Flashing a Radeon RX 5700 to 5700 XT: Free 10% Efficiency Increase

In addition to our test reports on the launch day of the Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT, we performed extended comparisons with the direct GeForce competition, tested some overclocking, new software functions and various card models, such as those from manufacturers such as MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire.

We recently tested the non-XT PowerColor RX 5700 Red Devil, and while this was a very nice graphics card, the $ 390 price was a bit too close to the entry-level 5700 XTs, making it a difficult sale. However, many quickly pointed out that the card can be flashed with a 5700 XT BIOS and is fully worth the sticker price. Apparently, you can get an XT-like performance while saving $ 50 compared to the equivalent 5700 XT Red Devil graphics card.

Of course, we had to try and report back to you. Instead of using the Red Devil, we chose a cheaper Radeon RX 5700 graphics card. Get $ 370 back with the XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra. If we can get an XT-like performance at this price, it's a really good performance deal.

There are plenty of offers with the latest AMD GPUs, most of which are pretty good. One of the main reasons we chose the XFX as a guinea pig for this BIOS flash test is because it is a 5700 with a 5700 XT cooler. Not the best 5700 XT cooler you can get, but it works well enough. It is also the exact same circuit board. The only change was made here at the VRM, where a single phase was removed.

For those of you who want to see the design in more detail, please read my review of the THICC II Ultra. In this case, we'll quickly look at the out-of-the-box performance and then tinker.

After a one-hour loop with F1 2019, the XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra reaches a peak value of only 65 ° C in a 21 ° C room. This is not a bad result. The PowerColor Red Devil peaked at the same temperature, even though its fans were spinning at just 1200rpm, while the DD Ultra had to spin at 1800rpm. Not so good, but not terrible either.

The memory peaks at 76 degrees, while the VRM only reaches 67 degrees. Both are solid results. In this standard configuration, the RX 5700 consumed an average of 170 watts. The problem with these factory overclocked 5700 graphics cards is that you can no longer overclock them manually because AMD has locked them.

You can get around these limits with soft-power gaming tables, and we messed with them about a month ago. The problem with this method, which uses a Windows registry change, is that you have to uninstall, reinstall, and reconfigure it before each driver update. It's a massive pain on the back and we got it broken after a few updates.

A far better and more practical method for RX 5700 owners who want to get maximum performance is to flash their BIOS and overwrite it with a 5700 XT BIOS. In this case we downloaded the THICC II Ultra BIOS and flashed it onto the 5700 DD Ultra. With ATIFlash and a custom batch file with just a few commands, you can quickly and easily increase the operating frequency of any 5700 graphics card.

In this case, we were able to increase the XT-BIOS from an average operating frequency of 1810 MHz to around 1920 MHz – this is a frequency increase of 6%. Now, however, we have the XT overclocking limits, so we've brought the GPU to around 2 GHz. That means we are now increasing the frequency by around 10%. It is also possible to overclock the memory. However, since your mileage changes significantly here, we have chosen an easily accessible frequency of 900 MHz.

Benchmarks: share vs. Flashed RX 5700

The XFX 5700 immediately matched the 5700 Red Devil, and as you can see, overclocking the Red Devil only unlocked a single additional frame. In other words, 5700 overclocking with no flashing or registry modifications is pointless.

After flashing, the XFX 5700 reached an average of 70 fps, which corresponds to a performance increase of 13% and a performance increase from 15% to 1%. By manually overclocking the flashed 5700, we only got an extra frame, but we're now at the 5700 XT Red Devil performance level.

The profits in Forza Horizon 4 were pretty impressive. Here the flashed 5700 saw a 9% increase in performance and we got another 2% by manual overclocking. This time we basically adjusted the 5700 XT share.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we see an average frame rate increase of ~ 7% as soon as the 5700 flashes. This time we squeezed 3% more power out of manual overclocking, and this allowed the XFX 5700 to deliver the standard 5700 XT power, which is pretty impressive overall.

Flashing the BIOS to unlock more frequency is of course associated with electricity costs. We expect electricity consumption to increase by 28% with an average increase of around 10%. Using an AMD reference BIOS should improve efficiency, but that's exactly what we've achieved with the THICC II Ultra BIOS.

We also see a sharp 28% increase in total system uptake, with total consumption increasing from 316 watts to 405 watts. These results vary depending on the BIOS used.

Despite the massive increase in power consumption, the operating temperature only rose by 12% to 73 degrees, which is still reasonable, although the fans are now spinning at 2200 rpm and we will look at the operating volume in a moment. Compared to the AMD reference model 5700 XT, this strongly overclocked XFX 5700 is still quite good.

The XFX 5700 was not an out-of-the-box card, but it wasn't that loud either. Overclocking increased the volume a bit, but influenced the operating temperatures more. Depending on your preference, you can turn the fans to increase the noise but lower the operating temperature.

Wrap up

In short, it's certainly possible (and fantastic) to turn a Radeon RX 5700 into a standard XT model with a simple BIOS flash. We like this method as permanent in the sense that after a BIOS update you don't have to make any changes in Windows and you don't have to use an overclocked profile every time you start it.

However, be aware that the BIOS you are using may cause problems with your particular model and a backup graphics solution may be required to resolve it. In general, we haven't had any problems flashing graphics cards, but we've heard from people who have failed. Flash at your own risk.

At the end of the day, we would give it a try, but we wouldn't bother to mess around with Powerplay tables.

Tinkering with hardware can be a bit of fun, and while the 10% increase in performance is mostly free, the card may use a little more power depending on the version of BIOS you're using. As a result, the map runs hotter and / or louder.

The XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra worked well in this test, no complaints, but cheaper models like the Gigabyte Gaming OC may also be worth a look. The fact that you get the THICC II Ultra cooler for this cheaper 5700 makes it a fairly decent option.

Purchasing links:
  • Gigabyte Radeon RX 5700 8G at Amazon
  • XFX RX 5700 DD Ultra on Amazon
  • PowerColor Red Devil RX 5700 at Amazon
  • Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 at Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2060 Super on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon

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