If you’re skeptical whether “optimizations” can truly improve gaming performance on the disruptive new Ryzen CPU, AMD has a message for you: They really can.
On Thursday the company released benchmark results from a beta version of Ashes of the Singularity that showed a sizable increase in performance from just a few weeks of tuning for the company’s new CPU.
Why this matters: When AMD’s Ryzen launched with bat-out-of-hell application performance but somewhat slower gaming performance than Intel’s rival CPUs, it spawned an Unsolved Mysteries-like search for the cause of such a puzzling disparity. Many theories later (including one that has absolved Microsoft), the only one that seems to be standing are the games themselves.
AMD’s numbers show that patching Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation with Ryzen optimization could increase performance 26 to 34 percent, a significant boost for Ryzen.
Here's your independent verification, too: AMD officials gave PCWorld early access to a beta that features the Ryzen optimizations, which we tested under our control.
How we tested
For our original Ryzen review, we tested using four DDR4/2133 modules, which is the maximum clock speed for RAM when the memory controller is fully loaded. Because AMD says Ryzen performance can be improved using higher-clocked memory, we stripped out two modules, bringing the system to 16GB, and upped the speed to DDR4/2933. We also updated the BIOS on our Asus Crosshair VI Hero motherboard to the latest publicly available. The same GeForce GTX 1080 GPU handled the graphics chores.
The beta game executable was downloaded from Steam directly and not provided by AMD. Our Ryzen review actually used the original Ashes of the Singularity, but for this test, the beta required using the Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation expansion pack version.
The result? AMD’s not fronting. Our own tests found that running Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation gave a 20- to 28-percent boost in our testing conditions.
We also conducted CPU-centric testing, which puts more objects on the screen with more AI and physics to stress more cores. The bump wasn’t quite as significant, but there’s still a healthy increase in performance from just tweaking the game code.
The good news is, you can test it too. A patched version of the game containing the Ryzen optimizations should be immediately available on Steam for you to download and test.
But what about Intel?
Of course, you’re wondering how this optimization helps Ryzen compete with Intel’s chips, such as the Core i7-7700K. The patch helps, but it doesn’t make it as fast. In the first chart, for example, a stock-clocked Core i7-7700K would be pushing 92 frames per second. Some of that clearly comes from the Kaby Lake’s higher clock speed (which generally runs at 500MHz faster or more), but some of it also comes from games optimization.
In fact, that’s why I featured the same Ryzen CPU in our charts above. Developers tell PCWorld Ryzen tuning is still in its infancy, and it’s somewhat unfair to pit the two chips against other right now with the code as it is.
“Every processor is different on how you tune it, and Ryzen gave us some new data points on optimization,” Oxide’s Dan Baker told PCWorld. “We’ve invested thousands of hours tuning Intel CPUs to get every last bit of performance out of them, but comparatively little time so far on Ryzen.”
Baker said Oxide wanted to get the beta out to the world so users could at least see the potential. Oxide’s CEO also said (in a statement released by AMD), “as good as AMD Ryzen is right now—and it’s remarkably fast—we’ve already seen that we can tweak games like Ashes of the Singularity to take even more advantage of its impressive core count and processing power. AMD Ryzen brings resources to the table that will change what people will come to expect from a PC gaming experience.”
Oxide isn’t the only one starting to tune for Ryzen. Bethesda also said it had formed a partnership with AMD to optimize and support the company’s CPUs and GPUs.
What this all means: When AMD CEO Lisa Su addressed the gaming disparity just after Ryzen’s launch by saying “vital optimizations” will only make it better, I have to admit I was in the skeptical column. That’s because promised optimizations are basically the tech industry’s version of “the check is in the mail.” But with Oxide squeezing out so much more performance in just a few short weeks of tuning, there’s probably a lot more to come from Ryzen.