AMD RYZES AGAIN

IT’S NOT QUITE ZEN 2, BUT AMD’S SEC­OND RYZEN IN­CAR­NA­TION STILL HAS A FEW ACES UP ITS SLEEVE. BEN­NETT RING TESTS THE NEW 2000-SE­RIES CPUS AND X470 MOTHERBOARDS.

APC Australia - - Contents -

It’s not quite Zen 2, but AMD’s sec­ond Ryzen in­car­na­tion still has a few aces up its sleeve.

It’s not an un­der­state­ment to say that AMD smashed it out of the park with 2017’s re­lease of the multi-headed Hy­dra that was the Ryzen CPU range. The com­pany’s long-term strat­egy of re­leas­ing CPUs with ever-more cores fi­nally paid off, re­leas­ing six- and eight-cored beasts at the same price as In­tel’s quad-cored chips, deal­ing In­tel a heavy blow when it came to ap­pli­ca­tions that could make use of so many cores. Ryzen also added SMT, or Si­mul­ta­ne­ous Mul­ti­thread­ing, a tech­nol­ogy very sim­i­lar to In­tel’s Hyper­Thread­ing, al­low­ing each core to han­dle two threads at once. Add in a very healthy im­prove­ment when it came to In­struc­tions Per Cy­cle (IPC) com­pared to its last chips, and we fi­nally had a CPU war rag­ing once again.

While In­tel still re­tained a slight lead in ap­pli­ca­tions that weren’t heav­ily threaded — which are cur­rently still the norm, es­pe­cially in games — AMD had a win­ner on its hands in mul­ti­threaded apps. And it did so at a stel­lar price point, around half of what In­tel was charg­ing for com­pa­ra­ble mul­ti­threaded CPUs. In­tel quickly lashed back with its 7th-gen­er­a­tion Core CPU, dou­bling the num­ber of cores while

main­tain­ing a de­cent IPC lead over the Ryzen, but by then, the cat was out of the bag. AMD motherboards sup­port­ing the new Ryzen pro­ces­sors ar­rived in droves, even though AMD’s in­crease in CPU mar­ket share be­tween 2016 and 2017 was only around 3%. How­ever, that fig­ure ig­nores the fact that peo­ple don’t up­grade their PCs ev­ery year, in­di­cat­ing a strong up­take in AMD CPU pur­chases. Not one to rest on its lau­rels, AMD is re­leas­ing the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of the Zen ar­chi­tec­ture that pow­ers the Ryzen CPUs, known as Zen+.

The two launch chips we’ll be cov­er­ing this is­sue are the Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 7 2700X. At first glance, they might seem to be an in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ment on the first Ryzen chips, yet there are some deeper changes that make these new chips wor­thy of your con­sid­er­a­tion if you’re yet to pull the Ryzen pin. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Ryzen chips is also a new moth­er­board chipset in the form of the X470, which re­places last year’s X370.

BUILD­ING A BET­TER BASE

Be­fore we delve into the specifics of the new CPUs, let’s take a look at the new X470 chipset. Blessed be the engi­neers at AMD, as you don’t ac­tu­ally need to up­grade to the X470 to take ad­van­tage of Zen+ CPUs. They’ll quite hap­pily play with last year’s X370based boards, just make sure it has the ‘Ryzen Desk­top 2000 Ready’ moniker some­where on its web­page or BIOS down­load site.

The X470 uses the same AM4 socket, a pin grid ar­ray lay­out AMD has been us­ing for years. Yes, this means you’ll have to be ex­tra care­ful about not bend­ing any pins on the bot­tom of your new CPU, but it also means you don’t have to worry about bend­ing pins in­side the CPU socket, which can be even harder to straighten.

The eas­i­est im­prove­ment to no­tice with the X470 is an ap­par­ent in­crease in the of­fi­cially sup­ported mem­ory speed, from 2,666MHz to 2,999MHz. It’s a lit­tle vague, though, with some ‘ boards claim­ing it as the norm, while oth­ers say­ing it’s an over­clocked speed. We also found the same mem­ory speed gl­itch when test­ing these ‘ boards as the X370 — the twin 8GB G.Skill Sniper DDR4-3,444MHz mem­ory mod­ules that were sup­plied with our re­view kits usu­ally de­faulted to 2,133MHz when in­stalled. To hit 2,999MHz re­quired us to en­ter the BIOS to man­u­ally change the mem­ory speed or switch­ing to XMP mode. Hav­ing said that, once we’d done so, ev­ery ‘ board ran at 2,999MHz with­out a hitch.

The other ma­jor fea­ture of the new X470 is what AMD is call­ing ‘StoreMI’ tech­nol­ogy, a soft­ware so­lu­tion that can even be pur­chased for X370 boards, for be­tween US$20 and US$60, de­pend­ing on how large you want your hy­brid drive to be. It’s akin to In­tel’s Op­tane tech­nol­ogy, al­low­ing your SSD to op­er­ate as a cache to your cranky old me­chan­i­cal drive. Un­for­tu­nately, we didn’t have time to test this out, but have heard ru­mours that it’s com­pat­i­ble with Op­tane, which would be hi­lar­i­ous if true. AMD also claims that the X470 has a more re­fined power sys­tem, which should de­liver bet­ter over­clock­ing re­sults, with many over­clock­ers hit­ting 4.4GHz on all eight cores un­der load on the top of the line Ryzen 7 2700X (it usu­ally op­er­ates at 3.7GHz when all eight cores are push­ing data around). Other than that, though, this chipset seems to be busi­ness as usual, with the X470 be­ing ba­si­cally

“AMD had a win­ner on its hands in multi-threaded apps, and it did so at a stel­lar price point.”

iden­ti­cal to its pre­de­ces­sor. So then, on to the more in­ter­est­ing busi­ness — the Zen+ ar­chi­tec­ture it­self.

THE BIG­GEST IM­PROVE­MENT IS THE SMALL­EST

All of the new Ryzen CPUs are built on the same Zen+ ar­chi­tec­ture, so we’re go­ing to ex­plain the ba­sics for them be­fore ex­plain­ing how the four mod­els dif­fer. The big­gest change to the Zen+ ar­chi­tec­ture is ac­tu­ally its small­est: that’s to say that it has un­der­gone a man­u­fac­tur­ing process shrink, down from 14nm on the orig­i­nal Zen to 12nm, thanks to the folks at Glob­al­Foundries. This is smaller than In­tel’s ex­ist­ing 14nm+ process, and re­cent news sug­gests In­tel won’t hit 10nm un­til 2019 — a rather large de­lay from the ini­tial claims that it would hit 10nm in 2015. This means that the Zen+ can scale to faster fre­quen­cies with­out re­quir­ing ex­tra juice or heat; in fact, the en­tire Zen+ range has seen a 50mV re­duc­tion in core volt­age at the same time as in­creas­ing in speed. Help­ing to keep these chips even chill­ier is a re­fined In­te­grated Heat Spreader, which uses a new in­dium al­loy and die met­alli­sa­tion to de­liver tem­per­a­tures up to 10ºC cooler than the first-gen­er­a­tion Zen.

AMD has also paid at­ten­tion to the Zen+’s IPC per­for­mance, al­though it’s still lag­ging be­hind In­tel in this re­gard.

It does so through four en­hance­ments, and cache per­for­mance is es­pe­cially en­hanced. Ac­cord­ing to AMD’s specs, L1 cache la­tency has dropped by 13%, L2 by 34%, L3 by 16% and DRAM la­tency by 11%. There’s even more metic­u­lous power mon­i­tor­ing and de­liv­ery through­out the chip thanks to its ‘Pre­ci­sion Boost 2’ im­prove­ments with the re­sult that, in ideal in­stances, all 16 threads on the new Ryzen 7 2600X can op­er­ate at the same fre­quency an orig­i­nal Ryzen CPU could man­age on just two. Over­all, these im­prove­ments com­bine to give the Zen+ a 3% IPC im­prove­ment when com­pared to the Zen de­sign at the same clock speed.

FOUR TO THE FLOOR

AMD is ini­tially launch­ing four new Zen+ based CPUs, and the ta­ble (left) hand­ily demon­strates how they dif­fer. The amount of cache has in­creased, as have the fre­quen­cies. How­ever, there is a trade-off de­spite the power im­prove­ments, with the 2700X’s TDP in­creas­ing to 105W, up from the prior Ryzen 7’s 1800X TDP of 95W. The good news is that all of the new Ryzens now come bun­dled with an air-cooled heatsink, and they’re of a sur­pris­ingly high qual­ity. We were very im­pressed at the vol­ume lev­els of the Wraith Prism un­der heavy load, reach­ing just 44dB dur­ing the stress­ful con­di­tions of Prime95’s Small FFT Tor­ture test. In other words, you’re not go­ing to hear even the hottest CPU once it’s in­side a case.

TO UP­GRADE OR NOT TO UP­GRADE?

If you’re an ex­ist­ing owner of the first gen­er­a­tion of Ryzen CPU, the in­cre­men­tal na­ture of the per­for­mance in­crease doesn’t jus­tify splash­ing out on a new Ryzen. How­ever, they do of­fer per­for­mance that is com­pa­ra­ble to In­tel’s CPUs at a more wal­let-friendly cost when you con­sider they in­clude cool­ing and an over­all lower en­try price. Un­for­tu­nately, our bench­marks don’t re­ally il­lus­trate this per­for­mance par­ity, as they tend to fo­cus on sin­glethreaded per­for­mance (we sadly had to re­move the HWBot bench­mark due to on­go­ing is­sues with HPET tim­ing and the Melt­down/Spec­tre fi­asco). But we can con­fi­dently say that multi-threaded ap­pli­ca­tions are rapidly be­com­ing the norm, and its here that the new Ryzen shines.

If you’re look­ing for the ul­ti­mate gam­ing beast, In­tel is still the go-to guy in the room, but for most users, AMD’s spiffy new Ryzen is a very com­pelling op­tion in­deed. Just re­mem­ber that you’re also go­ing to need to buy a ded­i­cated graph­ics card as, un­like AMD’s APUs, the Ryzen CPU doesn’t in­clude an in­te­grated GPU.

AMD’s stel­lar-priced Ryzen 5 2600X de­liv­ers great per­for­mance.

Step­ping up to a Ryzen 7 2700X gives you a smidge more en­cod­ing power.

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