AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT vs. RX 5700

AMD’s top-tier Navi graphics cards are the RX 5700 XT and RX 5700. Both are based on the same Navi 10 GPU core with hardware locks on stream processors and core clocks to keep one faster than the other. For the privilege of the XT’s higher performance and curiously dented cooler shroud, you have to pay a $50 premium. Is it worth it? To find out, we pitted the Radeon RX 5700 XT vs. RX 5700 in a one-on-one shootout.

AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

For a look at how these cards measure up to Nvidia’s new Super cards, check out our original RX 5700 XT and 5700 review, and our head-to-head comparison with the Nvidia RTX 2060 Super.

Performance

The crux of this comparison was always going to be down to performance. The raw power of these two cards is their biggest differentiating factor, so the question is, should you spend an extra $50 for the added capabilities of the 5700 XT?

Let’s take a look at the specifications first to see what divides these two cards:

Radeon RX 5700 XT Radeon RX 5700
Architecture RDNA RDNA
Compute units 40 36
Steam processors 2,560 2,304
Base clock 1,605MHz 1,465MHz
Game clock 1,755MHz 1,625MHz
Boost clock 1,905MHz 1,725MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR6 8GB GDDR6
Bandwidth 448GBps 448GBps
TDP 225w 180w
Price $399 $349

The first major difference is the number of compute units. The 5700 XT has just over 10% more with 40, versus the 5700’s 36. That equates to the same difference in stream processors and should be a major component in the differentiating performance between these two cards.

Another major difference is the clock speed. The base clock is 150MHz higher on the 5700 XT. Its “game clock” — the typical clock speed you can expect during sustained load — is 130MHz higher, which also aids the performance improvements over the 5700, though that gap can be closed with overclocking. The boost clock is much greater on the XT too, but unless you have strong cooling from a third-party card, it’s not a speed you’ll likely hit regularity.

The 5700 XT has a sizeable uplift in TDP requirements, making it a greater candidate for aftermarket cooling, though could suggest there would be greater overclocking headroom on the 5700. That said, some buyers with high-end aftermarket cooling and some overclocking have managed to push their cards well north of 2GHz on a sustained basis.

Finally, both cards have identical configurations of GDDR6 video memory and bandwidth.

As for how this all affects real-world performance, we turn to our suite of benchmarks that we conducted during our initial review of the two cards.

Both cards perform well in our 3DMark Time Spy test. The 5700 XT was able to keep level with the RTX 2060 Super and the Radeon VII, with the 5700 lagging behind by just over 10%. Considering its noticeably cheaper, that’s a fair result.

In gaming tests, both cards prove to be very capable at both 1080p and 1440p, with more than playable frame rates (40-80FPS) at 4K in Fortnite, Battlefield 5, and Civilization VI. Across the board we see the RX 5700 perform within roughly 10 percent of the 5700 XT. In some cases, it’s even closer.

If you’re just looking for overall performance, the 5700 XT is clearly the better card. However, if value is important and the extra $50 would be more useful elsewhere, the 5700 holds its own. That’s especially true at 1440p, where it manages well over 100 FPS in Civilization VI and close to it in Battlefield 5 and Fortnite.

Cooling and overclocking

AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

One of the biggest issues facing the RX 5700 XT and 5700 at launch was that the reference blower coolers weren’t up to the task. They just aren’t great. They’re loud and they don’t cool the GPU well enough to prevent throttling, which is why, out of the box, many reference cards struggle to hit the speeds that AMD claimed. However, some owners have discovered that new heat paste and added washers can make quite a difference.

Fortunately, third-party variants are far more capable, delivering cooler and quieter cards, and unlocking far more impressive overclocking. In early testing after the cards’ release, IgorsLab overclocked a 5700XT to more than 2.1GHz on the core, leading to an 11% performance uplift in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Others have pushed the card even further, seeing overclocks as high as 2.3GHz.

The 5700, on the other hand, is limited by AMD, so it can’t overclock to the same extremes right out of the box. IgorsLab hit a wall at 1,800MHz on the core with a 20% increase in power limit.

Fortunately, there are ways around that limit. A BIOS flash will give you all the same overclocking headroom as a 5700 XT, just without the additional four compute units. That means you can take a 5700 and make it as fast as a 5700 XT using the right cooling.

The 5700 brings the value

The AMD RX 5700 and 5700 XT are an exciting release from AMD. The first to use the new RDNA architecture, these cards are hotly competitive with Nvidia’s RTX 20 Series “Super” GPUs and offer excellent 1080p and 1440p gaming ability. However, considering how hot and loud the reference cards get, we would really recommend buying third-party cards or adding your own aftermarket cooling.

If you don’t want to overclock, the 5700 XT is the card to buy as it’s certainly more powerful. But make sure to look up individual reviews, as some models have far better cooling solutions than others. If you do overclock and are comfortable flashing the card’s BIOS, the RX 5700 is a better choice. You’ll hit 5700 XT speeds without too much difficulty and save yourself some money too.

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