AMD Radeon Driver 19.7.3 Still Sucks: Performance Regression Compared to Pre-Navi (RX 5700 Series) Drivers

A week ago, AMD’s Navi launch drivers arrived. Driver version 19.7.2 was supposed to kick off support for the RX 5700 and RX 5700XT, along with enhancing performance on older parts. Instead, we noticed (and PCGamer did too), a significant performance regression with AMD’s new drivers.

PCGamer tested out an RX 590 and noted a drop of up to 10 percent in the majority of games they tested, with only a handful actually registering performance improvements. This led many to suspect that faulty drivers could be one of the reasons behind Navi based RX 5700XT and RX 5700’s less-than-stellar performance compared to the NVIDIA Super series.

It made a certain amount of sense: AMD has a history of launching cards with poor driver support. The infamous Radeon RX 480 launch, when Polaris first arrived on the scene, comes to mind. I had an RX 480 review unit on hand at the time. AMD was forced to release a hotfix driver to prevent the Polaris cards from overdrawing power from the PCI-E slot. While there are no records of damage being done, the drivers RX 480 shipped with had the potential to ruin people’s motherboards. Not exactly what you’d want from a new launch.

While the Navi launch hasn’t been quite so rocky, neither the Radeon RX 5700 or RX 5700XT offer revelatory performance. The GeForce RTX 2070 Super trumps the 5700 XT much of the time and the vanilla 5700 only manages to trade blows with the 2060 Super. Overclocking ought to have made up for the deficit but the launch drivers borked overclocking support for Navi, making initial OC comparisons pointless. Recently, users have been getting their reference Navi cards up to 2.1 GHz and, while these parts are running loud and hot, they can get within spitting distance of the RTX 2080, a damn fine result. As with Polaris, we expect third party boards to allow users to push Navi much further. OEMs have been working on getting third-party Navi boards out the door now and we’re eagerly looking forward to them.

Right now, though, the situation’s not that rosy. On our RX 580-based testbed (with an overclocked Ryzen 1600, an SSD/HDD StoreMi setup, and 16 gigs of RAM), we saw an over 5 percent regression in performance in the Deus Ex Mankind Divided benchmark. Prior to installing the Navi drivers, we had an average framerate upwards of 48 FPS when running at 1440p High settings. With the new drivers, this came down to 45 FPS. This has a tangible impact on gameplay: Mankind Divided at around 45 FPS is enjoyable, but the new drivers make it more possible than before for dips below that. Watch this space: We’ll keep you posted about new driver updates and whether or not AMD manages to fix this performance issue.

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