AMD Ryzen Post-Premiere Thoughts

Probably all heard about AMD Ryzen premiere which had its place on 2nd March. We were waiting for new AMD processors for a long time. Especially after Bulldozer fiasco all enthusiasts had really high expectations. Now we know how it works and I had a chance to test this platform so here are couple of my thoughts. Some of them are shared with computer enthusiasts community.

 

 

Lower than expected performance ( or not ? )

AMD products are the most interesting for gamers and widely understanded home entertainment. AMD Ryzen is for sure good processor for gaming and not only but is it the best choice ? Clearly not or not yet and there are couple of reasons why. Game developers haven’t got any details from AMD to prepare optimizations and even AMD said that couple of days ago that they were not working with developers before Ryzen premiere. The same, other software developers couldn’t prepare patches for their products as AMD didn’t want to send them samples of their processors. Example can be popular AIDA64 which is great software but in latest beta version we can still see it’s not optimized for Ryzen.

 

Higher than expected price

Even though price is great comparing to Intel processors while offering similar performance then current price of Ryzen platform is too high for most gamers who were counting on cheaper products. For gamers still i5 7600/K seems much better option and there are also other reasons than the price.

All who want to buy cheaper processor for games have to stick to Intel or wait couple of months for 4-6 core version of Ryzen. Check out the latest prices of Ryzen 7 CPUs at Amazon – https://goo.gl/PVKajy

 

8 cores … isn’t it too much for games ?

Most current games are not using more than 2-4 threads. It’s because most games are still using older engines or are conversion from consoles with added better textures and some other graphics improvements. In this case better idea is to buy higher frequency 4 core processor than 8 core/16 thread one at low clock.

We could see complains around the Internet about this fact. Of course no one says that Ryzen is a CPU for gamers only but they were waiting for this premiere the most so it’s quite big disappointment.

 

Ryzen as a workstation ?

At current stage it’s hard to recommend Ryzen as a workstation platform. All who are using computers for work count on full stability while Ryzen is clearly not mature enough and brings many issues.

Processor is one thing but it has to be installed on a motherboard. This is the biggest issue as most motherboards have problems with BIOS and general stability.

Hardware manufacturers haven’t got enough time or couldn’t stabilize everything till premiere. It’s hard to believe they had not enough time considering how long we were seeing rumours and various leaks about Ryzen. Premiere was delayed couple of times while preview of motherboards could be seen half year ago so it’s just strange why there are so many issues with motherboards.

Many motherboards before premiere had 4-5 BIOS releases marked as official. We don’t know how many beta releases were on the way but about the same we can see for Intel motherboards.

 

Memory compatibility

Other thing is memory compatibility. Even though most current DDR4 memory kits will work then it’s not guaranteed at what settings. The only brand which prepared memory for Ryzen is G.Skill. So far we could see “paper” premiere as memory is still not available. There are couple of other brands which are preparing memory for Ryzen but still we aren’t sure when they appear on the market. I also know that some manufacturers won’t release special series for AMD so about the same as they did for previous AMD series.

I just feel like motherboard and memory manufacturers ( and some others ) don’t trust AMD enough to invest in products for their platform. All have seen how it was with Bulldozer. Most brands were providing limited support which was ending on “what is required to meet specification”. Even premium motherboard series had barely any BIOS releases.

 

Target customer 

Who is a typical Ryzen user and who supposed it to be ? HEDT processors are designed for high end gaming computers and workstations. Right now Ryzen barely fits into either of these groups. If you pay so much for a platform then you expect something great. Ryzen is like a mix of high performance processor and low or at least average quality motherboards.

If you are planning Crossfire or SLI setup then Ryzen is as good as couple of year old Intel chipsets. We can use two PCIE x8 slots and that’s about all. There are no additional PCIE lanes to use more than one PCIE M.2 drive not to mention about M.2 RAID. Comparing to the highest AMD X370 chipset, Intel is way ahead with even Z200 series which isn’t the highest and in couple of months we will see new HEDT Intel series.

 

Long list of various issues

The thing which hits me the most is motherboard quality. What is weird, the biggest problems are with the highest series like ASUS Crosshair VI Hero. Most of these motherboards have issues with BIOS to the point where forums are flooded with comments about bricked BIOS or compatibility issues.

How can you rely on a motherboard which is randomly showing errors ? There will be fixes for most issues but I doubt that all will be corrected with simple BIOS update.

Personally I have one motherboard which after two days of tests doesn’t want to work anymore and all my friends who purchased ASUS Crosshair VI Hero already made an RMA. We have seen there is a fix for ASUS Crosshair VI Hero but why it took so long and why it wasn’t fixed at the test stage. Before premiere we could see overclocking results. We could ask if then were no issues at all with these motherboards when end users could repeat it in every single motherboard ?

 

Efficiency of Ryzen and Overclocking

AMD Ryzen seems like a great processor but facts are telling it’s much more efficient at lower frequency and lower TDP. With higher frequency, wattage/current goes really high and air or water cooling can’t handle it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was 4.5GHz+ but it’s barely above 4GHz. In this case gamers may see better performance from most Intel platforms with less cores but 4.5GHz+ frequency.

Literally every available review of Ryzen processor is showing overclocking between 3.9GHz and 4.15GHz while typical fully stable frequency at all cores is about 4GHz. Now let’s see that 1800X processor has 4.1GHz XFR frequency so it’s hard to call it overclocking. XFR itself is adding “all” 100MHz at ambient temperatures so typical air or water cooling.

 

Some Tips

Now some tips. To avoid operating system issues be sure to make fresh installation of Windows from the latest available ISO ( best is to prepare flash drive or DVD using Microsoft tool ). Even then there will be a lot of updates but everything will be stable.

Keep all software updated and look for patches if you see any issues. Drivers are stable and AMD says there is nothing wrong with the platform. However they are not selling motherboards so take a look at the motherboard manufacturer website and check if there is any new BIOS as there are various fixes in new releases.

If you have problems with memory compatibility then check both, manual settings and profiles. You may also check mixed settings like enabled XMP and manually set timings or voltages. Some motherboards require higher VTT voltage to be able to set memory above DDR4-2800 ( like ASUS Prime X370-Pro ). Some will run just fine at auto or simply don’t have any additional voltages ( like Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 ) but still run at DDR4-3200 without issues.

Ryzen R7 1700 has lower temperature reported by software. In real it’s the same as 1700X or 1800X. AMD has recently reported that 1700X and 1800X have added 20°C to the base temperature. Hard to say why they did that but seems like it’s to force different fan work. Again it’s also hard to understand as fans generate more noise and throttling point is closer what affect end user experience. Simply if your R7 1700X or 1800X is showing 80°C then in real it works at 60°C.

Power section is different on every motherboard. For higher overclocking at above standard voltage range it’s recommended to use higher series motherboards with 10 or more power phases. Even though VRM should work above 100°C then efficiency is going down with temperature and we may see instability. Personally I see that on motherboards like mentioned Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 where whole platform is losing stability once sensor is passing ~95°C. It’s happening at longer full CPU load ( new Prime95 ) and CPU voltage above ~1.42V. During mixed tests VRM sensor is showing no more than ~70°C. Safe voltage for lower motherboards seems constant 1.35V at which nothing is overheating and it’s still possible to overclock CPU to 3.9-4.0GHz.

 

Summary

AMD Ryzen is interesting and well performing platform but it’s not mature enough and it’s clearly not for all users. Some groups of users like gamers can be disappointed. It’s still offers good performance but clearly not as high as we were expecting.

Soon we will review couple of products for AMD Ryzen like whole line of Noctua AM4 coolers and some more. Stay with us to see what you can get out of this new platform as it’s not that bad even though there are many early product issues. We hope that most if not all will be fixed soon as we simply need good competition on the processor market.

Check out the latest prices of Ryzen 7 CPUs at Amazon – https://goo.gl/PVKajy

 

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