Invest in an ASUS Radeon RX 5700 or RX 5700 XT card very recently? Then you might want to check the model number, because ASUS has put out a notice for all ROG Strix RX 5700 and 5700 XT graphics cards.
The announcement was prompted by some old fashioned investigation from the two Aussies behind Hardware Unboxed, who discovered the heatsinks on retail ROG Strix cards weren't screwed as tightly to the heatsink as they should have been. How they discovered the problem was kind of cool: most reviewers at tech sites or YouTube tested their cards by installing them into a test bench, which means the card is mounted vertically.
Hardware Unboxed - and I use this setup when I do my tests - ran their benchmarks by installing their GPUs into a case. The horizontal mounting means gravity applies more pressure on the heatsink and screws than you'd normally get from a card that's mounted vertically. Normally, that's not an issue. But because the screws weren't applied properly, the heatsink gradually shifted away from the GPU's PCB over time, which resulted in a card running substantially hotter - and louder - than it's supposed to.
After an initial response that sounded awfully like blaming Hardware Unboxed for highlighting the problem (even though they also outlined an easy DIY fix with some plastic washers and new screws), ASUS admitted there's a problem.
"We would like to address user concerns related to the thermal performance and cooler mounting pressure we use on ROG Strix Radeon RX 5700-series graphics cards," ASUS said in a post.
The company has issued a worldwide update for all ROG Strix Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT cards shipped before January. Cards shipped after January "feature new screws that increase cooler mounting pressure to 50-60 PSI," which should resolve any temperature problems.
If your ROG Strix Radeon matches one of the model numbers below, contact ASUS's Australian support team and you'll be able to get a free upgrade and improved thermals:
It's worth noting that while ASUS hasn't used the word recall in their release, this is a problem owners can't ignore. If the screws aren't fixed, either by ASUS or by the user, the heatsink will eventually slip away from the PCB, resulting in a card that runs too hot to be usable. So even though it's not a recall by name, customers should treat it like one, because without a fix they'll be left with a GPU in three to six months that's barely recognisable from the card they bought.
The eye-opening part of all of this, mind you, is ASUS's decision to lay the blame at AMD. "Initial batches of ROG Strix RX 5700-series graphics cards were torqued to 30-40 PSI based on AMD’s baseline recommendations," ASUS's post reads. "After receiving user reports regarding temperature issues, we performed extended R&D testing to find the optimal PSI range for our graphics cards without compromising GPU reliability."
An earlier version of the post even had a basic graph, which has since been removed but was cached by Google. Some of the post's language was changed as well: ASUS initially said the first round of their GPUs "were built following AMD’s guidelines". The post now says "AMD’s baseline recommendations," which has a completely different inference.
The problem for ASUS is this. Even if the design fault lay with AMD, wouldn't ASUS have picked up the problem if they'd tested cards in the factory by installing them into a case - like customers would? Why were the cards shipped without washers to begin with? And if the design fault is truly with AMD, why have other 5700 and 5700 XT third-party cards not run into the same problem?
This is a card that's been on the market for three months, but at least ASUS have committed to helping customers go forward. It's not a good time to buy a new GPU in any case: AMD's ray-tracing "Big Navi" is due out later this year, and as sure as the sun rises in the morning, Nvidia will respond. Either of those will wipe the floor with any 5700 or 5700 XT you buy today, and the new cards will result in lower prices for all older cards.
But if you are going to buy a card today, double check the screws just in case.
Update 28/02: Amended the story to remove the word recall from the headline and copy, after clarification from ASUS about their stance on the announcement. It stands, however, that all users should double-check their GPUs and have them fixed if affected.