Ryzen review: AMD is back

AMD's vaunted Ryzen CPU is a multithreaded monster with one glaring weakness.

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How we tested

For the benchmark-o-rama, I set up four separate PCs. All featured clean installs of the latest version of 64-bit Windows 10. Each of the PCs was also built using the same SSD and GPU, and the latest BIOS was used on each board.

I turned to what we believe are Ryzen’s natural competitors: Intel’s $1,089 8-core Broadwell-E Core i7-6900K; the $441 6-core Broadwell-E Core i7-6800K; and the $349 4-core Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K. And, although its well beyond its prime, I also included an 8-core AMD FX-8370, which is currently the top Vishera-based CPU you can get without wading into the crazy range (meaning AMD’s insane FX-9590 chip, which works with only a handful of motherboards due to its excessive power consumption).

For the pair of Broadwell-E processors, I tested on an Asus X99 Deluxe II board. I used an Asus Z270 Maximus IX Code for the Kaby Lake chip. I paired the Vishera with an ASRock 990FX Killer. The Ryzen CPUs were tested with an Asus Crosshair VI Hero board. 

I used a Founders Edition GeForce GTX 1080 on all of the builds, and the clock speeds were checked for consistency.

ryzen bacik Gordon Mah Ung

The AMD FX on the lower left has more pins than the AMD Ryzen on the lower right. The two Intel chips above put the pins in the socket.

RAM configuration

I opted to test each with 32GB of RAM, with the memory controllers fully loaded using standard JEDEC-speed RAM. On the Ryzen and Kaby Lake systems, that meant four DIMMs of DDR4/2133 for a total of 32GB of RAM. The Broadwell-E systems were stuffed with eight DIMMS of DDR4/2133 for a total of 32GB RAM. The FX CPU had four DDR3/1600 DIMMS in it for a total of 32GB of RAM. The Ryzen, Kaby Lake, and FX machines were in dual-channel mode, whereas the Broadwell-E box was in quad-channel mode.

Cooling configuration

One final disclosure: I expected  to test all the builds using closed-loop coolers. But because AMD didn’t send me a CLC for Ryzen until late into testing, I had to test all the PCs using air cooling. AMD fans might suspect this hobbled the Ryzen parts, which have a mode called eXtended Frequency Range (XFR) that allows the chip to clock up to the capabilities of the cooler.

I should add here that XFR only really adds up to 100MHz to the chip’s speeds today. The Ryzen 7 1800X on XFR, for example, would hit 4.1GHz over its Precision Boost speed of 4GHz. The Noctua air cooler I used is itself a fairly burly cooler, and I did see XFR speeds kicking in on occasion.

Read on for benchmarks, benchmarks, and more benchmarks.

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