AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT review: Blazing new trails

AMD's latest graphics cards contain numerous cutting-edge technologies, and an all-new "RDNA" architecture that fixes previous Radeon drawbacks.

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Should you buy the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT?

A week ago, the answer would have been a clear yes. The Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT deliver more than enough oomph to topple the original GeForce RTX 2060 and 2070. A few days ago, the answer would have been more nuanced, since the Radeon tandem but can’t quite match the firepower of the new RTX Super graphics cards. But in the wake of AMD’s pre-launch price cuts, clarity returns.

Yes. Yes, you should buy these graphics cards. 

radeon rx 5700 xt high level AMD

The Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT are excellent, delivering noticeably better performance than the GeForce RTX 2060 and RTX 2060 Super they’re price-matched with. The Radeon RX 5700 XT even manages to trade blows with the GeForce RTX 2070 Super in some games despite costing $100 less. AMD just served up a delectable 1440p gaming duo.

These Navi GPUs would also excel at high refresh rate 1080p gaming, and with the Radeon RX 5700 XT you can dabble with 4K gaming in some games if you don’t mind dialing some visual settings back from Ultra. If you’re into content creation too, poke around for reviews that reveal how much of a difference the Radeon RX 5700’s PCIe 4.0 connection makes in your workloads of choice. 

The Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT are the first mainstream 7nm GPUs; the first PCIe 4.0 GPUs; and the first GPUs with DisplayPort Display Stream Compression for next-gen monitors. And as the first 7nm GPUs built using AMD’s new RDNA graphics architecture, the Radeon RX 5700 series managed to surpass Nvidia’s vaunted power efficiency and draw even with GeForce in games that previously favored Nvidia. That’s a big freakin’ deal. AMD even managed to fix its atrocious reference cooler!

The Radeon team have a lot to be proud of here. We can’t wait to see what AMD does with RDNA next. 

The one trick the new Radeon GPUs don’t perform? Real-time ray tracing, which currently requires dedicated hardware to achieve acceptable gaming frame rates. Only Nvidia’s RTX GPUs offer that. But while ray tracing is gaining traction, it’s still in its infancy, with the cutting-edge lighting features only available in a handful of playable games at the moment. Given that; the Radeon RX 5700 offering a far superior memory configuration to the 6GB RTX 2060; and both AMD GPUs outpunching their RTX 2060 counterparts by significant margins, it’s hard to recommend the GeForce offerings over AMD’s 7nm tandem. 

dsc00594 Brad Chacos/IDG

If you can’t resist the siren song of real-time ray tracing, though, the GeForce RTX 2060 Super would be the better option. The $500 GeForce RTX 2070 Super packs ray tracing capabilities and sometimes beats the Radeon RX 5700 XT’s performance by a lot—but sometimes they’re neck-and-neck, too. The RTX 2070 Super costs $100 more. 

The Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT are truly great graphics cards that point to a bright future for AMD. The surprise RTX Super reveal almost spoiled things, but aggressive pre-launch price cuts by AMD countered Nvidia’s maneuvering. The Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT can’t beat the RTX 2060 Super and 2070 Super, respectively, but AMD’s duo trounces the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super they now compete directly against. Both cards earn high marks, and we’re awarding the Radeon RX 5700 an Editors’ Choice award.

It’s sure been a whirlwind few weeks for high-end graphics cards, but now that the dust has finally settled, gamers are getting markedly higher frame rates for their dollars. Yay competition!

Editor’s note: For two hours after initial publication, both Radeon RX 5700 graphics cards were scored 0.5-stars higher than intended. We apologize for the error.

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