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In addition to our launch day reviews of the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT, we've followed up with extended comparisons against the direct GeForce competition, tested some overclocking, new software features, and also tested different card models as offered by manufacturers such as MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire, among others.
Recently we were benchmarking the non-XT PowerColor RX 5700 Red Devil, and while that was a very nice graphics card, at $390 it was priced a bit too close to entry-level 5700 XTs, making it a bit of a tough sell. However many were quick to point out that the card can be flashed with a 5700 XT BIOS and make it fully worth the sticker price. Apparently doing so can give you XT-like performance, while saving you $50 when compared to the equivalent 5700 XT Red Devil graphics card.
Of course, we had to give this a try and report back to you. Rather than using the Red Devil we've picked a more affordable Radeon RX 5700 graphics card, the XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra sets you back $370 and if we can get XT-like performance at this price point, that's going to be a really good deal.
There are numerous offerings using AMD's latest GPUs, most of them pretty good, but one of the main reasons we chose the XFX to be our guinea pig for this BIOS flash test, it's because it's a 5700 with a 5700 XT cooler. Not the best 5700 XT cooler you can get, but it works well enough. It's also the exact same PCB, the only change here has been made to the VRM where a single phase has been removed.
For those of you who want to see the design in better detail, please check out my review on the THICC II Ultra. For this one we're going to quickly look at stock out of the box performance and then get tinkering.
Out of the box, the XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra peaks at just 65C in a 21C room after an hour-long loop running F1 2019. That's not a bad result. The PowerColor Red Devil peaked at the same temperature, though its fans spun at just 1200 RPM whereas the DD Ultra had to spin them at 1800 RPM. Not as good, but not horrible either.
The memory peaks at 76 degrees while the VRM hits just 67 degrees, both are solid results. In this stock/out of the box configuration the RX 5700 consumed 170 watts on average. The problem with these factory overclocked 5700 graphics cards is that you can't manually overclock them any further as AMD has locked them down.
You can circumvent these limits using soft power play tables and we messed around with this about a month ago. The problem with this method -- which uses a Windows registry modification -- is that you have to uninstall it before every driver update, then reinstall it and reconfigure. It's a massive pain in the backside and we've had it break after a few updates.
A far better and more practical method for RX 5700 owners who are keen on extracting maximum performance is to flash their BIOS, overwriting it with a 5700 XT BIOS. In this case we downloaded the THICC II Ultra BIOS and flashed it to the 5700 DD Ultra. Using ATIFlash and a custom batch file with a few commands you can quickly and easily increase the operating frequency of any 5700 graphics card.
In this instance we were able to go from an average operating frequency of 1810 MHz up to around 1920 MHz with the XT BIOS -- that's a 6% frequency bump. However, now we have the XT overclocking limits so we then pushed the GPU up to around 2 GHz. That means we're now boosting the frequency up by around 10%. It's also possible to overclock the memory but since your mileage will vary quite a bit here, we went with an easily achievable 900 MHz frequency.
Benchmarks: Stock vs. Flashed RX 5700
Out of the box the XFX 5700 matched the 5700 Red Devil, and as you can see overclocking the Red Devil unlocked just a single extra frame. In other words, 5700 overclocking without flashing or registry mods is pointless.
Once flashed the XFX 5700 averaged 70 fps, that's a 13% increase in performance and a 15% increase to the 1% low performance. Manually overclocking the flashed 5700 only gained us an extra frame but we're at stock 5700 XT Red Devil levels of performance now.
Gains in Forza Horizon 4 were quite impressive. Here the flashed 5700 enjoyed a 9% performance boost and we got a further 2% from the manual overclock. This time we basically matched the stock 5700 XT.
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider we see a ~7% boost to the average frame rate once the 5700 is flashed. This time we squeezed 3% more performance out with the manual overclock and this allowed the XFX 5700 to deliver stock 5700 XT performance, so pretty impressive overall.
Naturally flashing the BIOS to unlock more frequency does come at a power cost. We're looking at a 28% increase in power consumption for around a 10% gain on average. Using an AMD reference BIOS should improve efficiency, but this is what we got with the THICC II Ultra BIOS.
We also see a hefty 28% increase in total system draw, taking total consumption from 316 watts up to 405 watts. These results will vary depending on the BIOS used.
Despite the massive increase in power consumption the operating temperature only increased by 12% to 73 degrees which is still reasonable, though the fans were now spinning at 2200 RPM and we'll look at operating volume in a moment. When compared to the AMD reference 5700 XT model, this heavily overclocked XFX 5700 still does quite well.
The XFX 5700 wasn't a silent card out of the box, but it's not that loud either. Overclocking increased the volume a bit, but it had a bigger impact on operating temperatures. Depending on your preference you could spin the fans for increased noise but reduced operating temperature.
In a nutshell, it's certainly possible (and awesome) to turn a Radeon RX 5700 into a stock XT model with a simple BIOS flash. We really like this method as its permanent in the sense that you don't have to make any changes in Windows after a BIOS update, and you won't need to apply an overclocked profile every time you start up.
However be aware that it's possible the BIOS you use will cause issues with your particular model and that'll require a backup graphics solution to solve. Generally we've not had any issues flashing graphics cards, but we have heard from people that have had it fail. Therefore flash at your own risk.
At the end of the day, we would give this a go, but we wouldn't bother messing around with power play tables.
Tinkering with hardware can be a bit of fun and while the 10% performance boost is mostly free, the card will likely use quite a bit more power, depending on the BIOS version you use, and as a result the card will run hotter and or louder.
The XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra worked well in this test, no complaints, but even cheaper models such as the Gigabyte Gaming OC might be worth looking into. The fact that you get the THICC II Ultra cooler on this more affordable 5700 makes it a pretty decent option.
- Gigabyte Radeon RX 5700 8G on Amazon
- XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra on Amazon
- PowerColor Red Devil RX 5700 on Amazon
- Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon
- AMD Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon
- AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT on Amazon
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- GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon