The Goldilocks of AMD’s new Ryzen CPU range?
RYZEN IS HERE AT LAST and it’s good. You can find out exactly why on page 34. But let’s assume you buy into the broader proposition offered by AMD’s hot new CPU.
You then need to decide between the three eight-core models available from day one.
The top-drawer 1800X model looks like a marginal proposition in value terms.
The 1800X buys you 200MHz. That’s it. No additional features, no extra cache memory, just a mere five percent uptick in operating frequency, in return for 25 percent more money. Ouch! At the other end of the scale is the entrylevel Ryzen 7 1700. It looks like a steal for a cutting-edge CPU, with eight cores, and 16 threads. But with a base clock of just 3GHz, and no support for AMD’s new XFR automated overclocking feature, those savings come at a price.
So, could the 1700X be the Goldilocks of the Ryzen range—neither too expensive nor too compromised? The clocks come in at 3.4GHz nominal and 3.8GHz Turbo. You get the same 16MB of shared L3 cache as the 1800X, and likewise both an unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking, and the XFR feature. Time to find out what she’ll do.
Most impressive is the chip’s performance in highly parallel workloads, such as content creation, media encoding, that sort of thing. Somehow, AMD’s engineers have come up with a simultaneous multi-threading technology that’s even more efficient than Intel’s Hyper-Threading. The result is that this eight-core chip monsters tasks like video encoding or professional image rendering.
For those kinds of jobs, this mere chip is roughly on a par with Intel’s Core i7-6900K beast. Meanwhile, it utterly obliterates the best of Intel’s CPUs for the mainstream LGA1151 socket, the Core i7-7700K. Following that initial victory, the picture becomes more nuanced.
In anything single-threaded, this chip isn’t quite such a killer. Depending on what Intel CPU you care to compare it with, you’re looking at a performance deficit of anywhere from around 10 to 20 percent.
Roughly 10 percent of that is down to AMD’s Zen architecture not being quite as powerful on a per-core and per-clock basis as Intel’s latest CPU designs. The other 10 percent is thanks to clock speeds that are just a little off Intel’s pace.
Speaking of clock speeds, one notable disappointment with all Ryzen CPUs we’ve seen is moderate overclocking headroom.
With an official Turbo speed of 3.8GHz, you might think 4GHz or more is on the cards, courtesy of that unlocked multiplier. Sadly not. Our sample chip could only keep its act together at 3.9GHz, making for an overclock of just 100MHz. AMD’s snazzy new XFR automated overclocking feature couldn’t do any better, either. That said, in testing at stock settings, our 1700X ran at 3.5GHz during heavily threaded workloads.
In other words, 3.9GHz represents more like a 400MHz overclock in the real world.
However, Ryzen’s most obvious weakness involves gaming. The precise reasons are unclear. Very likely, the fact that no existing PC games are compiled and optimized for what is a brand new CPU architecture is at least partly to blame. But there’s no denying the 1700X sometimes struggles to keep up with Intel CPUs in games. Most of the time, that’s moot.
Whether you’re getting 120 frames per second or 150 is academic. But in those few titles that really make heavy demands of your CPU, it could be the difference between smoothness and stutter. Of course, if you don’t game, that hardly matters. For everything else, this is one hell of a CPU.
Base/Turbo Clock 3.4GHz/3.8GHz
Memory Support DDR4 2,666MT/s
Memory Channels 2
Max PCIe Lanes 16+4
- Stunning multithreaded performance; superaggressive pricing; fully unlocked.
- Minimal overclocking
- headroom; patchy gaming performance