RX 5600 XT Review
Tag: pc
Last Updated2020-07-20 (Mon) 19:28:07

Update: This post is a mess, and accurately reflects my thought process as I was trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with this card. Read at your own risk.

I recently acquired a Gigabyte RX 5600 XT Gaming OC, hoping that the widely reported driver issues were an overreaction from a vocal minority. Unfortunately, this was not the case - I encountered several stability issues throughout my first few weeks of using this card. This post goes over some things I did to alleviate some of these issues.

Symptoms

The most common issue I experienced with this card is the infamous black screen, characterized by the following symptoms:

  • The screen suddenly turning black while other computer functionality remains (such as sound)
    • Sometimes, the cursor may still work or flicker
    • On screens connected via HDMI, the screen may turn green instead
    • After a few seconds, the entire system will stop responding, probably due to TDR (increasing TdrDelay causes this period of "functionality" to last longer)
  • Almost always happens while gaming, regardless of whether the game was graphically intensive or not
    • Has occurred randomly during other tasks, such as unlocking my workstation or watching a video in MPC-HC

Diagnosis

System Memory Timings

When I first got this card, I happened to have slightly unstable RAM timings for my system memory (about 1 bit flip after 8 passes of memtest). The memory was running at 3000 MT/s 14-16-16-16-32.

I have since then loosened the memory timings to 2933 MT/s 16-17-17-17-35.

Other people in the community have reported similar issues. It seems these cards are fairly sensitive to bad memory timings, since I did not have any issues with these memory timings before with my old GTX 1050 Ti.

BIOS

You are probably already aware of the BIOS fiasco AMD sprung on its partners in order to make the RX 5600 XT more competitive. Gigabyte released two versions, F2 (stability) and FA0 (performance). I have not been able to achieve system stability with FA0, despite the only differences between them being VRAM speeds and power limits. You can replicate the FA0 performance solely with the F2 bios and Wattman.

Update: As of now, the FA0 VBIOS is no longer available on Gigabyte's website.

It turns out that there are two different factory VBIOSes from the factory, F1 and F60. It is worth noting that F1 and F60 share all parameters inspectable by MorePowerTool. Despite this, Gigabyte notes that the VBIOS upgrade path to F2 and FA0 is only supported for cards that come with the F1 VBIOS. That is, cards that come with F60 are inherently less overclockable than cards that come with F1, despite being sold as the same product. *1

After reducing my clock speeds to F60 defaults while having F2 flashed, I no longer had any black screen issues.

Update: Gigabyte released three new VBIOS versions: F61, F3 and FA1 - one corresponding to each previous version. I could not identify any difference in key parameters between these versions. However, I am able to run F61 without any stability issues (even overclocked, nonetheless).

Fan Curves

The default fan curves are inadequate, and will almost definitely lead to thermal throttling. The throttling did not seem to be aggressive enough to avoid system instability. I ended up ramping up the fan curve by 20% PWM.

Chipset Drivers

I had manufacturer chipset drivers, which were slightly outdated compared to the chipset drivers directly from AMD.

Adrenalin 2020

Some people have seen success from installing the display driver without the Adrenalin software *2. This would imply that there is some component of Adrenalin which causes these black screen issues. Given the amount of introspection into games that Adrenalin does (counting average FPS, number of hours played, etc.), it would not be surprising if some of this functionality is broken.

This would also explain why I have only experienced these black screens while playing games. All 50 or so of the black screens I have encountered were while playing a game.

Without Adrenalin, you can still apply overclocks with tools such as OverdriveNTool. I personally had issues with tools like MSI Afterburner, as they do not give enough control over voltage curves.

The Verdict

My leading theory: the card I purchased came with the F60 VBIOS. Flashing F2 was thus unsupported, which led to the instability. The instability was caused by either power limits, memory frequency, or some VBIOS firmware that is not compatible with cards that come with F60.

I am not hopeful that a future VBIOS with be released as an upgrade path from F60 (i.e. F61), since it is extremely likely that cards that come with F60 are just poorer bins which are not capable of 14 Gbps anyways.

When purchasing this card, there is no way for a consumer to tell whether they are getting a card with F60 or F1 VBIOS. There are significant performance differences between these cards. Gigabyte does not make this clear, with AMD's official site even listing this card as upgradable to 14 Gbps.

Do not buy this card.

Update: Given the new VBIOS updates, this card is now perfectly fine. I wish Gigabyte gave some sort of statement or postponed release of the card before the new VBIOS was developed, as it would have saved me many hours of headaches.


*1 https://community.amd.com/thread/252648
*2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5rRIZ1wMAY

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Last-modified: 2020-07-20 (Mon) 19:28:07