Ryzen 7 2700X review: AMD's 2nd-gen CPUs nail the sequel

The Ryzen 7 2700X puts the squeeze on Intel's 8th-gen Coffee Lake CPUs.

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Gaming performance benchmarks

One of the most controversial and downright puzzling issues with the original Ryzen release was its gaming performance. AMD's chip simply stomped its quad-core rival, the Core i7-7700K, into the dirt in most apps, but when it came to gaming—especially at 1080p—it was way off the mark from what was expected for a chip that performed so well everywhere else. This spawned days of wondering by everyone. Was it the Inter-CCX latency? Was it Windows 10 Scheduler? Was it simply bad games? Was it the media being biased because no one plays at 1080p? 

Winding the clock forward one year, we now have an updated operating system, updated games, updated motherboard BIOSes, updated drivers and even an updated CPU. For the most part, we can tell you without even bothering to show you a chart that at 2560x1440 with a GeForce GTX1080-class GPU, it’s a tie between Intel and AMD. It doesn’t even matter what the generations are. Let’s say that again: It just doesn’t matter. Those higher-resolution workloads are simply gated by the graphics performance of the GPU. And yes, we did run those resolutions while testing the Ryzen 7 2700X and it's peers—we’re just not going to show you a stack of charts that all look the same.

What we’re interested in finding out today is how 2nd-Ryzen performs at 1920x1080 resolution, where CPU performance matters more. Will it cause weeks of hand wringing like it did last year?

Rise of the Tomb Raider performance

First up: Rise of the Tomb Raider. This is a particularly good place to start because it’s one of the games that AMD said was updated by its developers for Ryzen. At 1080p on Very High quality (the setting most likely to be used with a GTX 1080-class GPU) it’s a wash. This is good news because last year, the Ryzen CPU would have been 20 percent slower even at Very High quality.

2g ryzen 7 2700x rotr dx12 very high 19x10 IDG

The updated Rise of the Tomb Raider makes it a wash at 1080p on Very High quality.

This doesn’t erase all of Intel’s advantage though. At lower visual-quality settings that take even more of a load off of the GPU, Intel’s higher clock-speed advantage is still a factor. But it’s not the huge 20 percent or more gap that it was last year.

2g ryzen 7 2700x rotr dx12 medium 19x10 IDG

Core i7-8700K’s clock speed advantage puts it in front when it’s even less of a graphics load.

Far Cry 5 performance

We suspect Intel’s clock speed advantage also to be somewhat of a factor in Far Cry 5. Even when set Ultra settings the Core i7-8700K is in front—it’s just not enough to probably matter much, at around 7.8 percent. At higher resolutions, again, it’s a tie.

2g ryzen 7 2700x far cry 5 ultra 19x10 IDG

Far Cry 5 on Ultra sees the Core i7 with its 4.7GHz boost in front of the Ryzen CPUs.

Rainbow Six Siege Performance

Moving to Rainbow Six Siege, all three CPUs and the GTX 1080 are belting about 200 fps at 19x10 even on Ultra quality settings. 

2g ryzen 7 2700x rainbow six siege 19x10 ultra IDG

It’s a dead heat in the popular Rainbow Six Siege.

Again, moving the quality slider to High, we do see the Core i7 open up a little bit of space but it’s fairly small and not a game breaker—just shy of a 7 percent lead.

2g ryzen 7 2700x rainbow six siege 19x10 high IDG

At high-quality settings, Coffee Lake is in front but not enough to really matter.

Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor performance

Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor puts all three fairly close together but the edge still goes to Core i7-8700K. That’s still very respectable performance. 

2g ryzen 7 2700x middle earth 19x10 ultra IDG

Core i7 has a slight edge in Shadows of Modor too at 1080p resolution.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided performance

With last year's 20 percent performance disparity between first-gen Ryzen and the Core i7-7700K, games where Ryzen had the lead were nigh impossible to find. Even in games where AMD said Ryzen should have been ahead, we couldn't duplicate those results. A year later though, that’s not true. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided for example, puts the Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 7 1700X in front of the Core i7-8700K by a very decent margin.

2g ryzen 7 2700x deux ex dx12 ultra 19x10 IDG

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided puts Ryzen in front of Core i7

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation performance

One other game that put the Ryzen 7 2700X on par with the Core i7-8700K is Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, which remains a paragon of DirectX 12 optimization. For our test, we run the CPU Focused benchmark, rather than the GPU Focused benchmark. As you can see, it’s a tie.

2g ryzen 7 2700x ashes dx12 crazy 19x10 IDG

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation has always been a showcase of new technology.

3DMark TimeSpy performance

It’s not an actual game, but 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark is an industry-respected synthetic benchmark of DirectX 12 performance. In this case, the Ryzen 7 2700X achieves a decent performance bump over Core i7. One again, though, it's a surprise seeing the 8-core Ryzen 7 1700X barely beating 6-core Core i7-8700K in what should be a multi-threaded test.

2g ryzen 7 2700x timespy 1.0 cpu IDG

The clock speed advantage of the new 2nd Gen Ryzen 7 2700X shows up in 3DMark Time Spy.

Gaming conclusion

While the Core i7-8700K does have some advantage over the Ryzen 7 2700X in some games, there’s also a few games where it loses or flat out ties it. That’s a victory for Ryzen 7 2700X because the last time we did this dance, the Intel Core i7-7700K easily had a 20 percent to 25 percent advantage over the Ryzen 7 1800X in almost every game.

What about overclocking?

We didn’t touch on overclocking too much. We typically focus on out-of-the-box performance that everybody can expect, and try to shy away from making overclocking conclusions for an entire series of CPUs from a sample of one. Often, it’s the overclocker and not the CPU that makes a large difference. With immature motherboards, early silicon, and the fact that your mileage may vary, drawing wider overclocking conclusions in a day-one review is often quite pointless.

What we have done in the past is quote overclocking figures from industry sources who have tested dozens or even hundreds of samples. For example, motherboard makers often make forecasts of what sort of overclocks people should reasonably hit based on their internal testing. They do this so they can build their own profiles of what's reasonable for a CPU family.

While we don’t have any predictions from motherboard makers this time, we do have AMD’s own statement that it's now quite possible to overclock all CPU cores into the 4.2GHz range and higher. That certainly wasn't possible with the original Ryzen launch, where 4GHz was a hard limit for many chips. We can also say we attended a press day where we overclocked about a dozen CPUs to the 4.3GHz range using both air and liquid cooling.

Ryzen 7 2700X vs. Core i7-8700K

The question on everyone's mind: How does the 2nd-gen Ryzen 7 2700X stack up against arch-enemy Intel? While you have to look at the other results presented as well, we think this particular chart helps frame it. We basically took Cinebench R15 and ran loads using 1 thread to 16 threads.

2g ryzen 7 2700x vs core i7 8700k cinebench scaling IDG

We used Cinebench to find which chip had the performance edge on light workloads to heavy workloads.

The chart doesn't give you the sense of correct proportions of the performance, so we also calculated the percent difference between the two CPUs at each load, which you'll find below. It's no surprise that Intel's greater IPC and clock speed advantage gives it a big advantage on loads that stress from one to six threads. The largest advantage occurs with just one thread active, where the Core i7-8700K will clock all the way up to 4.7GHz.

As we approach seven threads, it's pretty much a wash. Beyond that, Ryzen 7 2700X's additional cores and improved clock speeds (compared to the Ryzen 7 1700X) give it a very big advantage over the 8700K.

Before you plunk down $300-plus on a new chip, you have to ask yourself: Do your games and applications live more on the left side of the chart or the right side?

If you're not sure, then, well, the left side might actually be better. If you do know—because you do video encoding, 3D rendering, or stream your gaming endeavors live to Twitch, for example—the right side is likely the better choice.

2g ryzen 7 2700x vs core i7 8700k cinebench scaling percent IDG

Intel's Core i7-8700K has a decent performance edge on light loads, but Ryzen 7 2700X wallops it on anything heavy duty.

The problem here is the price equation. When it was a $360 Core i7-8700K vs. a $330 Ryzen 7 2700X, we'd argue that paying for the Core i7-8700K's extra speed on the left side of that chart might be worth it.

But with Ryzen 7 2700X's faster performance and perhaps even more importantly, the inclusion of a decent stock cooler in the box, AMD's new chip really puts the Core i7-8700K in a bind. Throw a $40 cooler onto the scale with the Core i7-8700K and you're now talking about a $400 chip vs. a $330 chop.

When you factor in that gaming performance between the two at real-world resolutions and settings is much closer than it was with the first-gen Ryzen chips, it gets pretty hard to justify paying that premium for Core i7-8700K unless you have a firm reason to do so. If we had to give it odds, we'd probably take the Ryzen 7 2700X eight out of ten times.

Intel's only move at this point, in our view, is to push out an 8-core Coffee Lake chip to compete—and maybe include a badass cooler with it.

What's the IPC performance of Ryzen 7 2700X?

One last thing we want to touch on is a metric people like to look at to see how efficient a CPU is when the clock speeds are equal. To do that we locked all three CPUs at 3GHz while keeping the RAM at DDR4/3200 and latency at CL14. We then ran Cinebench R15 using a single compute thread.

2g ryzen 7 2700x ipc 3ghz IDG

We clocked all three systems to 3GHz and turned off boost modes to see how efficient they are. Although its gap has closed, Intel's 8th gen Coffee Lake still has about a five percent IPC advantage.

The result shows you just how closely things have gotten between Intel and AMD with an IPC difference of about 5 percent. Part of the reduction in performance for the Intel chip comes from Meltdown/Spectre fix.

It's interesting to also note that the IPC difference between the Ryzen 7 1700X and Ryzen 7 2700X is minimal at best too. That's to be expected though—other than the latency decrease and higher clocks, AMD isn't claiming any efficiency increase.

Ryzen 7 2700X: The bottom line

AMD's original Ryzen CPUs were a thunder clap that shook the PC world to its foundation. But it wasn't perfect by a long shot. As a sequel, a do-over, and a CPU that actually has more competition than the original Ryzen did, 2nd-gen Ryzen pulls it off. 

Higher clock speeds and a massive multi-threading advantage push AMD's CPU performance to new highs. The bundled Wraith Prism cooler and overall polish push it over the top. In the battle of Intel and AMD's flagship processors, the clear winner today is the Ryzen 7 2700X.

Correction: We transposed a performance result for the Corona benchmark. PCWorld regrets the error.

2g ryzen 7 8 Ryzen 2 Gordon Mah Ung
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