Coming to grips with a new platform is never easy, particularly when it comes to overclocking and system stability. The AM4 platform and in particular the Ryzen 7 1800X I have on hand can be charitably called a challenge to overclock and there's a number of reasons for that.
First and foremost is the fact that voltages implementation is a bit different this time around with both the CPU and its associated SoC requiring voltage boosts to attain stability. Cooling is also a challenge since at 1.4V (the maximum I'd push through Ryzen) the processor puts out an epic amount of heat. And I mean a lot heat since even a Corsair H110i GTX I have on hand struggled to keep up with the burgeoning heat load.
As you can imagine based on our coverage of Ryzen's memory limitations, overclocking the DRAM is like navigating through a minefield while wearing snowshoes. AMD and their motherboard partners haven't opened up a lot of sub-timings so getting modules above 2933MHz requires you jump through a few hoops. According to several overclockers I spoke to, in order to get higher frequencies you will need DIMMS with Samsung B-die ICs whereas Hynix-based DDR4 is limited to about 3000MHz. It's increasingly looking like Ryzen has an extremely weak memory subsystem.
So what does this all mean for overclocking? I'm not quite sure yet since I'm still dialing things in. Right now it looks like overclocking will settle somewhere between 3.85GHz and 4GHz. To be clear, that's a particularly poor amount of additional overclocking headroom given how our year-old i7-6900K had no trouble going above the 4.4GHz mark.
UPDATE: So the overclocking trials have finished for the time being and the results are actually quite respectable, especially on the memory overclocking front.
Unlike with Intel platforms, right now overclocking Ryzen is an "all or nothing" affair wherein all the cores need to be overclocked or none at all. In addition, while trying to push above 4.1GHz there were over a half dozen times when the processor literally shut itself down, crashing the system without a BSOD or anything else that's typically representative of an unstable overclock. This was not temperature or voltage related, so it could be due to it hitting a hard power limit or some other speedbump along the way.
The final overclock was a constant 4.1GHz while the memory was able to run at DDR4-3200 levels. One thing to note is that CPU-Z reports an incorrect vCore on the board being used here (an ASRock X370 Taichi) since the Gigabyte and ASUS boards we have on hand are reporting correctly. Also note that in the results above we changed out the GPU.
A few other things to note is that to accomplish this, the CPU voltage sat at 1.40V, the SOC voltage was sitting at 1.20V and memory voltage needed to be set at 1.35V. As for temperatures, even with the Hydro H110i at maximum pump and fan speeds the CPU hit 77C.
Right now overclocking Ryzen isn't for the faint of heart but the end result is immensely rewarding. Many of the hiccups we encountered are likely due to platform maturity rather than any massive limitations of the CPU or chipset. Temperatures are of course a concern but when aren't they when overclocking any 8-core, 16-thread part? Once the six and 4-core CPUs are launched sometime in Q2, there may be some interesting results indeed!
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