It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since AMD brought themselves right back into the CPU game with the release of the Ryzen series of processors. Intel had to respond to the Ryzen bomb by finally increasing the core counts across its range after years of incremental updates. Would we have even seen the 6 core i7-8700K if not for the competition that AMD offered? hatever the answer, Ryzen really did deliver competition and highly compelling products that gave the consumer real choice. Now Ryzen gets its first update in the form the Ryzen 2000 series. Let the battle resume.
The Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 5 2600X we have on hand for this review are part of the family codenamed ‘Pinnacle Ridge’. These are 8 core/16 thread and 6 core/12 thread models respectively. The 2000 series uses the same fundamental Zen architecture as the first generation Ryzen CPUs from last year though there are some tweaks that improve per clock performance. They are built on a 12nm manufacturing process, which means, incredibly, that AMD is ahead of Intel on process technology in the mainstream segment.
Like all processors from the Ryzen family, they have unlocked clock multipliers for easy overclocking. They officially support DDR4-2933MHz memory, though thanks to BIOS improvements, DDR4-3200+ shouldn’t be too difficult. Our test system ran at 3200MHz with no effort at all, quite the improvement given the initial troubles that first generation Ryzen had with memory compatibility. The new models will work on existing 300 series motherboards with a BIOS update, negating the requirement to purchase a new motherboard as you would have to if you invest in one of Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs.
Accompanying the Ryzen 2000 series CPU launch is the new X470 motherboard chipset. X470 models feature improved power circuitry, memory performance and additional optimizations. Of course any bugs and kinks found in first generation X370 motherboards are likely now a thing of the past.
Both the 2700X and 2600X come bundled with a version of AMD’s Wraith cooler. The Wraith Prism, bundled with the 2700X features programmable RGB lights for the fan, logo, and fan shroud. You can control the RGB with popular motherboard utilities or AMD’s own application. It’s probably the best ‘stock’ CPU cooler we’ve seen, both in terms of performance and looks. It also comes with switchable fan speeds. The 2600X comes with a Wraith Spire; a more standard cylindrical version that’s definitely inferior to the Wraith Prism.
WHAT’S NEW UNDER THE HOOD?
AMD have made a few tweaks to improve performance with the company claiming that the new CPUs delivers up to a 3% improvement in per clock efficiency. The biggest architectural changes relate to the cache and memory subsystem. AMD claims double digit reductions in cache and memory latency. When you add these incremental gains to clock speed improvements along with improved boost functionality, clearly the 2000 series Ryzen models should be noticeably quicker than their 1000 series predecessors.
There are a few particularly noteworthy improvements. One is Precision Boost 2, or in generic terms, the turbo clock speeds. If first generation Ryzen hit full load on only two threads, it would drop back to the base clock. With the 2000 series, the drop off is much more linear, leading to longer and higher boosting turbo clocks. The processor can detect if all cores are lightly loaded for example, and keep the turbo clock at its maximum, this alone significantly raises the performance of the 2000 series.
The second improvement relates to the XFR, or Extended Frequency Range. In fact the 2700X is rated to clock itself as far as 4.3GHz if your cooling allows.
Something that appears particularly interesting is something AMD calls StoreMI which is software included with all X470 motherboards. It’s designed to pool different storage in the system into one unified solution. It’s kind of like super caching. You can merge your SSD, hard drive and even a part of your RAM into one storage pool. It even supports Intel’s Optane products (seriously!) We look forward to analysing this feature in the future
HOW’S THAT GAMING?
Gaming performance is one of those tricky things to measure and evaluate. For our testing, we set the resolution to 1080p and dial back the image quality to reduce the load on the GPU. This creates something of a worst case scenario, though it is still relevant in the age of high refresh rate monitors. In most real world gaming scenarios though, the limitation will be the GPU, and in this case, the Ryzen processors will draw neck and neck with their Intel competitors.
We spoke with Senior AMD Product Manager James Prior at a recent launch event and asked what AMD had focused on in order to improve Ryzen gaming performance. His detailed answer was quite informative. The first was the lack of developer optimization for the then new Zen core. This is an ongoing process that’s progressively improving through game patches and code base optimizations for many titles. The second reason is the 2000 series’ aforementioned improved Precision Boost. The third reason is the improved memory latency and performance. These three factors really do explain the significant improvements we see in low res gaming performance. The Intel i7-8700K with its much higher top turbo speed continues to hold the lead in CPU limited scenarios, though we are pleased to see that AMD has made great strides to address this between Ryzen generations.
As you can see in our performance tests, AMD is exceptionally strong in multi-threaded applications. The 2700X streaks ahead of the 8700K as we’d expect, but the 2600X also puts up a strong showing despite the aggressive turbo boosting capabilities of the 8700K.
Overclocking has marginally improved, though it still remains a questionable endeavour given the limited gains. Our 2700X sample was capable of holding 4.3GHz across all cores, but not with 100% stability. This is still better than the majority of 1800X samples. When you weigh up the performance improvements against the increases in heat output and power consumption, it’s probably not worth it. Just let the AMD Precision Boost auto overclocking do its thing. We did not try to overclock the 2600X, though we’re quite sure the same fundamental conclusion would apply.
Power consumption figures are a bit of a mixed bag. At idle, both the 2700X and 2600X sip less power than their predecessors, with just 43w measured at the wall. Under load though, they move ahead, though not by a lot. Under a gaming load, our highest reading was 278w for the 2700X and 256w for the 2600X. Still not bad for a system equipped with a GTX 1080 Ti! Temperatures were also very good for a ‘stock’ cooler. The Wraith Prism is highly capable in every scenario apart from heavy overclocking.
THE SEQUEL IS SO MUCH BETTER
Zen was already good. It’s no major leap to say that Zen+ is much better. We expected only minor improvements over first generation Ryzen, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that AMD has delivered much more than that. Performance is up across the board and the gaming deficit to Intel is smaller. They remain excellent value and they come with an effective cooler. AMD continues its strong execution. It seems AMD will continue to take market share from Intel.