Everything worked just fine when I turned on the Ryzen rig, allowing me a sigh of relief after the most stressful part of any PC build: pressing the power button after assembly.
I didn’t have much time to put the machine through its paces with everything going on this week (GDC, MWC, a Radeon event, and the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti reveal, oh my!) but I couldn’t resist loading up a few games to see how this puppy runs.
Nicely, the configuration wound up being very similar to PCWorld’s aforementioned GPU testing system for benchmark comparisons. That rig’s built around an 8-core, 16-thread Intel Core i7-5960X that’s since been usurped by the newer Core i7-6950X, but the $1,000 processor nevertheless represented the apex of Intel performance when it launched as the first 8-core consumer desktop chip. It’s still a very worthy competitor, clocked at 3GHz to 3.5GHz, a bit lower than AMD's chip.
The Intel system packs 16GB of 2,800MHz Vengeance LPX DDR4 quad-channel RAM; a Corsair Hydro Series H100i 240mm closed-loop liquid cooler ($100 on Amazon); and a 480GB Intel 730 series SSD. So it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison with the Ryzen system, but it’s awfully close, especially for the small handful of high-resolution gaming benchmarks we used. We used the same Radeon Fury X in both systems, natch.
For the games themselves, I selected two relatively agnostic titles that don’t strongly favor either Radeon or GeForce cards. But I also used Ashes of the Singularity, a game that’s heavily associated with AMD and shows incredible performance gains on Radeon cards with DirectX 12 enabled. As far as testing goes, I turned off V-Sync and all proprietary graphics technology like Nvidia’s Fast Sync, AMD’s FreeSync, et cetera. At AMD’s suggestion, the PC’s Windows power settings were configured to “Performance” in order to ensure that Ryzen’s SenseMI Pure Power and Precision Boost technologies work correctly.
Here’s how the Ryzen 7 1800X and Intel 5960X machines compare in The Division at 4K and 2560x1440 resolutions, using the Ultra graphics preset:
And here’s Far Cry Primal with everything cranked and the game’s optional HD texture pack installed. Ryzen claims a solid win here.
I tested Ashes of the Singularity using the High graphics preset, because the game’s “Crazy” preset is, well, crazy. Once again, both 4K and 1440p resolutions were tested, this time in both DirectX 11 and DirectX 12.
The Ryzen system pulls out a win in Far Cry Primal, but it lags slightly behind the Core i7-5960X machine in the other two games—significantly so at 1440p/DX12 in Ashes of the Singularity. That’s in line with what Gordon Ung found in PCWorld’s comprehensive Ryzen review: AMD’s new chips go toe-to-toe with Intel’s best in multithreaded and productivity applications, but tend to be a bit slower in games.
Don’t be blinded by the raw numbers in these all-too-brief tests, though. The Ryzen 7 1800X hangs pretty damned well with the Intel processor at the 4K and 1440p resolutions that the Fury X is tuned for—something AMD’s aging FX chips could never, ever achieve, and something that’s all the more impressive when you remember that the flagship Ryzen costs half as much as a comparable 8-core Intel CPU. A 5fps performance advantage for Intel works out to $100 per frame. Sheesh.
What’s more, Ryzen also consumes far less power than the Core i7-5960X. The whole-system power usage when running the Division benchmark at 4K maxes out at 360 watts on the Ryzen 7 1800X, compared to a whopping 474 watts on the Intel system.
The idle power totals are drastically different, too. Ryzen’s built using a 14nm process that’s more energy efficient than the Core chip’s 22nm tech.
Finally, while all those liquid-cooling loops wreaked havoc on my system’s cable management, the hassle paid off. Even running at full load for 15-plus minutes, the Ryzen 7 1800X typically hovered around a downright-chilly 50 degrees Celsius (with occasional spikes up to 56 degrees during particularly demanding scenes) while the Fury X never topped 42 degrees. Water-cooling is a wonderful thing.
This build is a wonderful thing, too. While Ryzen and the Intel system trade blows in different ways, there’s no question that AMD processors are back and ready to brawl on the high-end. For the first time in ages, it’s possible to build a premium gaming PC consisting entirely of AMD hardware—though the scenario gets more muddled when you’re using mainstream-class graphics cards at more moderate resolutions. Ryzen’s performance story is a complicated one that varies depending on task. Once again, check out PCWorld’s exhaustive Ryzen review for a deep-level look at the processor's strengths and weaknesses.