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AMD Ryzen 7 1700X Review; Testing SMT

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Gaming Performance (Battlefield 1 / COD: IW)

Battlefield 1


Battlefield 1 will likely become known as one of the most popular multiplayer games around but it also happens to be one of the best looking titles around. It also happens to be extremely well optimized with even the lowest end cards having the ability to run at high detail levels.

In this benchmark we use a runthough of The Runner level after the dreadnought barrage is complete and you need to storm the beach. This area includes all of the game’s hallmarks in one condensed area with fire, explosions, debris and numerous other elements layered over one another for some spectacular visual effects.





Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare


The latest iteration in the COD series may not drag out niceties like DX12 or particularly unique playing styles but it nonetheless is a great looking game that is quite popular.

This benchmark takes place during the campaign’s Operation Port Armor wherein we run through a sequence combining various indoor and outdoor elements along with some combat.



The first round of games shows the 1700X performing well in COD but that game is engine-limited to 125FPS while in BF1 DX12, things could look a lot better. Simply put, the low clocked 8-core Ryzen parts don’t perform all that well in that particular game.

Turning off Ryzen’s and Broadwell-E’s SMT capabilities doesn’t make much of a different in either game with BF1’s DX12 code path obviously not taking advantage of 8 concurrent threads.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Gaming Performance (Deus Ex / DOOM)

Deus Ex – Mankind Divided


Deus Ex titles have historically combined excellent storytelling elements with action-forward gameplay and Mankind Divided is no difference. This run-through uses the streets and a few sewers of the main hub city Prague along with a short action sequence involving gunplay and grenades.




Doom


Not many people saw a new Doom as a possible Game of the Year contender but that’s exactly what it has become. Not only is it one of the most intense games currently around but it looks great and is highly optimized. In this run-through we use Mission 6: Into the Fire since it features relatively predictable enemy spawn points and a combination of open air and interior gameplay.


Doom is another engine-limited game whereas Deus Ex seems to have some PGU limitation. Nonetheless we can finally see that turning off SMT on the Ryzen processors produces better results. In that same vein, the i7-6900K also sees its framerates improve with HT off which leads me to say that what’s good for one CPU is also good for the other. Deus Ex obviously likes scheduling tasks towards physical cores rather than virtual threads, as if the strong results from the i5-7600K weren’t already proof of that.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Gaming Performance (GTA V / Overwatch)

Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.




Overwatch


Overwatch happens to be one of the most popular games around right now and while it isn’t particularly stressful upon a system’s resources, its Epic setting can provide a decent workout for all but the highest end GPUs. In order to eliminate as much variability as possible, for this benchmark we use a simple “offline” Bot Match so performance isn’t affected by outside factors like ping times and network latency.


Overwatch is another game that’s engine-capped but GTA V provides more insight into both the Ryzen 7 1700X and the way SMT has an effect upon framerates.

First of all, let’s reiterate that the Ryzen 7 CPUs aren’t great gaming companions and nor are higher end Broadwell-E processors. Nothing changes about that here and I don’t want to rub salt into that still-open wound. However, Ryzen doesn’t have exclusivity upon performance improvements when turning off its simultaneous multithreading technology as Broadwell-E also benefits. If anything, the i7-6900K improves even more, widening its lead over the Ryzen 7 1700X when HT is removed from the equation. Interesting indeed.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Power Consumption

Power Consumption


I don’t typically dedicate a whole page to power consumption but there’s a pretty substantial story lurking behind the numbers you see below and how they directly relate to TDP claims from both Intel and AMD. Without getting too technical, the way these two companies go about measuring TDP is fundamentally different from one another. Intel themselves published a very comprehensive and quite neutral White Paper (PDF download) about some of the nuances of power testing a few years ago and its worth a quick read if you have a chance.

What you need to know is that TDP values are a universally poor way to determine actual power consumption for end users since they are simply thermal design guidelines that are given to system integrators. As I say in every review, TDP is not actual power consumption so don’t take it as such.

In this case it looks like AMD is publishing something quite different from Intel. As such, the Ryzen 7 1800X’s & 1700X’s claim of 95W TDP isn’t directly relatable to the 140W of Intel’s own i7-6900K. It sure looks bloody impressive and make no mistake about it, Ryzen 7 is a relatively efficient 14nm 8-core design but there’s no secret black magic that would make its process node that much more efficient than Intel’s.

As both Intel and AMD recommend, the best way to measure true power deltas between processors is via a simple (yet calibrated) power meter plugged into the wall outlet. That’s exactly what we do but add in a controlled 120V power input to eliminate voltage irregularities from impacting the results.


You may remember that in the introduction I mentioned that the 1700X I have in hand operates at a lower voltage than the Ryzen 7 1800X sample I received from AMD. This power consumption chart goes to prove that the reduction in voltage and clock speeds has tangible benefits from an efficiency standpoint. This particular processor is getting mighty close to Kaby Lake CPUs here, which points to Ryzen being a highly efficient architecture. However, does this low power consumption translate to disappointing overclocking results?
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Overclocking Results - Stuck in a Rut

Overclocking Results - Stuck in a Rut


So here we are in another AMD Ryzen article attempting overclocking. You may remember the challenges the team faced with our 1800X sample: actually getting over 4.1GHz was an impossibility. After being on the market for just over a week now, most end users have settled their own overclocking adventures between the 3.9GHz and 4GHz marks on the higher end processor. Meanwhile the 1700X has achieved literally identical results.


In our hands we have two Ryzen 7 1700X samples and neither broke the 4GHz plateau with the best one topping out at 4GHz and the other not going above 3.925GHz. Results didn’t change when switching between ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte motherboards. Oddly enough, the systems would boot all the way up to 4.2GHz on both CPUs but would immediately shut down without so much as a BSOD the second all eight cores were under load.

This potentially points towards a hard power limitation that’s programmed into the microcode or something else entirely. It certainly wasn't temperatures though since the system typically pulled the plug in a second or two.

I have to admit that so far overclocking the Zen architecture has been excessively frustrating. There’s just no finesse involved. Boost voltage to 1.4V to 1.45V, push 1.2V to the SOC and then modify the multiplier. Either the system will boot or it won’t. If it shuts off when load is applied, simply dial back the multiplier one step and retry. That’s it. Oh, and try not to touch the bus speeds since increasing them typically results in much less stability than focusing solely on multiplier-based modifications. Granted it may be easy, but the lack of additional frequency headroom right now is disappointing at best.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion – AMD’s Price / Performance Leader

Conclusion – AMD’s Price / Performance Leader


At the beginning of this review I mentioned the delays which plagued our 1700X and 1700 samples but looking back, that extra time to digest Ryzen has proven to be beneficial. Now that everyone has had time to take a breather and let some of the emotions swirling around this launch subside, it is becoming evident that AMD has done a ton of things right. However, whether or not you will be interesting in the Ryzen 7 series depends largely upon what you want to use it for. That statement holds true for the Ryzen 7 1700X as well.

Based upon the testing in this review, the 1700X provides a much better value proposition than the 1800X ever could. It may not have that sexy flagship status but the actual performance difference between these two processors is virtually unnoticeable. However, what will be noticeable is the $100 saved by choosing the less costly option, money which can be put towards some other system component that will compliment your setup more than a mere 200MHz.

Another benefit of this CPU is its overclocking prowess. I’m using “prowess” in a loose way since thus far Ryzen processors haven’t exactly been overclocking monsters but with a few judicious voltage and multiplier changes it will easily surpass the stock Ryzen 7 1800X in every benchmark. Our sample didn’t hit the same 4.1GHz mark as the 1800X but from plenty of anecdotal evidence it sounds like both chips are able to consistently attain between 3.9GHz and 4GHz within end users’ systems. That’s another point in the 1700X’s “win” column.

Against Intel’s competition it should be more than evident that the Ryzen 7 1700X is an absolute winner, particularly for its intended market: creative professionals and other folks who can befit from the massive 16 threads it produces. It creams the i7-7700K in many productivity tasks and provides tangible benefits over older AMD architectures. However, scheduling tasks over so many threads becomes a bridge too far for some applications, particularly games and programs that rely upon a different component (be it storage, memory or something else) for optimal performance.

A lot of focus has been put upon Ryzen 7’s inability to deliver Intel-beating in-game framerates. If you want to use a processor exclusively for gaming then the Ryzen 7 1700X (or any 8-core, 16 thread processor for that matter) will be a less than ideal purchase. Much like Intel’s Broadwell-E processors, it just doesn’t attain the necessary clock speeds or IPC rates. However, if you are looking for a CPU that pulls double duty in workstation and gaming situations then look no further. Other claims like improper thread scheduling leading to fixable performance deficiencies are simply red herrings and in their latest community update, AMD agrees.

Regardless of snake oil peddlers who say otherwise, that situation will likely remain in place for the foreseeable future even as more games transition to DX12. While Microsoft’s latest API has the ability to stream information towards many concurrent CPU threads, it also allows several typically CPU-bound tasks to be easily taken over by the much faster GPU compute engine. By shunting in-game features like particle effects, physics calculations, and other elements towards the graphics cores, x86 processing loads can be effectively reduced. Thus lower core count processors can do more with less while these massively endowed layouts start to look excessively ponderous.


With that being said, extra cores and threads may be beneficial for certain games, especially those which require a large amount of concurrent calculations for AI. Good examples of that would be games like Sega’s Total War series and Ashes of the Singularity, both of which feature massive armies battling across large territories.

How many threads will ultimately prove to be optimal for those situations? There’s no way to tell right now but if I had to gaze into my crystal ball, 8-12 threads on a high speed architecture would likely be beneficial in some cases. This seems to mesh well with the narrative of AMD’s most ardent defenders but it once again puts us into a never-never land of long term hypothetical situations and nebulous execution dates. In plain English that translates to: we’re grasping at straws now.

As we get through these reviews, remember the current crop of Zen-based processors is just the tip of a very extensive iceberg and you can’t judge their performance in certain applications –particularly games- by looking solely at the Ryzen 7 results. There are upcoming Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 derivatives that will (hopefully) boast the higher clock speeds which today’s games require for optimal performance.

As for the Ryzen 7 1700X, it is a very well rounded and efficient processor for people who need great multi threaded performance. It also has absolutely no problems subbing in as a very good gaming CPU if the situation calls for it. In my opinion the $100 saved versus AMD’s own 1800X relative to the insignificant performance difference makes it infinitely more appealing. And against Intel? Well, the 1700X just points out once again how overpriced the current Broadwell-E CPU’s really are.



Answering the SMT Question


Right before the Ryzen 7 1800X launched I received an email from AMD saying in-game performance could improve if SMT was turned off. The irony of AMD’s directive wasn’t lost on anyone here at HWC due to the fact that disabling SMT in an effort to boost performance has long been a tool in tweakers’ pockets. This has been the case ever since the advent of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology. Granted, disabling SMT is completely unrealistic for most end users and it effectively turns off one of the primary selling points of Ryzen 7 but it also brought up a good question: would Ryzen benefit more than Intel’s processors if their version of SMT was turned off?

The answer to that question is “sort of”. With SMT off almost every single game in this review (other than Battlefield 1) saw framerate boosts which ranged from infinitesimal to moderate. In no circumstance would those increases actually be noticeable to the naked eye though. On the flip side of the coin many real world benchmarks naturally benefit from SMT, though to varying degrees.

It needs to be mentioned that every single benefit Ryzen 7 has without SMT was mirrored by the i7-6900K with its own Hyper-Threading disabled. One interesting result of this testing was Ryzen 7’s SMT scaling beating the Broadwell-E; turning on Simultaneous Multithreading typically led to larger gains than Hyper-Threading. It looks like AMD’s version is simply more efficient than Intel's older architecture. How does it fare against the improvements baked into Skylake and Kaby Lake? That's a question best left to another article.
 
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