Not too long ago, AMD was written off as a serious processor maker, but then they made a spectacular comeback in 2017 with the Ryzen and EPYC processors based on the new "Zen" micro-architecture. These chips hit Intel's 7th generation Core "Kaby Lake" series so hard that the company cut its yearly generational product cycle by half and rushed in the 8th generation Core "Coffee Lake" series with 50%–100% core-count increases across the board to restore competitiveness. Intel succeeded in taking back the mainstream-desktop-performance crown with the Core i7-8700K, and it's now time for AMD's response.
AMD technically debuted its 2nd generation Ryzen processor family with the Ryzen 2000G "Raven Ridge" APU series, but for all intents and purposes, the new Ryzen 2000 "Pinnacle Ridge" is where the company's fightback really begins. These chips are based on a new 12 nanometer GlobalFoundries process, and it's the first time since forever that AMD is building its processors on a smaller process node than Intel. It could hold on to this feat for at least half a year before Intel responds with its first 10 nm chips.
The new "Pinnacle Ridge" silicon uses the new process to increase clock frequencies at same or lower voltage than the "Summit Ridge" silicon. Refinements were made to some of its on-die logic, and more importantly, its cache SRAM, for which AMD presently claims a 3 percent IPC uplift over "Summit Ridge." It's for this reason that AMD is referring to this micro-architecture as "Zen+," where the plus denotes a refinement.
The first wave of AMD's Ryzen 2000 series "Pinnacle Ridge" processor family is rather brief, with only four SKUs, two 8-core, and two 6-core. The 8-core parts compete with Intel's 8th generation Core i7, while the 6-core parts compete with its latest Core i5 series. Leading the pack is the 8-core Ryzen 7 2700X, followed by the Ryzen 7 2700. The 6-core Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 5 2600 follow.
In this review, we are taking a close look at the top-dog Ryzen 7 2700X. This 8-core/16-thread chip has the highest clock speeds in the series with its core clocked at 3.70 GHz, boost frequency at 4.30 GHz, and new XFR 2.0 rewarding effective cooling with automatic overclocks beyond the boost frequency. You also get 512 KB of L2 cache per core and 16 MB of shared L3 cache.
The 2700X is priced at $329, which is significantly cheaper than the previous-generation flagship, the 1800X, which launched at $499. Even the second-fiddle 1700X launched at a higher price of $399. What's more, unlike the 1800X, 1700X, and competing Core i7-8700K, AMD includes a Wraith Prism RGB cooling solution with the 2700X, so you don't have to spend extra money on the cooler.
This review uses our updated test suite for processors in 2018, which includes the latest BIOS updates with microcode fixes for recent security issues, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update with all updates, and new software tests and games, which are all using the latest versions, too.
|Price||Cores / |
|Core i5-8600K||$250||6 / 6||3.6 GHz||4.3 GHz||9 MB||95 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 2600||$200||6 / 12||3.4 GHz||3.9 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1700||$290||8 / 16||3.0 GHz||3.7 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Core i7-6700K||$350||4 / 8||4.0 GHz||4.2 GHz||8 MB||91 W||Skylake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-7700K||$340||4 / 8||4.2 GHz||4.5 GHz||8 MB||91 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-8700||$300||6 / 12||3.2 GHz||4.6 GHz||12 MB||65 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 2600X||$230||6 / 12||3.6 GHz||4.2 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1700X||$290||8 / 16||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 2700||$300||8 / 16||3.2 GHz||4.1 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Core i7-8700K||$350||6 / 12||3.7 GHz||4.7 GHz||12 MB||95 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-7800X||$380||6 / 12||3.5 GHz||4.0 GHz||8.25 MB||140 W||Skylake||14 nm||LGA 2066|
|Ryzen 7 2700X||$330||8 / 16||3.7 GHz||4.3 GHz||16 MB||105 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1800X||$320||8 / 16||3.6 GHz||4.0 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
A Closer Look
The Ryzen 7 2700X comes in a big cubical box characteristic of Ryzen. This box is noticeably bigger and heavier than that of the 1700X because it includes a cooler. It's bigger than other cooler-inclusive SKUs, such as the 1700, because it packs AMD's heaviest and most premium Wraith Prism cooling solution.
As mentioned above, the Wraith Prism is AMD's highest-grade cooling solution, and could even be the most premium stock air-cooling solution we've seen. An up-scale of the Wraith Max cooler the company debuted with its FX-series processors, Wraith Prism has a large aluminium fin-stack to which heat from a copper base is conveyed by four copper heat pipes, and it is ventilated by a large 80 mm fan. The Wraith Prism has three separate RGB LED zones—the ring framing the fan intake, the AMD logo on the shroud, and the fan's impeller itself.
The Ryzen 7 2700X package looks just like any other Ryzen socket AM4 processor. It comes with a soldered IHS (like 1st gen Ryzen, unlike Raven Ridge APUs and unlike Intel). AMD claims to be using a high-grade indium-alloy solder which works to lower temperatures by as much as 10°C.
AMD continues to use the AM4 socket, which means all existing Ryzen motherboards will be compatible with the new Ryzen 2000 series (after a BIOS update). The company also plans to stick to AM4 for the rest of this decade, so there's a pretty long upgrade path ahead for this platform.
AM4 still has a rectangular cooler-mount-hole layout (as opposed to the 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 coolers have elaborate retention module kits that let you do so. Most popular cooler vendors are either already including AM4 retention kits with their latest coolers or will send you a mounting kit for free if you want to continue using a cooler you have. You often also have to remove the plastic retention module motherboards ship with to install certain kinds of coolers.
At the heart of the Ryzen 7 2700X is the new 12 nm "Pinnacle Ridge" silicon by AMD. This chip is based on the new "Zen+" micro-architecture in which the "+" denotes refinement rather than a major architectural change.
AMD summarizes the "+" in "Zen+" as the coming together of the new 12 nm process that enables higher clock-speeds, an updated SenseMI feature-set, the updated Precision Boost algorithm that sustains boost clocks better under stress, and physical improvements to the cache and memory sub-systems, which add up to an IPC uplift of 3 percent (clock-for-clock) over the first-generation "Zen."
The biggest change of "Pinnacle Ridge" remains its process node. The switch to 12 nm resulted in a 50 mV reduction in Vcore voltage at any given clock speed, enabling AMD to increase clocks by around 0.25 GHz across the board. The switch also enables all-core overclocks well above the 4 GHz mark, to around 4.20 GHz.
AMD also deployed faster cache SRAM and refined the memory controllers to bring down latencies significantly. L3 cache latency is 16 percent lower, L2 cache latency is a staggering 34 percent lower, L1 latencies are reduced by 13 percent, and DRAM (memory) latencies by 11 percent. This is where almost all of the IPC uplift comes from. AMD also increased the maximum memory clocks. The processor now supports up to DDR4-2933 (JEDEC) and is capable of DDR4-3400.
Updates to the chip's on-die SenseMI logic include Precision Boost 2 and Extended Frequency Range (XFR) 2. Precision Boost 2 now switches from arbitrary 2-core and all-core boost targets to a perpetually all-core boosting algorithm that elevates the most stressed cores to the highest boost states, in a linear fashion (i.e. boost frequency increases with load). Every core is running above nominal clock when the processor isn't idling, which contributes to a multi-core performance uplift. Besides load, the algorithm takes into account temperature, current, and Vcore. Granularity is 0.25X base clock (25 MHz).
Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR 2) builds on the success of XFR with a new all-core uplift beyond the maximum boost clock. If your cooling is good enough (60°C), XFR will now elevate all cores beyond the boost state as opposed to just the best few cores. AMD claims that with the most ideal cooling, XFR 2.0 will give you a staggering 7 percent performance uplift without any manual overclocking on your part.
The AM4 Platform and New X470 ChipsetWhat sets "Pinnacle Ridge" apart from Intel dies, such as "Coffee Lake," 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 (which are PCIe Gen 2). On Intel's platforms, the PCH (platform controller hub) serves the functions of the southbridge, while the northbridge is fully integrated with the processor.
The new AMD X470 chipset, which is being launched today alongside the Ryzen 2000 "Pinnacle Ridge" series, succeeds the X370 chipset. It has the same exact feature-set as the X370, but with lower power draw. Although not directly related to the chipset, X470 specifications prescribe higher CPU VRM standards for motherboards.
The X470 also comes with AMD StoreMI technology out of the box (something even X370 has, but through a BIOS update). The only reason X470 probably exists is to clear the compatibility confusion for first-time buyers. You're assured that an X470 motherboard will support AMD "Pinnacle Ridge" chips out of the box. Regardless, every AM4 motherboard ever launched is capable of running "Pinnacle Ridge," and most motherboard vendors have started rolling out BIOS updates.
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