Pros: Powerful, yet efficient and silent processor, delivering what it was promised to do: high-end gaming and productivity experience!
Cons: Being a first-generation processor, early adopters of Ryzen will have to endure a lot of hardware compatibility, tuning, and constant update action.
Almost 20 years ago, I bought my first graphics accelerator, the Voodoo2 by 3dfx. I was not impressed, because the card was stunning for gaming — but nothing else! I returned it to the seller and replaced it with the RIVA TNT, which delivered a better Windows experience and accelerated 2D and video in addition to 3D games. A few years later, with the first generation of Pentium 4, GeForce, and RDRAM, I was able to watch, rip, and encode DVD backups, accelerate CAD 3D models, and render with 3D Studio, in addition to playing my beloved Quake 3 Arena.
My approach to PC components and evaluation remains the same, and I keep looking — as a PC enthusiast — for the most beneficial and overall productive upgrades and experiences. In this respect, I felt really positive about test driving AMD’s new Ryzen when I was offered one of the kits.
Before Ryzen 7’s official release, AMD demonstrated some exemplary marketing, starting with the creative brand naming of the microarchitecture “Zen” and microprocessors “Ryzen,” all the way through to the smart PR campaign including events, webinars, and the full review kits. But in my opinion, the best part of it is the priceless feedback AMD received from all the media reviewers, testers, and early adopters, in a truly global forum of discussion!
Powerful in Purpose, Efficient in Design
I find this slogan from AMD very true! I was able to overclock my Ryzen 7 1700 sample chip to 3.9GHz, a 30% boost over the base clock speed. This is not yet extreme overclocking, but the trick is that it is on 50% silent fan speed, using the Noctua air cooler in a twin-12cm-fan, push-pull configuration! The processor uses 15–20W during light usage like browsing, rising to 127W in extreme stress-testing conditions.
The Ryzen 1700 showed 125% better performance over the FX 8300 in professional CAD, CAM, and rendering applications. In HWBOT RealBench, testing tasks such as image editing, encoding, and multi-tasking, Ryzen scored 73% higher than the FX. In summary, Ryzen almost doubles the productivity of its predecessor using the same gaming graphics card. This processor will perform well in combination with a Quadro or Radeon Pro in engineering, software design, and digital content applications.
But is it Lame in Gaming?
Absolutely not! Star Wars Battlefront and Doom each posted average frame rates of 155–170fps. Ryzen did a good job feeding my GTX 980Ti Xtreme, with minimum frame rates in the 110–125fps range ensuring a slick, smooth gaming experience.
We can expect even better results in the future as the drivers improve, and new games are developed with Ryzen in consideration.
Being a first-generation processor, early adopters of Ryzen will have to endure a lot of hardware compatibility, tuning, and constant update action. I personally felt the pain when it came to RAM! I did not get my memory kit to run above the supported AMD 2667MHZ, at its rated overclocking speed of 3000MHz by its manufacturer, except through a beta version of the motherboard’s BIOS. Moreover, there was no option to tweak BCLK frequency and SOC voltage in my motherboard’s BIOS: another limitation and frustration for experienced overclockers. The latter however can be tuned from Ryzen Master, an overclocking application designed by AMD specifically for Ryzen processors, allowing users to adjust voltages and other parameters to increase performance.
I also understand that Ryzen supports ECC RAM, which is really great, especially for workstation-class builders. However, I did not see any option for enabling or disabling ECC in my motherboard.
So basically, Ryzen purchasers should do their homework in selecting platform components, especially when it comes to motherboard and RAM.
Ryzen 7 proves to be good in productivity as well as gaming. It offers excellent performance for its price. As a matter of fact, you can build an entire Ryzen system with a good Polaris card for the same price as the competition’s processor alone! AMD deserves praise for continuing the trend of unlocking the base clock frequency and clock multiplier in all Ryzen segments, unlike the competition. Also, the jump in IPC compared to the previous architecture is impressive. The idea of running 16 threads on a consumer-class processor is really wonderful. The company has definitely pleased its fans, and will expand its base with wise users who direct their saved investments to better GPU class or wider monitor format, rather than throwing all their eggs in the processor basket! After all, healthy competition benefits all parties.
This said, AMD needs to shift focus, from proving what the new architecture can do to making it happen on the ground and smoothly delivering the full-scale potential to end users. This needs a lot of work with partners such as motherboard and RAM manufacturers, as well as independent software manufacturers, to solve all compatibility issues and use Ryzen’s features to the fullest: an area in which I understand the company is already engaged and making good progress.
I would like as well to see AMD making a return to the commercial PC space, specifically the workstation market (as it is missing an opportunity in this market niche), and I hope to see a SKU balanced between Naples and Ryzen dedicated to this class of machines. The architecture has what it takes, and the company needs to engage the leading original equipment manufacturers such as HP Inc., Dell, Lenovo, and Fujitsu.
On an additional thought, clock speed does matter. Pushing the borders of 5GHz with this architecture will be something to look for in the next generation. AMD did it before with Bulldozer microarchitecture, and I trust the company will do the same with Zen in the future!
In a Nutshell
I am a happy user of a powerful, yet efficient and silent processor, delivering what it was promised to do, as well as enjoying a high-end gaming and productivity experience from a fair-priced and well-positioned processor. Well done AMD!
N.B. All configuration details of systems tested and benchmark results are available on request.
Author: Mohamed Hefny
Editor: Jim Caris