Yesterday, me and my cousin were looking at the new AMD Ryzen offerings to see what were the options for his PC build. And what I realized about Ryzen is a bit “shocking”. Well, not quite. There is no denying AMD did great with AMD Ryzen. They really pushed IPC (Instructions Per Clock) capability on par with Intel offerings. A lot of people were skeptical about it, but AMD has in fact delivered. And at what price point! Giving users the compute power of most expensive Intel CPU, the Core i7 6900k at a half the price is an offer that’s very hard to refuse. But if you’re a gamer, things change quite a bit…
The gamer factor
There is just one issue with it and that’s the “gamer” factor. If you’re building a gaming system that will 95% of the time run games and the rest of 5% will be browsing and watching movies, there is an issue with AMD Ryzen offerings. At least as things stand now with only R7 1700 and R7 1800 models being available. And that issue is the raw core clock.
AMD Ryzen, all of the currently available don’t clock above 4GHz. Getting it to 4.1GHz 100% stable overclock is a very good achievement, meaning these CPU’s will never be as good as any higher clocked Intel CPU’s, regardless of core count (unless we venture into Core i3 with 2 cores and 4 threads territory).
If you look at the tests, in every single one of them, 6700k and 7700k have an edge in gaming. A quite significant one. They only have 4 cores and 8 threads, but they come at 4.2GHz and 4.5GHz out of the box when boosting. And most of them overclock to at least 4.5GHz base clock easily. At a current cost of 380€ for the 7700k. R7 1700X goes at only around 4GHz and a price tag of 460€. 80€ difference is quite significant and you’re not even having the most optimal gaming setup if you buy R7 1700X.
The aging X99 becomes an alternative
If you look it it differently, the old Core i7 5820k goes for 450€ and 6800k at 470€ respectively). But you can almost be assured it’ll clock up to 4.5GHz rather easily. Yes, X99 motherboards are a bit more expensive at around 200€ if you look at a bit better ones, but you’ll get a 6 core, 12 threads CPU that also clocks high, meaning you’ll not only beat R7 1700X in gaming, but you’ll also beat 7700k when it comes to compute power because you’ll just have more cores and threads. Meaning you’ll kinda get the best of both worlds, but for the price of R7 1700X.
- Workstation/compute intensive workloads
If you’re aiming at a capable workstation or a PC meant for everything but gaming, AMD Ryzen CPU’s are a formidable competition. At 460€, R7 1700X will beat everything Intel can offer at the moment unless it’s a highly clock dependent single threaded workload. And with R7 1800X, it beats Intel even in the highest end territory with basically half the cost and same performance. If workstation or compute “cluster” is your target system, AMD Ryzen will shine.
- Blend of intense gaming and regular high compute intensive workloads
If you’re one of those people who love to play games, but they also do some serious work regularly in terms of video encoding, file compression, software 3D rendering, it might be worth checking old Intel LGA2011v3 parts, 5820k and slightly newer 6800k in particular. With capability to overclock relatively high and offer 6 physical cores and 12 threads, they offer a nice blend of gaming and compute capability for a price of R7 1700X. You kinda get best of both worlds with few tiny compromises.
As things stand at the moment without the R5 and R3 offerings, if you’re 100% dedicated gamer, going with Core i7 7700k seems to be the only logical decision at the moment. As much as I absolutely love what AMD achieved with AMD Ryzen compared to how bland Bulldozer CPU’s were, it’s just no match for raw core clock offered by 7700k. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still be very much able to play all games using maximum settings without issues, but you just won’t be getting 100% optimal gaming performance from it. The future of heavily multi-threaded games is still very uncertain so it’s hard to predict how Ryzen R7 CPU’s will fare in the future.
If you’re a pure gamer at heart, but you’re wallet doesn’t allow you to go bananas on high performance PC components, I think waiting for AMD Ryzen R5 and R3 is a good plan. You can read below why I think so.
Now, if we look at the AMD Ryzen list of CPU’s that are still not released, but are planned, the most interesting gamer CPU will in fact not be R7 1700X as initially anticipated, but rather R5 1600X, R5 1400X and to my surprise, even R3 1200X. They are all clocked relatively high, they all come with 4+ physical cores as standard (opposed to Intel Core i3 with only 2 cores) and if there aren’t other limiting factors within the core design, they should be capable of overclocking higher. You’ll be less limited thermally and fewer core CPU’s have always overclocked higher in general. And at those price points, even if I include USD to EUR conversion and VAT, I think they’ll be pretty darn competitive.
In fact, the best looking gaming AMD Ryzen CPU seems to be R5 1400X. Out of all lower end models, it’s clocked the highest, meaning it’ll perform the best in current games and it still comes with 4 cores and 8 threads. It’ll be an affordable pocket rocket.
What AMD did with their latest Ryzen CPU is nothing short of amazing. Great CPU for hard to beat price. But there are quite few very significant factors that you have to consider before buying/assembling new system at the moment. At first I also thought we’ll just throw R7 1700X into system for my cousin and call it a day, but in the end, it turned out things aren’t that simple. His configuration will fall into the “Gaming” category above and it’s actually really hard to decide. Should I use R7 1700X and risk high performance decline over time if games don’t go heavy multi-threaded in the near future or should I go with 7700k and risk heavy performance decline if games in fact do go heavy multi-threaded. I actually still don’t have a clear cut answer for this, but think we’re either leaning towards 7700k or waiting for R5 1400X. Which sorts of backs up my findings and explanations above.