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
Overclocking and RAM Selection
AMD adds a lot of value to its Ryzen offerings by bundling in some great features and software. We've already discussed included box cooler, which you don't get with Intel's top-end parts, but AMD goes a step further with software. Specifically, AMD has developed its own CPU overclocking tool called "Ryzen Master" which makes overclocking a lot more user-friendly. We've included a screenshot of the interface here.
As cool as it is that AMD is supporting the overclocking community with Ryzen Master, unlocked multipliers on nearly all chipsets, plus a soldered CPU heatspreader, the truth is that Pinnacle Ridge has very little overclocking headroom. And here's why: these chips already run way over their base clocks right out of the box. You can view this as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. On the positive side, you'll feel warm and fuzzy about your 3.6GHz 2600X running at 4GHz without having to touch a thing, but then you'll realize that the performance numbers you're seeing in all the reviews (including this one) already take that into account. So when AMD says these chips can hit 4.2GHz with manual tuning, well, that's not going to give you all that much of a boost. Let's get into some numbers to help illustrate what we mean here...
The first set of numbers is our stock 2700X using the included Wraith cooler. Based on AMD's guidance, we assumed it would not allow the CPU to achieve its full potential, but it comes pretty close. AMD claims that the new Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR 2) technology built into Pinnacle Ridge will reward users of premium cooling solutions. Strapping on our hulking $150 Thermaltake Water 3.0 280mm liquid cooler netted about a 1% boost in performance over the Wraith Prism cooler, as shown in our second set of benchmarks. Not too impressive, but put another way, the Wraith Prism is a very capable cooler, and we'd stick with it if all you're after is bang-for-the-buck!
As long as we had our big cooler in place, we spent a significant amount of time gauging the manual overclocking limits of this setup. We found that we could reliably run all core at 4.15GHz on 1.3V, while 4.2GHz required over 1.35V, which is outside of our comfort zone. We also tried 4.3GHz with 1.4V, and it wasn't stable. In the end, we think that most users will be better off sticking with the stock settings on these processors, as they are already pretty optimal, in our opinion. That's because when fewer threads are in use, Precision Boost 2 really does maximize clock speed. With two cores active, it will run at 4.2GHz or above, and honestly, we never saw our sample 2600X and 2700X processors run at under 4GHz even fully loaded, despite being rated at 3.6GHz and 3.7GHz, respectively. Note that the 1-thread numbers in the graph above are higher on the stock-clocked CPU than on the overclocked 4.15GHz system with a liquid cooler (the third set of bars). No, we didn't mess this up - it's what happens when you manually set all cores to a level below what a single core can do on its own using AMD's Precision Boost 2!
That being said, if you're after benchmark numbers, go ahead and crank the CPU to 4.2GHz at 1.36+ volts, but don't forget to add some high-speed RAM. Pinnacle Ridge responds really well to higher frequencies, and as shown in the last set of bars in the graph above, simply jumping from DDR4-3000 to DDR4-3400 offers an extra 2% boost in CPU-intensive scenarios, which is probably well worth the extra $20-$30 it will cost if you're after peak performance. Note that Pinnacle Ridge and the X470 chipset are technically rated for DDR4-2933 RAM, but given that AMD sent us G.Skill's Sniper DDR4-3400 kit and that it worked perfectly in our system, we'd say that's a pretty good starting point for a set of premium overclocked sticks.
We hate to end on a low note, but one issue that AMD most definitely still has to work on is Ryzen's support for four high-speed memory sticks. According to AMD's official guidance, four sticks are only supported at DDR4-2133 speeds if they are single-ranked, and DDR4-1866 speeds if they are dual-ranked. AMD, this isn't good enough! We ran two of our gorgeous Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4-3000 dual-ranked sticks for most of our testing, simply because they looked so good when integrated into our custom motherboard lighting controls (woo-hoo for industry standards!), but while they worked perfectly at 3000MHz (or more precisely, 2933MHz) when using just two, they wouldn't even boot at 2666MHz when running four. We weren't about to hobble this system running four sticks at 2133MHz or lower, so 32GB testing was off the table. This is the most glaring issue still remaining for the Ryzen platform, and it seriously limits its appeal to high-end content creators. The fact that 2x16GB sticks are all double-ranked means there's really no way to reliably run 32GB at AMD's advertised speeds. Frankly, if you're a high-end user needing 32GB of RAM, you may want to go with Intel.
AMD's second assault on Intel's dominance, in the form of Pinnacle Ridge, is a major win for the company. While it's still playing catchup to Intel in some regards, AMD has only been back in contention since 2017, after taking a 10-year hiatus from high-end CPUs. The progress in that time is remarkable. With Ryzen, and specifically the new Pinnacle Ridge design, AMD's CPU division is offering a tremendous value and performance package to PC enthusiasts. AMD doesn't shortchange you on coolers, motherboard overclocking support, cores, or simultaneous multi-threading. You get it all with every member of the Pinnacle Ridge family. Between the Ryzen 5 2600X and the Ryzen 7 2700X we tested, it's hard to choose a winner, but the tremendous value packed into the $230 Ryzen 5 2600X is hard to ignore. You get a nice cooler, single-threaded performance equal to the top-end 2700X (and just a step behind Intel's latest), plus better multi-threaded performance than Intel's similarly-priced Core i5-8600K. But we're most intrigued by the $330 Ryzen 7 2700X, as it offers those tantalizing eight cores and 16 threads, putting it far ahead of the six-core, 12-thread Core i7-8700K for the same price, while bundling in a very capable RGB-lit cooler. The value here to high-end users is undeniable, and we're starting to think that Intel's big price drop on the eight-core i7-7820X, which debuted at $600 and is now down to $470, isn't nearly steep enough!
One last thing we'll mention here is that the X470 platform that Pinnacle Ridge relies on feels very well-sorted, unlike the X370 at the time of its launch. We had no crashes or unexpected behavior. That being said, between the two motherboards we tested, we preferred the Asus Crosshair VII Hero (Wi-Fi) at $300 to the MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC at $260, not so much based on performance, but based on features and level of polish. You see, the Asus had a better selection of ports, more attractive styling, and a vastly superior lighting system. Asus basically invented motherboard RGB controls with its Aura system, and it's far better at this point than MSI's Mystic Light. While both could control our light strips, RGB coolers, and Corsair Vengeance RGB RAM, only the Asus Aura system allowed you to individually control these items, meaning you could not only set them to different colors, you could also set them to run through a gradient sequence (such as front strips, RAM, cooler, and then motherboard), which simply looks spectacular. In addition, both the UEFI interface and the Windows software Asus includes is better than what MSI has to offer. The Crosshair even has better packaging. In terms of the overall user experience, it's Asus all the way, but if you're an extreme overclocker, you might prefer MSI's dual 8-pin EPS power connectors to the 8-pin/4-pin setup on the Asus. We'll be putting together a high-end PC assembly guide for 2018 using Pinnacle Ridge, and we'll definitely be featuring the Asus board to provide our readers a more in-depth look at its excellent UEFI and lighting controls.
The big question is whether AMD's second-generation Zen+ lineup is a true grand slam or just a solo home run, and in that regard, we're not ready to say. There are two issues that will keep Pinnacle Ridge out of TBG's own high-end content creation system: high idle power levels (50% higher than Intel's) and the lack of support for four high-speed RAM modules. That being said, for mainstream productivity users and high-end gamers, Pinnacle Ridge really is a better overall package than what Intel has to offer.
If you're ready to put together a Ryzen-based system of your own, check out our monthly PC Buyer's Guides, which have already been updated with a number of systems featuring AMD's new Pinnacle Ridge platform!