Our third and final interview featuring Scott Wasson, current AMD RTG team member and former EIC of Tech Report, has just gone live with information on GPU architecture. This video focuses more on a handful of reader and viewer questions, pooled largely from our Patreon backer discord, with the big item being “GPU IPC.” Patreon backer “Streetguru” submitted the question, asking why a ~1300~1400MHz RX 480 could perform comparably to an ~1800MHz GTX 1060 card. It’s a good question – it’s easy to say “architecture,” but to learn more about the why aspect, we turned to Wasson.

The main event starts at 1:04, with some follow-up questions scattered throughout Wasson’s explanation. We talk about pipeline stage length and its impact on performance, wider versus narrower machines with frequencies that match, and voltage “spent” on each stage.

We’ll leave this content piece primarily to video, as Wasson does a good job to convey the information quickly.

AMD’s Polaris refresh primarily features a BIOS overhaul, which assists in power management during idle or low-load workloads, but also ships with natively higher clocks and additional overvoltage headroom. Technically, an RX 400-series card could be flashed to its 500-series counterpart, though we haven’t begun investigation into that just yet. The reasoning, though, is because the change between the two series is so small; this is not meant to be an upgrade for existing 400-series users, but an option for buyers in the market for a completely new system.

We’ve already reviewed the RX 580 line by opening up with our MSI RX 580 Gaming X review, a $245 card that competes closely with the EVGA GTX 1060 SSC ($250) alternative from nVidia. Performance was on-point to provide back-and-forth trades depending on games, with power draw boosted over the 400 series when under load, or lowered when idle. This review of the Gigabyte RX 570 4GB Aorus card benchmarks performance versus the RX 470, 480, 580, and GTX 1050 Ti and 1060 cards. We're looking at power consumption, thermals, and FPS.

There’s no new architecture to speak of here. Our RX 480 initial review from last year covers all relevant aspects of architecture for the RX 500 series; if you’re behind on Polaris (or it’s been a while) and need a refresher on what’s happening at a silicon level, check our initial RX 480 review.

It’s been a few months since our last PC build--in fact, it was published well before Ryzen was released. For our first post-Ryzen build, we’ve pulled together some of the components we liked best in testing to make an affordable ultrawide gaming machine. As we did in January, we pulled parts out of inventory and actually assembled and tested this PC to back up our recommendations--we’ll try to continue doing this going forward.

This gaming PC build is priced at just over $1000 -- about $1200, depending on rebates -- and is made for UltraWide 3440x1440 gaming. Our goal is to take reasonably affordable parts and show that UltraWide 1440p gaming is feasible, even while retaining high settings, without buying the most expensive GPUs and CPUs on the market. We’re only using parts in this build that we actually have, so that partially dictates cost (yes, you might be able to do some things cheaper -- like the motherboard), but it also means that we’ve had time to build, validate, and use the system in a real environment. In these early days of Ryzen as a new uarch, that’s important. We’ve done the hard work of troubleshooting a functional build. All you’d have to do is assemble it, configure BIOS, and go.

As a note: This build is also readily capable of production workloads. CUDA acceleration on the GTX 1070 will work well for Premiere renders, and the CPU thread-count will assist in CPU acceleration (like for streaming).

AMD’s got a new strategy: Don’t give anyone time to blink between product launches. The company’s been firing off round after round of products for the past month, starting with Ryzen 7, then Ryzen 5, and now Polaris Refresh. The product cannon will eventually be reloaded with Vega, but that’s not for today.

The RX 500 series officially arrives to market today, primarily carried in on the backs of the RX 580 and RX 570 Polaris 10 GPUs. From an architectural perspective, there’s nothing new – if you know Polaris and the RX 400 series, you know the RX 500 series. This is not an exciting, bombastic launch that requires delving into some unexplored arch; in fact, our original RX 480 review heavily detailed Polaris architecture, and that’s all relevant information to today’s RX 580 launch. If you’re not up to speed on Polaris, our review from last year is a good place to start (though the numbers are now out of date, the information is still accurate).

Both the RX 580 and RX 570 will be available as of this article’s publication. The RX 580 we’re reviewing should be listed here once retailer embargo lifts, with our RX 570 model posting here. Our RX 570 review goes live tomorrow. We’re spacing them out to allow for better per-card depth, having just come off of a series of 1080 Ti reviews (Xtreme, Gaming X).

Prior to the Ryzen launch, we discovered an issue with GTA V testing that would cause high-speed CPUs of a particular variety to stutter when achieving high framerates. Our first video didn’t conclude with a root cause, but we now believe the game is running into engine constraints – present on other RAGE games – that trigger choppy behavior on those CPUs. Originally, we only saw this on the best i5s – older gen i5 CPUs were not affected, as they were not fast enough to exceed the framerate limiter in GTA V (~187FPS, or thereabouts), and so never encountered the stutters. The newest i5 CPUs, like the 7600K and 6600K, would post high framerates, but lose consistency in frametimes. As an end user, the solution would be (interestingly) to increase your graphics quality, resolution, or otherwise bring FPS to around the 120-165 mark.

Then Ryzen came out, and then Ryzen 5 came out. With R5, we encountered a few stutters in GTA V when SMT was enabled and when the CPU was operating under conditions permitting the CPU to achieve the same high framerates as Intel Core i5-7600K CPUs. To better illustrate, we can actually turn down graphics settings to a point of forcing framerates to the max on 4C/8T R5 CPUs, relinquishing some of the performance constraint, and then encounter hard stuttering. In short: A higher framerate overall would result in a much worse experience for the player, both on i5 and R5 CPUs. The 4C/8T R5 CPUs exhibited this same stutter performance (as i5 CPUs) most heavily when SMT was disabled, at which point we spit out a graph like this:

 

Following our in-depth Ryzen VR benchmark (R7 1700 vs. i7-7700K with the Rift + Vive), we immediately began compiling results for the concurrent R5 test efforts by GN Sr. Editor Patrick Lathan. Working together, we were able to knock-out the VR benchmarks (check those out here – some cool data), Ryzen Revisit piece, and today’s R5 reviews.

Both the R5 1600X ($250) and R5 1500X ($190) CPUs are in for review today, primarily matched against the Intel i5-7500 and i5-7600K. For comparison reasons, we have still included other CPUs on the bench – notably the i7-7700K and R7 1700, just to give an understanding of what the extra ~$70-$130 gets.

For anyone who hasn’t checked in on our content since the initial Ryzen reviews, we’d strongly encourage checking the Ryzen Revisit piece for a better understanding of how the scene has changed since launch. That revisit looks at Windows updates (and debunks some myths), EFI updates, and memory overclocking impact on Ryzen performance.

Although we have rerun the R7 gaming benchmarks with higher memory frequency (thanks to GSkill and Geil for providing B-die kits), we have not yet rerun them in synthetic tests. The 2933MHz frequency, as a reminder, was a hard limitation on our test platforms in the initial round of R7 reviews.

We will be including that data (albeit truncated) in our new tests, alongside Intel retests for the same games. For now, though, we’re reviewing the R5 1600X and R5 1500X CPUs in the Ryzen family, priced at $250 and $190, respectively.

This content marks the beginning of our in-depth VR testing efforts, part of an ongoing test pattern that hopes to determine distinct advantages and disadvantages on today’s hardware. VR hasn’t been a high-performance content topic for us, but we believe it’s an important one for this release of Kaby Lake & Ryzen CPUs: Both brands have boasted high VR performance, “VR Ready” tags, and other marketing that hasn’t been validated – mostly because it’s hard to do so. We’re leveraging a hardware capture rig to intercept frames to the headsets, FCAT VR, and a suite of five games across the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive to benchmark the R7 1700 vs. i7-7700K. This testing includes benchmarks at stock and overclocked configurations, totaling four devices under test (DUT) across two headsets and five games. Although this is “just” 20 total tests (with multiple passes), the process takes significantly longer than testing our entire suite of GPUs. Executing 20 of these VR benchmarks, ignoring parity tests, takes several days. We could do the same count for a GPU suite and have it done in a day.

VR benchmarking is hard, as it turns out, and there are a number of imperfections in any existing test methodology for VR. We’ve got a good solution to testing that has proven reliable, but in no way do we claim that perfect. Fortunately, by combining hardware and software capture, we’re able to validate numbers for each test pass. Using multiple test passes over the past five months of working with FCAT VR, we’ve also been able to build-up a database that gives us a clear margin of error; to this end, we’ve added error bars to the bar graphs to help illustrate when results are within usual variance.

AMD today made available a power plan update which should change how the Balanced plan impacts Ryzen performance.

Problems with Windows preset power modes have been one of the biggest annoyances with Ryzen, and AMD has officially recommended the High Performance preset in the past in order to avoid subpar performance in benchmarks. This wasn’t a big deal from a testing point of view since High Performance mode effectively avoids all of these issues, but for everyday use, it was: High Performance mode doesn’t allow CPU frequency to drop when idle, and the additional power consumption can really hurt the long-term value of the system (it’s also just wasteful). Balanced mode does drop frequency, but it’s also been overly aggressive with core parking on Ryzen chips specifically, making it sub-optimal for use. We discussed what this looks like from a user’s point of view in our “Just Research” article, where frequency plots offer visualization for the impact of Performance vs. Balanced mode. The same article contains some FPS benchmarks between the two power modes.

AMD has made two major changes in this update. Quoting their statement:

  1. Maintain residency in CPU p0 or p1 to give Zen full control over clocks and volts.

  2. Disable core parking.

They specifically noted that Intel also fully disables core parking in the Balanced power plan. Our tests have always used High Performance mode for Ryzen platforms (except power tests), and our results will not be affected by this update.

We’ve received a ton of positive feedback on our i5-2500K revisit, and we’ve received a similar amount of questions about including overclocked i7-2600K numbers in our benchmark charts. The solution is obvious: a full 2600K revisit using our modern benchmark course. As demonstrated with the 2500K, old K-SKU Sandy Bridge CPUs had impressive overclocking capacity--partly thanks to a better thermal solution than what Intel offers today--but the stock i7-2600K regularly outperformed our 4.5GHz 2500K in some tests. Synthetic benchmarks and games like Watch Dogs 2, both of which take advantage of high thread counts, are included in those tests showing favor to the 2600K.1

Although we ended the 2500K review with the conclusion that now is a good time to start thinking about an upgrade, i7 CPUs are considered as more future-proof. Today, we’re testing that conception to see how it holds up to 2017’s test suite. With Ryzen 7 now fully released, considering 2600K owners are likely looking (price-wise) at a 7700K ($345) or 1700 ($330), it makes sense to revisit SNB one more time.

Note: For anyone who saw our recent Ryzen Revisit coverage, you know that there are some fairly important changes to Total War: Warhammer and Battlefield 1 that impacted Ryzen, and could also impact Intel. We have not fully retested our suite with these changes yet, and this content was written prior to the Ryzen revisit. Still, we’re including some updated numbers in here – but it’s not really the focus of the content, we’re more interested now in seeing how the i7-2600K performs in today’s games, especially with an overclock.

Radeon Software Crimson Edition version 17.4.1 is now live. Along with some bug fixes, the bulk of this release is additional VR support.

AMD is making good on their promise to support asynchronous reprojection for both Oculus Rift and SteamVR. Oculus’ “Asynchronous Spacewarp” is now usable on R9 Fury, 290 and 390 series cards, while SteamVR’s “Asynchronous Reprojection” is usable on RX 480 and 470s with Windows 10.

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