The Resurgence of AMD

The brand has now equipped their CPUs with a number of smart and clever performance specific innovations that provide the processor with efficiency that was earlier associated with Intel CPUs

- Prajesh SJB Rana

Since the release of their Core line, Intel has been the undisputed champion in the field of enthusiast grade computer hardware. Their i7 line of processors did not have any competition since even the most powerful ‘Bulldozer’ based CPUs from AMD underperformed against them. AMD, for a long time, has been lagging behind Intel but all of that is changing with AMD’s release of their Zen architecture CPUs. Dubbed Ryzen, AMD has made a significant splash in the enthusiast market with high-performance CPUs that, in certain conditions, perform faster than Intel’s Broadwell-E high-performance CPUs.

But even though AMD has finally managed to catch up to Intel in regards to performance, they’ve also undercut them quite significantly. AMD’s Zen CPUs offer performance on par with Intel newer i7 line of CPUs but costs almost half of what Intel’s CPUs might go for. The highest performing Broadwell-E CPU the i7 6900k cost around $1,089 whereas the highest performing AMD Ryzen CPU, the 1800X, retails for around $499. With high-performing, low-cost CPUs, AMD has managed to enter the enthusiast market with admirable flair. Even though it falls short of Intel’s line of high performing CPUs when it comes to gaming and sheer multi-core performance, the price-to-performance ratio of the CPU makes it a considerable purchase this year.

While the X series of Ryzen are the highest-performing CPUs, AMD is also releasing lower end models that can compete with Intel i5 and i3 line of processors. With the release of these lower end models as well, AMD is directly challenging the dominance of Intel. But what makes AMD’s Ryzen CPUs a performance beast is rooted in the company’s unique approach to their CPU architecture. AMD has equipped their CPUs with a number of smart and clever performance specific innovations that provide the processor with efficiency that was earlier associated with Intel CPUs with their hyper-threading and SMT features.

The main improvement on the Ryzen comes in the form of lower thermal design power (TDP). While earlier processors from AMD were notorious for their higher power consumption, the 1800X Ryzen CPU draws 95W of power from the motherboard whereas even the Broadwell 6900K consumes 140W of power. But even though the AMD CPU has a lower TDP, it does tend to consumer more power when it boosts. But considering just how power-hungry AMD’s bulldozer CPUs were, the 95W TDP is quite impressive for the company.

But in regards to sheer-performance, the AMD Ryzen brings some interesting specification to the table. The 1800X is an 8-core 16-thread beast that clocks at 3.5 GHz base clock and boosts up to 4.0 GHZ. The lower 1700X is configured similarly to the 1800X but is works at a lower clock of 3.4 GHZ base clock and 3.8 GHz boost. And lower still, the 1700 has similar core and threads but works at a lower speed of 3.0 GHz Base Clock and 3.7 GHz boost. So, all of the Ryzen CPUs are configured as if they were high-performing CPUs, the only change is the clock speed. But the clock speed is one of the most important aspects while considering a CPU because additional cores define how well the CPU performs under multi-tasking loads, the clock speed defines just how fast the CPU can process data. So a CPU with a higher clock speed is always better, especially while gaming because games usually don’t take advantage of multiple cores and, usually, run on a limited number of cores.

But gamers tend to want to push their hardware further then their manufacturer specifications, thus they usually overclock their CPUs. Unfortunately, Ryzen CPUs aren’t as overclock-able as their Intel counterparts. Ryzen CPUs, to manage power-usage, boosts clock speeds in small 25MHz increments until it reaches it maximum depending on the need. Ryzen also comes with an Extended Frequency Range (XFR) feature that boost the clock speed by an additional 100MHz without manual overclock but it only works on two of the Ryzen’s cores. Users can gain an additional 200MHz boost with manual overclocking but as soon as users manually overclock their CPU, the XFR feature is automatically disabled. A 200MHz boot is also not that much if you consider how much you can push Intel CPUs, so the Ryzen line of CPU, in their current state might not appeal to gaming-oriented consumers.

The Ryzen line of CPUs aren’t Accelerated Processing Units (APU) however and thus they don’t have an integrated Graphical Processing Units (GPU) like the ones we’ve seen on Intel processors. Many of Intel’s four core processors also don’t come with GPUs which says a lot about AMDs push to cater to enthusiast consumers but not having a GPU means investing in an expensive GPU to work alongside the powerful CPU. A cheaper graphics card would only bottleneck the CPU, but AMD has promised an APU version of the Ryzen line in the future but in an APU form, the processors might not be as impressive as they are right now because separating cores for graphical processing will obviously have an effect on the overall processing prowess of the CPU. But for now, if you decide to adopt AMDs new architecture, you will need to invest in a decent graphics card.

There had been a lot of hype surrounding the launch of AMD Zen architecture CPUs and for the most part, the company has managed to stay true to the initial hype. CPUs that could compete with Intel’s high-performing CPUs and half of the cost is a very appealing package. But while Ryzen CPUs still have some niggles, with further improvements, they’re worthy competitors to Intel’s line of high-performing CPUs. But with AMDs rise, there is bound to be tight competition between the two hardware manufactures and with undercutting already happening, we might see cheaper and powerful CPUs from Intel as well. But as a resurgence, the Ryzen line of CPUs are impressive, to say the least.

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Published: 2017-03-07 08:50:29