Just over a year ago, AMD flipped the PC industry on its proverbial head with revolutionary Ryzen 7 processors that democratized CPU core counts in a way never seen before.
While the 2nd-gen Ryzen 7 2700X officially unveiled today (don’t call it Ryzen 2—that’s coming later) doesn’t quite shake things up the way the original Ryzen chips did last year, it’s a solidly good sequel that, in many ways, is far better than what it replaces. And it puts the squeeze back on Intel’s 8th-gen “Coffee Lake” processors, which upped their own core count to counter Ryzen’s threat.
This review focuses on the 2700X, but a total of four new chips make up 2nd-gen introduction: two 8-core CPUs and two 6-core chips.
The new 2nd-gen Ryzen chips are based refined CPU cores that AMD calls “Zen+.” While the first-gen Ryzen chips were built on a 14nm process, 2nd-gen Ryzen uses GlobalFoundries’s new 12nm process, which helped AMD increase the clock speed range over the original version.
The actual CPU micro-architecture hasn’t changed, but AMD said it has optimized the underlying circuits to decease latency. The L1 cache sees a 13 percent reduction and L3 shaves off 16 percent, while the L2 achieves a whopping 34 percent latency drop. AMD says it all adds up to about an 11 percent decrease in latency for main system RAM, too.
Internally, the chip arrangements are the same. The 8-core parts use dual CCX designs joined by AMD’s Infinity Fabric technology. The 2nd-gen Ryzen 5 chips do the same, but with one core per CCX disabled.
Higher clock speeds with Precision Boost 2 and XFR2
Although the various latency improvements offer performance benefits, much of 2nd-gen Ryzen’s performance gains come directly from higher clock speeds. The original Ryzen 7 1800X topped out at 4GHz under boost conditions, and the 1700X maxed out at 3.8GHz. The Ryzen 7 2700X can hit 4.3GHz.
The higher overall clock speeds aren’t the only improvement. Precision Boost 2, a greatly improved version of the original technology, now pushes 2nd-gen Ryzen processors to higher clock speeds on lighter loads that would have pushed the original Ryzen CPUs off their boost modes. In certain loads that used only three or four threads, AMD said the Ryzen 7 2700X would run nearly 500MHz faster than the Ryzen 7 1800X.
The “bonus” clock boosts from XFR2 have also been improved. The original XFR (or Extended Frequency Range) could give the CPU a 100MHz bump beyond Precision Boost’s maximum if you were running an efficient cooling solution, but only when two cores were being used. With XFR2, if the chip is cool enough, the 100MHz boost can be applied to all cores and threads, just like the upgraded Precision Boost 2.
Going from a standard 95-watt cooler to the Ryzen 7 2700X’s included Wraith Prism with an ambient temperature of 90 degrees would yield 4 percent more performance thanks to XFR2, AMD said. Upgrading to a larger Noctua NH-D15S cooler ($90 on Newegg) and lowering the ambient temperature to 68 degrees would yield a 7 percent bump. This, AMD claims, all adds up to double-digit yields in performance in most tasks when compared to the first-generation parts.
AM4 motherboard compatibility
The 2nd-gen chips are fully compatible with existing AM4 motherboards. AMD says it has been including rudimentary BIOS support for the CPUs for a few months, so the vast majority of motherboards on store shelves should be good to go out of the box. If the board won’t boot though, you’ll have to borrow a CPU from AMD and update the BIOS yourself.
New CPUs demand fresh motherboards though, and AMD is now offering an enthusiast-class X470 chipset that supplements the capabilities of the existing X370 chipset. For the most part, it’s a minor update and doesn’t offer any additional ports or expansion. Most boards based on the X470, however, will offer the latest voltage regulation modules and may hit slightly higher overclocks.
One new X470 feature that that pretty nifty is called StoreMI. StoreMI lets you pair a hard drive with an SSD to improve performance. In many ways, it’s similar to what Intel does with Optane Memory modules.
And no, it’s not just caching the data either. StoreMI is actually a “micro-tiering” technology that moves oft-used files to the speedy SSD and keeps stuff you don’t touch on the much slower hard drive. It’s not technically a cache because it doesn’t flush your data when you power off. Most of it, anyway. StoreMI can also use up to 2GB of your system’s RAM to cache hot data.
StoreMI is only found in 400-series AMD motherboards like the X470 options. If you’re bummed because you’re sitting there with your X370 or other 300-series AMD board, you can get the same feature—for a price. StoreMI is basically a licensed version of Enmotus’ FuzeDrive which you buy for AMD’s B350 and X370 motherboards.
AMD’s secret weapon: The Wraith Prism cooler
The new Ryzen chips have a new approach to cooling, too.
NZXT Kraken X62
AMD opted not to bundle CPU coolers with the first-gen “X”-branded Ryzen CPUs on the sound logic that, well, enthusiasts building high-end machines would just put a stock cooler on the shelf and install something better instead. AMD officials now say customers have been asking for its custom “Wraith” coolers even at the high-end, so it’s now including them in the box.
The top-end Ryzen 7 2700X includes the new Wraith Prism cooler, which features programmable RGB lights for the fan, logo, and fan cowling, as well as switchable performance modes. The default “L” position limits the fans to 2,800 rpm and 38dBA of noise, with a TDP rating of 116 watts. Flip it to “H” and the maximum speed goes up to 3,600 rpm, increasing the TDP rating to 124 watts. Noise also goes up to 47dBA on max speed.
You can control the three zones of RGB lighting with the USB header connected and AMD’s free utility. If you choose to run it off your motherboard’s proprietary lighting app, unfortunately, it works as only a single zone.
People used to the “just good enough” fans bundled with Intel CPUs might scoff at any freebie, but the Wraith Prism is a custom unit built to spec by Cooler Master. The reason it’s such a big deal here is its performance and included LED “bling” means you can chose to forego an aftermarket cooler that might cost $30 to $60 (though it can’t compare to liquid coolers or premium air coolers). Since Intel doesn’t even include a cooler with its “K”-series parts, this puts Core i7 even further down the price hole against 2nd-gen Ryzen.
Next page: Application performance benchmarks
Application performance benchmarks
For our tests, we built three PCs and performed clean installs of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update on each. We then installed the latest security patches and available BIOS updates for each motherboard.
This last point is particularly critical as we now live in a post-Meltdown/Spectre world which hurts Intel’s performance more than AMD’s. Any proper judgement of how well the second coming of Ryzen truly is would thus require us to account for any performance hair cut that the Core i7-8700K has taken since our original review. To ensure the patches were applied correctly, we also checked each platform with GRC’s InSpectre utility.
All three systems were tested with matching Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition cards and Kingston HyperX SSDs. Each were outfitted with 16GB of DDR4 set to 3200MHz and a CAS latency of 14. For the Intel system we used a Z370 Aorus Gaming 7. For the Ryzen 7 2700X, we used an MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC. For the Ryzen 7 1700X, we used an Asus X370 Crosshair VI Hero motherboard.
Yes, 1700X. Although AMD compares the new chip against the previous $500 Ryzen 7 1800X flagship, we think it’s valid to compare the Ryzen 7 2700X against the model it replaces. All three of the tested chips currently sell in the $320 to $360 price range.
Cinebench R15 performance
Our first test uses Maxon’s popular 3D rendering benchmark, which is based on the same engine sold with its Cinema4D product. Most 3D rendering applications are heavily multi-threaded and it’s no surprise that both 8-core Ryzens leave the 6-core Core i7-8700K sucking dust. The Coffee Lake chip does fairly well though when you consider that it has two fewer cores than the older Ryzen 7 1700X chip. The higher clock speed and its better efficiency or IPC put scant 10 percent between the two, though the Ryzen 7 2700X takes the clear win here.
As much as people want to pretend multi-threading is common, it’s not. So we also run Cinebench R15 using just a single-thread to measure performance that you might see in such things as Microsoft Word or Google Chrome. The result? Intel’s clock speed advantage (it ranges from 3.7GHz to 4.7GHz) and IPC lands it firmly in front of Ryzen 7 2700X by 14 percent. That gap opens up to a 29 percent maw when compared to Ryzen 7 1700X.
Since we’re in Cinebench, let’s see if AMD’s claims about holding higher boost clocks over previous generations holds any water. To test that, we used Cinebench R15 and increased the workload from one thread to 16 threads.
For the most part, yes, the 2nd-gen Ryzen is well ahead of its older sibling. But one problem with the above chart is a sense of proportion. It doesn’t actually indicate just how much faster the Ryzen 7 2700X is over the Ryzen 7 1700X for each thread. The next chart does though—and it’s impressive as hell. At one thread, the 2nd-gen chip leads by 17 percent; at two threads, 23 percent; and 19 percent at four threads.
What this tells us is that the 2nd-gen Ryzen is indeed holding far higher clock speeds than its 1st-gen predecessor could ever dream of, especially from two to six threads
Our second test uses the Persistence of Vision Ray tracer benchmark. It’s a program that goes back to the Amiga days but has been updated for more modern hardware. Like Cinebench, it favors more cores, and again and there’s no surprise here: more cores win. In the case of the Ryzen 7 2700X, they win by a lot.
While free, POV-Ray is somewhat esoteric. So, for a more popular open-source opinion of how 2nd-gen Ryzen runs, we turn to Blender. It’s open source, well maintained and has been used to create the effects for numerous small indie movies. In fact, NASA even uses it now for modelling. For our test, we used Mike Pan’s popular BMW benchmark.
The winner? Ryzen 7 2700X. There is a surprise though: the performance of the 8-core Ryzen 7 1700X. It actually loses to the 6-core Core i7-8700K by a few seconds.
In the photorealistic Corona renderer (which is available as a plugin for for Cinema4D and 3ds Max) we see the Ryzen 7 2700X again lead the pack which is good. We had originally transposed one of our scores which placed the Core i7-8700K in front. While that may not make sense when you consider that this is a multi-threaded test, it actually initially looked correct to us us because the score tracked with the Ryzen 7 1700X which doesn’t outperform the Core i7-8700K
Our last professional benchmark is the Chaos Group’s V-Ray benchmark. It’s a ray tracer that’s gaining some traction in Hollywood. “If you are not familiar with V-Ray, it is one of the leading raytracers in the world that is used in many different industries including architecture and automotive design,” Chaos Group explains. “It has also been used in over 150 motion pictures and numerous episodic television series. It also won a Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement in 2017.”
The Chaos Groups said its own tests have shown 1st-gen Ryzen to be very potent in this test so how does the 2nd-gen Ryzen 7 2700X stand up? It’s a clear win over Core i7, but again, that pesky 6-core Intel chip hangs right there with the 8-core Ryzen 7 1700X.
Moving on to compression tests, we tapped the internal benchmarks of two popular applications to gauge 2nd-gen Ryzen’s performance.
Our first result is courtesy of RARLab’s WinRAR 5.20. With Intel’s Skylake-X and AMD’s Threadripper, we found that WinRAR appears to dislike chips that use mesh architectures to connect their cores. And no surprise, WinRAR still doesn’t like either Ryzen chip.
The good news: If you want a solid free utility to decompress and compress files, just download 7-Zip. The performance simply sings with 8-cores and the Ryzen 7 2700X’s clock speed improvements. Even the Ryzen 7 1700X crushes the Core i7-8700K here.
We’re not going to get too far down the encryption performance rabbit hole but using Veracrypt’s internal benchmark (based on the now-dead but once popular TrueCrypt), the 8-core AMD chips have a nice advantage over the 6-core Intel chip. This particular task doesn’t seem too clock dependent though, as the Ryzen 7 2700X is in a dead heat with the Ryzen 7 1700X.
Our last workload test uses the popular Handbrake application (albeit a slightly older version) to convert a 30GB 1080P MKV file using the Android Tablet preset. Our workload and preset is heavily multi-threaded; more cores usually means big wins. It does here too. The Ryzen 7 2700X comes up with victory over the Core i7-8700K once again. The troubling part for AMD fans is the performance of the Ryzen 7 1700X, which doesn’t really outrun the Core i7-8700K by much.
Next page: Gaming performance and conclusion
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 2560×1440 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 1920×1080 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.
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.
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.
Rainbow Six Siege Performance
Moving to Rainbow Six Siege, all three CPUs and the GTX 1080 are belting about 200 fps at 19×10 even on Ultra quality settings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mentioned in this article
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
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.