Gordon Mah Ung cuts through the chatter, myths and hearsay
With the Ryzen 7 launch just over two months ago and Ryzen 5 now here, AMD’s comeback CPUs are generating as much controversy, confusion, and misinformation as they are excitement. Here we cut through the chatter to give you the real answers about AMD’s latest CPU.
PERCEPTION: Ryzen runs hot REALITY: Not true
Despite really low thermal design power (TDP) ratings, Ryzen chips have oddly been labelled as running hot. The problem seems to relate to how utilities are reading the new chips’ on-die sensors. AMD, in fact, just disclosed that certain CPUs feature offsets that make it look as though they are running hot.
“In the short term, users of the AMD Ryzen 1700X and 1800X can simply subtract 20°C to determine the true junction temperature of their processor. No arithmetic is required for the Ryzen 7 1700. Long term, we expect temperature monitoring software to better
understand our tCTL offsets to report the junction temperature automatically,” the company wrote in a blog post.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about Ryzen performance under stock settings – not overclocked. Even so, if the tool were off by 20°C in the upward direction, it would definitely appear to be hot. The fix is likely to come once the utilities are updated to recognise the offset of the CPU.
PERCEPTION: Ryzen is terrible when it comes to gaming REALITY: Not true
If there’s just one fact from this entire feature that you should remember, it’s this one: Ryzen is not terrible for gaming. Yes, even if your friend heard it from a friend who was watching a friend’s Twitch stream, we repeat: it is not terrible for gaming.
AMD’s gaming performance can at times be perplexing. In multi-threaded and single-threaded applications, it’s generally outstanding. In tested games, however, Ryzen tends to takes third place behind Intel’s Kaby Lake and Broadwell-E CPUs. This is akin to saying an Olympic 100m runner is ‘slow’ for getting a bronze medal. Of course, its gaming performance at higher resolutions and highquality visual settings is mostly imperceptible, because that usually turns into a GPU load, rather than a CPU load. In sum, Ryzen is a fine gaming CPU and not terrible at all.
PERCEPTION: AMD is as good as Intel in gaming today REALITY: Partially true
We’ve said that Ryzen isn’t terrible for gaming, but it’s also not the best. The vast majority of our own tests, along with those conducted by other reviewers, show that when using today’s games and today’s version of Windows, Ryzen takes a back seat to Intel’s CPUs.
This can be seen at the most popular resolution of 1080p and lower, and even at higher-quality settings in some games. The processor will also likely falter with monitors that push high refresh rates, such as 120- or 144Hz. As much as some fans may not want to accept it, the chip isn’t as good as Core i7 in many gaming scenarios.
Ryzen will be as good as Intel, however, when you run that game at 4K Ultra HD resolution. At higher resolutions – which is where you should be playing with a beefy GPU such as a GTX 1080 or GTX 1080 Ti – the graphics card becomes the bottleneck, and you’ll notice little or no difference between a Ryzen or Core i7.
Ryzen has proved itself equal to or better to Intel Core i7 in some games. However, reasonable observers would agree that Intel has the lead given today’s conditions. Tomorrow there may be optimisations, but tomorrow is not today, and the frame rate today is what gamers care about.
The other possible advantage Ryzen may have over Intel’s quad-core gaming chips is in game hitching. Anecdotal reports have suggested some games on Ryzen will see fewer hitches than they’d experience with a quad-core CPU, due to the additional cores on the AMD chip. PERCEPTION: An eight-core chip is a better gaming CPU if you want to be the next YouTube sensation REALITY: True Reasonable people will agree that Intel’s parts are faster than AMD’s chips for today’s games, but that’s for traditional gaming. The exhibitionist culture of today means you don’t play by yourself anymore – you’re probably streaming live to an audience on YouTube, Twitch or Facebook as you try to become the next internet sensation.
Reasonable people will agree that having more cores for real-time game streaming means having an eight-core CPU is better. That’s because most streaming software uses the CPU to encode the stream, which eats up resources. A quad-core processor will run out of resources before an eight-core chip does, leading to dropped frames and hitching.
This isn’t even a partisan divide. Sure, AMD has pushed more cores as an advantage of its Ryzen over Intel’s Kaby Lake, and Intel has used the same argument for pushing its six- and eight-core Core i7 chips over its own quad-core chips.
There’s an argument that using GPU encoding, such as GeForce Experience’s ShadowPlay, works just as well. This is true, but most streamers are very much the definition of content creators and will use video editors daily.
In the end, if you do want to be the next YouTube or Twitch sensation, an eight-core chip is the better choice. PERCEPTION: It’s Windows 10’s fault REALITY: Not true As people tried to get to the bottom of why Ryzen performed so well in applications (both multi-and single-threaded) but not on games, the usual suspect was called in for questioning: Windows. Many theorised that its scheduler, or the part of the OS that doles out workloads to the CPU, just wasn’t playing nicely with Ryzen. In the end, AMD itself cleared Microsoft as a suspect, saying the scheduler is functioning correctly.
We reached out to Microsoft to confirm whether it was indeed working on correcting issues with the scheduler on Ryzen, but at the time of writing had not heard back.
If AMD itself is saying Windows 10 isn’t at fault, that pretty much settles it. Considering that Linux kernel needed a patch to account for Ryzen’s multi-threading, how did Windows 10 skate through? It’s not like a vendor would be ordered to fall on its own sword to protect Windows 10’s reputation, right? PERCEPTION: Reviewers who wrote negative things about Ryzen are shills for Intel REALITY: Not true (mostly) It’s almost impossible to fact check for shills, because many influences on reviewers are unseen and impossible to prove. What we can say is that many of those accused of being biased towards Intel are also among those AMD itself cited in the coverage of the new Ryzen chip.
If that were the case, why would AMD point to their coverage as proof of the success of Ryzen? Many of the reviewers of the processor have also continued to follow initial coverage with additional testing, in an attempt to get to the bottom of why Ryzen isn’t quite as fast as Intel in gaming.
Short of accessing the bank accounts of all supposed shills, we can chalk up the accusations to the pent-up enthusiasm of a dedicated fan base. PERCEPTION: There’s a massive shortage of motherboards REALITY: Mostly true After an initial shortage of Ryzen CPUs, they are now readily available. The problem is that you may not be able to get a motherboard to put it in.
Specifically, it’s hard to find the top-end, enthusiast-focused X370 boards. Plenty of the more sedate B350 boards are available.
No need to throw in the towel, though. Spot checks on Amazon (at the time of writing) showed some availability. One motherboard vendor promised that more were arriving by the boatload.
Still, we’ll rate this as mostly true, because when you have a shiny new Ryzen 1700 staring at you from your build bench, you’re not going to be a patient camper.