Ryzen review: AMD is back

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

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Gaming performance

Let’s move on to what may be the second-most important category for Ryzen: gaming. That’s pretty much where the story goes from incredible performance per dollar to head-scratching, even maddening, results.

ryzen 1800x 1 Gordon Mah Ung

AMD’s Ryzen 7 series features 8 cores and 16 threads of performance.

3DMark performance

First up is the always popular 3DMark test. Now owned by UL, this is a synthetic performance test that measures gaming. Yes, it’s synthetic, but for the most part, it’s widely regarded as being neutral ground. The first result is the overall score in 3DMark FireStrike. The Core i7-6900K takes the top spot, with the Core i7-7700K taking the second spot, and the Ryzen 7 1800X a close third. It’s pretty much a yawner.

ryzen 3dmark firestrike overall PCWorld

3DMark’s overall score factors in the physics and graphics score for the final verdict.

3DMark’s Graphics sub score is designed to stress the graphics card. If 3DMark is doing its job, we should see very little difference among our machines, as we used identical GeForce GTX 1080 cards for our testing. Everything is right as rain. Only the FX is slightly slower, which could be because, well, it’s an AMD FX. Or maybe it’s the PCIe 2.0 on the platform. Either way, nothing to get excited about.

ryzen 3dmark firestrike graphics PCWorld

This shows 3DMark is functioning perfectly as a GPU benchmark. With the exact same cards in each machine, the scores should be just about the same, too.

3DMark’s Physics test stresses core count, and we see the 8-core chips ahead by a good margin. The low-wattage Ryzen 7 1700 actually appears to break even with the 6-core Core i7-6800K here. The lower clock speed of the R7 1700 could be hurting it. And FX, yeah, “8 cores” indeed.

ryzen 3dmark firestrike physics PCWorld

The physics test shows you in theory what you get from more cores. In reality, few games actually use that many cores though.

3DMark also includes a test of a CPU’s capabilities when tasked with issuing draw calls under DirectX 12. The results clearly put the Intel chips in the lead. Not only is the Core i7-7700K just about dead-even with both Ryzen chips, the 6- and 8-core parts are a sizable distance ahead. If you’re wondering why the 6-core Broadwell is neck-and-neck with the 8-core part, I’ve found this particular test doesn’t scale much beyond six cores.

ryzen 3dmark api overhead dx12 PCWorld

The API test in 3DMark measures how many draw calls a particular PC can issue in Microsoft’s new DirectX 12.

Ashes of the Singularity DX12 performance

The good news is, we also have a real-world DX12 game in Ashes of the Singularity. This game is basically the tech demo for what can be done in DirectX 12, and it loves CPU cores. For this test run, I ran at 1920x1080 resolution with the visual quality set to low. Ashes has a GPU-focused mode and a CPU-focused mode. I chose the latter because I wanted to see the frame rate when a crazy amount of objects (and draw calls) are thrown at a game. The result was again confusing. The Core i7-6900K walks away from the pack, and even the 6-core Core i7-6800K shows Kaby Lake what-for in the test. The Ryzens are oddly slow considering they have more cores than both the Core i7-6800K and the Core i7-7700K. To be fair, much like 3DMark, I haven’t seen this test scale to crazy amounts. Right before we went to press, AMD send out a statement from the Ashes developer Oxide:

“Oxide games is incredibly excited with what we are seeing from the Ryzen CPU. Using our Nitrous game engine, we are working to scale our existing and future game title performance to take full advantage of Ryzen and its 8-core, 16-thread architecture, and the results thus far are impressive,” said Stardock and Oxide CEO Brad Wardell. “These optimizations are not yet available for Ryzen benchmarking. However, expect updates soon to enhance the performance of games like Ashes of the Singularity on Ryzen CPUs, as well as our future game releases.”

So, not valid?

ryzen ashes of the singularity cpu focused dx12 low quality PCWorld

Ashes of the Singularity is the premier tech demo for what can be done DirectX 12.

Tomb Raider performance

I decided to look at Ryzen’s performance using the older version of Tomb Raider. Those looking at the theoretical performance of a CPU in games typically want to take the graphics card out of the equation by running the game at lower settings or even lower resolutions than one would normally use with their given hardware. For this test, I ran Tomb Raider at 1920x1080 resolution at the normal setting. The performance gap again put Ryzen in a bad spot. In fact, it’s frankly a very puzzling result. One can argue that when you’re pushing in excess of 300 or 400 frames per second, it’s kinda pointless, but why isn’t Ryzen, which so handily matches Intel’s Broadwell-E in other tests, right up there with Broadwell-E?

ryzen tomb raider 19x10 normal PCWorld

Tomb Raider shows nothing but bad news for Ryzen.

Rise of the Tomb Raider performance

Let’s move on to Rise of the Tomb Raider. Rise is newer and tougher on the GPU. At 1920x1080 and the medium setting, we’re again seeing rather disappointing performance numbers for Ryzen. I'd expected Ryzen to be near lock-step with Broadwell-E but it’s not even close.

ryzen rise of the tomb raider 19x10 medium PCWorld

Rise of the Tomb Raider almost mirrors our Tomb Raider results.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege performance

Moving away from Lara Croft, I ran Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege at 1920x1080 and Medium. We’re pushing into silly frame-rate territory again, but as I said previously, this would normally stress the CPU. It’s how most reviewers would attempt to measure the theoretical gaming performance of a CPU. 

ryzen rainbow six 19x10 medium PCWorld

Another set of odd results.

Read on for AMD's take on our results.

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