This article isn’t intended to be a wholesome breakdown of the difference between Ryzen and current Intel processors. There are some great reviews and benchmarks out there that will illustrate that already. This is a simplified version of the inference that those benchmarks will lead you to, applied through the lens of gaming. This article also exclusively deals with the Ryzen 1800X, AMD’s highest end $500 offering. There is a case to be made for the lower end Ryzen chips, which I will explain briefly.
The simple reason why AMD’s Ryzen isn’t recommended for gaming is that the cheaper $339 Intel 7700K does a better job than the flagship Ryzen 1800X, which comes in at $500.
More cores still doesn’t mean better performance
We were sort of in the same place with Bulldozer vs Sandy Bridge, when AMD came out with a lot more cores on their chips, at the cost of single-core performance. Games and other workloads have evolved since then. We no longer play a single-threaded 32 bit Skyrim or Counter Strike Source. Most games these days take advantage of multi-threaded capabilities offered by all CPU manufacturers, the best example being Battlefield 1.
The difference is still negligible though.
Here are some benchmarks by different companies highlighting this:
- GamersNexus benchmarks multi-threaded gaming with Watch Dogs 2. The Ryzen 1800X comes in at 84.5 avg FPS while the Intel 7700K gets 112.7 avg FPS. A 33% advantage for Intel.
- LinusTechTips benchmarks Rise of the Tomb Raider, but does it at 4K for some reason. I don’t really understand the thought process, since 4K is always GPU limited, which will fuzz up the data in a CPU comparison. The Ryzen 1800X clocks in an avg FPS of 68.8, while the Intel 7700K gets 66.6 avg FPS. That’s a 3% increase for AMD. A Intel knocks Ryzen out of the park in 1080p CS:GO though, in the same benchmark, with a massive 56% increase for Intel. Take Linus’s benchmark with a grain of salt, as Tomb Raider results are within the margin of error and there are very few testbench details. (Was multi-threading on or off? You can gain a few FPS by turning it off in most games.)
- HardwareCanucks benchmarks have the Intel Core i7 7700K beating out the AMD Ryzen 1800X in 1080p ultra Battlefield 1 by around 9.33%. Remember that Battlefield 1 is noted amongst gamers for its multithreading capability. Hardware Canucks have the Ryzen chip consistently not-first in most game benchmarks. It even loses out to the 7700K in the one benchmark I hold sacred, WinRAR.
- Computerbase, a German website, actually shows us that turning off SMT, AMD’s multi-threading feature that’s similar to Intel’s hyperthreading, actually increases performance by a few percent. Showing that AMD’s more cores aren’t optimized well enough and actually hinder FPS in the current generation of games.
Problems with AMD’s Ryzen
The main complaints you must have heard regarding Ryzen arise from its memory. Either the memory bandwidth is too slow or the speed of memory is limited. This turns out to be true, as AMD has apparently limited RAM speed to 2666MHz. Not slow by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a disadvantage when you can’t have 3000MHz RAM in your system when buying a $500 CPU.
There’s also a lack of Mini-ITX motherboards with the AM4 chipset right now. They’re still in development and will probably be released eventually.
We also don’t know about the status of AMD’s distribution network, especially in international markets. Availability might be a problem – by the time Ryzen arrives in some countries the cost of the product may have skewed the price-performance ratio.
But Ryzen still does well in synthetic benchmarks and video editing
Ryzen 1800X Premiere Pro and Blender benchmarks are right up there with the Intel i7 6900K, which costs more than twice as much at $1000. But the question you have to ask yourself is this; what do you value more?
Gaming benchmarks indicate anything from an equal to a drastic performance improvement by buying the Intel 7700K, which is cheaper than Ryzen’s 1800X. But in video editing Ryzen beats out Intel’s $1000 CPU for half the price. By “beats out”, it’s less than a 1% improvement, which becomes even lower when overclocked.
If you’re a graphic designer building a workstation, there’s no added value by going for Intel’s more expensive options over the Ryzen 1800X. But if you’re a gamer looking to get the best bang for your buck, that spot still goes to the Intel Core i7 7700K.
Wait for the Ryzen 1700 benchmarks
Here’s the thing. The 1800X isn’t competitive with Intel’s 7700K in most gaming related tasks. On average you will fare better with Intel’s higher per-core performance. Ryzen’s gaming performance suffers compared to Intel’s as a result.
But the as yet untested $329 Ryzen 7 1700 CPU is what might actually change the game; the multiplier remains unlocked for easy overclocking. Despite being early days, there isn’t much evidence to indicate that AMD’s current generation of chips will be great overclockers. We are skeptical that an overclocked Ryzen 1700 will beat out the i7 7700K, considering they’re both about the same price, and that the Intel chip can provably be overclocked to beyond 5GHz.
AMD’s marketing department have found a niche to fill in the market with its latest Ryzen chips. With Intel dominating the desktop CPU segment since the early Athlon days, AMD have finally found a way to take advantage of their negligence of the market and release something new. Ryzen certainly means there’s a new player in town, and the CPU decision for gamers isn’t black and white anymore. With that said, the very first iteration, with the Ryzen 1800X, seems to be lacking what AMD marketed; a surefire Intel killer in the performance gaming segment.