AMD Ryzen 7 1800X 3.6 GHz Review 314

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X 3.6 GHz Review



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AMD launched its much awaited Ryzen 7 processor family. AMD has been known to be a PC processor company way before it acquired ATI in 2006 to also become a graphics company. Owning a PC with a fast AMD processor has been a 'hip' thing and told people around you that you're aware of an industry beyond Intel and the millions of dollars it pumps into marketing each year. Throughout the Pentium era, AMD processors have lived up to being viable alternatives, alongside companies such as Cyrix, who we dearly miss. The company's K6, Athlon, and Athlon XP processor series did well to ensure Intel didn't pull the same architecture through the market for an entire decade.

AMD even took an undisputed performance lead over Intel for nearly half a decade, before the company could make a comeback with the Core processor family. Repeated attempts by AMD to regain the top spot, such as the first monolithic quad-core chip, the Phenom series, were colossal disappointments. Cut to 2008 and Intel launched its first architecture with an integrated memory controller codenamed "Nehalem." This architecture was so much faster than AMD's that Intel only incrementally updated it for an entire decade running up to 2017, thanks also to AMD's equally disappointing "Bulldozer" architecture. It took another half a decade for AMD to come up with a brand new chip from the ground up by pooling in some of the brightest chip-designers in the industry, codenamed "Zen" and branded as Ryzen.

Zen undoes "Bulldozer" in marking AMD's return to completely independent CPU cores with large integer and floating-point components, and dedicated L2 caches, in an attempt to shore up single-thread performance. AMD misread the software industry in 2011 with Bulldozer, when it thought an 8-core chip in which four cores sharing components with neighboring cores could compete with Intel, which still sold dual-core processors at $160 at the time. Ryzen corrects that mistake by providing beefier CPU cores that attempt to get into the same single-core performance league as current Intel architecture; while not abandoning AMD's competitive strategy of selling more cores to the dollar than Intel. Ryzen is also AMD's first processor to feature simultaneous multi-threading (SMT), which like Intel's HyperThreading Technology, lets the software see each physical core as two logical cores to better utilize its hardware resources. The Ryzen 7 series 8-core chips hence feature 16 threads, which adds tremendous value.

AMD launched the Ryzen processor family with its three fastest models, all of which are 8-core parts slotted above Intel's socket LGA1151 lineup, with the range-topping Ryzen 7-1800X at $499, the next-best Ryzen 7-1700X at $399, and the most affordable Ryzen 7-1700 at $329, on par with Intel's Core i7-7700K. On paper, these parts are endowed with core-components that are more in the league of Intel's larger Core i7 LGA2011v3 lineup, with up to 8 CPU cores and 16 MB of shared L3 caches; while their uncore-components are closer to Intel's LGA1151 lineup - with dual-channel DDR4 integrated memory controllers and 28-lane PCI-Express gen 3.0 root complexes. That kind of gives away what AMD hopes to achieve with the Ryzen 7 series, which is to capture key price points between the i7-7700K and its larger six- to eight-core HEDT siblings, priced above $500.

In this review, we are taking a look at the top-dog Ryzen 7-1800X processor and compare it with the Core i7-7700K and the i7-6700K chips we have at hand. This chip features clock speeds of up to 3.60 GHz, with a TurboCore (boost) frequency of 4.00 GHz, with a neat little feature called extended frequency range (XFR), which rewards good CPU cooling with automatic overclocks beyond the 4.00 GHz boost clocks. AMD is non-committal about what those clocks are because they could vary with the effectiveness of the user's cooling. We used the third-party cooler AMD included with its Ryzen sample; retail boxes of the Ryzen 7-1800X lack stock coolers, just like the i7-7700K.

Ryzen 7 Market Segment Analysis
 Core i5-6600KCore i5-7500Core i5-7600KRyzen 7 1700Core i7-6700KCore i7-7700KRyzen 7 1700XCore i7-6800KRyzen 7 1800XCore i7-6900KCore i7-6950X
Cores / Threads4 / 44 / 44 / 48 / 164 / 84 / 88 / 166 / 128 / 168 / 1610 / 20
Base Clock3.5 GHz3.4 GHz3.8 GHz3.0 GHz4.0 GHz4.2 GHz3.4 GHz3.4 GHz3.6 GHz3.2 GHz3.0 GHz
Max. Boost3.9 GHz3.8 GHz4.2 GHz3.7 GHz4.2 GHz4.5 GHz3.8 GHz3.6 GHz4.0 GHz3.7 GHz3.5 GHz
L3 Cache8 MB6 MB8 MB16 MB8 MB8 MB16 MB15 MB16 MB20 MB25 MB
TDP91 W65 W91 W65 W91 W91 W95 W140 W95 W140 W140 W
Process14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm14 nm
SocketLGA 1151LGA 1151LGA 1151AM4LGA 1151LGA 1151AM4LGA 2011AM4LGA 2011LGA 2011

A Closer Look

The Ryzen 7 1800X and 1700X retail packages lack stock cooling solutions, and so the PIB (processor in a box) packaging is pretty spartan. You only get the processor, a case-badge, and some literature.

Topside, the Ryzen chip looks quite similar to every AMD desktop processor since Athlon64. A large, thick integrated heatspreader tops off the chip. Underneath, you see the chip's PGA (pin grid array). AM4 consists of 1,331 pins (missed opportunity to add 6 more ground pins), and these pins are a lot finer than the ones you find on AM3+ FX-series processors, so handle these chips with extreme care.

AM4 still has a rectangular cooler mount-hole layout (as opposed to square ones on Intel LGA platforms). AMD should have switched to a square layout to make it easier to orient tower-type coolers to blow hot air out the rear of the case. Current AM4-ready tower-type coolers have elaborate retention module kits that let you do that. Most popular cooler vendors are either selling or giving away AM4 retention modules for free. You often also have to remove the plastic retention module motherboards ship with to install certain kinds of coolers.

The "Zen" Architecture

The oldest reports about AMD working on the "Zen" architecture date back to 2012, when AMD re-hired CPU core designer Jim Keller, credited with the original winning K8 and K9 architecture designs, to work on a new core architecture to succeed "Bulldozer." AMD continued to invest in the "Bulldozer" IP in the form of incremental core updates, hoping that trends in the software industry towards parallelization could improve, giving it a big break in price/performance. Those trends, in the form of DirectX 12 and Vulkan 3D APIs being multi-core friendly, came in a tad late (towards late 2016). Four years of work by a team dedicated to its development, led by Jim Keller, resulted in the "Zen" core.

At the heart of the "Zen" core are two very important innovations - a very "intelligent" branch-prediction system that uses neural nets (yes, of the same kind that power deep-learning machinery) to predict branches in code, and load the most appropriate instructions and allocation of core resources; and there's a 1.5X increase in issue width and execution resources, besides a 1.75X increase in the instruction scheduler window. Intel had been beating AMD in core performance and efficiency in exactly these two areas, and AMD finally addressed it instead of throwing in too many more hardware resources without addressing the branch-prediction issues. "Zen" also features an up to date ISA instruction set, including AVX2, FMA3, and SHA.

The Ryzen 7-1800X is based on the 14 nm "Summit Ridge" silicon, built at GlobalFoundries' swanky new facility in Upstate New York. One look at the die shot will show you that the eight CPU cores are clumped in two groups of four cores each. These groups are called quad-core complex (CCX). There is no specific reason as to why AMD chose groups of four cores, other than four being a manageable number of cores for AMD's product managers. Each individual core in a CCX can be disabled and doesn't share anything with its neighboring core except for an 8 MB block of L3 cache. Each core has its own dedicated 512 KB L2 cache. The two CCX units talk to each other over AMD Infinity Fabric, a new high-bandwidth interconnect that succeeds HyperTransport.

The AM4 Platform

What sets "Summit Ridge" apart from Intel dies, such as "Kaby Lake" or "Broadwell-E," is that it is a full-fledged SoC (system-on-chip). It integrates both the northbridge and southbridge. In addition to memory and PCIe, socket AM4 processors also put out USB 3.0 and two SATA 6 Gb/s ports. The platform still has something called a "chipset," but it only serves to increase connectivity options, such as adding more SATA ports, USB 3.1 ports, and a few more general-purpose PCIe lanes. On Intel's platforms, the PCH (platform controller hub) serves the functions of the southbridge, while the northbridge is fully integrated with the processor.

AMD has five chipsets for Ryzen - the X370 for high-end desktops, which supports proprietary multi-GPU technologies such as NVIDIA SLI; the mid-tier B350 chipset with a slimmer connectivity feature set, and the entry-level A320 chipset for low-cost desktops. There's also the X300 and A300. We doubt you can even call these a chipset because they don't even have an A-link chipset bus to the SoC, and only talk over legacy SPI pins, and they have simple components to keep the platform ticking. What sets the two apart is lack of CPU overclocking support on the A300. On machines with the X300 and A300 (such as SFF desktops), all the connectivity is handled by the SoC.
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Jul 4th, 2022 23:27 EDT change timezone

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