AMD Ryzen 7 reviews hit the web - impressive comeback but dull gaming performance

Posted on Thursday, Mar 02 2017 @ 15:53 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
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Ryzen is officially out and dozens of tech sites have written reviews of AMD's new high-end Ryzen 7 series. Overall the sense seems to be that AMD has made an impressive comeback, for years AMD struggled to come up with something that could compete against the Intel Core series and with the Zen architecture the company finally has something competitive.

In various areas the Ryzen 7 scores extremely well, but if you take a deeper look at the reviews you'll see that it's far from a knock-out punch. The performance per Watt and the multi-threaded performance is impressive, but in gaming benchmarks Intel often has the upper hand. The reviews also confirm that the Ryzen platform has memory compatibility issues but word on the street is that this should improve with future BIOS updates. CPU overclocking also seems limited to just a little bit above 4.0GHz without using extreme cooling.

AnandTech takes a deep look at the Zen architecture and published its review over here but unfortunately the site hasn't finished its gaming benchmarks yet. In the mean-time, they conclude AMD is back in the race and that the $499 1800X can match or beat the $1049 Core i7-6900K in a lot of tests. However, in some cases AMD is lagging behind 10-20 percent versus Broadwell. More optimization is needed and AMD claims they've identified a list of "easy gains" for the Zen 2 architecture.
AMD's ability to produce Zen is astounding given its size, even with the experience and skill under the hood. The CPU has a traditional uArch and does well, especially compared to last generation AMD, and a new high-perf core will be a feather in their cap. We see a lot of benchmark results where AMD is clearly equal or above Intel's HEDT parts in both ST and MT. However there are a few edge cases where AMD is lacking behind 10-20% still, even to Broadwell. These edge cases are difficult to anticipate, and can stem from unoptimized code. One of the benefits of Intel's big R&D juggernaut is the ability to process those edge cases, through prefetch, memory algorithms, and extensive testing. So despite the best will, there's still a large element to having a substantial budget to hire 300+ more engineers to cater for that, which is something AMD wasn't able for Zen or Ryzen.
Another perspective can be read at Legit Reviews, they've done some gaming benchmarks and conclude that while Ryzen scores favorable when you bench at 1440p or 4K resolutions, the performance is not good in cases where the GPU bottleneck is minimal. They tested just a couple of gaming titles at 1080p HD and found that Ryzen 7 1800X was 17 to 38 percent slower than much cheaper the Intel Core i7-7700K. Obviously, this is a big deal as most gamers still run at Full HD or below.
If there is one area of the AMD Ryzen processor that would be a disappointment and needs to be improved upon it would most certainly have to be 1080P gaming performance. We only tested a few game titles in this CPU review, but the Ryzen 7 1800X was 17-38% slower than the stock Intel Core i7-7700K ‘Kaby Lake’ quad-core processor. The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X just can’t compete at 1080P where the GPU bottleneck is minimal, but when you increase the screen resolution to 1440P or 4K and shift the bottleneck from the CPU to the GPU you see AMD Ryzen performing at basically the same performance level. AMD never once said that they’d beat Intel in gaming benchmarks, but they did say that they would have comparable 4K gaming performance that that appeared true in our tests using a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. What remains to be scene is if that will hold true with multiple graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire as well as upcoming next-generation video cards like AMD’s Vega GPU. The state of gaming on AMD Ryzen right now is that at 1080P with a high-end graphics card the performance is significantly behind Intel, but at 1440P and 4K we would call it comparable.
AMD claims it can improve 1080p gaming performance via Ryzen optimizations as it works to improve its drivers and cooperates with game developers. Overall Legit Reviews was impressed by what AMD accomplished but says it needs further improvement.

HotHardware offers its verdict over here and it's a similar tale. Ryzen 7 performs very well in a lot of use cases, especially in heavily threaded workloads, and has favorable performance/Watt figures but it doesn't put the company in the same position it was in during the Athlon heydays:
A couple of niggling issues and kinks that still need to be worked out prevent AMD’s Ryzen 7 launch from being a Grand Slam, but AMD has definitely rounded third and the runner is considering a sprint to home plate. The hardware we tested is still early and performance and feature optimizations are most likely on the way, from AMD and its board and manufacturing partners. If AMD is able to further scale frequencies in short order and introduce significant optimizations – as it has done with its desktop APUs over the last few years – Ryzen is going to rock for some time to come. AMD is off to a great start.
If you're not done reading yet, you can check out Tom's Hardware's perspective at this link. They praise Ryzen 7 for its low cost, its low TDP and the good office and workstation performance. The chip does really well when you make it crunch professional and scientific workloads, but areas that need improvement unfortunately include gaming. The site reports that Ryzen 7 1800X does not stack favorable versus the cheaper quad-core processors from Intel and concludes the Ryzen launch was clearly rushed as the whole software ecosystem is poorly optimized.
It’s hard to recommend the Ryzen 7 1800X over Intel's lower-cost quad-core chips for gaming, especially given the Core i7-7700K's impressive performance. That's not a knock against AMD, specifically. After all, we say the same thing about Intel's own Broadwell-E CPUs. High-end Kaby Lake processors constantly challenge pricier competitors, and the flagship -7700K sells for $350. Even after down-clocking the -7700K to 3.8 GHz, it still beats Ryzen 7 1800X in nearly every game in our suite. Those issues would only be exacerbated on a Ryzen 7 1700X, which operates at lower clock rates.
Before we close our Ryzen review coverage, we make one last stop at ARS Technica but the verdict doesn't really change. From a gamer's perspective, the Intel Core i7-7700K or 7600K is still the best choice for most as Ryzen's gaming performance is too weak:
There's a chance that Ryzen's gaming performance will improve over time thanks to driver updates and AMD's promised closer relationship with game developers. Or that the upcoming quad-core Ryzen chips can make up the performance via clock speed. And, if you're running at 4K resolution where you're resource limited on the GPU, not the CPU, the differences are minimal anyway. But right here, right now, when over 90 percent of gamers run at 1080p or lower resolutions—as much as it pains me to say it—if I had to pick the best CPU purely for gaming, I would pick an Intel Kaby Lake i7-7700K.
So yeah, for content creation, multimedia, workstation and other professional applications Ryzen is looking very good. Gamers on the other hand will need to wait and see, and hope that this renewed competition urges Intel to cut its prices.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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