Monday, March 6, 2017

Ryzen, A success or failure? Both? Neither?

AMD Ryzen R7 Release

There has been quite a bit of hype about the AMD Ryzen CPUs and anticipation of their release.  Its been years since AMD has really released a new CPU or a PCU based on a new architecture.  Until recently, the fastest AMD CPUs you could buy could double as a space heater and generally performed worse than their Intel produced counterparts in most tasks.  The embargo was lifted on the AMD Ryzen R7 recently.  Many different reviews, benchmarks, and other tests were released from the popular, reputable computer hardware and gaming review sites and YouTube channels.

Is Ryzen the best for gaming?

If you look over all the reviews you can see the R7 1800x still falls behind the i7-7700K and i7-6700K in most gaming benchmarks that are not GPU limited.  For example, in Techspot's Review, the R7 1800X performed similarly in gaming benchmarks to the i7-3770K, which was released in 2012.  Other reviews showed similar results with the R7 1800X lagging behind the i7-7700K in most games that were not GPU limited.

So, the big question is, if I'm building or buying a new PC very soon to be mainly used for gaming, should I buy one with an 1800x or an i7-7700K assuming they have similar specs?  I'd suggest the i7-7700K if you are using the PC mainly for gaming.

Why would I suggest the i7-7700K over the R7 1800x or 1700X for gaming?  I'd suggest the 7700K for several reasons:

  • First, the i7-7700K is faster then the R7 1800x is most games when we are not GPU limited.  That means as GPUs become faster, the i7 will probably continue to give better results.  
  • Second, game developers are slow to implement new features and update game engines to support new technology.  It may be several years before new games can make use of the higher number of CPU cores that the Ryzen R7 has over the i7-7700K.  For example, look at some of the most popular games in the past couple of years.  Many of them don't make use of all 8 threads the i7 processors have.  They definitely won't take advantage of all of the additional cores and threads the R7 1800X provides.  Also, Intel has a much higher market share than AMD.  Game developers will spend more money developing games and game engines that perform better on the CPUs that make up the larger market share.
  • Third, the Intel CPUs have better single threaded performance and higher clock speeds.  Most current games do better with CPUs that have better single threaded performance and CPUs that have higher clock speeds due to the fact that they can't use.  This is shown in the gaming benchmarks comparing the R7 1800x to the i7-7700K.  Also, older games will continue to run better on the i7 because that's what they were designed for.
  • Fourth, There are many teething issue reported with the R7 CPU, motherboards, and hardware.  Some memory is not properly recognized in Ryzen systems or won't run at the right speed.  Another issue is that NVMe m.2 SSD are showing significantly slower performance on the R7 1800x systems than on a i5 or i7 system with the Z270 chipset.  Also, reviewers are reporting that enabling SMT gives worse performance in some games and other software.

AMD and Ryzen Gaming Review Ethics

Its been reported by multiple hardware review sites and YouTube channels that AMD strongly encouraged the reviewers to show 4K and 2K benchmarks that were GPU limited and not show or minimize the 1080p and 1440p benchmarks that were not GPU limited.  This was covered by Gamers Nexus on their YouTube channel and in several other places by other reviewers.  AMD was trying to hide their slower than Intel gaming performance from the people watching or reading the reviews to show the R7 in a better light.  According to Steve Burke from Gamers Nexus AMD representatives said that creating a GPU bottleneck would serve as a great equalizer.  Also, Steve Burke from Gamers Nexus said AMD asked for more 4K benchmarks  in reviews which would make the benchmarks GPU limited and make the R7 appear equal to the Intel processors in gaming benchmarks.  AMD even said in conversations to Steve from Gamers Nexus about higher resolution game reviews, "We pushed the bottleneck to the graphics Card" in reference to aksign for 1440p and higher resolution GPU limited benchmarks.

According to the Steam Hardware Survey, most gamers play at 1920x1080 resolution.  Therefore 1080p benchmarks are relevant to most gamers.  Its deceptive to try to get reviewers to say that the R7 180x is equivalent to an i5 or i7 in games when you are frame rate limited by your GPU.

AMD doesn't need this negative press on a long awaited product release.  Gamers paying about $500 for a CPU will likely upgrade their graphics card when faster models come out.  Therefore , the GPU limitation will be reduced in the future and the lower performance of the Ryzen R7 1800x will show even more.

Rendering and Encoding

The R7 1800X has been shown to offer similar performance to the higher priced Intel socket 2011-V3 i7 and Xeon CPUs in CPU rendering and encoding tasks.  In some rendering and encoding tests the R7 1800X outperformed the i7-6900K.


When playing CPU intensive games while streaming the R7 1800X has been shown to offer better in game FPS than the i7-770K and less dropped frames while streaming.  The results vary depending on what games are being streamed.  Games such as League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, Overwatch, and World of Tanks won't show much of a performance difference between an i7-7700K and a R7 1800x.  While other games will show a larger difference in performance while streaming.


Previous to the Ryzen R7 release, the only thing that AMD could offer over Intel was lower price.  AMD's CPUs used more power and ran hotter than Intel CPUs for quite a few years.  Now the R7 CPUs are comparable or even better than many Intel CPUs in temperatures and power consumption.

In addition to lower power and cooler temperatures, the R7 offers similar performance in rendering and encoding, both in benchmarks and real world applications, to Intel's more expensive socket 2011-V3 i7 CPUs and Xeon CPUs.


Is the Ryzen R7 a success or failure?  Is it both?

Gaming: Failure!

The R7 1800x offers performance similar to a 2012 technology i7-3770K or a $200 i5-7XXX CPU.  It may be years before game developers adopt new technology to give the $499 R7 an advantage over a ~$300 i7 CPU.

Rendering and Encoding: Success!

The $499 R7 1800x competes well with $999 Intel CPUs when it comes to rendering and encoding tasks.

Streaming: Success!

Although the most popular games that are streamed on Twitch won't show much of an improvement when you use a R7 1800X over an i7-7700K, many other games will show an improvement when streaming due to the extra cores and threads the 1800X has over the i7-7700K.

Progress: Success!

This is the first new CPU architecture for AMD in several years.  Its a large step in the right direction for competing with Intel's i7 line of processors.  I'm excited to see what the next generation of Ryzen has to offer!

Three out of Four isn't bad.  I'm happy to see AMD making competitive CPUs again.

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