XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra review: A roaring muscle car, barely heard

XFX fixes flaws to field a fat, fantastic graphics card.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

The XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra takes the delicious muscle car-evoking design of its namesake and tunes it into something even more kick-ass.

We enjoyed the original XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc II Ultra, which only launched in September. But while XFX’s throwback Double Dissipation aesthetic was alluring, the graphics card wasn’t perfect. “It’s high-performing, a little loud, extremely impressive, and in need of some slight tinkering for peak performance,” we said, continuing the hot-rod theme this hardware begs for. Fan control bugs common to third-party Radeon RX 5700 models dragged it down, requiring a BIOS update out of the box, and the fans roared to tame the card’s power-pushing clock speeds.

The new XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra does the tinkering for you. It swaps out the dual 100mm chrome fans of the original with two 90mm and one 100mm fan, and bolsters the cooling design under the shroud to fix heating concerns of the original. Then XFX cranked up the power draw even more to push clocks even higher. The end result? A still-gorgeous, high-performing, quietly purring muscle car of a graphics card that fixes the flaws of its predecessor for the same $440 price tag.

Zoom zoom.

XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra: Specs and features

AMD’s new Navi GPU is a known quantity at this point, so we won’t cover its features in extensive detail yet again. Check out our Radeon RX 5700 series review if you want a deeper dive. Here’s a look at the GPU’s baseline specifications, alongside the non-XT Radeon RX 5700 and last generation's Vega chips. 

radeon navi vs vega specs AMD

XFX builds upon the base. The original Thicc II Ultra was the fastest Radeon RX 5700 XT we’ve tested thanks to the 1,870MHz Game Clock on its default Performance BIOS—well above the reference 1,755MHz. The Thicc III Ultra pushes the pedal to the metal even harder, hitting a blistering 1,935MHz Game Clock in Performance mode, with a base clock of 1,810MHz. It’s the new Radeon RX 5700 XT performance champion, though as you’ll see in our benchmarks, the frame rate difference won’t be perceptible to the naked eye. The 8GB of GDDR6 memory sticks to stock (yet face-melting) speeds.

xfx thicc iii ultra back XFX

More power demands, well, more power, and this new iteration requires a pair of 8-pin power connectors rather than 6-pin and 8-pin connections. The XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra’s Performance BIOS is rated for 230 watts, 20W more than the previous model and a fair bit more than the competition, while a secondary Quiet BIOS—accessible via a physical switch on the board—drops that to 195W for people more interested in power efficiency.

I have no idea who wants better power efficiency from a huge, maxed-out graphics card like the Thicc III Ultra, but more options are always welcome, and people who like to tinker (a more likely audience for this) will appreciate the extra BIOS option in case overclocking endeavors go awry.

More power also demands more heavy metal to keep things from getting hot and loud. The Thicc III Ultra is just as Thicc as its triple-slot cousin while measuring nearly an inch longer. “Thicc” indeed. Even that ample size wasn’t enough to fully tame Navi’s power in the original Thicc II, but XFX’s “Ghost” thermal design received some much-needed refinements in the Thicc III Ultra.

dsc00793 Brad Chacos/IDG

Thicc

As mentioned before, the dual 100mm fans of the original have been replaced by a pair of 90mm fans, with a third 100mm set of blades plopped between them for extra airflow. More fans mean they can turn slower, too, which helps alleviate the noise concerns we had with the Thicc II. Where XFX claimed a 35-percent noise reduction compared to the reference Radeon RX 5700 XT with the Thicc II, the newer Thicc III boasts a 50-percent improvement, according to marketing materials. The Thicc III Ultra also includes zero DB fan technology, which stops the fans from moving until the GPU comes under heavy load. Idle fans create a silent experience when you’re slinging spreadsheets on the desktop instead of bullets in a game.

XFX additionally lengthened the heatsink—hence the extra size of the card—and gave the GDDR6 modules a copper cooling plate to respond to concerns about memory heat with the original Thicc II design. Added together, the cooling tweaks provide a substantial quality of life improvement. Now that Navi’s early teething problems with fan control have ironed out, everything works as expected out of the box, too. Phew. 

dsc00787 Brad Chacos/IDG

The XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra remains drop-dead gorgeous. It’s right up there with the Galax GeForce RTX 2070 Super WTF as my favorite graphics card design in recent memory, albeit in polar opposite fashion. Here’s how I described the Thicc II, and it remains just as applicable for the Thicc III:

“Taste is subjective, but I was always an admirer of the original Double Dissipation design, and the XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc II Ultra is one of the most beautiful graphics cards I’ve ever laid eyes on. The card’s rocking an ultra-clean, ultra-solid-looking black vibe with chrome accents, going so far as to outfit the end of the card with a chrome grille that enhances the roadster look.

The black plastic shroud wraps the edge of the card, providing a glimpse at the aluminum heatsink underneath, while a metal backplate with the XFX logo on the top of the card completes the stark, sturdy look. You won’t find any RGB lighting on this graphics card.”

I love the design of the XFX Radeon RX 5700 XT Thicc III Ultra, full stop. But muscle cars aren’t all about looks. Performance matters. Let’s go.

Next page: Our test system, performance benchmarks begin

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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