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.
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.
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.
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.