The really exciting AMD Ryzen CPUs aren't launching in March

AMD Ryzen Die Shot

Update February 23, 2017: The Ryzen 5 CPUs are the ones we're most excited about from a pure gaming point of view, but it looks like we're going to have to wait a while before we get mitts on those chips.

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An image from the Ryzen tech day this week shows a presentation slide displaying the relative release timing for the different levels of Ryzen processor. We know the big-boy eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 CPUs are coming on March 2 but it seems the six-core, 12-thread and four-core, eight-thread Ryzen 5 range won't appear until Q2 this year with the budget-oriented quad-core Ryzen 3 following after the Summer.

AMD Ryzen CPU

Generally Q2 means an April - June timeframe and we're expecting the AMD Vega GPUs to appear around then too. It might be that we see both Vega graphics cards and Ryzen 5 chips releasing at the same time, maybe around Computex in June, but I would expect their actual releases to be staggered, potentially with the vital Vega silicon arriving first.

Original story, February 13, 2017: I may be screwing my carefully cultivated PC elitist persona here, but I’m really not that bothered about the $500 eight-core / 16-thread AMD Ryzen processor. With the latest leaked price list putting the AMD R5 1400X at $199 that’s the Zen-based chip I’m jonesing for.

I can certainly understand why everyone’s getting their silicon in a twist over the AMD R7 chips, with their eight cores of Zen goodness and potential overclocking prowess. The R7 1700X has even had a few benchmarks released purporting to show the processor’s performance against a number of Intel chips, and they make for interesting reading for any CPU groupies out there. If you’re after a well-priced workstation chip then Ryzen could present the platform for you.

The benchmarks show the octa-core Ryzen performing admirably up against Intel’s $1,000 processors in CPU-intensive benchmarks and, for the most part, trading testing blows with the slightly more expensive six-core / 12-thread Intel Core i7 6800K.

AMD Ryzen architecture

Realistically though that’s not going to be the Ryzen chip I want to build a new gaming rig around. As much as the future of gaming is looking more and more multi-threaded - it’s honestly been looking that way for nearly a decade - we’re still seeing single-threaded performance being the key metric for gaming processors.

So do you really need 16 CPU threads in the machine you’re building for Mass Effect: Andromeda? I’m going to stick my neck out and say no.

Where the new AMD Ryzen chips look their most exciting from a gaming perspective is down towards the bottom of the rumoured CPU list. It’s the AMD R5 1400X that’s really piqued my interest. It's a quad-core / eight-thread processor (essentially the same core configuration as a Kaby Lake i7) with a 3.9GHz Turbo clockspeed and a sub-$200 price point.

That price though puts it head-to-head with Intel’s Core i5 7600K with the AMD chip still significantly under-cutting the Intel price. And there’s every reason to think that in overall performance we could see the R5 1400X capably outperforming it and at the very least keeping pace in gaming tests.

The latest benchmarks show what is expected to be an R7 1700X sample running in a low-end A320 motherboard without any of the Turbo mode shenanigans which would push its clockspeed up to 3.8GHz. That would mean the tests were all run with the new AMD CPU running at just 3.4GHz.

The CPU Mark single-threaded performance scores do show that in terms of million operations per second (MOps/sec) the base level Ryzen core is behind Intel on a clock-for-clock performance basis. It's possible the Intel scores are with those chips running at their Turbo speeds and not the displayed base clocks, which would make the actual performance a lot closer, especially once Ryzen gets to unleash its Turbo speeds.

While that test was reportedly based on an R7 1700X it should have around the same single-core performance as any Ryzen chip with clock parity. The R5 1400X with its base 3.5GHz clockspeed ought to be slightly quicker on the single-threaded front and at its peak 3.9GHz Turbo we ought to be getting close to the performance of a Core i5 7600K running at 4.2GHz. 

AMD Ryzen Extended Frequency Range

There’s also that extraneous ‘X’ on the end of the Ryzen chip which potentially denotes an overclocking-oriented SKU. That may mean it takes advantage of AMD’s extended frequency range (XFR) feature. This new Zen feature is designed to push a given processor beyond its rated Turbo clockspeed if there is enthusiast level cooling attached to the chip.

With the R5 1400X running a reported 65W TDP it’s possible with a decent liquid chip-chiller on top of the Ryzen CPU we could be pushing that processor way beyond its rated speeds and that will make a big difference to the single-threaded performance. That low TDP combined with XFR might make this chip Ryzen real overclocking hero and potentially the go-to gaming CPU of this year.

Pair the R5 1400X up with a $220 AMD RX 480 and you’ll have one seriously powerful gaming rig with a very tempting price tag.

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brundleflynet avatarbl00dywarrior667 avatarKee avatarTeam's Anchor avatargreyghostvol1 avatar
bl00dywarrior667 Avatar
5
10 Months ago

Its true that you don't need 8/16 for gaming but if you are a power user then it is nice to have. I am excited for the more power efficient R7 1700 65W model as well. That will make a nice home/game server setup, with 16+ GB of ram, raid 1 HDD, a little micro ATX in a small cube case.

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Kee Avatar
2
10 Months ago

At least to me it really depends on how well these CPU are going to perform in single threaded operations. I've seen the benchmarks from wccftech allegedly showing off the performance of the R7 1700X. As far as single threaded performance goes, it hardly outperformed the i5-3570k that I've been using in my machine for over 4 years. Now they were saying that the turbo might not have worked properly, which does leave some possibilities open and warrants waiting for some more extensive benchmarks.

But you see my issue here? Invest ~$500 into a new CPU, MB and RAM for virtually no performance gain in tasks that matter to me?

So far it still seems that an i7-7700k is the most interesting option for gamers. Which is too bad since Intel's been really slacking off in these recent years.

Of course when it comes to other applications this new generation of AMDs offers very interesting options.

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bl00dywarrior667 Avatar
5
10 Months ago

One thread at 3.0ghz will never be that different than any other thread at 3.0ghz.

Why are you so focused on single thread performance? Most applications use multi-thread/cores. Even gaming is moving into multi-core with vulkan and DX12.

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Kee Avatar
2
10 Months ago

It's due to the nature of the games that I like to play, you may call them terribly optimized.

Things like ArmA 3, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout 4, Kingdom Come: Deliverance and similar open world or survival games.

You also have to keep in mind that things like Vulkan or DX12 are not a magical fix for these issues. It gives developers the option to reduce overhead and so forth, but it's the developers themselves who have to design their game to be able to distribute the workload over multiple threads efficiently. It's not a trivial thing to do, hence many smaller studios seem to pay little attention to it.

To my own disappointment I've got plenty of empirical evidence (MSI Afterburner logs, with FPS, CPU, GPU and memory readouts) that the CPU is the limiting factor when it comes to FPS drops in these games. The GTX 1070 is certainly not the problem in my system. In fact most of the time it runs in zero-fan-mode because frame rate limited by the CPU won't let it use its potential.

But again, this applies to me and perhaps people who like to play the same or similar games. If you play things like BF1 or other games that use the Forstbite engine, you'll certainly benefit from more cores/threads.

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brundleflynet Avatar
1
10 Months ago

It ain't worth, if you buy a liquid cooler as you stated, you are going to add soemthing like $80-100, better stay with Intel monopoly if Ryzen performs so low.

About 1700X and 1800X that's only a marketing hype, who care about 8/16 threads if 90% of us use the pc for gaming ?

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bl00dywarrior667 Avatar
5
10 Months ago

Um, not sure what the cost of a water cooler has to do with anything when just as many intels have water cooling. Or why exactly you think the Ryzen has a bad performance. But to inform you PC gaming is moving toward optimization for multi-core processors with Vulkan and DX12, so in a few years 8 cores could be very useful.

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Team's Anchor Avatar
1
10 Months ago

Not really, well maybe hard to say for sure. The 4 core 4 thread is about the same price as an i3. 4 core 8 thread is about the same price as the i5. give or take a few bucks. The 4 core 8 thread should give in between i5 7600 and i7 7700 performance with the only real advantage being the i7 has a bigger clock speed given their IPC should be similar. So you could by the i5 but you wont get better performance for the same $ at least until Intel drop the prices. I think AMD have been clever with their pricing and in one hand hope they start a price war but I know they probably couldn't afford it even if they do have a kickass chip.

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greyghostvol1 Avatar
1
10 Months ago

The article said that with a water cooler, it could be possible that you could get some serious OC'ing out of the lower end CPU, not that you necessarily need one.

I'm pretty positive, considering the relatively low tdp these CPUs are supposed to have, that a simple Hyper 212 will suffice, and get you some decent results.

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