The newly-developed AMD Ryzen CPU series makes octa-core devices affordable, opening brand-new performance areas that many couldn’t access before.
For many years, the development of PC processors laid stagnant. Although Intel eventually realised that its annual tick-tock evolutionary steps could not continue in the same manner, it felt no pressure due to its overwhelming market dominance. On the other camp, AMD’s ‘Bulldozer’ architecture steered the company into a dead end – of inefficiency and poor performance per core – at the end of 2011. When that happened, the company was no longer competitive, while Intel could keep its prices high despite a lack of innovation. However,
AMD’s processor division is now back in business and is using a newly developed CPU generation to rock Intel’s throne. And it’s doing so with enough momentum to threaten Intel’s market dominance, using its highly affordable yet power AMD Ryzen CPUs.
What’s special about Ryzen is the high number of processor cores, which also – and this is a first for AMD – process two threads per core. Instead of the four cores and eight threads of Intel’s Kaby Lake i7, the Ryzen 7 CPUs that were unveiled in March offer eight cores and 16 threads for normal home PCs. In addition, the prices and the power consumption levels of the new AMD processors are very reasonable. Furthermore, AMD has also caught up with Intel in terms of the performance per clock cycle. All of this adds up to a lot of power for multi-threading and parallel applications, such as game-streaming.When it comes to streaming games, the CPU must encode and pass the content of the screen while a CPU-intensive game is running. Thanks to a new 14-nm production process, as well as numerous sensors, precise controlling of cycles and performance, AMD’s Ryzen has the ability to do all of this very efficiently.
Since we were able to test the platform and CPUs in recent months, we decided to once again give an overview of both, show you the performances that are achievable through them, and touch on some of its key characteristics.
AM4 motherboards include all interfaces
Ryzen requires a motherboard with an AM4 socket and a ‘promontory’ chipset. All the desktop CPUs that are scheduled to be released by 2018 feature the AM4 socket, which has 1331 pins. Unlike Intel, the Ryzen models have integrated the controllers and interfaces that are required for operation. This is, for example, supposed to facilitate an optimal performance for NVMe SSDs and graphics cards. Every Ryzen PC needs the latter, because there are no graphics solution integrated into the CPU. The motherboard chipset – which is connected to the processor through a four-fold PCIe 3.0 speed – is only required for additional interfaces. There are three variants: X370, B350, and A320. The X370 comes with all the latest features, while the B350 is actually a trimmed down version that lacks four USB-3.1 gen. 2 ports. Furthermore, it also has two fewer SATA ports and does not support the use of CrossFireX or SLI. Both the X370 and B350 can be overclocked and are already available globally. On the other hand, the announced A320 has relatively meagre
features, lacking additional USB and SATA ports.
The USB-3.1 gen. 2 USB chip for four 10 GB/s peripheral devices that is integrated into the CPU represents a noticeable advantage that Ryzen has over all Intel CPUs. Its 20 free PCIe 3.0 lanes leave very little elbow room; a graphics card with 16 lanes and an NVMe SSD with four lanes would exhaust its capacity. Even the dual-channel DDR4 RAM controller is more in line with the mainstream class than high-end ones (Intel’s X99 platform offers four channels, while Kaby Lake offers two).
In terms of the micro-architecture, AMD has done everything in its power to ensure that many cores can work simultaneously at a high speed. The biggest flaw in the previous Bulldozer technology was that it connected powerful computing cores in such an unfavorable way that the act of waiting took up a lot of their (energy-intensive) computing time. In
Ryzen’s case, the new 14-nm production process has greatly reduced the energy and heat wastage, while also providing the completely-separate cores with sufficiently large caches. Just like Intel CPUs, this also facilitates efficient multi-threading. With Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT), each Ryzen core can now process two computing threads at the
same time. AMD has also improved the so-called ‘branch prediction’ feature, which uses circuits to examine programme code that has been executed and pre-emptively load the expected data queries in the caches. In order to simplify scalability up to server platforms, a pool of 8-MB level-3 caches is used to connect each group of four cores to a ‘CPU Core
Complex’ (CCX). In the octa-core processors that were recently presented, two CCX are connected to each other via the ‘Infinity Fabric’ data transport and control structure.
CPUs already on the market
The 1800X, 1700X and 1700 of the ‘Ryzen 7’ series of processors were first
launched in March, then April saw the official launch of the ‘Ryzen 5’
series. Ryzen 5 consists of quad-core to hexa-core processors (see table
on page 70) and are significantly cheaper when compared to their higherend
With clock speeds that are similar to those of Ryzen 7 CPUs, they are particularly well-suited for applications that use less cores.
Regardless, there is one rule that all Ryzen CPUs follow. And that is the fact that when all the cores are fully utilised, the CPU runs in conjunction with its nominal clock pulse. If only one or two cores are subjected to a load, they may go up to the ‘boost’ frequency. The temperatures and energy levels are monitored by numerous sensors. At the same time, the XFR technology converts upward latitude (e.g. in case of a particularly strong cooling system) into performance. In case of the ‘X’ Ryzens, it’s an additional 100 MHz (Ryzen 5 1500X: 200 MHz) in clock speed, while the models without an ‘X’ in their names can only add 50MHz. Just like Intel’s ‘K’ processors, all the Ryzens (5 and 7) feature afreely-selectable multiplier. Consequently, if you’re using a motherboard featuring an X370 or B350 chipset, you can run a few tests and determine the highest clock speed possible, which facilitates even more stable operations in the presence of a separate cooling solution.
Ryzen Performance Under A Magnifying Glass
We got to put the three Ryzen 7 CPUs through their paces recently and can safely say that they open up brand-new performance dimensions, within a price framework that is quite reasonable for home PCs. If you want to squeeze a similar amount of power out of an Intel device, you will have to go for its costly Broadwell CPUs, which are supposed to target
enthusiasts. The biggest strength of the AMD Ryzen involves applications that benefit from multiple threads (like video coding, rendering and encryption) and scenarios in which multiple applications run simultaneously; that’s the distinct advantage of having eight fast cores. In
most cases, you can keep working normally no matter what kind of CPUintensive tasks the Ryzen is performing at the moment of time.
The situation is different when it comes to games, which benefit more from higher clock speeds as opposed to CPU core count. Although there is currently no game that can push the Ryzen 7 1700 or its big brother all the way up to the limits, Intel’s mainstream Core i7-7700K CPU does have an edge in this department due to its higher clock speed.