There’s an odd rumor going around that AMD has killed off its reference RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT GPU designs, or that it intends to do so once AIB’s custom cards are in-market. It started with French site Cowcatland, which ran the following headline:
The translation of that headline states that AMD’s reference GPUs for the 5700 and 5700 XT have both reached EOL status only five weeks post-launch. It’s not true. According to AMD, the goal and point here are not to compete with AIB partners. “We expect there will continue to be strong supply of Radeon RX 5700 series graphics cards in the market, with multiple designs starting to arrive from our AIB partners,” AMD said. “As is standard practice, once the inventory of the AMD reference cards has been sold, AMD will continue to support new partner designs with Radeon RX 5700 series reference design kit.”
AMD provides reference designs for AIBs that want to speed cards to market without designing their own reference coolers or graphics boards. Early boards are typically based on these reference products. The delay between AIB shipments and reference card availability can be relatively short or can lag for some weeks. Some fans are unhappy that it’s been five weeks at this point without AIB designs, though we’ve seen this happen with Nvidia launches as well in the past. AMD isn’t killing off its reference cards, and they’ll still be manufactured going forward.
The enthusiast community isn’t particularly happy with the delay in blower cards or the fact that these cards are blowers, or the fact that the 5700 and 5700 XT remain noisier than equivalent Nvidia GPUs. The hope, therefore, is that dual or triaxial fan coolers will provide better acoustics than AMD’s default reference designs. This is, generally speaking, a pretty good bet.
Having tested the 5700, 5700 XT, Vega 64, Radeon VII, and an associated mixture of 2060, 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti parts (both made by Nvidia and not), I’d say that honestly, the battle over a blower versus an open-air cooler can be a little inflated. Thermally, there’s an obvious difference between the two solutions (blowers exhaust hot air, while open-air coolers just move it around inside the chassis). What that difference means for your system depends a lot on what your system preconditions are. Open-air coolers can offer higher-performance in roomy cases with good airflow, while blowers provide more consistent results. The relative volume of the two solutions depends on their cooler design. A blower can be louder than an open-air cooler or vice-versa. The 5700 XT (a blower) is far quieter than Vega 64 (another blower). Vega 64 and the Radeon VII (an open-air design) have very similar noise profiles.
One interesting thing about reviews of Navi, however, is the degree to which the noise measurements from different review sites diverge. Anandtech, for example, reports that the 5700 XT is a 54dB(A) solution compared with 61dB for the Radeon Vega 64.
This 54/61dB(A) solution seems to conform more closely to my own subjective experience of using the Radeon Vega 64, Radeon VII, 5700 XT, and associated Nvidia GPUs. The reason why I say this is because, to my own ear, the 5700 XT is vastly better than either the Radeon 64 or Radeon VII, both of which recall the Bad Old Days of loud GPUs like the R9 290X.
Other reviews, however, make very different claims:
Guru3D claims that the Vega 64 and Radeon 5700 XT are identical in terms of db(A) and that the Radeon VII is significantly louder. Since distance from target obviously impacts noise measurements, I’m not concerned with the fact that Anandtech and Guru3D measure different levels of sound. What’s far more interesting is that one article shows Vega 64 and 5700 XT as comparable, while the other very much does not.
TechPowerUp has a third distribution, with the 5700 XT and 5700 scoring identically and the Radeon VII below the Vega 64. Three well-regarded websites for tech reviews, three distinct results. Based on my own subjective experience, the one that “looks” the most correct is Anandtech’s — but noise measurements are going to be impacted by a number of factors, including relative levels of background noise, case-open testing versus case-closed, the distance from the target, and the equipment used to perform the test. It’s also possible that individual GPU variation is at work here as well.
In my own opinion, the 5700 and 5700 XT are firmly on the “Quiet enough” side of the “Is this GPU quiet enough to use or not?” It is not as quiet as the RTX 2060 or 2070 that we tested for the same review. It is considerably quieter than the Radeon VII or Vega 64. I have been known to wear earplugs when testing both of those cards in case-open configuration to avoid hearing damage, though the fact that I already have fan-related hearing damage in my left ear has also made me paranoid of harming it further. I’ve used a Vega 64 in my own system and disliked how noisy it was for gaming without headphones. The Radeon 5700 XT doesn’t cause the same issue.
Radeon AIB cards have often been quieter than the reference designs and so it’s likely this will continue to be the case. Whether these cards will offer reasonable values for the money is something we’ll check when they hit the market in larger quantities. Reference card designs will continue to exist alongside these newer cards as well.