The AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Performance Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: March 1, 2017
Product Name: Ryzen 7 1800X
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Conclusion; AMD Rises Again

Iíve been in this industry for the better part of 15 years now and in all that time, I canít remember an instance when thereís been so much excitement building over a product launch. AMD didnít help the situation out by layout out an endless trail of cookie crumbs for the rumor mill to actively pick over. The whole carefully laid plan could have gone horribly wrong if Ryzen didnít live up to the stratospheric amount of hype it generated in the lead-up to today.

I use the term ďhypeĒ to loosely describe Ryzenís long, drawn-out birth but a more accurate term would likely be ďhopeĒ. Thereís hope Ryzen will bring the plucky AMD back into lock step with Intelís CPUs, hope that competition will drive costs down and hope for that little something thatís simply called customer choice. Competition is a great thing and without AMD in contention over the last five years, it just hasn't felt the same. On a deeply personal Ėand perhaps unprofessional- level I have been cheering them on as well; we all like to see the underdog win. And did this particular underdog ďwinĒ? Well, that really depends on how you look at things.

Without a shadow of doubt the Zen microarchitecture is the big winner here. In nearly every situation it proved itself to be the equal to the best Intel has to offer. It is fast, efficient and almost infinitely scalable to provide a platform upon which AMD can build a wide range of enthusiast, professional and mainstream solutions. Zen is everything that people hoped Bulldozer would be and then some. Considering where they were just two short years ago this is an achievement of monumental proportions for AMD.

The foundational strengths of Zen have led to the Ryzen 7 1800X becoming what it is today: one of the best processors that money can buy. Right now it is impossible to find a CPU that can power through heavily threaded workflows so well while costing so little. Professionals and prosumers alike will appreciate everything that the 1800X can bring to the table, especially when you consider how much cash can be saved versus the i7-6900K.

To be perfectly candid with you guys, throughout the course of this review itís been tough to step away from the subliminal need to have AMD win this round. That separation of church and state so-to-speak is essential here since itís important to look at Ryzen from an unbiased critical perspective. Indeed there are some speedbumps lurking below the surface.

In-game performance is just about the only performance-driven metric that doesnít fall into AMDís happy Ryzen narrative. In titles that werenít capped by the game engine or bottlenecked by the TITAN X, Ryzenís winning streak came to an end. The 1800X still provided highly competitive results but in many situations it fell behind the less expensive 7700K and 7600K. This issue isnít unique to Ryzen since even the once-mighty Broadwell-E processors had problems keeping up as well. As I said when Broadwell-E was launched, mammoth 8-core, 16-thread CPUs are great for people who need that excess horsepower but they go largely underutilized in gaming rigs.

The standouts here were the Kaby Lake processors whose high clock speeds and quad core architecture is well tuned to deliver optimal gaming performance whereas low-clocked 8-core CPUs simply arenít. Even DX12 -which is inherently multi core aware- doesnít change this equation in any appreciable way. Perhaps a closer look will be required, particularly at higher resolutions but in those situations the GPU will become more of a bottleneck, thus negatively impacting top-level results.

Memory compatibility could also be a major hurdle to overcome since right now. It is both confusing and frustrating. For example I tried two different quad channel 1.35V 64GB DDR4-3200 kits and the system flat out refused to POST on two 370X motherboards from ASUS and Aorus. Even ASUSí otherwise-flawless MemOK! feature failed to save the day. These hiccups may point towards some basic teething issues for a brand new platform or they could herald a very prickly situation for end users who are trying to piece together an AM4-based system. Either way, right now the best thing to do is stick to memory that features a JEDEC-approved frequency of 2666MHz or less.

Ease of use isnít high on the optimization front either. AMDís suggestions for squeezing optimal performance out of Ryzen involved a process more akin to doing the Macarena than the straightforward plug-and-play approach end users crave. That process meant disabling all monitoring tools, insuring the Windows High Precision Event Timer was disabled, seting Windows to its High Performance power plan, toggling on / off SMT functions and a few other things. Many of these recommendations can be chalked up to AMD wanting their processors to be seen in the best light possible but newcomers to the PC Master Race just canít be expected to jump through those hoops.

Pricing will of course be a large part of the Ryzen story but we can't fall into the trap of believing that a $500 CPU is a great value proposition for everyone. For people who live with parallel multi-threaded workflows on a daily basis the Ryzen 7 1800X is a no-brainer which makes Intelís current pricing structure look absolutely preposterous. On the other hand, if you are a gamer some great bang for buck alternatives can be found with the i5-series SKUs from Intel and likely future Ryzen 5-seires and 3-series parts as well. Basically what I'm trying to say is don't let hope turn to hype which leads to a poor buying decision.

For an immature platform still in its infancy, Summit Ridge and by extension Ryzen is a remarkably well rounded solution and like any fine wine, it will only get better with age. While the 16-thread parts are just now blazing a trail that will ultimately shake the CPU industryís pricing foundations, they wonít be right for everyone. However, after seeing what the 1800X can accomplish excitement for those six and four core derivatives. But what is clear right now is that Ryzen is indeed the real deal and Intel has been put on notice that AMD is back in the game.


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