For our 2700/2700X review, we wanted to see how Ryzen 2’s volt-frequency performance compared to Ryzen 1. We took our Ryzen 7 2700X and an R7 1700 and clocked them both to 4GHz, and then found the lowest possible voltage that would allow them to survive stress tests in Blender and Prime95. Full results are included in that review, but the most important point was this: the 1700 needed at least 1.425v to maintain stability, while the 2700X required only 1.162v (value reported by HWiNFO, not what was set in BIOS).
This drew our attention, because we already knew that our 2700X could barely manage 4.2GHz at >1.425v. In other words, a 5% increase in frequency from 4 to 4.2GHz required a 22.6% increase in reported voltage.
Frequency in Ryzen 2 has started to behave like GPU Boost 3.0, where temperature, power consumption, and voltage heavily impact boosting behavior when left unmanaged. Our initial experience with Ryzen 2 led us to believe that a volt-frequency curve would look almost exponential, like the one on the screen now. That was our hypothesis. To be clear, we can push frequency higher with reference clock increases to 102 or 103MHz and can then sustain 4.2GHz at lower voltages, or even 4.25GHz and up, but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to plot a volt-frequency curve with just multiplier and voltage modifications. We typically run out of thermal headroom before we run out of safe voltage headroom, but if voltage increases exponentially, that will quickly become a problem.
There’s a new trend in the industry: Heatsinks. Hopefully, anyway.
Gigabyte has listened to our never-ending complaints about VRM heatsinks and VRM thermals, and outfitted their X470 Gaming 7 motherboard with a full, proper fin stack and heatpipe. We’re happy to see it, and we hope that this trend continues, but it’s also not entirely necessary on this board. That doesn’t make us less excited to see an actual heatsink on a motherboard; however, we believe it does potentially point toward a future in higher core-count Ryzen CPUs. This is something that Buildzoid speculated in our recent Gaming 7 X470 VRM & PCB analysis. The amount of “overkill” power delivery capabilities on high-end X470 boards would suggest plans to support higher power consumption components from AMD.
Take the Gigabyte Gaming 7: It’s a 10+2-phase VRM, with the VCore VRM using IR3553s for 40A power stages. That alone is enough to run passive, but a heatsink drags temperature so far below requirements of operating spec that there’s room to spare. Cooler is always better in this instance (insofar as ambient cooling, anyway), so we can’t complain, but we can speculate about why it’s been done this way. ASUS’ Crosshair VII Hero has the same VRM, but with 60A power stages. That board, like Gigabyte’s, could run with no heatsink and be fine.
We tested with thermocouples placed on one top-side MOSFET, located adjacent to the SOC VRM MOSFETs (1.2V SOC), and one left-side MOSFET that’s centrally positioned. Our testing included stock and overclocked testing (4.2GHz/1.41VCore at Extreme LLC), then further tested with the heatsink removed entirely. By design, this test had no active airflow over the VRM components. Ambient was controlled during the test and was logged every second.
The AMD R5 2600 and 2600X are, we think, among the more interesting processors that AMD launched for its second generation. The R5 1600 and 1600X received awards from us for 2017, mostly laying claim to “Best All-Around” processor. The 1600 series of R5 CPUs maintained 6 cores, most the gaming performance of the R7 series, and could still capably stream or perform Blender-style production rendering tasks. At the $200-$230 price range, we claimed that it functionally killed the quad-core i5 CPU, later complicated by Intel’s six-core i5 release.
The R5 2600 and 2600X have the same product stack positioning as the 1000-series predecessors, just with higher clock speeds. For specs, the R5 2600X operates at 3.6GHz base and 4.2GHz boost, with the 2600 at 3.4/3.9GHz, and the R5 1600X/1600 operating at a maximum boost of 4.0 and 3.6GHz, respectively.
Reviewing the AMD R7 2700X was done outside of normal review provisions, as AMD didn’t sample us. We’ve had the parts for a month now, and that has meant following development, EFI updates, and more as they’ve been pushed. We have multiple chips of every variety, and have been able to cross-validate as the pre-launch cycle has iterated. Because of the density of data, we’re splitting our content into multiple videos and articles.
Today’s focus will be the AMD R7 2700X and R7 2700 reviews, especially for live streaming performance versus the i7-8700K, gaming performance, and production (Blender) performance. Most importantly, however, we dedicate time to talk about the significant improvements that AMD has made in the volt-frequency department. At a given frequency, e.g. 4.0GHz, Ryzen 2000 operates at a heavily reduced voltage versus Ryzen 1. We’ll dig into this further in this review, but check back later for our R5 2600X and 2600 reviews (combined in one piece), including 2600X vs. 8600K streaming benchmarks. We’re also looking at VRM thermals, motherboard PCBs and their VRM quality, memory overclocking and scalability (in this content), and more.
There is a lot of confusion about AMD’s branding – Zen 2 vs. Ryzen 2 vs. Zen+. We’re calling these CPUs “Ryzen 2,” because they’re literally called “Ryzen 2X00” CPUs. This is not the same as the Zen 2 architecture, which is not out yet.
Note: For overclocking, we only OC one CPU of each core count – so just the R7 2700X or R7 2700, but beyond validation of maximum frequency, there’s no need to OC both and run each through 20 hours of testing.
This week's hardware news recap primarily focuses on some GN-exclusive items pertaining to AMD's plans with system memory in the future, mostly looking toward DDR5 for CPUs and HBM integration with CPUs, creating "near memory" for future products. All of this, of course, is before the major Ryzen 2 review publication timelines on Thursday this week, 9AM Eastern, when you'll find still more CPU news to look over. Be sure to check back for that.
In the meantime, today's news covers memory stories, laptop updates, AMD staff changes, Spectre patches, and more.
AMD’s impending Ryzen 2 CPUs – not to be confused with Zen 2, the architecture – will launch on April 19, 9AM EST, and are preempted by yet another “unboxing embargo.” We’re not technically covered under these embargoes, as we’ve sourced parts externally and are operating independently for this launch. That said, as we’ve stated in a few places, we have decided to respect the embargo (although are under no obligation to do so) out of respect for our peers. This is also being done out of trust that AMD has rectified its preferential media treatment exhibited for Threadripper, as we were told the company would do.
Still, we wanted to share some preconditions we’re considering for test cases in our Ryzen 2 CPU reviews. Some of that will be covered here today, with most of the data being held for the April 19 embargo lift. We have been testing and iterating on tests for a few weeks now, updating EFI as new versions push and collecting historical data along the way.
The core specs – those regurgitated all over the internet, undoubtedly – will follow below.
The CPUs discussed today include (Amazon pre-order links below, although we never recommend pre-ordering PC hardware):
Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC is well-named: It’s either a reference to hell freezing over, as AMD and Intel worked together on a product, or a reference to the combined heat of Vega and an i7 in a box that’s 8.5” x 5.5” in size. Our review of Hades Canyon looks at overclocking potential, preempting something bigger, and benchmarks the combined i7 CPU and Vega M GPU for gaming and production performance. We’re also looking at thermal performance and noise, as usual. As a unit, it’s one of the smallest, most-powerful systems on the consumer market get right now. We’ll see if it’s worth it.
There are two primary SKUs for the Intel NUC on Newegg, both coming out on April 30th. The unit which most closely resembles ours is $1000, and includes the Intel i7-8809G with 8MB of cache and a limited-core Turbo up to 4.2GHz. The CPU is unlocked for overclocking. It’s coupled with an AMD Vega M GH GPU with 4GB of high-bandwidth memory, also overclockable, but does not include memory or an SSD. You’re on your own for those, as it’s effectively a barebones kit. If you buy straight from Intel’s SimplyNUC website, the NUC8i7HVK that we reviewed comes fully-configured for $1200, including 8GB of DDR4 and a 128GB SSD with Windows 10. Not unreasonable, really.
The past week of hardware news primarily centers around nVidia and AMD, both of whom are launching new GPUs under similar names to existing lines. This struck a chord with us, because the new GT 1030 silently launched by nVidia follows the exact same patterns AMD has taken with its rebranded RX 460s as “RX 560s,” despite having significant hardware changes underneath.
To be very clear, we strongly disagree with creating a new, worse product under the same product name and badging as previously. It is entirely irrelevant how close that product is in performance to the original - it’s not the same product, and that’s all that matters. It deserves a different name.
We spend most of the news video ranting about GPU naming by both companies, but also include a couple of other industry topics. Find the show notes below, or check the video for the more detailed story.
Find the show notes below, or watch the video:
Ask GN 75 is an excellent episode. We had great questions for this one, including discussion on X370 vs. X470 benchmarking for Ryzen 2000 series CPUs (e.g. R7 2700X, R5 2600X), which we’ll get in to more detail with in the near future. As noted in the episode, we’re technically not under embargo for the Ryzen 2 CPUs, but we’re planning to hold our review until embargo lift out of respect for AMD’s decision to stop giving special treatment to some media, for this round. That said, we still talk a bit about X370 vs. X470 benchmarking in the Ask GN episode.
The other excellent topic pertained to receiving review samples and balancing hardware criticism – basically behind-the-scenes politics. Find the episode below:
Analyst Christopher Rolland recently confirmed Bitmain’s completed development of a new ASIC miner for Ethereum (and similar cryptocurrencies), and thusly reduced stock targets for both AMD and NVIDIA. According to Rolland, Bitmain’s ASIC may eat into GPU demand by cryptomining companies, as the ASIC will outperform GPUs in efficiency for the hashing power.
Rolland noted that this may, obviously, reduce demand for GPUs for mining applications, highlighting that an approximate 20% of AMD and 10% of NVIDIA sales revenue has recently come from mining partners.
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