ProsNice upgrade from last year's parts; competitive pricing; lots of value-added features; capable new X470 platform
ConsIdle and load power use have gone up with the higher clockspeeds; gaming performance still not at Intel's level
The Ryzen 2000-Series in a Nutshell
We'll start off with the basics - what exactly is being launched today? Well, here are the basics, direct from AMD:
Now let's dig into the details. While the original Ryzen release was successful on multiple fronts, there were a few instances of growing pains that AMD has worked hard to alleviate with this second go-round. The first order of business was addressing the fact that AMD hadn't matched the instructions per clock cycle (IPC) of Intel's Kaby Lake processors launched in January 2017, which themselves offered IPC identical to Skylake processors, released in August 2015. Said another way, AMD's latest and greatest was already playing catchup as soon as it hit the market. In our testing, we found 1st-gen Ryzen processors to be on the level of Intel's Broadwell architecture, released in June 2015, which meant Ryzen was about 10% behind the "x-Lake" processors. Honestly, that wasn't so bad, but the good news is that AMD has re-engineered the L1, L2, and L2 cache and reduced RAM latency on Ryzen 2nd-gen processors to extract a claimed 3% boost in IPC. In the meantime, Intel has increased IPCs by, wait for it... 0% since 2015, so AMD is in fact catching up!
Another issue was a serious lack of coolers for the new AM4 socket, which launched alongside the original Ryzen. This was a big mis-step by AMD, and one that could easily have been avoided. AMD assumed that companies it had no contractual relationship with (e.g., Corsair and Noctua) would burst out of the gate with lots of custom coolers for the AM4 socket. AMD therefore chose not to include coolers with any of its premium "X" series Ryzen processors, which meant consumers couldn't actually use them weeks, and in some cases months, after purchasing them. AMD has learned its lesson, and every single Ryzen CPU will now come with a cooler, and at the high-end, you're getting the robust Wraith Prism RGB shown here, which we'd ballpark at a $30-35 value based on its performance and features. By the way, back when the 1st-gen Ryzen launched, it was impossible to find any data on the size of these coolers, so we went ahead and measured them for you this time around. The Wraith Spire included with the 2600X is 70mm tall, while the Wraith Prism RGB cooler included with the 2700X is a hulking 95mm tall. This is a substantial cooler, folks, and is definitely on par with just about any aftermarket downdraft-style cooler. It can get a little loud, but it has no trouble cooling the 2700X, as we'll discuss later on.
A third issue facing of first-gen Ryzen processors was overclocking potential. They all topped out at around 4GHz, and this was with an astromical 1.45V, which we consider a recipe for an early expiration date on any CPU. Intel was hitting around 5GHz at that point, so AMD needed to step up its game. This time around, AMD has lifted the clock speeds of Ryzen, thanks in part to the more advanced 12nm manufacturing process. Perhaps more importantly, AMD's latest "Precision Boost 2" algorithm appears to truly get the most out of these processors right out of the box. We'll return to the topic of overclocking later in this review.
The final problem Ryzen had when it hit the market in 2017 was RAM compatibility. Even though the DDR4 standard had been around for years, Ryzen didn't work with the majority of DDR4 modules on the market at the time of its launch (typically, it needed single-rank RAM to run at anything above 2400MHz, topped out at 2933MHz if you were lucky, and was a hot mess when running four RAM modules). Through various AGESA firmware updates over the past year, AMD improved the situation, but never really fixed it. Well, with 2nd-gen Ryzen, we can finally say AMD has caught up... sort of. We confirmed that two sticks of Ryzen-specific DDR4-3400 RAM worked just fine with these 2nd-gen processors (which it would never have done with 1st-gen models), but four-module compatibility is still terrible. We'll go into more depth on that issue later on.
As mentioned above, AMD made a number of improvements to the tiered cache in its 2nd-Gen Pinnacle Ridge design, while also reducing memory latency. We did a quick test of all of our processors at a fixed 3.8GHz clock speeds to determine whether AMD has indeed made progress since the release of Summit Ridge, and furthermore, how Pinnacle Ridge compares to Intel's most recent architectures, x-Lake and Broadwell.
As shown in the graph above, AMD's Pinnacle Ridge design makes good on the company's promise to deliver 3% higher IPC at the same clock speed. We should note that we chose 3.8GHz because it was the highest clock speed that our Ryzen 7 1700 could achieve. Both of our Pinnacle Ridge processors operate at higher clock speeds out of the box, as does the Core i7-7700K (which can actually hit 5GHz with some tweaking). The Core i7-6900K, meanwhile runs at 3.2GHz out of the box, but can reliably hit 4.2GHz, which is about where Pinnacle Ridge taps out. So overall, we view this as a big success. Yes, AMD is still 7% behind Intel's latest in terms of IPC, and yes, Intel's quad-cores and hexa-cores can clock at least 15% higher, but AMD is quickly catching up, adding both IPC and clock speed this go-round.
AMD has touted the efficiency of its new 12nm Pinnacle Ridge architecture as one of its best features, but in our testing, we found that our 2nd-gen Ryzen chips didn't exhibit particularly efficient behavior. Some of this may come down to the motherboards and early firmware we were using, but our hunch is that AMD has intentionally pushed voltage higher to get better clockspeeds.
As seen in the graph above, AMD has nothing on Intel when it comes to idle power use. At 40W, our Intel Core i7-7700K test system used less than 2/3 the electricity of any of the other systems (including our Intel 6900K-based system). For a system that's always on, or even on much of the workday doing office-type tasks, this is a very big deal. We're deeply disappointed, therefore, that idle power draw on Pinnacle Ridge is so high. Intel's been under 50W for a long, long time.
As for load results, Pinnacle Ridge again comes up empty-handed, with very high power use in our CPU-z stress test. We were shocked to see the Ryzen 7 2700X pulling 175W at the wall, given that the eight-core Ryzen 7 1700 used just 126W and the eight-core Intel Core i7-6900K used 127W. Chalk that up to the 1.25V that the 2700X runs at by default with a full load, versus the 1.1V for our 1700 and 1.02V for our 6900K. Now, we should note that the 2700X is faster out of the box, but it's basically factory overclocked. Another indicator that AMD has pushed these chips to the limit is that our six-core 2600X ran at a very high 1.3V with stock settings, drawing 140W, which again was more than the eight-core 6900K. Even worse, to hit speeds above 4GHz in lightly-threaded tasks, we saw our Ryzen 2000-series CPUs running at 1.4-1.45V (at stock settings!) You may see AMD touting increased efficiency with this generation of chips, but pay close attention and you'll see this is always cited at the same clockspeed, which of course is not what you'll see AMD touting when it talks about performance. Note that even though the 7700K also operates at higher voltage levels than its predecessor the Core i7-6700K to achieve its lofty clock speed, it still easily bests the Ryzen chips, staying below 100W.
Jumping ahead of ourselves just a bit, we should point out that the multi-threaded scores for our 2700X were well above the 7700K, making it potentially more efficient overall in terms of work done per Watt, but in lightly-threaded applications (including many games and office apps), the 7700K is unequaled, and this is where its much lower power use allows it to leapfrog the Ryzen CPUs in terms of task efficiency. So whether Pinnacle Ridge is a triumph or a tragedy in terms of energy efficiency really comes down to what you're doing with it.
With that said, let's move onto performance!