AMD Ryzen: Everything you need to know

10 min read

It’s not every day that the general PC community gets frothy at the mouth for new CPUs, but everywhere you turn there is some leak, post or benchmark about AMD’s Ryzen CPU. Some people are hyped, and it’s probably because we’ve been lulled into complacency by Intel’s predictable (yet fastidious) release cycle of CPUs. Now that something other than an Intel CPU release is on the hoRyzen (first and last pun, I swear), we’re hyping it up…perhaps too much. By all accounts, though, there are tasty morsels to be exited by, and I’d like to think AMD learned their lesson from the disaster that was their Bulldozer architecture. Perhaps they’ve attempted to be as genuine as a marketing campaign allows one to be? Holding thumbs.

Ryzen is almost here, so we’ve tried to collate everything you need to know, from leaked benches, controlled demos and pricing leaks. One thing is for certain, amongst all the rumour: It will be a make or breakeith  AMDs re-entry into performance x86 computing come March 2017.

What’s Cooking With Ryzen?

For the longest time, Zen was the code name for AMDs new architecture. This morphed into the Ryzen nomenclature we have today, and it represents AMDs latest brand of high-end processors. The tech utilises the 14nm process node, and it’s meant to compete with Intel’s chips, from their HEDT Core i7 6900K, all the way down to their mainstream i3 processors. Unlike their confusing multi-tiered FM2/FM2+ socket and AM3/AM3+ sockets, AMD has simplified their range into the AM4 platform, meaning everything Ryzen will work in their AM4 socket, although there will be some differences across motherboards regarding certain features. Although there may eventually be an AM4+ platform for future revisions, AMD has stated on many occasions that its a platform you can buy now and know it will work for many years. That’s a great vote of confidence, if only because AMD finally gets DDR4 RAM (although only Dual Channel support), PCI-Express 3, USB 3.1 (Gen 2) NVME and SATA Express—yes it’s been a long time coming. Right now it seems like motherboard vendors are catering for the AM4 platform, offering overclocking based B350 motherboards for as little as $69, with even the premium boards coming in cheaper than their equivalent Z270 counterparts.

Ryzen MB

What’s new with Ryzen?

In the past, AMD struggled to maintain IPC (instructions-per-clock) and TDP performance comparable to an Intel equivalent part, with the usual quick-fix being cheaper CPU, with high 4GHz+ products at high TDPs in order to close the gap.


This is the AMD of the past, though, as recent leaks of specs and pricing leads most of the world (or at least those not paying attention to more important issues about Trump or crotch-grabbing white shirts) to believe that AMD’s Ryzen is going to be exceptionally enticing to enthusiasts and gamers alike. Besides adopting modern standards in computing regarding DDR4 or NVME support, AMD have introduced technology to attain (and exceed) that 40% improvement over Excavator—their AMD SenseMI technology, which we covered at Ryzen’s launch last year.

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There’s how many of them?

Past leaks revealed at least 17 Ryzen chips will eventually launch, and If we allow ourselves a moment to dream that they would all launch at the same time(doubtful), the line-up features five 8-core SKUs, four 6-core SKUs and a healthy dollop of eight quad-core SKUs, with all but the lowest tiered quad-cores featuring AMD’s Simultaneous Multi-threading, which is equivalent to Intel’s Hyper-threading. It seems awfully weird to have no less than 4 different SKUs per class category, and considering all Ryzen chips will be overclockable, the differences might be more the clock deep—speed binning and XFR are probably the core reason for the more expensive X-suffix. It does feel, even with this artificial limitation, that AMD is potentially igniting a renewed interest in budget overclocking, perhaps even reinvigorating the age-old practice of getting the golden chip that outperforms its bigger, more expensive, brother.

Ryzen CPU list

The only sticking point with the list is the debunking and counter-debunking of the existence of 6-core chips—we’re still not sure on this front. Regardless, what is more or less certain is the existence of the 8 core, 16 threaded options as well as the 4 core 8 thread/4 threaded processors , which undoubtedly have tongues wagging based on their pricing. Speaking of pricing….

They cost how much?!

The price of the only new 8 core, 16 threaded CPU is the Intel i7 6900K, and that goes for a tear-inducing $1000. What if you could get another yet to be released 8 core 16 threaded CPU for half the price? Also, imagine it ran at 95W TDP and had a Base clock of 3.6GHz and Turbo clock of 4GHz? (4GHz+ plus extra based on cooling used).while a recent internal product list leak from leading Chinese retailer baidu has more or less revealed a fair chunk of information about 9 of them regarding L3 cache, their pricing and even clockspeeds.

CPUCore/ThreadL3TDPBaseTurboXFR$Intel Equivalent
Ryzen R7 1800X8/1616MB95W3.6GHz4.00GHz4.0GHz +$4996900K ($1000)
Ryzen R7 1700X8/1616MB95W3.4GHz3.8GHz3.8GHz+$3896850 ($425)
Ryzen R7 17008/1616MB65W3.0GHz3.7GHzN/A$3187700K ($349)
Ryzen R5 1600X6/1216MB95W3.3GHz3.7GHz3.7GHz+$2597700 ($314)
Ryzen R5 15006/1216MB65W3.2GHz3.5GHzN/A$2297600K ($239)
Ryzen R5 1400X4/88MB65W3.5GHz3.9GHz3.9GHz$1997600 ($229)
Ryzen R5 13004/88MB65W3.2GHz3.5GHzN/A$1757500 ($205)
Ryzen R3 1200X4/48MB65W3.4GHz3.8GHz3.8GHz$1457400 ($195)
Ryzen R3 11004/48MB65W3.2GHz3.5GHzN/A$1297350K ($179)

We’ve no idea if these are wholesale prices or actual RRP consumers will pay, but even if we adjust for RRP, it puts 2 of the 3 Ryzen chips below pricing of the HEDT Core i7 6800K and 6850K, with the R7 1700 sitting well below the current $349 price tag of the Core i7 7700K. Not to overstate things, but hot damn! That’s cheap for an 8C/16T CPU. If Ryzen is the chip we’ve been led to believe it is, and Intel react accordingly, we could see some pretty aggressive pricing going forward.

Hell, we might even get a mainstream 6 core/12 thread chip from Intel if Ryzen forces their hand. Not only that, but the R7 1700 will come with the Wraith cooler, which will immediately allow users to manually overclock their CPU. It definitely seems like AMD are targeting the gamer/enthusiast who would buy the 7700K, and the bundled aftermarket cooler might just makes Ryzen a bit more enticing to this group.

Raja purple

As more rumour mills spring up left and right, the word on the digital street at CanardPC Hardware is that Intel has taken notice of the Ryzen threat to their market dominance, and is possibly going to respond with some new Kaby-Lake entries. They are pretty certain there will be the Core i5 7640K, the first i5 to get Hyper-Threading, and a new i7 7740K CPU with a higher base speed by 200MHz. We assume the “old” new Kaby-Lake chips might get some healthy cuts in pricing, since the allure of a well performing 6 core Ryzen chip might be enough to get people to switch.

How fast is Ryzen?

This will be the most difficult metric to peg down, since although pricing leaks and spec reveals can lead one to healthy speculation on market prices and performance, actual performance numbers must always be taken with a large grain of salt. However, and this is important in establishing the context around Ryzen’s supposed performance: AMD have confidently placed their Ryzen chips in machines going toe-to-toe with the Core i7 6900K. Although demo tests showed a Ryzen based system besting a 6900K in heavily multi-threaded applications– such as Handbrake–there have been heavily limited gaming based demos, showing a Frapsless Battlefield 1 and Battlefront Rogue One DLC gameplay at 4K and 60FPS using a Titan XP. Since these are primarily GPU based performance metrics, little can be drawn regarding performance in games.

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What we do have is some rumoured synthetic benchmarks of a Ryzen chip (Ryzen 7 1700X it’s believed) at 3.4GHz in PassMark, showing impressive scores compared to the Intel offerings. It must be noted that the system was using an entry-level AM4 board, and RAM running at very uninspired timings—basically, not the best Ryzen can do. And yet, it still makes eyebrows rise in interest, even if synthetic tests seem to overstate real world performance.

Should you wait for Ryzen?

A resounding yes should emanate from all corners of the globe to this question. There is enough healthy speculation and demos to at least put Ryzen on equal footing with Intel chips, and that is enough in my book to hold your purchasing decision till after Ryzen reviews drop.  That being said, more often than not, more is gleaned from what is not shown than what is shown, and what AMD have shown is their 8 Core 16 thread chip go after Intel’s similar 8 core 16 thread 6900K. Those are two chips on more or less equal clockspeed footing, and the CPU centric benchmarks reflect that Ryzen is more than up to the challenge.

However – and this is important to note – what we’ve not seen is AMD specifically compare their chip in something as measurable in a gaming scenario. Showing a demo with a Ryzen chip compared to a 6900K simply getting over 60FPS at 4K is not a valid test in our book. The fact that the 6700K, and by extension the 7700K, regularly bests or equals the 6900K and 6800K, shows that simple core count can’t be the only metric of performance at the expense of clockspeed. However, the fact that AMD can do an 8 core 16 threaded chip at 95W TDP is worthy of praise (if it happens to be true!).

This points me to reflect on single threaded performance and it’s here that Intel still (and seemingly in the future based on Ryzen’s supposed clockspeeds) currently sit well ahead of Ryzen. Even Ryzen’s best 4 core 8 threaded CPU, the Ryzen R5 1400X, only has a base clock of 3.5GHz and turbo boost clock of 3.9GHz, well below the 4.2GHz/4.5GHz clockspeed Intel are able to get on their i7 7700K (or even the locked 7700). Even if the Ryzen R7 1700, the 8 core 16 threaded CPU, manages to attain the same clockspeed of the 7700K through overclocking, that’s still does not account for the overclocking headroom we’ve seen on the 7700K, which is easily able to breach the 5GHz mark.

Suffice it to say, as impressive and well needed Ryzen clearly is, it still is limited in clockspeed compared to Intel’s Kaby-Lake, and that will play a crucial part in gaming metrics.  Bare in mind, AMD does not necessarily need to be faster that Intel, just offer a much better price to performance metric. And in this they offer plenty, in which budding enthusiasts might value above pure performance: namely their wide range of overclocking support and overall more affordable system. So, after all is said and done, I suggest patience and keeping your expectations well grounded.

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