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AMD Explains Why 110-Degree Operating Temps Are 'in Spec' for RX 5700

AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Anniversary Edition ( (Image credit: Shutterstock))

We noted in our review of the AMD Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT that junction temperatures peaked above 100 degrees Celsius under load. (That's 230 degrees Fahrenheit for those of us forced to live with the clearly inferior temperature scale.) AMD published a blog post yesterday to explain why those high temperatures are "in spec" and how the RX 5700's approach to thermal management is supposed to help enthusiasts get the best performance from their cards.

AMD said that it previously relied on "a single sensor that was placed in the vicinity of the legacy thermal diode" to measure a GPU's core temperature. That changed with the release of the AMD Radeon VII in February. The graphics card has "enhanced thermal monitoring," according to AMD, and laid the foundation for the RX 5700's "extensive network of thermal sensors distributed across the entire GPU die." Where once there was one sensor, now there are many.

The company said its previous GPUs were "often leaving significant thermal headroom – and resulting performance – on the table" by adjusting their operation based on a single measurement. These additional sensors are supposed to help RX 5700 graphics cards balance operating temperatures and performance. (Kind of like checking a hunk of meat's temperature in multiple spots to allow it to be cooked as fast as possible without any burning.)

Relying on numerous thermal sensors will become more important as companies rely on ever-smaller manufacturing processes. Those smaller nodes lead to greater thermal density, which in turn makes hotspots more common. Basing performance on the average temperature of the die, like AMD did before it introduced the Radeon VII and RX 5700, would force the GPUs to squander their potential. There's where more precise measurements come in.

AMD explained:

"Instead of setting a conservative, ‘worst case’ throttling temperature for the entire die, the Radeon RX 5700 series GPUs will continue to opportunistically and aggressively ramp clocks until any one of the many available sensors hits the ‘hotspot’ or ‘Junction’ temperature of 110 degrees Celsius. Operating at up to 110C Junction Temperature during typical gaming usage is expected and within spec. This enables the Radeon RX 5700 series GPUs to offer much higher performance and clocks out of the box, while maintaining acoustic and reliability targets."

That won't stop the company's add-in board partners from introducing cooling systems powerful enough to keep junction temperatures below triple digits. Sapphire did just that with the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT we reviewed yesterday, actually, and we sincerely doubt it will be the only one. But at least the company made an effort to explain why temperatures high enough to boil water are considered "in spec" for its latest GPUs.

  • justin.m.beauvais
    I figured it was related to the way they manage thermals on Radeon VII. I saw a bunch of launch day stuff where people were SUPER concerned about the thermals on Navi, and I was shaking my head. Obviously they had forgotten about VII. I'm pretty surprised that it took AMD this long to clear this up.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    So a temperature scale based on boiling water makes more sense to measure the weather than a more finely graduated scale that is more closely aligned to human living conditions.... and also measuring multiple parts of meat makes it cook faster.... And also, AMD really wants to ruin the fun of overclocking by doing it better out of the box.

    Got it.
    Reply
  • salgado18
    Giroro said:
    So a temperature scale based on boiling water makes more sense to measure the weather than a more finely graduated scale that is more closely aligned to human living conditions....
    But it's not being used to measure weather, it's being used to measure the temperature of a chip (which could interact with water btw). Also the majority of the world (especially the scientific community) uses it.
    Giroro said:
    and also measuring multiple parts of meat makes it cook faster....
    Not faster, better. You can let it cook until one spot hits critical temperature, and stop before burning. It's written right there.
    Giroro said:
    And also, AMD really wants to ruin the fun of overclocking by doing it better out of the box.
    So they should hold back performance so that only geeks can get the most out of it? It's like those smart suspensions and brakes that balance everything in ways a human can't with a pedal: it's not fun, but very efficient.
    Reply
  • TheSecondPower
    To be fair the Fahrenheit scale does have a couple strong advantages.

    Interesting that they've designed the 5700 to intentionally reach these temperatures. I hope it still comes with a long life span.
    Reply
  • Loadedaxe
    I don't want something on my desk that heats up to 230°.

    Drop the thermals and increase performance AMD.
    Reply
  • closs.sebastien
    amd cards... for ever cooking eggs... and electrical power-eaters = wasting energy for nothing...
    oh, if your heating is broken at home, just go buy a radeon...
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    salgado18 said:
    So they should hold back performance so that only geeks can get the most out of it? It's like those smart suspensions and brakes that balance everything in ways a human can't with a pedal: it's not fun, but very efficient.

    It takes the fun out of being an enthusiast, which was and is some of their biggest supporters.

    That said to me it shows they are hitting a wall and wont have room to "improve" existing products much. I don't think AMD will have a fully competitive GPU until they finally ditch anything GCN related.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    Loadedaxe said:
    I don't want something on my desk that heats up to 230°.

    Drop the thermals and increase performance AMD.
    If it's designed to operate at that temperature, who cares? It's not going to get nearly that hot on any external surface, so there's no danger from it if that's what you're worried about.

    The GPU may not even be getting any hotter than previous generations. It could just be that the the temperature sensors are closer to the GPU hot spots than they were in the past, so they're better able to measure the true hottest temperature within the chip.
    Reply
  • dmitche31958
    (That's 230 degrees Fahrenheit for those of us forced to live with the clearly inferior temperature scale.) "

    WOW. Another stupid millennial who hasn't a clue of anything. Inferior? How? The fact that Fahrenheit is based on the point where sea water freezes is some how Inferior? Just an education and leave your stupidity for your articles. Oh, you did.
    Reply
  • lxtbell2
    dmitche31958 said:
    (That's 230 degrees Fahrenheit for those of us forced to live with the clearly inferior temperature scale.) "

    WOW. Another stupid millennial who hasn't a clue of anything. Inferior? How? The fact that Fahrenheit is based on the point where sea water freezes is some how Inferior? Just an education and leave your stupidity for your articles. Oh, you did.
    Wow not sure who needs more education. Heat your sea water ice cube to 1F or even 10F and see if it melts. Now look up again what Fahrenheit used to define 0F. (Hint: it's a salt solution but nothing like sea water)
    Anyone who received formal education in physics knows which one to use.
    Reply