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Ryzen wins with the second generation on Intel



The second-generation Ryzen chips announced last week are now out and reviews have hit the net. Unlike last week, we can now talk about what has changed in the second-generation chips and what their improvements are.

Model Cores / Threads Clock Base / Boost / GHz [19659003] TDP / W Radiator Price
Ryzen 7 2700X 8/1
6
3.7 / 4,3 105 Wraith Prism (LED) $ 329
Ryzen 7 2700 8/16 3.2 / 4.1 65 Wraith tip (LED) $ 299
Ryzen 5 2600X 6/12 3.6 / 4.2 [19659009] 95 Wraith Spire $ 229
Ryzen 5 2600 6/12 3.4 / 3.9 65 Wraith Stealth $ 199

AMD calls the new parts "Zen +." This is not a new architecture. It is an optimized version of first-generation Zen architecture. The basic layout of the chips remains the same: each contains two core complexes (CCXes), which are blocks of four cores, eight threads, and 8 MB of Level 3 cache, along with AMD's infinity fabric.

Architecturally, the biggest improvements seem to have been made in the memory and cache latencies. AMD says cache latency for Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 caches and main memory has improved by up to 13 percent, 34 percent, 16 percent, and 11 percent, respectively. Tech Report's benchmarks show improved memory latency and PC Perspective improved communication latency between CCXs.

Overall, AMD says that Zen + achieves about 3 percent more commands per cycle (IPC) than the original Zen. That was pretty much what Anandtech found.

The second generation parts also have a much smarter version of Precision Boost, AMD's Turbo Boosting System. The first-generation chips have a basic clock speed, a full-core boost speed and a two-thread boost. The highest speeds can only be hit by a single core (two threads); Once more than two threads have to be brought over the baseline, the entire chip drops to the boost speed of all cores. For lighter workloads – those that can use more than two fast cores but less than 16 cores – this tends to leave some performance on the table: there is enough power / thermal margin, for example, two or four cores It's just not possible to operate at higher speeds.

  The original Precision Boost offered only the highest speed for two-threaded workloads. The new Precision Boost allows boosting for any number of threads.
Enlarge / The original Precision Boost offered its maximum speed only for two-thread workloads. The new Precision Boost allows an increase for any number of threads.

Precision Boost 2 addresses this: It can lift any number of cores as long as there is enough power and cooling available. This means that it can perform two or even three core workloads with little more than the all-core boost.

The new chips are also based on the 12nm process from Global Foundries, not the 14nm generation. AMD says that the total number of chips and the number of transistors have remained unchanged compared to the first generation: the company does not use the smaller process to pack the transistors of the chip closer together. It rather comes to a further 250 MHz and has reduced the voltages by about 50 mV.

Taken together, the new chips offer an incremental improvement over the old ones: a few hundred MHz more and a little more work per cycle.

The first-generation Ryzen chips generally followed Intel processors in single-threaded workloads and most games due to their inferior single-thread performance. However, they have progressed on multithreading workloads because of their superior core and thread count. Intel's hex-core, 12-stranded Coffee Lake chips closed the gap a bit, but for tasks with 16 compute-bound threads, the sheer core of the Ryzens provided an unassailable advantage.

The second-generation benchmarks show a similar pattern. The improved clock speeds and IPCs have narrowed the gap in single-threaded tasks and games, but has not been resolved: Intel's i7-8700K is still the best all-round gaming chip, albeit with less headroom. But the second-generation task is even ahead of the ranks of the first-generation Ryzen.

For example, the Intel i7-8700K has 12 percent higher frame rates in Grand Theft Auto V [PC-Perspektive]. 29 percent higher in Forza 7 and 7 percent higher in Ghost Recon: Wildlands and in single thread mode, Cinebench has an 11 percent performance lead. By comparison, the Ryzen 2700X is 27 percent faster in multithreaded cinebench and 23 percent faster in POV-Ray-Ray tracer. Trivially, these workloads scale to multiple cores, so AMD needs more processors and more concurrent threads.

And as you can see in the first generation, the AMD chips are not bad in gaming. They are not quite as fast as the fastest gaming chip available. If you build a pure gaming device, then the Intel chip is probably the right one. But if you have broader interests – software development, 3D graphics, even video encoding – then you will not be wrong with the AMD chip.

The second generation of Ryzen uses the same chipsets as the first generation, but AMD also has a new chipset, the X470. The X470 has some notable features: First, it has some built-in USB 3.1 generation 2 (10 gigabits per second) controller; Second, it has StoreMI, a hybrid disk system that allows the use of SSDs (and RAM) to speed up rotating disks. StoreMI works essentially like RAID 0: The system's capacity is simply the sum of the SSD and HDD capacity, and StoreMI handles moving blocks of data between fast memory and cold memory.

This kind of hybrid hard disk system has its virtues: In particular, players can have huge Steam libraries that are prohibitively expensive on SSDs. A system that actively puts the games you are playing into the fast SSD, and those that you play less often on the slow disk, is very useful.

However, this type of system always leaves us a bit cautious. In practice, most computer users are very poorly able to create backups and a RAID 0 system where the failure of either the SSD or the hard disk makes your data corrupt and inaccessible – increases the risk of data loss. Systems connected to the motherboard are also a bit cumbersome: if your motherboard or processor dies, you can not put the hard drives in another computer to recover your data, unless that machine also has an X470 chipset. In general, we would much prefer to see operating system-level hybrid disks instead of these motherboard systems (this applies to both StoreMI for AMD and Intel's comparable RST).

We also do not know how well StoreMI is still leading; the final shipping software and drivers are not yet available.

It's not about the chips; it's all about the trajectory

  Ryzen 7 2700X in Box
/ Ryzen 7 2700X in Box

Overall, the second generation Ryzens have almost an Intel feel. For many years, Intel had the so-called tick-tock development model: it would take turns introducing new architectures ("tocks") and refined versions of these architectures on smaller processors ("ticks"). Zen + is not quite an Intel "tick" Intel Ticks actually make the processor smaller, which AMD has not done for Zen + – but it's still a small architectural improvement to focus on specific vulnerabilities the Zen design, coupled with a new process.

And critically for AMD, Intel had to give up the tick-tack due to manufacturing difficulties. Intel's development of 14nm and 10nm manufacturing was delayed, forcing the company to produce several generations of processors at 14nm and delay the transition to 10nm.

The second generation Ryzens is an incremental improvement over the first generation, but the picture they paint is from a company on the right trajectory. Sure, Intel's chips are the absolute performance champions, especially for gamers. But Intel feels like a company struggling to improve what it has. The chips from AMD may be a bit slower, but the company proves that it can deliver: It gave us a solid first generation Ryzen, and about a year later it released a superior second generation. It goes the right way, while Intel feels lost.


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