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A Weekend of Misadventure
Last Friday marked the release of the Intel Core i7-8086K to consumers through retail channels like Amazon, Newegg, and Microcenter. Announced just earlier that week at Computex, the i7-8086K is essentially an i7-8770K, running slightly higher clock speeds, and is meant as a limited edition item to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Intel’s 8086 processor, which marked the beginning of the x86 microarchitecture.
Eager to test this new CPU, I picked one up from our local Microcenter on Friday evening, and plugged it into our Coffee Lake CPU testbed, powered by a Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard (updated to the latest BIOS), let my first pass of automated CPU benchmarks run, and went off with the rest of my evening.
Saturday, when I came back to look at the results, they seemed mediocre at best, with the i7-8086K trading blows with the i7-8700K. While the extra 300MHz of clock speed seemed like it would provide more of a benefit than I was seeing, it wasn’t entirely unexpected that performance might not be spectacularly higher than the i7-8700K so I continued to run through the rest of our standard CPU benchmarking suite, as well as our CPU gaming benchmarks.
Finally looking at all of the data together, it appeared there was no change from the i7-8700K to the i7-8086K leading me to do some more digging.
Equipped with Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, I began to measure the clock speeds during several benchmarks.
Much to my surprise, even on purely single-threaded workload, such as Cinebench R15 in Single mode, the processor wasn’t getting close to its 5.0GHz Single Core Turbo Boost frequency, in fact, I never saw it get above 4.5GHz. We corroborated these issues with another piece of CPU monitoring software, HWInfo64.
As you can see in the screenshot from XTU, the processor was sitting at a cool 48C while this was going on, and no other alerts such as the motherboard power delivery or current limit throttling were an issue during our testing.
Moving to another motherboard, the ASUS Strix Z370-H Gaming, again on the latest UEFI release, we saw the same behavior.
So far, we have been unable to get this processor to operate at the advertised 5.0GHz Turbo Boost frequency, on a multitude of different hardware and software setups.
However, if we manually overclock the processor, we can get an all-core frequency of 5.1GHz, although with a temperature around 85C.
At this point, we are left puzzled and disappointed by the launch of the i7-8086K. This is the same hardware and software setup we used for all of our CPU benchmarking for the recent Ryzen 7 2700X review, with no issues. We even tried a fresh, fully updated Windows install on a separate SSD, to help eliminate any potential for weird software issues.
Jeff at The Tech Report used the same Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard as us, and while he didn’t see great performance overall, you can see explicit scaling in pure single-threaded workloads like Cinebench in his review.
As far as the ASUS motherboard we also tried is concerned, the i7-8086K is listed on ASUS’ CPU compatibility list for UEFI 1301 (which we are running), so it seems there should be no issue.
This morning, the i7-8086K we ordered on Amazon showed up, and did the exact same thing, in both test setups.
To be fair, based on the reviews that we have seen pop up thus far, including The Tech Report, the resulting performance if things were configured correctly doesn’t appear to be worth the extra cost.
What was meant to be a celebration of Intel’s 40 years of the X86 architecture seems more like a rushed release than a fully baked product. Remember, we bought this processor directly from a retail outlet with no intervention from Intel. Without the proper BIOS-level support, and potentially a more widespread issue affecting normal consumers building machines with i7-8086K.
A Year Later
Despite what might be considered an overall slump in enthusiast PC building due to record low GPU availability and sky-high memory prices, 2017 was one of the most exciting and competitive years in recent history when it comes to CPU innovation. On the desktop side alone, we saw the launch of AMD's new Zen CPU architecture with the Ryzen 1000 series of parts starting last March; we also saw new HEDT platforms from both Intel and AMD, and Intel's first 6-core mainstream CPUs.
Although the timeline doesn't quite work out for Ryzen to have affected the engineering-side of Intel's decision to release a 6-core desktop processor, it's evident AMD's pressure changed Intel's pricing and release schedule.
With little desktop competition, it's likely that the i7-8700K would have been a more expensive part, and released later. It's likely that Coffee Lake would have seen a full stack product launch in early 2018, as opposed to the staggered launch we experienced where only one compatible chipset and a subset of CPUs were available for months.
AMD and Ryzen have put significant pressure on Intel to remain competitive, which is good for the industry as a whole.
We're now at just over a year since AMD's first Ryzen processor releases, and looking at the first appearance of the codename Pinnacle Ridge CPUs. Launching today are the Ryzen 7 2700X and 2700, and the Ryzen 5 2600x and 2600 processors. Can AMD keep moving the needle forward in the CPU space? Let's take a look.
Announced at Intel's Developer Forum in 2012, and launched later that year, the Next Unit of Computing (NUC) project was initially a bit confusing to the enthusiast PC press. In a market that appeared to be discarding traditional desktops in favor of notebooks, it seemed a bit odd to launch a product that still depended on a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, yet didn't provide any more computing power.
Despite this criticism, the NUC lineup has rapidly expanded over the years, seeing success in areas such as digital signage and enterprise environments. However, the enthusiast PC market has mostly eluded the lure of the NUC.
Intel's Skylake-based Skull Canyon NUC was the company's first attempt to cater to the enthusiast market, with a slight stray from the traditional 4-in x 4-in form factor and the adoption of their best-ever integrated graphics solution in the Iris Pro. Additionally, the ability to connect external GPUs via Thunderbolt 3 meant Skull Canyon offered more of a focus on high-end PC graphics.
However, Skull Canyon mostly fell on deaf ears among hardcore PC users, and it seemed that Intel lacked the proper solution to make a "gaming-focused" NUC device—until now.
Announced at CES 2018, the lengthily named 8th Gen Intel® Core™ processors With Radeon™ RX Vega M Graphics (henceforth referred to as the code name, Kaby Lake-G) marks a new direction for Intel. By partnering with one of the leaders in high-end PC graphics, AMD, Intel can now pair their processors with graphics capable of playing modern games at high resolutions and frame rates.
The first product to launch using the new Kaby Lake-G family of processors is Intel's own NUC, the NUC8i7HVK (Hades Canyon). Will the marriage of Intel and AMD finally provide a NUC capable of at least moderate gaming? Let's dig a bit deeper and find out.
It's clear by now that AMD's latest CPU releases, the Ryzen 3 2200G and the Ryzen 5 2400G are compelling products. We've already taken a look at them in our initial review, as well as investigated how memory speed affected the graphics performance of the internal GPU but it seemed there was something missing.
Recently, it's been painfully clear that GPUs excel at more than just graphics rendering. With the rise of cryptocurrency mining, OpenCL and CUDA performance are as important as ever.
Cryptocurrency mining certainly isn't the only application where having a powerful GPU can help system performance. We set out to see how much of an advantage the Radeon Vega 11 graphics in the Ryzen 5 2400G provided over the significantly less powerful UHD 630 graphics in the Intel i5-8400.
|Test System Setup|
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
Intel Core i5-8400
|Motherboard||Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi
ASUS STRIX Z370-E Gaming
|Memory||2 x 8GB G.SKILL FlareX DDR4-3200
(All memory running at 3200 MHz)
|Storage||Corsair Neutron XTi 480 SSD|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon Vega 11 Graphics
Intel UHD 630 Graphics
|Graphics Drivers||AMD 17.40.3701
|Power Supply||Corsair RM1000x|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro x64 RS3|
Before we take a look at some real-world examples of where a powerful GPU can be utilized, let's look at the relative power of the Vega 11 graphics on the Ryzen 5 2400G compared to the UHD 630 graphics on the Intel i5-8400.
SiSoft Sandra is a suite of benchmarks covering a wide array of system hardware and functionality, including an extensive range of GPGPU tests, which we are looking at today.
Comparing the raw shader performance of the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Intel i5-8400 provides a clear snapshot of what we are dealing with. In every precision category, the Vega 11 graphics in the AMD part are significantly more powerful than the Intel UHD 630 graphics. This all combines to provide a 175% increase in aggregate shader performance over Intel for the AMD part.
Now that we've taken a look at the theoretical power of these GPUs, let's see how they perform in real-world applications.
Memory speed is not a factor that the average gamer thinks about when building their PC. For the most part, memory performance hasn't had much of an effect on modern processors running high-speed memory such as DDR3 and DDR4.
With the launch of AMD's Ryzen processors, last year emerged a platform that was more sensitive to memory speeds. By running Ryzen processors with higher frequency and lower latency memory, users should see significant performance improvements, especially in 1080p gaming scenarios.
However, the Ryzen processors are not the only ones to exhibit this behavior.
Gaming on integrated GPUs is a perfect example of a memory starved situation. Take for instance the new AMD Ryzen 5 2400G and it's Vega-based GPU cores. In a full Vega 56 or 64 situation, these Vega cores utilize blazingly fast HBM 2.0 memory. However, due to constraints such as die space and cost, this processor does not integrate HBM.
Instead, both the CPU portion and the graphics portion of the APU must both depend on the same pool of DDR4 system memory. DDR4 is significantly slower than memory traditionally found on graphics cards such as GDDR5 or HBM. As a result, APU performance is usually memory limited to some extent.
In the past, we've done memory speed testing with AMD's older APUs, however with the launch of the new Ryzen and Vega based R3 2200G and R5 2400G, we decided to take another look at this topic.
For our testing, we are running the Ryzen 5 2400G at three different memory speeds, 2400 MHz, 2933 MHz, and 3200 MHz. While the maximum supported JEDEC memory standard for the R5 2400G is 2933, the memory provided by AMD for our processor review will support overclocking to 3200MHz just fine.
Raven Ridge Desktop
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the release of the Ryzen family of processors, the full breadth of the releases AMD put forth inside of 12 months is more apparent than ever. Though I feel like I have written summations of 2017 for AMD numerous times, it still feels like an impressive accomplishment as I reflect for today’s review. Starting with the Ryzen 7 family of processors targeting enthusiasts, AMD iterated through Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3, Ryzen Threadripper, Ryzen Pro, EPYC, and Ryzen Mobile.
Today, though its is labeled as a 2000-series of parts, we are completing what most would consider the first full round of the Ryzen family. As the first consumer desktop APU (AMD’s term for a processor with tightly integrated on-die graphics), the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G look very much like the Ryzen parts before them and like the Ryzen mobile APUs that we previously looked at in notebook form. In fact, from an architectural standpoint, these are the same designs.
Before diving into the hardware specifications and details, I think it is worth discussing the opportunity that AMD has with the Ryzen with Vega graphics desktop part. By most estimates, more than 30% of the desktop PCs sold around the world ship without a discrete graphics card installed. This means they depend on the integrated graphics from processor to handle the functions of general compute and any/all gaming that might happen locally. Until today, AMD has been unable to address that market with its currently family of Ryzen processors, as they require discrete graphics solutions.
While most of our readers fall into the camp of not just using a discrete solution but requiring one for gaming purposes, there are a lot of locales and situations where the Ryzen APU is going to provide more than enough graphics horsepower. The emerging markets in China and India, for example, are regularly using low-power systems with integrated graphics, often based on Intel HD Graphics or previous generation AMD solutions. These gamers and consumers will see dramatic increases in performance with the Zen + Vega solution that today’s processor releases utilize.
Let’s not forget about secondary systems, small form factor designs, and PCs design for your entertainment centers as possible outlets for and uses for Ryzen APUs even for the most hardcore of enthusiast. Mom or Dad need a new PC for basic tasks on a budget? Again, AMD is hoping to make a case today for those sales.
The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results
The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!
The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device
While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.
Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:
- Baseband Chipset: SDM845
- Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
- Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
- Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
- Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
- No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
- 4 Digital Microphones
- Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
- DisplayPort over USB-C
At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.
The end of the world as we know it?
A surprise to most in the industry that such a thing would really occur, AMD and Intel announced in November a partnership that would bring Radeon graphics to Intel processors in 2018. The details were minimal at the time, and only told us specifics of the business relationship: this was a product purchase and not a license, no IP was changing hands, this was considered a semi-custom design for the AMD group, Intel was handling all the integration and packaging. Though we knew that the product would use HBM2 memory, the same utilized on the RX Vega products released last year, it was possible that the “custom” part was a Polaris architecture that had been retrofitted. Also, details of the processor side of this technology was left a mystery.
Today we have our answers and our first hands-on with systems utilizing what was previously known as Kaby Lake-G and what is now officially titled the “8th Generation Intel Core Processors with Radeon RX Vega M Graphics.” I’m serious.
For what I still call Kaby Lake-G, as it easier to type and understand, it introduces a new product line that we have not seen addressed in a very long time – high performance processors with high performance integrated graphics. Even though the combined part is not a single piece of silicon but instead a multi-chip package, it serves the same purpose in the eyes of the consumer and the OEM. The marriage of Intel’s highest performance mobile processor cores, the 8th Generation H-series, and one of, if not THE fastest mobile graphics core in a reasonable thermal envelope, the Vega M, is incredibly intriguing for all kinds of reasons. Even the currently announced AMD APUs and those in the public roadmaps don’t offer a combined performance package as impressive as this. Ryzen Mobile is interesting in its own right, but Kaby Lake-G is on a different level.
From a business standpoint, KBL-G is a design meant to attack NVIDIA. The green giant has become one of the most important computing companies on the planet in the last couple of years, leaning into its graphics processor dominance and turning it into cash and mindshare in the world of machine learning and AI. More than any other company, Intel is worried about the growth and capability of NVIDIA. Though not as sexy as “machine learning”, NVIDIA has dominated the mobile graphics markets as well, offering discrete GPU solutions to pair with Intel processor notebooks. In turn, NVIDIA eats up much of the margin and profitability that these mainstream gaming and content creation machines can generate. Productization of things like Max-Q give the market reason to believe that NVIDIA is the true innovator in the space, regardless of the legitimate answer to that question. Intel see that as no bueno – it wants to remain the leader in the market completely.
Overview and CPU Performance
When Intel announced their quad-core mobile 8th Generation Core processors in August, I was immediately interested. As a user who gravitates towards "Ultrabook" form-factor notebooks, it seemed like a no-brainer—gaining two additional CPU cores with no power draw increase.
However, the hardware reviewer in me was skeptical. Could this "Kaby Lake Refresh" CPU provide the headroom to fit two more physical cores on a die while maintaining the same 15W TDP? Would this mean that the processor fans would have to run out of control? What about battery life?
Now that we have our hands on our first two notebooks with the i7-8550U in, it's time to take a more in-depth look at Intel's first mobile offerings of the 8th Generation Core family.
A potential game changer?
I thought we were going to be able to make it through the rest of 2017 without seeing AMD launch another family of products. But I was wrong. And that’s a good thing. Today AMD is launching the not-so-cleverly-named Ryzen Processor with Radeon Vega Graphics product line that will bring the new Zen processor architecture and Vega graphics architecture onto a single die for the ultrathin mobile notebook platforms. This is no minor move for them – just as we discussed with the AMD EPYC processor launch, this is a segment that has been utterly dominated by Intel. After all, Intel created the term Ultrabook to target these designs, and though that brand is gone, the thin and light mindset continues to this day.
The claims AMD makes about its Ryzen mobile APU (combination CPU+GPU accelerated processing unit, to use an older AMD term) are not to be made lightly. Right up front in our discussion I was told this is going to be the “world’s fastest for ultrathin” machines. Considering that AMD had previously been unable to even enter those markets with previous products, both due to some technological and business roadblocks, AMD is taking a risk by painting this launch in such a light. Thanks to its ability combine CPU and GPU technology on a single die though, AMD has some flexibility today that simply did not have access to previously.
From the days that AMD first announced the acquisition of ATI graphics, the company has touted the long-term benefits of owning both a high-performance processor and graphics division. By combining the architectures on a single die, they could become greater than the sum of the parts, leveraging new software directions and the oft-discussed HSA (heterogenous systems architecture) that AMD helped create a foundation for. Though the first rounds of APUs were able to hit modest sales, the truth was that AMD’s advantage over Intel’s on the graphics technology front was often overshadowed by the performance and power efficiency advantages that Intel held on the CPU front.
But with the introduction of the first products based on Zen earlier this year, AMD has finally made good on the promises of catching up to Intel in many of the areas where it matters the most. The new from-the-ground-up design resulted in greater than 50% IPC gains, improved area efficiency compared to Intel’s latest Kaby Lake core design, and enormous gains in power efficiency compared to the previous CPU designs. When looking at the new Ryzen-based APU products with Vega built-in, AMD claims that they tower over the 7th generation APUs with up to 200% more CPU performance, 128% more GPU performance, and 58% lower power consumption. Again, these are bold claims, but it gives AMD confidence that it can now target premium designs and form factors with a solution that will meet consumer demands.
AMD is hoping that the release of the Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U can finally help turn the tides in the ultrathin notebook market.
|Core i7-8650U||Core i7-8550U||Core i5-8350U||Core i5-8250U||Ryzen 7 2700U||Ryzen 5 2500U|
|Architecture||Kaby Lake Refresh||Kaby Lake Refresh||Kaby Lake Refresh||Kaby Lake Refresh||Zen+Vega||Zen+Vega|
|Base Clock||1.9 GHz||1.8 GHz||1.7 GHz||1.6 GHz||2.2 GHz||2.0 GHz|
|Max Turbo Clock||4.2 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.6 GHz|
|System Bus||DMI3 - 8.0 GT/s||DMI3 - 8.0 GT/s||DMI2 - 6.4 GT/s||DMI2 - 5.0 GT/s||N/A||N/A|
|Graphics||UHD Graphics 620||UHD Graphics 620||UHD Graphics 620||UHD Graphics 620||Vega (10 CUs)||Vega (8 CUs)|
|Max Graphics Clock||1.15 GHz||1.15 GHz||1.1 GHz||1.1 GHz||1.3 GHz||1.1 GHz|
The Ryzen 7 2700U will run 200 MHz higher on the base and boost clocks for the CPU and 200 MHz higher on the peak GPU core clock. Though both systems have 4-cores and 8-threads, the GPU on the 2700U will have two additional CUs / compute units.
Specifications and Summary
As seems to be the trend for processor reviews as of late, today marks the second in a two-part reveal of Intel’s Coffee Lake consumer platform. We essentially know all there is to know about the new mainstream and DIY PC processors from Intel, including specifications, platform requirements, and even pricing; all that is missing is performance. That is the story we get to tell you today in our review of the Core i7-8700K and Core i5-8400.
Coffee Lake is the second spoke of Intel's “8th generation” wheel that began with the Kaby Lake-R release featuring quad-core 15-watt notebook processors for the thin and light market. Though today’s release of the Coffee Lake-S series (the S is the designation for consumer desktop) doesn’t share the same code name, it does share the same microarchitecture, same ring bus design (no mesh here), and same underlying technology. They are both built on the Intel 14nm process technology.
And much like Kaby Lake-R in the notebook front, Coffee Lake is here to raise the core count and performance profile of the mainstream Intel CPU playbook. When AMD first launched the Ryzen 7 series of processors that brought 8-cores and 16-threads of compute, it fundamentally shook the mainstream consumer markets. Intel was still on top in terms of IPC and core clock speeds, giving it the edge in single and lightly threaded workloads, but AMD had released a part with double the core and thread count and was able to dominate in most multi-threaded workloads compared to similar Intel offerings.
Much like Skylake-X before it, Coffee Lake had been on Intel’s roadmap from the beginning, but new pressure from a revived AMD meant bringing that technology to the forefront sooner rather than later in an effort stem any potential shifts in market share and maybe more importantly, mind share among investors, gamers, and builders. Coffee Lake, and the Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processors that will be a part of this 8000-series release, increase the core count across the board, and generally raise clock speeds too. Intel is hoping that by bumping its top mainstream CPU to 6-cores, and coupling that with better IPC and higher clocks, it can alleviate the advantages that AMD has with Ryzen.
But does it?
That’s what we are here to find out today. If you need a refresher on the build up to this release, we have the specifications and slight changes in the platform and design summarized for you below. Otherwise, feel free to jump on over to the benchmarks!
A New Standard
With a physical design that is largely unchanged other than the addition of a glass back for wireless charging support, and featuring incremental improvements to the camera system most notably with the Plus version, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are interesting largely due to the presence of a new Apple SoC. The upcoming iPhone X (pronounced "ten") stole the show at Apple's keynote annoucement earlier this month, but the new A11 Bionic chip powers all 2017 iPhone models, and for the first time Apple has a fully custom GPU after their highly publicized split with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR graphics found in previous Apple SoCs.
The A11 Bionic powering the 2017 iPhones contains Apple’s first 6-core processor, which is comprised of two high performance cores (code-named ‘Monsoon’) and four high efficiency cores (code-named ‘Mistral’). Hugely important to its performance is the fact that all six cores are addressable with this new design, as Apple mentions in their description of the SoC:
"With six cores and 4.3 billion transistors, A11 Bionic has four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a turbo boost."
It was left to improvments to IPC and clock speed to boost the per-core performance of previous Apple SoCs, such as the previous A10 Fusion part, which contained a quad-core CPU split in an even arrangement of 2x performance + 2x efficiency cores. Apple's quad-core effort did not affect app performance beyond the two performance cores, with additional cores limited to background tasks in real-world use (though the A10 Fusion did not provide any improvement to battery life over previous efforts, as we saw).
The A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8 system board (image credit: iFixit)
Just how big an impact this new six-core CPU design will have can be instantly observed with the CPU benchmarks to follow, and on the next page we will find out how Apple's in-house GPU solution compare to both the previous A10 Fusion PowerVR graphics, and market-leading Qualcomm Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835. We will begin with the CPU benchmarks.
Specifications and Architecture
It has been an interesting 2017 for Intel. Though still the dominant market share leader in consumer processors of all shapes and sizes, from DIY PCs to notebooks to servers, it has come under attack with pressure from AMD unlike any it has felt in nearly a decade. It started with the release of AMD Ryzen 7 and a family of processors aimed at the mainstream user and enthusiast markets. That followed by the EPYC processor release moving in on Intel’s turf of the enterprise markets. And most recently, Ryzen Threadripper took a swing (and hit) at the HEDT (high-end desktop) market that Intel had created and held its own since the days of the Nehalem-based Core i7-920 CPU.
Between the time Threadripper was announced and when it shipped, Intel made an interesting move. It decided to launch and announce its updated family of HEDT processors dubbed Skylake-X. Only available in a 10-core model at first, the Core i9-7900X was the fastest tested processor in our labs, at the time. But it was rather quickly overtaken by the likes of the Threadripper 1950X that ran with 16-cores and 32-threads of processing. Intel had already revealed that its HEDT lineup would go to 18-core options, though availability and exact clock speeds remained in hiding until recently.
|i9-7980XE||i9-7960X||i9-7940X||i9-7920X||i9-7900X||i7-7820X||i7-7800X||TR 1950X||TR 1920X||TR 1900X|
|Base Clock||2.6 GHz||2.8 GHz||3.1 GHz||2.9 GHz||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.4 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.8 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||4.2 GHz||4.2 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Memory Support||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666
|DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel|
|TDP||165 watts||165 watts||165 watts||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||180 watts||180 watts||180 watts?|
Today we are now looking at both the Intel Core i9-7980XE and the Core i9-7960X, 18-core and 16-core processors, respectively. The goal from Intel is clear with the release: retake the crown as the highest performing consumer processor on the market. It will do that, but it does so at $700-1000 over the price of the Threadripper 1950X.
Who is this for, anyway?
Today is a critically important day for AMD. With the launch of reviews and the on-sale date for its new Ryzen Threadripper processor family, AMD is reentering the world of high-end consumer processors that it has been absent from for a decade, if not longer. Intel has dominated this high priced, but high margin, area of the market since the release of the Core i7-900 series of Nehalem CPUs in 2008, bringing workstation and server class hardware down to the content creator and enthusiast markets. Even at that point AMD had no competitive answer, with only the Phenom X4 in our comparison charts. It didn’t end well.
AMD has made no attempt of stealth with the release of Ryzen Threadripper, instead adopting the “tease and repeat” campaign style that Radeon has utilized in recent years for this release. The result of which is an already-knowledgeable group of pre-order ready consumers; not a coincidence. Today I will summarize the data we already know for those of you just joining us and dive into the importance of the new information we can provide today. That includes interesting technical details on the multi-die implementation and latency, overclocking, thermals, why AMD has a NUMA/UMA issue, gaming performance and of course, general system and workload benchmarks.
A Summary of Threadripper
AMD has been pumping up interest and excitement for Ryzen Threadripper since May, with an announcement of the parts at the company’s financial analyst day. It teased 16 cores and 32 threads of performance for a single consumer socket, something that we had never seen before. At Computex, Jim Anderson got on stage and told us that each Threadripper processor would have access to 64 lanes of PCI Express, exceeding the 40 lanes of Intel’s top HEDT platforms and going well above the 28 lanes that the lower end of its family offers.
In mid-July the official announcement of the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X occurred, with CEO Lisa Su and CVP John Taylor having the honors. This announcement broke with most of the important information including core count, clock speeds, pricing, and a single performance benchmark (Cinebench). On July 24th we started to see pictures of the Threadripper packaging show up on AMD social media accounts, getting way more attention than anyone expected a box for a CPU could round up. At the end of July AMD announced a third Threadripper processor (due in late August). Finally, on August 3rd, I was allowed to share an unboxing of the review kit and the CPU itself as well as demonstrate the new installation method for this sled-based processor.
It’s been a busy summer.
Battle for the Mainstream
With today's release of the Ryzen 3 processors, AMD completes the circle of the mainstream Ryzen processor family. Starting with the 8-core Ryzen 7 that disrupted the high end of the market, followed by the Ryzen 5 that shook up the Core i5 segment, Ryzen 3 goes after the world of the Core i3 targeting budget PC builders, gamers, and even enterprising business consumers willing to build their own machines or looking for information here on what to select.
We already learned about the Ryzen 3 products launching today, the 1300X and the 1200, from a video that AMD CEO Lisa Su posted a couple of weeks ago. But pricing and performance were still an unknown, both of which we are going to show you in great detail today. What can a $129 and $109 processor get you with four true cores?
As you'll soon see, the Ryzen 3 product family competes against the Intel Core i3 line in terms of pricing but is definitely a concern for the Core i5 family when it comes to multi-threaded workloads. Let's dive into the specifications and see what AMD has put together for us.
The devil is in the details and as we will see the core counts and clock speeds of Ryzen 3 make it very compelling for a wide range of consumers.
|Ryzen 3 1300X||Ryzen 3 1200||Pentium G4560||Core i3-7100||Core i3-7350K||Ryzen 5 1600X||Ryzen 5 1500X||Core i5-7600K||Core i5-7500|
|Architecture||Zen||Zen||Kaby Lake||Kaby Lake||Kaby Lake||Zen||Zen||Kaby Lake||Kaby Lake|
|Base Clock||3.4 GHz||3.1 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.9 GHz||4.2 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.4 GHz|
|Turbo/Boost Clock||3.7 GHz||3.4 GHz||-||-||-||4.0 GHz||3.7 GHz||4.2 GHz||3.8 GHz|
|TDP||65 watts||65 watts||54 watts||51 watts||60 watts||95 watts||65 watts||91 watts||65 watts|
Just a little taste
In a surprise move with no real indication as to why, AMD has decided to reveal some of the most exciting and interesting information surrounding Threadripper and Ryzen 3, both due out in just a few short weeks. AMD CEO Lisa Su and CVP of Marketing John Taylor (along with guest star Robert Hallock) appear in a video being launched on the AMD YouTube website today to divulge the naming, clock speeds and pricing for the new flagship HEDT product line under the Ryzen brand.
We already know a lot of about Threadripper, AMD’s answer to the X299/X99 high-end desktop platforms from Intel, including that they would be coming this summer, have up to 16-cores and 32-threads of compute, and that they would all include 64 lanes of PCI Express 3.0 for a massive amount of connectivity for the prosumer.
Now we know that there will be two models launching and available in early August: the Ryzen Threadripper 1920X and the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X.
|Core i9-7980XE||Core i9-7960X||Core i9-7940X||Core i9-7920X||Core i9-7900X||Core i7-7820X||Core i7-7800X||Threadripper 1950X||Threadripper 1920X|
|Base Clock||?||?||?||?||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.4 GHz||3.5 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||?||?||?||?||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||?||?||?||?||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Cache||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||13.75MB||11MB||8.25MB||40MB||?|
|DDR4-2666 Quad Channel|
|TDP||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||180 watts||180 watts|
|Threadripper 1950X||Threadripper 1920X||Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 7 1700X||Ryzen 7 1700||Ryzen 5 1600X||Ryzen 5 1600||Ryzen 5 1500X||Ryzen 5 1400|
|Base Clock||3.4 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.4 GHz||3.0 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.2 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.2 GHz|
|Turbo/Boost Clock||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.7 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.7 GHz||3.4 GHz|
|DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2400
|TDP||180 watts||180 watts||95 watts||95 watts||65 watts||95 watts||65 watts||65 watts||65 watts|
A massive lineup
The amount and significance of the product and platform launches occurring today with the Intel Xeon Scalable family is staggering. Intel is launching more than 50 processors and 7 chipsets falling under the Xeon Scalable product brand, targeting data centers and enterprise customers in a wide range of markets and segments. From SMB users to “Super 7” data center clients, the new lineup of Xeon parts is likely to have an option targeting them.
All of this comes at an important point in time, with AMD fielding its new EPYC family of processors and platforms, for the first time in nearly a decade becoming competitive in the space. That decade of clear dominance in the data center has been good to Intel, giving it the ability to bring in profits and high margins without the direct fear of a strong competitor. Intel did not spend those 10 years flat footed though, and instead it has been developing complimentary technologies including new Ethernet controllers, ASICs, Omni-Path, FPGAs, solid state storage tech and much more.
Our story today will give you an overview of the new processors and the changes that Intel’s latest Xeon architecture offers to business customers. The Skylake-SP core has some significant upgrades over the Broadwell design before it, but in other aspects the processors and platforms will be quite similar. What changes can you expect with the new Xeon family?
Per-core performance has been improved with the updated Skylake-SP microarchitecture and a new cache memory hierarchy that we had a preview of with the Skylake-X consumer release last month. The memory and PCIe interfaces have been upgraded with more channels and more lanes, giving the platform more flexibility for expansion. Socket-level performance also goes up with higher core counts available and the improved UPI interface that makes socket to socket communication more efficient. AVX-512 doubles the peak FLOPS/clock on Skylake over Broadwell, beneficial for HPC and analytics workloads. Intel QuickAssist improves cryptography and compression performance to allow for faster connectivity implementation. Security and agility get an upgrade as well with Boot Guard, RunSure, and VMD for better NVMe storage management. While on the surface this is a simple upgrade, there is a lot that gets improved under the hood.
We already had a good look at the new mesh architecture used for the inter-core component communication. This transition away from the ring bus that was in use since Nehalem gives Skylake-SP a couple of unique traits: slightly longer latencies but with more consistency and room for expansion to higher core counts.
Intel has changed the naming scheme with the Xeon Scalable release, moving away from “E5/E7” and “v4” to a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze nomenclature. The product differentiation remains much the same, with the Platinum processors offering the highest feature support including 8-sockets, highest core counts, highest memory speeds, connectivity options and more. To be clear: there are a lot of new processors and trying to create an easy to read table of features and clocks is nearly impossible. The highlights of the different families are:
- Xeon Platinum (81xx)
- Up to 28 cores
- Up to 8 sockets
- Up to 3 UPI links
- 6-channel DDR4-2666
- Up to 1.5TB of memory
- 48 lanes of PCIe 3.0
- AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core
- Xeon Gold (61xx)
- Up to 22 cores
- Up to 4 sockets
- Up to 3 UPI links
- 6-channel DDR4-2666
- AVX-512 with 2 FMA per core
- Xeon Gold (51xx)
- Up to 14 cores
- Up to 2 sockets
- 2 UPI links
- 6-channel DDR4-2400
- AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core
- Xeon Silver (41xx)
- Up to 12 cores
- Up to 2 sockets
- 2 UPI links
- 6-channel DDR4-2400
- AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core
- Xeon Bronze (31xx)
- Up to 8 cores
- Up to 2 sockets
- 2 UPI links
- No Turbo Boost
- 6-channel DDR4-2133
- AVX-512 with 1 FMA per core
That’s…a lot. And it only gets worse when you start to look at the entire SKU lineup with clocks, Turbo Speeds, cache size differences, etc. It’s easy to see why the simplicity argument that AMD made with EPYC is so attractive to an overwhelmed IT department.
Two sub-categories exist with the T or F suffix. The former indicates a 10-year life cycle (thermal specific) while the F is used to indicate units that integrate the Omni-Path fabric on package. M models can address 1.5TB of system memory. This diagram above, which you should click to see a larger view, shows the scope of the Xeon Scalable launch in a single slide. This release offers buyers flexibility but at the expense of complexity of configuration.
EPYC makes its move into the data center
Because we traditionally focus and feed on the excitement and build up surrounding consumer products, the AMD Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 launches were huge for us and our community. Finally seeing competition to Intel’s hold on the consumer market was welcome and necessary to move the industry forward, and we are already seeing the results of some of that with this week’s Core i9 release and pricing. AMD is, and deserves to be, proud of these accomplishments. But from a business standpoint, the impact of Ryzen on the bottom line will likely pale in comparison to how EPYC could fundamentally change the financial stability of AMD.
AMD EPYC is the server processor that takes aim at the Intel Xeon and its dominant status on the data center market. The enterprise field is a high margin, high profit area and while AMD once had significant share in this space with Opteron, that has essentially dropped to zero over the last 6+ years. AMD hopes to use the same tactic in the data center as they did on the consumer side to shock and awe the industry into taking notice; AMD is providing impressive new performance levels while undercutting the competition on pricing.
Introducing the AMD EPYC 7000 Series
Targeting the single and 2-socket systems that make up ~95% of the market for data centers and enterprise, AMD EPYC is smartly not trying to swing over its weight class. This offers an enormous opportunity for AMD to take market share from Intel with minimal risk.
Many of the specifications here have been slowly shared by AMD over time, including at the recent financial analyst day, but seeing it placed on a single slide like this puts everything in perspective. In a single socket design, servers will be able to integrate 32 cores with 64 threads, 8x DDR4 memory channels with up to 2TB of memory capacity per CPU, 128 PCI Express 3.0 lanes for connectivity, and more.
Worth noting on this slide, and was originally announced at the financial analyst day as well, is AMD’s intent to maintain socket compatibility going forward for the next two generations. Both Rome and Milan, based on 7nm technology, will be drop-in upgrades for customers buying into EPYC platforms today. That kind of commitment from AMD is crucial to regain the trust of a market that needs those reassurances.
Here is the lineup as AMD is providing it for us today. The model numbers in the 7000 series use the second and third characters as a performance indicator (755x will be faster than 750x, for example) and the fourth character to indicate the generation of EPYC (here, the 1 indicates first gen). AMD has created four different core count divisions along with a few TDP options to help provide options for all types of potential customers. It is worth noting that though this table might seem a bit intimidating, it is drastically more efficient when compared to the Intel Xeon product line that exists today, or that will exist in the future. AMD is offering immediate availability of the top five CPUs in this stack, with the bottom four due before the end of July.
Specifications and Design
Intel is at an important crossroads for its consumer product lines. Long accused of ignoring the gaming and enthusiast markets, focusing instead on laptops and smartphones/tablets at the direct expense of the DIY user, Intel had raised prices and only shown limited ability to increase per-die performance over a fairly extended period. The release of the AMD Ryzen processor, along with the pending release of the Threadripper product line with up to 16 cores, has moved Intel into a higher gear; they are more prepared to increase features, performance, and lower prices now.
We have already talked about the majority of the specifications, pricing, and feature changes of the Core i9/Core i7 lineup with the Skylake-X designation, but it is worth including them here, again, in our review of the Core i9-7900X for reference purposes.
|Core i9-7980XE||Core i9-7960X||Core i9-7940X||Core i9-7920X||Core i9-7900X||Core i7-7820X||Core i7-7800X||Core i7-7740X||Core i5-7640X|
|Architecture||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Kaby Lake-X||Kaby Lake-X|
|Base Clock||?||?||?||?||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||?||?||?||?||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.2 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||?||?||?||?||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Cache||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||16.5MB (?)||13.75MB||11MB||8.25MB||8MB||6MB|
|DDR4-2666 Dual Channel|
|TDP||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||165 watts (?)||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||112 watts||112 watts|
There is a lot to take in here. The three most interesting points are that, one, Intel plans to one-up AMD Threadripper by offering an 18-core processor. Two, which is potentially more interesting, is that it also wants to change the perception of the X299-class platform by offering lower price, lower core count CPUs like the quad-core, non-HyperThreaded Core i5-7640X. Third, we also see the first ever branding of Core i9.
Intel only provided detailed specifications up to the Core i9-7900X, which is a 10-core / 20-thread processor that has a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a Turbo peak of 4.5 GHz (using the new Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0). It sports 13.75MB of cache thanks to an updated cache configuration, it includes 44 lanes of PCIe 3.0, an increase of 4 lanes over Broadwell-E, it has quad-channel DDR4 memory up to 2666 MHz and it has a 140 watt TDP. The new LGA2066 socket will be utilized. Pricing for this CPU is set at $999, which is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is $700 less than the starting MSRP of the 10c/20t Core i7-6950X from one year ago; obviously a big plus. However, there is quite a ways UP the stack, with the 18c/36t Core i9-7980XE coming in at a cool $1999.
|Core i9-7900X||Core i7-6950X||Core i7-7700K|
|Base Clock||3.3 GHz||3.0 GHz||4.2 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||4.3 GHz||3.5 GHz||4.5 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||4.5 GHz||4.0 GHz||N/A|
|TDP||140 watts||140 watts||91 watts|
The next CPU down the stack is compelling as well. The Core i7-7820X is the new 8-core / 16-thread HEDT option from Intel, with similar clock speeds to the 10-core above it (save the higher base clock). It has 11MB of L3 cache, 28-lanes of PCI Express (4 higher than Broadwell-E) but has a $599 price tag. Compared to the 8-core 6900K, that is ~$400 lower, while the new Skylake-X part iteration includes a 700 MHz clock speed advantage. That’s huge, and is a direct attack on the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, which sells for $499 today and cut Intel off at the knees this March. In fact, the base clock of the Core i7-7820X is only 100 MHz lower than the maximum Turbo Boost clock of the Core i7-6900K!
It is worth noting the performance gap between the 7820X and the 7900X. That $400 gap seems huge and out of place when compared to the deltas in the rest of the stack that never exceed $300 (and that is at the top two slots). Intel is clearly concerned about the Ryzen 7 1800X and making sure it has options to compete at that point (and below) but feels less threatened by the upcoming Threadripper CPUs. Pricing out the 10+ core CPUs today, without knowing what AMD is going to do for that, is a risk and could put Intel in the same position as it was in with the Ryzen 7 release.
We are up to two...
UPDATE (5/31/2017): Crystal Dynamics was able to get back to us with a couple of points on the changes that were made with this patch to affect the performance of AMD Ryzen processors.
- Rise of the Tomb Raider splits rendering tasks to run on different threads. By tuning the size of those tasks – breaking some up, allowing multicore CPUs to contribute in more cases, and combining some others, to reduce overheads in the scheduler – the game can more efficiently exploit extra threads on the host CPU.
- An optimization was identified in texture management that improves the combination of AMD CPU and NVIDIA GPU. Overhead was reduced by packing texture descriptor uploads into larger chunks.
There you have it, a bit more detail on the software changes made to help adapt the game engine to AMD's Ryzen architecture. Not only that, but it does confirm our information that there was slightly MORE to address in the Ryzen+GeForce combinations.
Despite a couple of growing pains out of the gate, the Ryzen processor launch appears to have been a success for AMD. Both the Ryzen 7 and the Ryzen 5 releases proved to be very competitive with Intel’s dominant CPUs in the market and took significant leads in areas of massive multi-threading and performance per dollar. An area that AMD has struggled in though has been 1080p gaming – performance in those instances on both Ryzen 7 and 5 processors fell behind comparable Intel parts by (sometimes) significant margins.
Our team continues to watch the story to see how AMD and game developers work through the issue. Most recently I posted a look at the memory latency differences between Ryzen and Intel Core processors. As it turns out, the memory latency differences are a significant part of the initial problem for AMD:
Because of this, I think it is fair to claim that some, if not most, of the 1080p gaming performance deficits we have seen with AMD Ryzen processors are a result of this particular memory system intricacy. You can combine memory latency with the thread-to-thread communication issue we discussed previously into one overall system level complication: the Zen memory system behaves differently than anything we have seen prior and it currently suffers in a couple of specific areas because of it.
In that story I detailed our coverage of the Ryzen processor and its gaming performance succinctly:
Our team has done quite a bit of research and testing on this topic. This included a detailed look at the first asserted reason for the performance gap, the Windows 10 scheduler. Our summary there was that the scheduler was working as expected and that minimal difference was seen when moving between different power modes. We also talked directly with AMD to find out its then current stance on the results, backing up our claims on the scheduler and presented a better outlook for gaming going forward. When AMD wanted to test a new custom Windows 10 power profile to help improve performance in some cases, we took part in that too. In late March we saw the first gaming performance update occur courtesy of Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation where an engine update to utilize more threads resulted in as much as 31% average frame increase.
Quick on the heels of the Ryzen 7 release, AMD worked with the developer Oxide on the Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation engine. Through tweaks and optimizations, the game was able to showcase as much as a 30% increase in average frame rate on the integrated benchmark. While this was only a single use case, it does prove that through work with the developers, AMD has the ability to improve the 1080p gaming positioning of Ryzen against Intel.
Fast forward to today and I was surprised to find a new patch for Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game that was actually one of the worst case scenarios for AMD with Ryzen. (Patch #12, v1.0.770.1) The patch notes mention the following:
The following changes are included in this patch
- Fix certain DX12 crashes reported by users on the forums.
- Improve DX12 performance across a variety of hardware, in CPU bound situations. Especially performance on AMD Ryzen CPUs can be significantly improved.
While we expect this patch to be an improvement for everyone, if you do have trouble with this patch and prefer to stay on the old version we made a Beta available on Steam, build 767.2, which can be used to switch back to the previous version.
We will keep monitoring for feedback and will release further patches as it seems required. We always welcome your feedback!
Obviously the data point that stood out for me was the improved DX12 performance “in CPU bound situations. Especially on AMD Ryzen CPUs…”
Remember how the situation appeared in April?
The Ryzen 7 1800X was 24% slower than the Intel Core i7-7700K – a dramatic difference for a processor that should only have been ~8-10% slower in single threaded workloads.
How does this new patch to RoTR affect performance? We tested it on the same Ryzen 7 1800X benchmarks platform from previous testing including the ASUS Crosshair VI Hero motherboard, 16GB DDR4-2400 memory and GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition using the 378.78 driver. All testing was done under the DX12 code path.
The Ryzen 7 1800X score jumps from 107 FPS to 126.44 FPS, an increase of 17%! That is a significant boost in performance at 1080p while still running at the Very High image quality preset, indicating that the developer (and likely AMD) were able to find substantial inefficiencies in the engine. For comparison, the 8-core / 16-thread Intel Core i7-6900K only sees a 2.4% increase from this new game revision. This tells us that the changes to the game were specific to Ryzen processors and their design, but that no performance was redacted from the Intel platforms.