AMD’s most recent graphics cards, the RX 5700 and 5700 XT, are undeniably great options. Their price vs performance is incredible and they’re readily beating Nvidia’s RTX 2060 and 2070 in sheer performance benchmarks.
HOWEVER, you probably shouldn’t buy either of them just yet and I’m going to give you 2 reasons why that is.
Reason #1: Blower-style coolers
Blower-style (centrifugal fan) coolers are rarely ideal. They’re loud, they usually don’t cool that well, and they tend to get clogged with dust in a hurry. Of course, that’s in comparison to a coaxial fan setup. The first 2 points are especially true when it comes to the RX 5700 XT where independent testing and benchmark results have shown problems with thermal throttling and noise pollution. The RX 5700 seems to fare much better in comparison.
Blower-style coolers do have their time and place, but inside of the average gaming PC isn’t it. They work best in very small form-factor builds where you’re trying to keep all possible hot air out of the case. They also work well if you have plans on running a custom liquid cooling setup as you’d be replacing the blower with a waterblock.
Why AMD opted for a blower-style cooler on the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT was a mystery to me, especially since the Radeon VII had a good coaxial setup. That was until AMD’s Scott Herkelman posted on the AMD subreddit to clear the confusion.
“The Radeon group historically has had a bad reputation of producing product launch charts that didn’t match up to real world performance. Love it or hate it the blower allowed us to guarantee performance in every system to match our launch charts. Not everyone cools their PC as good as a reviewer and definitely not as good as some of the pictures you guys have shared. It was my goal to clean all of this up so that you can trust our performance you hear from us on stage.”
As it would appear, using the blower-style cooler was an attempt to normalize test results. Which makes me wonder, why were independent test results all over the map with only a few being similar? Either way, Scott Herkelman’s statement on Reddit brings us to reason #2.
Reason #2: Custom models are on the way
Along with mentioning the reason behind why AMD chose the blower-style cooler, Scott mentioned something else important. Particularly, “Custom AIB designs will be hitting the market ~mid August.”
Buying a reference-design graphics card is often not the best idea when custom cards are on the way from AIB partners. Why? Because the custom models are usually noticeably better than cards based on the reference design. In the case of the RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT, it’s practically undeniable that’ll be the case. Meaning, anyone who buys an RX 5700/5700 XT now will probably be sore about it when the better custom models start releasing mid-August.
Currently, both MSI and ASUS have announced their custom variants of the new Navi cards. I’m sure more brands, like XFX and Sapphire, will be announcing their custom models in the weeks to come.
To bring this all around, blower-style coolers blow and custom models are on the way. There’s really not much more to it than that. Drivers have also been a bit of an issue, but hearing “driver issues” and “AMD” mentioned in the same sentence isn’t news to anyone. At this stage, I’m sure most of us expect AMD’s drivers to lack at launch. By the time custom models are releasing, I’m confident that most, if not all, existing driver issues will be ironed out.
So, you shouldn’t wait because of shoddy performance, because these cards run great. You shouldn’t wait due to their prices either, because their prices are awesome. You should wait because you’d definitely be doing yourself a disservice otherwise.
Of course, at the end of the day, the choice is yours. If you want one right now and you can’t wait any longer, by all means, buy one. It’s not like the card will spontaneously combust or anything crazy like that, you’ll just have much better options to choose from in about a month.