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Products that shake-up the technology industry don’t come often. Few great ideas come by chance or from a lack of competition, the double-decker couch and Hot Pocket game controller not withstanding. 😉 In the PC industry of Central Processing Units (CPUs), the AMD and Intel rivalry has been going on for decades and has had its historic moments. The AMD Athlon Thunderbird from 2000 and Intel Core 2 Duo from 2006 were industry shaking products that come to mind. Both performed extremely well compared to the competition and were a great value for the money. AMD’s previous Bulldozer CPU architecture, released in 2011, was a disappointment for performance and power consumption. This has left Intel mostly unchallenged in the high-end PC market for over 6 years. On March 2, 2017, we witnessed another historic shake-up with AMD’s Ryzen 7 CPU launch. Let’s see what Ryzen brings to the table.

What Can it Do

Ryzen is a family of processors AMD has been developing from the ground up since around 2013. It uses their new Zen CPU architecture. This architecture will power AMD CPUs and APUs in the consumer, server (code name “Naples”), and mobile sectors. This all starts with AMD’s consumer Ryzen 7 family of CPUs that have 8 cores/16 threads (8C/16T). Some key specifications, improvements, and features of Ryzen are below:

  • Claimed 52% Instruction Per Clock (IPC) Improvement – Compared to the previous AMD Excavator core (used in the Athlon X4 845 desktop CPU & A-series 8000 mobile APUs).
  • Lowest Power Consumption 8 Core CPUs – With Ryzen 7 at 65W for the 1700 and 95W for the 1700X & 1800X.
  • 14nm FinFET Transistors – For improved power and die area efficiency compared to the old 32nm and 28nm transistors in their FX CPUs and A-series APUs.
  • Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) – Ryzen is the first AMD CPU design to use SMT which allows each CPU core to process two threads, similar to Intel’s HyperThreading.
  • New AM4 Platform and Chipsets – With USB 3.1 gen 2, PCIe 3.0, NVMe SSD support, & more.
    • Desktop Chipsets – X370, B350, and A320
    • Small Form Factor Chipsets – X300 and A300
  • AMD SenseMI Technology
    • Pure Power – Embedded sensors monitor temperature, voltage, clock speed, resource usage, and power draw to manage the power consumption in real time.
    • Precision Boost – In combination with Pure Power this allows for more precise clock control in 25MHz increments (Intel’s Turbo Boost is in steps of 100MHz).
    • Extended Frequency Range (XFR) – Allows clock speeds above the Precision Boost frequency of around 50-200MHz, depending on Ryzen model and cooling conditions.
    • Neural Net Prediction and Smart Prefetch – Implements new algorithm learning models for instruction prediction and prefetch.
  • Infinity Fabric – Refers to the internal and external high bandwidth communications in Zen which also offers much easier design scalability beyond 8 cores than the previous Bulldozer designs (best utilized on the “Naples” server CPUs, previewed with 32 cores and 64 threads).

Below is a die shot of the 8C/16T AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, a thing of beauty:

What Does it Cost

The Ryzen 7 family of 8C/16T CPUs are available for purchase now online and at select retailers. Pricing and basic specifications are listed below:

Ryzen 7 1700

  • Launch Price: $329
  • Cores/Threads: 8/16
  • Clock Speed: 3GHz Base to 3.7GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 65W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: Wraith Spire RGB Cooler Included

Ryzen 7 1700X

  • Launch Price: $399
  • Cores/Threads: 8/16
  • Clock Speed: 3.4GHz Base to 3.8GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 95W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: No Cooler Included

Ryzen 7 1800X

  • Launch Price: $499
  • Cores/Threads: 8/16
  • Clock Speed: 3.6GHz Base to 4GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 95W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: No Cooler Included

 

The Ryzen 5 family of 4C/8T and 6C/12T CPUs are available for purchase now online and at select retailers. Pricing and basic specifications are listed below:

Ryzen 5 1400

  • Launch Price: $169
  • Cores/Threads: 4/8
  • Clock Speed: 3.2GHz Base to 3.4GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 65W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: Wraith Stealth Cooler Included

Ryzen 5 1500X

  • Launch Price: $189
  • Cores/Threads: 4/8
  • Clock Speed: 3.5GHz Base to 3.7GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 65W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: Wraith Spire Cooler Included

Ryzen 5 1600

  • Launch Price: $219
  • Cores/Threads: 6/12
  • Clock Speed: 3.2GHz Base to 3.6GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 65W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: Wraith Spire Cooler Included

Ryzen 5 1600X

  • Launch Price: $249
  • Cores/Threads: 6/12
  • Clock Speed: 3.6GHz Base to 4GHz Precision Boost
  • TDP: 65W
  • Socket: AM4
  • Note: No Cooler Included

 

There are a plethora of motherboards available with AMD’s new A320, B350, or X370 chipsets. With availability depending on region and store. AM4 motherboard pricing at Newegg ranges from $57 to $299.

What Are the Competitors

AMD says the Ryzen 7 1800X 8C/16T flagship competes with the twice as expensive Intel i7 6900K 8C/16T monster, and benchmarks confirm they perform very closely in many cases (review links are in the next section). The direct competitors, according to AMD, for the rest of Ryzen 7 family being the Ryzen 7 1700X 8C/16T against the i7 6800K 6C/12T, and Ryzen 7 1700 8C/16T against the i7 7700K 4C/8T. With Ryzen offering more cores, so better multi-threaded performance, and a slightly lower retail price. The AMD Ryzen 5 family of 6C/12T and 4C/8T CPUs will compete with the Intel i5 and i3 families of 4C/4T and 2C/4T CPUs. The entry level Ryzen 3 family is coming later in 2017, it might be 4C/4T without SMT and will likely compete with the Intel low end i3 and Pentium (Kaby Lake) families of 2C/4T CPUs.

What More Can You Learn

There is a lot of hype surrounding Ryzen and future AMD product launches in 2017. Hype is often not set in reality but what matters is whether Ryzen is competitive when it comes to performance, value, and efficiency. AMD seems to have succeeded with all of those. Your needs will of course vary depending on your use cases but Ryzen is worth a very hard look. The extremely impressive Ryzen 7 1700 brings 8 cores into the mainstream at an amazingly low 65W TDP and a price one third of the i7 6900K. The Ryzen 5 1600X and 1600 offer 6 cores and 12 threads at the same price as the Intel i5 7600K with 4 cores and 4 threads, so 3 times the threads! There are some limited teething issues with slightly lower performance in select games and RAM compatibility that will likely be fixed with game patches, driver updates, and motherboard firmware updates in the coming months. With that being said, Ryzen brings a lot to the PC market and it is a win in my book. This is becoming an interesting year for AMD and hopefully what is to come is just as good as Ryzen. Below are just a couple great reviews that offer more in-depth detail and performance information for Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7:

Ryzen 5 Reviews

Ryzen 7 Reviews

 

Disclaimer: This is for information purposes only. ITS does not have any contract or agreement that requires us to recommend any specific product or service. We encourage you to read reviews and research Ryzen against similarly priced Intel CPUs. Note that prices are subject to change and may be lower or higher, depending on market conditions or discounts. Products directly tested by ITS include the Ryzen 5 1600. The views and opinions expressed by other sites linked in Tech Spotlight, may not be those of ITS or the University of Michigan-Flint.