The 2 graphics processors we’re going to be comparing today aren’t extremely different and we should be able to easily come to a conclusion as to which one you should invest in. They are both graphics processors from AMD but one is based on the older GCN 5th generation microarchitecture and uses HBM2 memory, which we’ll delve into a bit later.
AMD is one of the first and biggest manufacturers of processing units, which, unlike their main graphics competitors (Nvidia), don’t just produce GPUs. They are also in direct competition with Intel to produce CPUs, this gives AMD a distinct advantage in pioneering technologies that allow for AMD Ryzen processors to work in tandem with their graphics processor. This is something AMD started to integrate into their newer GPUs and is absent in all Vega graphics cards.
AMD graphics processors usually excel in memory-intensive productivity-based processes compared to their team green counterparts and this is the case with both of these cards. Price to performance both of these cards outperforms their counterparts across the board in rendering simulators. If however, you’re only concerned about the gaming performance we would recommend looking at the newest AMD 6000 series cards priced roughly the same.
To compare these 2 cards however we will be using a number of metrics to determine the best overall card. As they were both released with similar RRPs and the 5700 XT was made to replace the Vega 64 as the flagship AMD graphics card we won’t be looking at the price. Instead, we’ll look at the architecture of the cards, their clock speeds and benchmarks, their cooling and overclocking abilities, and their memory types instead of capacities (they both have 8GB).
The Vega 64 GPU was released in 2017 and as with its predecessors was based on the GCN microarchitecture. It was their 5th iteration of this architecture and AMD decided to bump up the power draw and also completely changed up the memory type to try and offer a distinct upgrade from their previous lineup of cards.
The bump in power draw allowed for higher clock speeds but also massively increased the TDP of the cards to a point where the water-cooled Vega 64, if overclocked, would cause system crashes when paired with lower-end power supplies.
The newer 5th generation GCN architecture is based on the very first iteration found in the Radeon HD 7000 series cards from half a decade previous that offered a huge performance boost over the previous TeraScale architecture. The same cannot be said for the newer generation, the performance boost wasn’t as significant and might explain the 2-year break AMD took to release their newer cards.
The 5700XT was built on the RDNA architecture that revolutionized AMD’s GPUs and brought them closer to the gaming performance of Nvidia’s GTX series of cards. The RDNA architecture was much more efficient and could reduce the number of compute units whilst still maintaining and improving overall performance.
The newer RDNA architecture reduced the TDP of the cards by almost a ⅓ meaning that they required less cooling and were suitable with smaller power supplies.
RDNA saw its biggest improvements in single-threaded performance which is where the highest FPS boost in games came from. It can perform 4 times as many instructions per cycle. It essentially allowed games and other graphics-intensive processes to spread the load across a wider memory path instead of increasing the number of memory paths.
- Base clock: 1274 MHz
- Boost clock: 1546 MHz
- Base clock: 1605 MHz
- Boost clock: 1755 MHz
The difference in clock speeds is a huge reason for the performance boost we see in the newer 5700 XT. The fact that it can achieve these speeds with fewer processing cores and compute units is a testament to the effectiveness of the newer architecture. How do these translate to gaming performance?
We’ve laid out a few numbers for you below to see the difference in performance difference in some popular games, all games have been run at 1080p maximum settings even though the 5700 XT is more than capable of 1440p gaming at 60Hz:
|Vega 64||5700 XT|
|121 FPS||167 FPS|
|88 FPS||117 FPS|
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
|87 FPS||115 FPS|
Across the board, you’ll notice a significant increase in terms of performance. With a 19% increase in FPS across the board you’ll notice the difference in competitive games like R6 where every frame matters and also in more leisurely games like GTA V where the smoothness of the game can make a lazy Los Santos Sunday seem more real.
Both cards are able to run games smoothly at 1080p but at 1440p and 4K, you would really need the extra power of the 5700 XT to increase your overall gaming experience.
The Vega 64 cards run hot and use a lot of power, and because of this AMD has even created a water-cooled reference card that comes with an AiO system preinstalled. This does give you more options to integrate it into a pre-existing custom loop or simply attach it to a larger radiator to increase its overclocking potential. The aftermarket potential is quite low for this card also as there are only 2 options for aftermarket coolers and water blocks.
There is plenty of headroom for boosting the lower clock speeds if you can compensate for the increased power draw and thermal demand the card will require. Enthusiasts have recorded stable runs at 1600MHz with the stock cooler.
The 5700 XT gives you more options for cooling than the previous card but is almost maxed out in terms of clock speed. You might be able to force a bit more performance by undervolting the card and bumping up the power limit but make sure you adjust the fan curve to ensure that you don’t hit the thermal limit. Even still enthusiasts have achieved clock speeds above 2000MHz.
In terms of real-world performance, the percentage increase in clock speed isn’t directly correlative and you’re likely to achieve an FPS boost of a maximum 10%-15%.
Both cards offer a decent performance boost once overclocked but because of its higher bandwidth memory and increased core count, the Vega 64 closes the performance. The more effective stock water cooling option really lets you boost the boost up the card without having to worry about thermal throttling.
Both cards come with 8GB of memory but they use very different technologies to offer that capacity. The Vega 64 used a more power-efficient and high bandwidth memory known as HBM2. At the time that the Vega 64 was released AMD’s compression was lacking in the GPU department and they, therefore, needed the higher bandwidth memory to increase their performance over the GDDR5 memory used in the previous GPUs.
As we mentioned above, the increase in power consumption of the computing units in the card, meant that they needed to reduce power consumption in other components like the memory. HBM2 is much more efficient in comparison to GDDR5 and allows the Vega 64 to keep its TDP under 300W. Also, the memory buses are easier to cool simply due to their larger footprint. AMD bet on HBM2 becoming the industry standard for high-speed VRAM but as we can see in the 5000 series cards they decided to move away from this technology.
The 5700 XT was designed with GDDR VRAM and AMD opted to go for 8GB of GDDR6 for this card. Because of the more efficient RDNA Architecture, AMD could move back to the more cost-effective GDDR6 memory. Between launches, AMD worked on their bios and drivers to improve overall compression and efficiency meaning that high bandwidth memory isn’t as important as high-speed memory. HBM3 may bring about a faster high bandwidth memory that is efficient and also fast without compromising on the bandwidth but that is all still speculation. For the moment GDDR6 is the best memory available for mid-range GPUs like the 5700 XT.
Both of these cards are good options for 1080p gaming and the 5700 XT can be used for 1440p gaming with high refresh rates. In terms of current pricing, the 5700 XT gets you the bang for your buck but that’s only because the Vega 64 is no longer in production.
If you can get your hands on a water-cooled Vega 64 for a lot less than a 5700 XT and you’re willing to overclock it you will have the best price for the performance you can get. Depending on the monitor you currently have or are looking to get either of these could work especially if you can pick them up for cheap.
If however, you’re looking for 1440p high refresh rate gaming then the 5700 XT is the lowest card you should buy from AMD, preferably you’ll be able to get one of the newer 6000 series cards that offer a significant performance boost again over the previous cards. Neither of the cards offers any RTX capabilities so if you’re looking for something to get Cyberpunk 2077 running these are not the cards for you.