AMD Ryzen 7 vs. Intel

AMD Ryzen Logo

AMD have a new player in the game…

With the AMD Press Event details now available to the world, with videos and articles confirming the many (oh so many!) performance and price leaks to be correct, we take a look at the first big leap forward from AMD in five years with the shiny new Ryzen 7 series. On March 2, the Ryzen 7 1800X, 1700X, and 1700 will challenge Intel’s 6- and 8-core CPU lineup at very competitive price points. Now we wonder: Is Intel worried?

[Edit: Since writing this article, Intel has announced price drops of their CPUs in response to Ryzen. So, in short: Yes, they are worried! Now read on to understand why.]

Ryzen on Up

Awful puns aside, having AMD out of the game for so long has limited CPU options for consumers. We’ve also seen this at times with AMD’s graphics cards range. For the last few years, Intel have had the mainstream desktop CPU market almost all to their own.

This is not to say Intel’s dominance hasn’t given us some great additions. We are all big fans of their recent release of the Pentium G4560 here at Logical Increments, with it offering incredible performance for the price. However, once you reach the $500+ mark, Intel have gone a bit overboard. They have been allowed to primarily price their top-end CPUs at a high cost, knowing that consumers don’t have any other options if we want a certain level of performance. Until now.

Even if you are not a fan of AMD, Ryzen 7 is still incredibly valuable: Ryzen makes Intel either re-think their current price range, or release something with significantly more performance for the money. Both are excellent things for us consumers, to answer the question of “Is Intel worried?” But first, we have to see how AMD’s new baby performs.

Ryzen 7 Performance At a Glance

AMD are rightfully being very vocal about the performance of the Ryzen 7 range as a whole. Many of the press who attended the event were surprised by AMD setting up multiple stations to allow direct Intel and AMD tests to be run, to the point of giving themselves a disadvantage in some setups. Not only that, but they gave the press free rein to play around with the systems how they wanted unsupervised.

So, let’s begin with the big points before breaking it down for each of the new chips. Each of these has 8 cores and 16 threads, which makes them excellent multi-tasking chips, something AMD is keen to highlight so far. The “X” in the model name means it is XFR enabled. The Extended Frequency Range (XFR) is part of AMD’s SenseMI Technology suite, which aims to bring higher, intelligent performance to their Ryzen chips.

 

Model

Base Clock (GHZ)

Boost Clock (GHZ)

TDP (Watts)

Price (USD)

1800X  3.6 4.0 95 $499
1700X 3.4 3.8 95 $399
1700 3.0 3.7 65 $329

Ryzen 7 1800X

Ryzen 1800X performance

Note that these are benchmarks from AMD and not a third-party source. AMD is smart, and wants to make a good first impression, so they start by showing off the advantages of Ryzen.

The +9% comparison is showing multithreaded performance in Cinebench R15. That test scales well with many CPU cores. Since both chips have the same number of cores and threads (8 and 16), and similar clock speeds, this suggests that Ryzen’s multithreaded performance is really good. All of the other official and leaked benchmarks support this, too.

The other comparison is showing 1T performance in Cinebench, which is single-threaded performance. The R7 1800X is tied with the i7-6900K here, which is actually quite impressive. Since both chips have the same 4.0 GHz max frequency, this suggests that single threaded IPC is the same for Ryzen as Broadwell (the architecture of the i7 6900K). And this is the test AMD chose to show, so single threaded performance may be a little lower in other tests. Intel’s 7000 series CPUs are two generations of CPU architecture newer than Broadwell, so they are likely to do better in single threaded performance.

Power use is also really good, which is a refreshing change for AMD. The R7 1800X’s TDP is 95W, compared to 140W for the i7-6900K.

The pricing is what is really exciting. The R7 1800X appears to beat the i7-6900K in multithreaded performance, and tie in single-threaded performance. But the R7 1800X is $500, and the i7-6900K is $1,000! Even if real-world single-threaded performance ends up being lower, the R7 1800X is a way better deal at those prices.

Is Intel worried? I can see both the 6900K and 6850K being reduced in price in reaction. The 6950X is still an unmatched monster, so they won’t see the need to bring that down in price too much. But there’s more…

Ryzen 7 1700X

Ryzen 7 1700X

Although AMD has the 1800X as the showcase model, both the 1700X and 1700 models are much, much more interesting to me as a PC builder. Although not clocked as high as the 1800X, the 1700X still comes with an impressive 3.4GHz clock (3.8GHz boost) and for the price of $399 stands completely alone in the market. As AMD have shown in the image above (and what we’ve been seeing from leaked benchmarks) there’s nothing really close to it in performance near that price. The i7 6900K is shown as being close, but it costs more than twice as much. The 6800K is close to the same price, but it only has 6 cores instead of 8, and multi-threaded performance looks a lot lower. Even the more expensive i7-6850K is showing much lower multithreaded performance than the R7 1700X.

Again, we know precious little about single-core performance outside of leaked benchmarks, yet it is no real surprise that these 8-core chips are beating up smaller Intel offerings when it comes to multi-tasking.

Are Intel worried about the 1700X? Definitely. This chip, at this price, is far more threatening. With more cores from AMD’s model, it is no surprise they are keen to show off the jump in performance for the 1700X compared to the similarly priced i7-6800K.

Ryzen 7 1700

Ryzen-1700

Some would say this is the baby of the series, but it is also the most interesting in my eyes. It’s still an 8-core CPU (yes, 8 cores for $329) and although it’s clocked lower than the other Ryzen 7 chips at 3.0GHz (3.8GHz boost), it’s still going to destroy anything in multi-tasking at that price point.

It’s not really surprising that with 4 cores, the i7-7700K gives a lower score here, but thankfully for AMD, the Intel chip is priced at $339. Now, at least with this comparison, I would be very surprised if the single-core performance isn’t a different story. The 7700K is clocked at 4.5GHz, so even with AMD’s improvements with Ryzen, I’d be surprised if Intel doesn’t win that little war.

The other interesting aspect of the 1700 is the TDP. Because they have pulled back the clock speed and limited you from overlocking to the same level as the more expensive Ryzen 7 chips, its wattage is a tiny 65W. The fact that they squeezed so much performance out of a low-power 8-core CPU speaks volumes for the design. I wouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing this CPU in mid-high range laptops soon.

Is Intel worried? A little bit less so with this one. It’s true that it looks like AMD has them beat with the multi-tasking aspects of this, yet I do still feel the i7-7700K will have it beat in single-core performance, so it all comes down to what you’re using them to do.

A Note on Overclocking

Overclocking has been the bigger concern of builders. Manufacturers will always show the numbers that suit them best and with the new Ryzen chips that looks to be multi-tasking. AMD have been quite coy about confirming or denying numbers. AMD invited a group of professional overclockers to their Ryzen event, and they managed to push a 1800X all the way to 5.14GHz, breaking a cinebench world record in the process. Now, they did have to cool this with liquid nitrogen and use a crazy high amount of wattage, but at least it shows that there’s some potential there.

On the other hand, it makes sense for AMD to push the stock clock speeds as far as they can to give them the most stock performance. This is their first big CPU release in many years, and it needs to be as competitive as possible to restore faith in AMD. Leaving extra performance untapped, just to offer more overclocking headroom, doesn’t make sense. We’ll have to just wait until the chips are in the hands of the masses before making any definitive calls one way or another there.

Intel’s Response

I personally thought we wouldn’t get a response out of Intel. They’re usually such cool customers — never phased and never bothered by anything. Yet as soon as the NDA dropped on Ryzen, an official Intel spokesman responded to the news with the following:

“We take any competition seriously but as we’ve learned, consumers usually take a ‘wait and see’ approach on performance claims for untested products. 7th Gen Intel® Core™ delivers the best experiences, and with 8th Gen Intel Core and new technologies like Intel® Optane™ memory coming soon, Intel will not stop raising the bar.” ­

So take that how you will.

For us consumers, it’s going to be a fascinating few months. Intel have been without serious competition for so long and finally AMD have stepped up and come out with some seriously good processors in the Ryzen 7 series. As it gets closer to the full launch on March 2, keep your eyes here on Logical Increments, as I doubt we’ll be able to resist giving you some new builds with Ryzen to sink your teeth into.

Conclusion

AMD is definitely back in the game. Ryzen appears to have the best multi-threaded performance for the price by far, single-threaded performance similar to Intel’s 5000/6000 series Broadwell CPUs, and power efficiency that is comparable or better. So it looks like our choices will be:

  • Slightly higher single-threaded performance from Intel, which can be useful for applications like CAD and high FPS (144 Hz) gaming.
  • Much better multi-threaded performance from AMD, which is useful for things like video editing, streaming, and heavy multi-tasking.

The best part: Now that AMD is finally competitive again, Intel can no longer set their prices wherever they feel like. We all win.