have hard numbers on decibel levels just yet, but we aren’t holding out much hope for a quiet system during heavy load.
AMD seems well aware of that issue, which is why it’s quoted both “game” and “boost” clocks in its specifications. More on that below.
Aesthetically, both cards are quite distinct, with the RTX 2070 having an arguably more premium look with its material choices. That Founders Edition design has been a signature of the RTX series too, while the only real differentiating factors in AMD’s RX 5700 XT is in the use of a ridged-shroud, rather than a plain black one, and the “dent” in the upper portion of its frame. Some have suggested that looks like someone squeezed the card too hard when handling it, but we quite like the look.
For connectivity, the RX 5700 XT offers one HDMI 2.0b port and three DisplayPort 1.4 connectors, which has been the typical configuration for high-end AMD cards for a few generations now. The RTX 2070 has more of a mixed bag, offering a now ancient DVI connection, a single HDMI 2.0b connection, 2 x DisplayPort 1.4 ports, and a single USB-C VirtualLink connector for future VR headsets.
Until AMD has released its RX 5700-series graphics cards in early July, we won’t be able to give any hard numbers on how well these cards perform head to head, but what we can look at are the specifications and AMD’s first party benchmarks, to give us a ballpark estimate of how these two GPUs measure up.
Note: The specifications below are roughly comparable, but due to the different design of Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, core count comparisons aren’t a particularly viable method of gauging performance. We have included them here for reference purposes.
|Nvidia RTX 2070 Founders Edition||AMD RX 5700 XT|
|Graphics cores||2,304 CUDA cores||2,560 Stream processors|
|Base clock||1,410 MHz||1,605MHz|
|Boost clock||1,710 MHz||1,755MHz (game clock), 1,905MHz (boost clock)|
|Memory||8GB GDDR6||8GB GDDR6|
|Memory bandwidth||448 GBps||448 GBps|
It should be noted that the Nvidia RTX 2070 Founders Edition features higher clock speed and pricing than some of its entry-level, add-in-board partner editions.
Although specifications can never tell the whole story, especially with GPUs, there are some interesting take-homes from this comparison. The process node is the first one, with AMD having a significant advantage in transistor size over the Nvidia competition. This is where it’s been able to make big ground on power efficiency and performance — although AMD has said that only around 30 percent of its performance increase over previous generations is down to the die shrink. The rest is improvements in its RDNA architecture.
Clock speeds are pretty comparable between the two cards, especially when you factor that AMD’s “boost clock” will only be held for short periods of time when the card is adequately cooled. We expect this frequency to be much more common and even raised (perhaps to 2GHz) in the third-party options and with overclocking.
Memory is identical between the two cards, with 8GB of GDDR6 a piece, on a relatively constrained (for AMD, at least) 256-bit memory bus. Compared to the first and second-generation Radeon Vega cards, and even the previous generation Fury and Fury X GPUs, this is a huge shrink, but one that makes a lot of sense for AMD outside of productivity workloads.
The switch to a 7nm process brought the size of the RX 5700 XT GPU down considerably, which, when combined with the use of GDDR6 instead of expensive HBM, has helped AMD bring the price of its new cards right down. The 5700 XT undercuts the RTX 2070 Founders Edition by a sizeable margin and even the circa $500 AIB partner cards. Nvidia has teased some new “Super” cards in the near future though, so it’s unknown how this will affect pricing.
As for real-world performance, all we have so far are AMD’s own benchmarks, which claim that the RX 5700 XT is noticeably faster than the RTX 2070 in a number of games.
AMD made a point of suggesting that these benchmarks are best-case-scenario for its competitor, so that there shouldn’t be a huge difference between these and the real world. As always, though, it’s better to wait for tests from third-parties before taking such numbers to heart. They are promising, though, and suggest AMD is at least competitive.
Ray tracing, image enhancement
Outside of raw gaming performance, the RTX 2070 and RX 5700 XT have some notable features which are unique to each manufacturer. The Nvidia card supports ray tracing and deep learning super sampling. Those two visual features can make quite an impact on games, although we haven’t been too sold on either of them just yet. The list of games for them both is still quite small, although it will grow a little throughout the rest of the year.
All Nvidia cards also support its G-Sync frame syncing technology, as well as Nvidia Ansel for taking high-resolution screenshots, and the Nvidia GeForce experience for capturing in-game screenshots and footage for streaming and recording.
AMD’s new Navi-based GPUs include support for FreeSync 2 HDR, like most of its recent graphics cards, but it also has a couple of neat new image and quality of life improvements for new owners. The RX 5700 XT adds support for Radeon Image Sharpening and Fidelity FX, two post-processing techniques that can improve some segments of a game scene which might otherwise appear blurry due to too heavy-handed anti-aliasing or low resolution textures. Fidelity FX is open source, though it must be enabled by the game developer, while the Radeon Image Sharpening can be enabled in any game.
AMD also introduced an “anti-lag” technology with the RX 5700-series, which we’re told can cut click-to response times down by a third, potentially giving AMD GPU owners a slight advantage in competitive games.
The RX 5700 XT has all the potential
We still don’t know for sure how well AMD’s upcoming RX 5700 XT will perform in the real world, nor how useful its visual enhancement features are. There’s also the question of whether before these new Navi cards even launch on July 7, whether Nvidia will undercut them on pricing with revamped RTX cards. These are all questions we’ll need answered before we can firmly recommend the RX 5700 XT over the Nvidia competition.
That said, based on what we know so far, we’re very excited about what AMD’s new Navi cards can do. They seem to compete with Nvidia’s best midrange cards on price and performance and could perhaps even take a slight performance lead. With a temporary, much-higher boost clock too, we’re expecting big things from these cards when it comes to overclocking.
We’re calling this a tentative win for the RX 5700 XT for now. Watch this space, as the next few months will be an exciting time for PC hardware fans.