2019 has been one of the most eventful in years in the PC gaming space. In one corner is AMD with its new Ryzen 3000-series CPUs and Navi architecture GPUs. In the other, the NVIDIA RX 5700/XT Super. Both are super GPUs in their way.

GadgetGuy does not have a huge gaming presence, so we found it hard to answer a reader’s question – AMD Navi versus Nvidia Turing Super?

We sought honorary Gadgeteer Arjun Krishna Lal’s advice. Arjun has had a passion for PC gaming since 1996 when, as a one-year-old, he saw his dad score frags in Quake. He’s gone on to become a Penguin-published author and tech journalist. When he’s not travelling the world, gathering stories for his next book, you’ll find him tinkering with his PC. Arjun’s last article on the top five Australian mobile games developers shows our audience wants to know more about gaming. Arjun writes:

AMD’s two-pronged 7nm attack, with simultaneous launches of Ryzen 3000 series CPU and Navi GPUs have shaken things up considerably in both the consumer CPU and GPU markets.

The Ryzen 3000-series comprises both CPUs and onboard Vega graphics CPUs so, please take this as an overview. These include different core counts, speeds, TDP and cooling and are ideal for gamers.

CPU Only

Navi
  • 5 3600, 6/12 core/thread, 3.6/4.2Ghz, 65W Wraith Stealth
  • 5 3600x, 6/12 core/thread, 3.8/4.4Ghz, 95W, Wraith Spire
  • 7 3700x, 8/16 core/thread, 3.6/4.4Ghz,65W,  Wraith Prism
  • 7 3800x, 8/16 core/thread, 3.9/4.5Ghz, 105W, Wraith Prism
  • 9 3900x, 12/24 core/thread, 3.8/4.6Ghz, 105W, Wraith Prism
  • 9 3950x, 16/32 core/thread, 3.5/4.7Ghz, 105W, Wraith Prism

Ryzen with Vega Graphics

  • 3 3200G, 4/4 core/thread, 3.6/4Ghz, 65W, Vega 8 Graphics
  • 5 3400G, 4/8 core/thread, 3.7/4.2Ghz, RX Vega 11 Graphics

Confused? This is just the start of the Ryzen 3000-series.

Ryzen 3000-series has taken the fight to Intel, with SKUs like the Ryzen 7 3700X matching Intel in single-threaded performance while blowing past it in multi-threaded operations. This is the first time in well over a decade that AMD can match Intel on Instructions Per Cycle. AMD’s pricing strategy is better with Ryzen offering better performance than ‘Team Blue’ in every price segment.

AMD’s Navi has been a long time coming

Let’s focus on the graphics side of the story: The AMD RX 5700 series (RX 5700, RX 5700XT) and its answer to the Nvidia Turing GPU architecture.

Navi (website here) was first seen on AMD’s 2015 roadmap; around the time the R9 Fury X was launched.

AMD’s GCN GPU architecture first seen in the 2011 Radeon HD 7970 was getting long in the tooth. New products using the original GCN architecture, such as the Fury line and R9 390X—made it to market years after the HD 7970 went out of commission.

Polaris was seen as a fresh start. It did improve on some of GCN’s shortcomings, such as poor tessellation performance—but it was still essentially just GCN shrunk down to 14nm.

Vega’s NCU (New Compute Unit) design – also ‘new’ was a further rehashing of GCN. It was forward-facing architecture in 2011 but has some fundamental limitations—notably in terms of ROP throughput because of a maximum limit of 64 ROPs.

The RDNA architecture in AMD’s Navi cards, while still derivative of GCN, is fundamentally different from earlier micro arcs. It is much more balanced, and inadequate ROP throughput is no longer a constraint due it its large number of compute units.

Navi

The move to the 7nm process means AMD can crank up core clocks substantially. Overclocked 5700 series can exceed 2 GHz—and the use of new GDDR6 memory means that high amounts of memory bandwidth can be delivered over a narrow 256-bit bus. What this means is that AMD has been able to create two cards – the RX 5700/ that are comparable in performance to Nvidia’s RTX 2060/270, albeit without support for hardware ray tracing.

Nvidia was spooked by AMD’s Navi early benchmarks that put RX 5700XT outperforming its RTX 2070.

Just a little while after AMD’s official Navi reveal Nvidia teased new ‘Super’ hardware refreshes of the RTX line— a week before Navi arrived. The ‘Super’ successors to RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 essentially moved these two up by one performance tier each. The 2060 Super performs nearly on par with a vanilla 2070, while the 2070 Super is neck-and-neck with the vanilla 2080.

Navi

Before the Super announcement, the value proposition was firmly in AMD’s favour—Navi was expected to cost slightly less than their RTX counterparts while delivering better-rasterised performance.

The Super announcement completely changed the situation

RX 5700XT and RX 5700 at their original price points would perform worse and cost more than the RTX 2060 and 2070 Super while also lacking support for hardware ray tracing. Realising the untenable position, this put it in, AMD bit the bullet and announced last-minute price cuts to the RX 5700XT and RX 5700. They’re now priced at this much A$629 and this much A$549. That made this question worth asking again: Which one’s the better buy? Navi or RTX Super? Let’s find out.