In the days leading up to CES2017 we found ourselves most excited to see what AMD would be showing off with Ryzen CPU series. The anticipation for the new processor series for AMD is growing every day thanks to the marketing machine over at AMD continually showing it performing better than an Intel Core i7-6900K processor that costs over $1000. The thought of AMD releasing a processor that can compete with Skylake-E at any level a year ago, would have caused laughter in the room. Now, it looks like AMD has something that appears to come close to those levels of performance in applications like Blender and Handbrake. Check out the Handbrake results below.
While we were at CES 2017 last week in Las Vegas we heard all sorts of people talking on and off the record about Ryzen. This is our attempt to summarize all that information in a single one-page article.
AMD Debuts New X370 and B350 boards
New consumer desktop boards featuring AMD X370 and B350 chipsets with the AMD AM4 CPU Socket that supports Ryzen were finally shown off for the very first time at CES 2017. All of the motherboard manufactures were ecstatic that these boards were finally getting to market. Many of the companies designed this boards months ago, and have just been sitting on it waiting for AMD to finalize Ryzen and get them the hooks and data needed to finalize the UEFI. Despite so much being moved to the CPU we’ve been told that the boards will cost more than we expect by multiple sources at CES as the motherboard makers will try to recuperate the money they have spent on R&D.
No one was talking numbers, but multiple sources made it sound like we are spoiled by low cost AMD motherboards right now. For example the ASRock 970A-G/3.1 motherboard came out in February 2016 with support for AMD’s flagship FX-9590 Vishera 8-core 4.7 GHz processor for just $68.99 with free shipping. This is one of the newest AMD AM3+ boards (released February 2016) with support for AMD FX 9590 & 9370 220W CPUs, DDR3 2400MHz memory, M.2 PCIe Gen2 x 4 (20 Gb/s) and even has USB 3.1 Type-A + Type-C 10 Gb/s ports. Don’t expect to see AMD X370 boards this low at launch. AMD informed us that the AMD X370 will be priced comparable to Intel Z270 boards and the AMD B350 will be priced against Intel B250 boards. Motherboard makers like Gigabyte have 31 different Intel 200 based boards with prices ranging from $69.99 for a B250 board all the way up to $519.99 for a Z270 board.
One thing to keep in mind is that Ryzen has 24 PCIe lanes with 16 dedicated to graphics, four for the M.2 PCIe NVMe slot and the final four connect to the chipset. The AMD X370 chipset itself has eight PCIe lanes, so running a multi-GPU configuration (NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire) might be a bit tricky. Motherboard makers could feature two x8 slots for graphics from the CPU and one x8 slot from the chipset. Depending on the features that motherboard markers want, enabling multi-GPU support in the UEFI may disable some board features. AMD Ryzen might have performance comparable to Broadwell-E, but the number of PCIe lanes might become an issue for some power users.
Somewhat Boring DDR4 Performance
We’ve run DDR4 memory kits on the new Intel Z270 platform with Kaby Lake processors like the Intel Core i7-7770K processor at speeds of up to 4.0 GHz and we saw companies hitting 4.5 GHz clock speeds on DDR4 memory kits with extreme overclocking techniques. Multiple sources wishing to remain anonymous spoke with us at CES 2017 and said that DDR4 support on Ryzen boards is no where near as good and that now and that DDR4-2400 is a good all around kit for these processors. Overclockers might be able to squeeze out DDR4 3000 MHz on these boards, but that has been tricky on the early pre-production processors. AMD hasn’t finalized Ryzen processors yet and the UEFI still has many updates coming, but we’ve been told not to hold out breath when it comes to high-speed DDR4 memory kits on these boards. Sources inside AMD are saying that they will launch Ryzen with support above the DDR4 JEDEC standard speeds, but noted that Ryzen has a new memory controller with brand new IP over Bristol Ridge and that they are working on making improvements with regards to DDR4 performance here in the home stretch.
USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 Performance is Solid
It will be interesting to see how AMD’s inclusion of USB 3.1 into the processor goes as implementing new SATA and USB technologies can be tricky as Intel had a small USB 3.0 bug on Haswell processors back in 2013 and then way back in 2011 there was SATA controller issue on the 6 series chipset that led to a recall of that platform for Sandy Bridge processors. AMD has told us that USB 3.1 performance is spot on and a non-issue on Ryzen. That is a good thing as they have four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the Ryzen CPU itself and then another six USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, six USB 3.0 ports and two USB 3.1 Gen2 (10Gb/s) ports on the AMD X370 chipset. That means the AMD X370 boards with a Ryzen processor can have up to 20 total USB ports. Our industry sources said that AMD did not include ReDrivers into thier IP, so an actual ReDriver chip will need to be used by motherboard makers for USB type-C support.
Ryzen Processors Are Multiplier Unlocked
AMD Ryzen processors are all multiplier unlocked as long as the motherboard supports unlocked processors. From what we are hearing AMD X370 & B350 motherboards will both support CPU Multiplier adjustment and are the enthusaist-class boards you need if you want to overclock. AMD A320 and A300 chipsets do not support overclocking.
Ryzen Clock Speeds
AMD still hasn’t set clock speeds for Ryzen processors, but most recently have been showing them clocked at 3.4 GHz with no Turbo Boost. Everyone we talked to at CES 2017 gave us different stories on Ryzen clock speeds and we left the show without a good feeling on how they are doing. One informant told us that they are only getting 200-300 MHz over the 3.4 GHz clock speeds on their early pre-production sample processors while others told us they were getting over 5 GHz. So, there isn’t a good consensus on what the clock speeds will other than the fact that we are certain that AMD is trying everything they can to get the highest clock speeds possible. With Intel Core i7 Kaby Lake processors shipping with Turbo Clock speeds of up to 4.5 GHz and overclocking beyond 5 GHz on air it feels like AMD is slightly concerned with the gap in clock speeds. Years ago clock frequency meant everything, but an 8-core 16-thread Ryzen processor doesn’t have to be clocked that high to compete with 4-core 8-thread Kaby Lake processors on multi-threaded applications. Hopefully that message will get out there and our fingers are crossed that single-thread performance isn’t horrible on Ryzen. One not good sign about Ryzen clock speeds is that CyberPowerPC had a Ryzen system on display and the placard showed that the AMD Ryzen processor inside was running at 3.15 GHz, reportedly an early ES part. CyberPowerPC quickly pulled the sign, said it was wrong, and denied to know Ryzen clock speeds. We know that AMD will have multiple Ryzen sku’s, so some might be clocked that low? AMD has since clarified that all 8-Core 16-Thread processors will have at least a base clock of 3.4GHz and that they want to give consumers the best performance per dollar in their return home to the enthusiast space.
Ryzen Release Date
It appears that AMD might have accidentally posted up the official Ryzen CPU launch date. AMD will be holding a session at annual Game Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco on ‘Optimizing for AMD Ryzen CPU’ on a TBD date during the show for the ‘recently-launched’ AMD Ryzen CPU. GDC kicks off on February 27th and runs until March 3rd, so could AMD be launching Ryzen at the start of GDC? AMD has been saying for weeks that Ryzen will be launching in Q1 2017 and this would certainly hit that intended launch date. Our sources are quiet on this one, but it will be interesting to see what happens. We don’t see AMD releasing their most exciting processor in years at an industry event, but we could be very wrong.
AMD told us that Ryzen will be priced below the Intel Core i7-6900K ($1000) and that it won’t be $999. Online rumors have put Ryzen at $350 and several people we spoke with at CES 2017 said that the flagship Ryzen processor will cost less than the Intel Core i7-7700K processor ($349.89 on Amazon) or be right around there depending on how final performance looks. That is exciting news if it does turn out to be true, but is that a good sign of Ryzen performance? The demos that AMD have shown are all on 16-threaded applications with the processor pegged at 100% load or close to it. Hopefully the IPC performance on 4-threads or less is solid. Our guess is that AMD Ryzen will be priced comparable to what Intel has to offer. The AMD X370 motherboards are said to be price comparable to Intel Z270 boards, so were thinking that the Ryzen processors will line up with those associated processors. AMD’s flagship FX-9590 8-core processor costs $199.99 right now, so an upcoming Ryzen 8-core processor at $350 or less doesn’t sound out of the question.
At the end of the day we can’t wait to learn more about AMD Ryzen and are extremely excited by the upcoming launch. Seeing AMD show off Ryzen and VEGA in the same system at CES 2017 was a good sign, but both the CPU and GPU were run on development boards. Hopefully, AMD will be showing off final consumer boards the next time we see both!