AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Review

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The Final Words 

It’s been a long time coming for AMD. The past year or four have been pretty dramatic for the company. They have been unable to keep up with market milking Intel in terms of per core performance, and then the economy collapsed as well. Ryzen, however, brings AMD back to the table, and they have a strong hand to deal. The introduced processors have been nothing short of impressive looking at them from any perspective. That will bring much needed competition back into the game. Even today at launch, AMD will introduce a processor that can compete with Intel’s 8-core 6900K processor for less than half the price of what Intel is asking. Not just that, Intel is charging an arm and a leg for their motherboard chipsets hence the artificially inflated high prices. There's where AMD will make a difference as well. It's all more fair. So thanks to AMD, that means 8-core is going mainstream, and that opens up a plethora of possibilities for developers and game designers if the market slowly moves to more cores that are properly fast as well. Thing is though, Intel remains the top dawg in this arena, they can answer to anything that AMD has to offer and they do have a little more flexibility in terms of clock frequencies. None the less, with the Ryzen series processors AMD offers close to equal raw processor performance and sometimes even faster performance, for far better prices.


The Experience

Intel’s biggest worry however isn’t Ryzen, it’s the fact that Intel has been charging a lot, maybe even too much money for their processors for years now, with little innovation. Intel has become increasingly agressive as hey, their desktop processors sell anyway. This results in a generic dislike towards Intel from a lot of people. This gives AMD an extra advantage as there is a proper amount of goodwill that people have towards this company. People like the underdog, especially when they bring something to the table that really impresses. So yes, if AMD plays their cards right and do not overprice their processors, they may have a colossal win at hand. That said I am also issuing a bit of a warning: we have no doubt that with the new generation processors and chipsets there are bound to be a few motherboard firmware updates and fixes for smaller bugs. Hey, it comes with the territory. We quite honestly did not run into stuff that worried us. The motherboard used seems pretty well tuned, we had no stability issues or any weird perf drops. We deliberately tested with a competing videocard (Nvidia versus AMD) as well, here again the performance is fine.

The RAW Performance

Overall we like what we are seeing with the Ryzen 7 1800X, the per core performance most certainly is good enough for what and where it needs to be. Realistically the performance overall hits an amazing sweet-spot. Combined with higher Turbo frequencies these processors shine bright. But do you need an 8-core processor for gaming? Well, probably not. But we had the very same discussion moving from two to four cores remember? So if you hang on to that thought, would you purchase a dual-core processor over a four-core one? Nope, and along these lines you need to think as we need to advance in hardware, the software will then follow in this technological evolution. I also do know that a setup like this could last you years as, again, the IPC perf is really good and you have many threads available. Since processors seem to reach frequency walls in SMT based processing, even for games it is a growing thing. Also think DirectX 12 and Vulkan here for a second, the new render APIs benefit from threaded processing.

The Gaming Performance

So here is where we need to write an entire paragraph. You have been able to see that the Ryzen 7 1800X performance is good, but not just yet 100% where it needs to be. During the past week we have been going back and forth to figure out what could be causing the relatively lower game performance. To date, we have no valid answer to that. The graphics card runs properly at PCI-Express x16 3.0. We know from the RAW and synthetic performance benchmarks that the cores are fast enough, in fact VERY fast. Somehow that does not relate to game performance. It will be interesting to see if other media / websites will show similar results to ours. It rather feels and smells a little like what Nvidia has been fighting a while ago, a DPC latency issue. Next to that we find Ryzen 7 rather memory bound with fairly high memory latency in the 80 to 100ns+ ranges depending on your configuration. It is what it is though, the performance definitely is good enough for what it needs to be, but currently at 1080P with a fast enough GPU the performance lacks a little compared to where it needs to be and can be. I will need to give AMD the benefit of the doubt here, the platform is young and everything is new. The processor certainly is fast enough compared to the Intel 59xx / 69xx counterparts. We will keep an eye on this and when we have to report anything about it we'll update this content. And also in closing on this topic, if you are a little GPU bound or use 2560x1440, this really is a non-issue as perf there is top notch.

The Bad

If I may nitpick just a little bit then two things I find to be a bit of a mystery. Firstly, I simply would have liked to have seen quad-channel memory support. When you test a processor that is fighting the Core i7 6900K series from Intel, you would want it to have quad-channel support on the platform. It most likely was a cost saving feature as it would have required additional IO and memory controllers and more data-paths. A true fact is also that 95% of you guys that will use, say, anything from 2133 MHZ to 3200 MHz memory with two DIMMs, and you will be totally fine with the memory bandwidth as it really isn't going to restrict you with gaming aside from a 2, maybe 3% differential (at the normal gaming resolutions). It is however the content creators and video transcoders that will make a different call as there quad-channel memory really kicks in. My second remark is that i would have liked to see some more PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes on the CPU. The Ryzen processor has 24 of them, four are tied and thus linked to the chipset which leaves 20 lanes. If you run a properly fast NVMe M.2 SSD another four are used, leaving 16 for the the graphics card. Thus, in Crossfire or SLI you would be looking at two x8 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes. Here again, that's plenty of bandwidth sure, but if AMD wanted to go that extra mile against Intel then I certainly would have appreciated two full x16 Gen 3.0 lanes. Tied to four Ryzen PCIe 3.0 lanes is the chipset, and here we find a flaw. The chipset adds PCI express lanes but they are Gen 2.0 and not Gen 3.0. This gives Intel another competitive advantage when comparing to the upper range Core i7 6000 series. For example, a secondary M.2 device would have to be linked through the chipset (as there is no room left on the processor with the graphics card utilizing a x16 PCIe link), and there your NVMe storage unit immediately runs into a restriction as the available bandwidth was just cut in half. A 3.2 GB/sec M.2 unit would do 1.6 GB/s on that connection. Still, not bad but again, wouldn't AMD like to be a step ahead of Intel? Ergo I am not happy about the fact that the chipset does not offer any PCI-Express 3.0 lanes, not even the slightest bit. Again, if you are planning to use just one high-end graphics card, one super-duper fast M.2 unit and then HDDs or SSDs for storage this entire paragraph would be irrelevant, also multi-GPU setups seem to be dying a slow death so that makes this even more irrelevant, that is the honest truth as well.

The Memory

The AMD Ryzen platform supports DDR4 1866, 2133, 2400 and even 2667 MHz straight out of the box with two DIMMs. Higher frequencies are motherboard dependant. With the initial releases you should be able to see 3200 MHz supported (OC) but we have already noticed 3766 MHz from some partners. Honestly, take a nice low latency kit as the memory frequency is not the most important thing. We are however a little surprised that AMD did not decide to go with quad-channel as an offering. It's a really cheap way to gain incredibly high memory bandwidth, even with 2133 Mhz modules. See, the higher clocked memory DIMMs are expensive and while they do offer better bandwidth, the performance increases in real-world usage will be hard to find. Unless you transcode videos over the processor a lot. DDR4 mostly was released for lower voltages and higher frequencies. 2,133 MHz CL 14/15/16 memory in combo with dual-channel will get you to 30~35 GB/sec. For gaming you will not notice huge performance improvements with higher memory bandwidth, but with content creation and video transcoding this kind of bandwidth certainly does make a difference. If you populate your Ryzen PC with four DIMMs, at the time of writing this article you are restricted to 2400 MHz modules. That number will go up once the motherboard BIOSes get more mature. So that is not a memory controller problem, more of a time restrictive thing for this rather fast launch. As always, my advice would be to go with lower clocked DDR4 memory with decent timings, but get more of it. Don't go for 8 GB, we find 16 GB the norm for a gaming rig these days. So for now, stick to two DIMMs at 8 or 16 GB per DIMM.

One piece of advice on memory, I have swapped out some 3200 MHz kits from G.Skill and Crucial, these did not kick in by selecting XMP or the AMD equivalent (naming differs per motherboard). We know the board partners are hard at work adding memory compatibility, we strongly suggest you check the QVL (Qualified Vendor List that shows compatible products) at the motherboard partner website to see what is compatible and then base your memory purchase on that. We advise you to simply insert memory frequency, timings and voltages manully for now.

The Power

With eight cores I was expecting this processor to be a power hog, but AMD's focus for the past years has been making smaller fab processes with, in the end, more energy efficient products. With this processor now fabbed at 14 nm FinFET the TDP sticks at a low 95 Watts and with the system at idle I was a little shocked, with a GeForce GTX 1080 installed / 16 GB memory / SSD and the X370 motherboard I hovered at just under 50 Watts. That's just great and that is testimony to the 14nm fabrication as smaller packages can do with less voltage. When we stressed the processor with a Prime 1024M run we reach roughly 145 Watts, that's low enough for what it needs to be, but we do find it higher than expected. Overall though this is impressive to see. When we game we hover at 260~300 Watts, but obviously that factor is dependant on the type of graphics card you use of course. So yeah, these are really good values with a many core product. No complaints here whatsoever.

The Tweak

Overclocking will be different and will take a little to get used to. With a proper liquid cooler and a lucky processor most of you will reach the 4.2 GHz range on all eight-cores. This threshold is more or less the same for 8-core Intel processors, as more cores create more heat and complexity. Our Haswell-E and Broadwell-E samples we tweaked broadly speaking are all in the roughly the same ranges. My 5960X for example on the test rig is at 4.3 GHz max. I do want to say that Intel likely is able to tweak a little higher in general. The one thing that is different tweaking wise is that you’ll need to overclock all cores. So, 4.1 GHz really is 4.1 GHz to each and every core. These cores cannot be binned and split up towards, say, two at 4.2, two at 4.0 and so on. There seems to be a multiplier restriction per core complex (thus per four cores). All the 8-core processors seem to tweak to 4.1 GHz 100% stable, 4.2 GHz might need a little more advanced tweaking. Some processors however have better ASIC quality and perhaps might even reach 4.3 on proper cooling (LCS). On that topic, remember that you will need proper liquid cooling, as 8-cores produce heat. It's as simple as that. We find that the Ryzen 7 1800X is easy to overclock, you could increase the voltage but we advise the AUTO voltage mode really. Then select your multiplier of choice and you are good to go. One downside is that you cannot bin the cores individually. The nature of Ryzen also will not allow independent per core overclocking as they are tied to the CCX cluster. Maybe, and again maybe, we will see some sort of CCX tweak become available where you can tweak, say, 4 cores to 4200 MHz and the other four to 3900 MHz. Time will tell, but I would find that to be a terrific alternative. I hope AMD and the board partners take up on this rather subtle hint. Delidding Ryzen - somebody is bound to ask it hence I'll address it right here and now, but delidding the processor will not be possible for the simple reason that there are sensors on the heatspreader. Delidding the processor would break it.


The Conclusion

Any of the Ryzen 7 series processors will be fine for whatever you want to do with it. Even the cheapest of them all (the Ryzen 7 1700) which we have not reviewed but hopefully will test in the coming weeks, will offer you a nice gaming experience and the raw power to perform serious content creation as well. Today we have seen the first results on the flagship 8-core model, the Ryzen 7 1800X, and we like it just as much as we like the similar product from Intel. The thing is, this CPU is half the price of what Intel is charging, and AMD doesn’t have expensive chipsets either so the motherboards will be very affordable as well. What if you are already own a 6 or 8 core Intel processor setup? Honestly, there’s little to no reason for you to upgrade considering the performance overall remains at the same level, and that is the brutal honest truth. This also applies for users with a fast quad-core processor like the recent 6700K or 7700K.

The step upwards to Ryzen 7 for the folks that actually need and waited for a well deserved upgrade, the guys that have been waiting for a price/perf competitive 8-core processor series and the intent to give AMD some well-deserved support after a couple of gruesome years. In the weeks and months to come AMD will release 6-core and, later on, 4-core Ryzen processors as well. These are incredibly fascinating and exciting times for AMD. Now I did make some remarks, we find the number of PCIe 3.0 lanes rather skinny, and the chipset lanes to be sober at Gen 2. Next to that, the Ryzen processors do not offer quad-channel memory support which we feel is a miss. Also I need to make one more remark on memory, if you like to go with high frequency memory, say, 3200 MHz, you need to stick with two DIMMs for now. There is still a lot of tweaking to be done at BIOS level with a platform this young. We have no doubt that a four DIMM high frequency configuration will be supported at a later stage though. But for now four DIMMs at 2400 MHz would be the maximum (depending on motherboard manufacturer). Please base your memory purchase choices on what the motherboard manufacturer advises (check their QVL list). Your sweet spot memory might be 2667 MHz with two DIMMs. Configure the memory manually in the BIOS (freq/timings/voltage) and you should be on your way. Right, that said and done I think this conclusion page has had enough information for you to chew over. For me it is simple: If you never could afford the E series Intel platforms, here’s your chance my man as Ryzen 7 and an X370 or B350 motherboard will ooze in pure value with similar to sometimes even better performance and similar features to what the competition offers.

As stated, game performance is not yet where it needs to be in 1080P. This is something that might be fixed with firmware and software updates as the per core performance that Ryzen offers simply can do it. This is the only real nag that we stumbled into, we'll keep you updated once AMD has solved this. Who knows, it might also be something isolated on our end but we are missing at least 10% perf here in some of the games, but not all of them.

Energy consumption, 95 Watts for the flagship processor, which is just terrific stuff. Under full load however it might consume a little more then expected, but here again it's good enough. AMD is paving the way to 8-core processors at more mainstream to high-end prices. This in the end will enable many more many core builds and we project that now, more than ever, we'll see a much faster adoption rate for more threaded applications like games. This processor could be a win-win for everyone except Intel. If you like a little extra bite out of the processor, simply set your multiplier at 40, the memory at 2667 or 3000 MHz and leave the rest at default and you'll be pretty amazed as to what this setup offers with 8 cores clocking in at 4000 MHz. Value for money wise, not only are the processors are much cheaper, the motherboards and chipsets are as well. So bang for buck wise this a no brainer really. We hope to have our 1700 and 1700X review up soon as well. And if we are able to run that 329 USD Ryzen 7 1700 close to 4 GHz, then that's probably where you'll hit a very sweet-spot investment wise. Fact is that AMD might have struck gold with Ryzen, yet they’re charging you a silver price. These processors are pure value.

ATH +++

- Hilbert out

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

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