Hardware news this week is largely focused on new product launches, or rumors thereof, with additional coverage of Intel's plans to launch 10nm Ice Lake CPUs in some capacity (for real, this time) by end of year. The XFX RX 5700 XT "THICC" was leaked -- yes, that's a real name -- and it's accompanied by other partner model cards coming out in the next week.
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This is a quick and straightforward piece inspired by a Reddit post from about a week ago. The reddit post was itself a response to a video where a YouTuber claimed to be lowering temperatures and boosting performance on Ryzen 3000 CPUs by lowering the vcore value in BIOS; we never did catch the video, as it has since been retracted and followed-up by the creator and community with new information. Even though the original content was too good to be true, it was still based on a completely valid idea -- lowering voltage, 50% of the equation for power -- will theoretically reduce thermals and power load. The content ended up indirectly demonstrating some unique AMD Ryzen 3000 behaviors that we thought worth testing for ourselves. In this video, we’ll demonstrate how to know when undervolting is working versus not working, talk about the gains or losses, and get some hard numbers for the Master and Godlike motherboards.
In some ways, AMD has become NVIDIA, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The way new Ryzen CPUs scale is behaviorally similar to the way GPU Boost 4.0 scales on GPUs, where simply lowering the silicon operating temperature will directly affect performance and clock speeds. Under complete, full stock settings, a CPU running colder will actually boost higher now; alternatively, if you’re a glass half-empty type, you could view it such that a CPU running hotter will thermally throttle. Either way, frequency is contingent upon thermals, and that’s important for users who want to maximize performance or pick the right case and CPU cooling combination. If you’re new to the space, the way it has traditionally worked is that CPUs will perform at one spec, with one set of frequencies, until hitting TjMax, or maximum Junction temperature. Ryzen 3000 is significantly different from past CPUs in this regard. Some excursions from this behavior do exist, but are a different behavior and are well-known. One such example would include Turbo Boost durations, which are explicitly set by the motherboard to limit the duration for which an Intel CPU can reach its all-core Turbo. This is a different matter entirely from frequency/cold scale.
An Intel CPU is probably the easiest example to use for pre-Ryzen 3000 behavior. With Intel, there are only two real parameters to consider: The Turbo boost duration limit, which we have a separate content piece on (linked above), and the power limit. If operating within spec, outside of the turbo duration limit of roughly 90-120 seconds, the CPU will stick to one all-core clock speed for the entirety of its workload. You could be running at 90 degrees or 40 degrees, it’ll be the same frequency. Once you hit TjMax, let’s say it’s 95 or 100 degrees Celsius, there’s either a multiplier throttle or a thermal shutdown, the choice between which will hinge upon how the motherboard is configured to respond to TjMax.
With the launch of the Ryzen 3000 series processors, we’ve noticed a distinct confusion among readers and viewers when it comes to the phrases “Precision Boost 2,” “XFR,” “Precision Boost Overdrive,” which is different from Precision Boost, and “AutoOC.” There is also a lot of confusion about what’s considered stock, what PBO even does or if it works at all, and how thermals impact frequency of Ryzen CPUs. Today, we’re demystifying these names and demonstrating the basic behaviors of each solution as tested on two motherboards.
Precision Boost Overdrive is a technology new to Ryzen desktop processors, having first been introduced in Threadripper chips; technically, Ryzen 3000 uses Precision Boost 2. PBO is explicitly different from Precision Boost and Precision Boost 2, which is where a lot of people get confused. “Precision Boost” is not an abbreviation for “Precision Boost Overdrive,” it’s actually a different thing: Precision Boost is like XFR, AMD’s Extended Frequency Range boosting table for boosting a limited number of cores when possible. XFR was introduced with the first Ryzen series CPUs. Precision Boost takes into account three numbers in deciding how many cores can boost and when, and those numbers are PPT, TDC, and EDC, as well as temperature and the chip’s max boost clock. Precision Boost is enabled on a stock CPU, Precision Boost Overdrive is not. What PBO does not ever do is boost the frequency beyond the advertised CPU clocks, which is a major point that people have confused. We’ll quote directly from AMD’s review documentation so that there is no room for confusion:
GN just notched one of its busiest weeks ever, thanks to relentless product launches from AMD and Nvidia. We’ve recently reviewed Nvidia's RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2060 Super, in addition to AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600, Ryzen 9 3900X, and Radeon RX 5700 XT. We also have multiple videos further analyzing Ryzen 3000 boost clocks and the RX 5700 XT cooling solution.
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For mostly non-AMD related news this week, Intel has announced multiple new technologies focused on chip packaging, in addition to hiring a new CCO in Claire Dixon. MSI is updating its AM4 400-series of motherboard to include a larger BIOS chip, there’s a new PCIe 4.0 SSD coming, with a presumably cheaper 500GB capacity, and we’re expecting custom Navi cards in August. The news stories follow the video embed, per the usual.
Alongside the 3900X and 3700X that we’re also reviewing, AMD launched its R5 3600 today to the public. We got a production sample of one of the R5 3600 CPUs through a third-party and, after seeing its performance, we wanted to focus first on this one for our initial Ryzen 3000 review. We’ve been recommending AMD’s R5 CPUs since the first generation, as Intel’s i5 CPUs have seen struggles lately in frametime consistency and are often close enough to AMD that the versatility, frametime consistency, and close-enough gaming performance have warranted R5 purchases. Today, we’re revisiting with the R5 3600 6-core, 12-thread CPU to look at gaming, production workloads with Premiere, Blender, V-Ray, and more, power consumption, and overclocking.
This week has been the busiest in our careers at GN. The editorial/testing team was two people, working in shifts literally around the clock for 24/7 bench coverage, and the video production team was three people (all credited at article's end, as always). We invested all we could into getting multiple reviews ready for launch day and will stagger publication throughout the day due to YouTube's distribution of content. We don't focus on ad revenue on the site these days and instead focus on our GN Store products and Patreon for revenue, plus ad revenue on YouTube. If you would like to support these colossal efforts, please consider buying one of our new GN Toolkits (custom-made for video card disassembly and system building, using high-quality CRV metals and our own molds) or one of our system building modmats. We also sell t-shirts, mousepads, video card anatomy posters, and more.
- Windows has all updates applied on all platforms, up to version 1903
- All BIOS updates and mitigations have been applied
- For new AMD Ryzen CPU testing, we are using a Gigabyte X570 Master motherboard with BIOS version FC5 installed, per manufacturer recommendations
- We have changed to GSkill Trident Z RGB memory at 4x8GB and 3200MHz. The 32GB capacity is needed for our Photoshop and Premiere benchmarks, which are memory-intensive and would throttle without the capacity.
The memory kit is an important change for us. Starting with these new reviews, we are now manually controlling every timing surfaced. That includes secondary and tertiary timings. Previously, we worked to control critical timings, like primary and RFC, but we are now controlling all timings manually. This has tightened our margin of error considerably and has reduced concern of “unfair” timings being auto-applied by the various motherboards we have to use for CPU reviews. “Unfair” in this instance typically means “uncharacteristically bad” as a result of poor tuning by the motherboard maker. By controlling this ourselves, we eliminate this variable. Some of our error margins have been reduced to 0.1FPS AVG as a result, which is fantastic.
Leading into the busiest hardware launch week of our careers, we talk about Intel's internal competitive analysis document leaking, DisplayPort 2.0 specifications being detailed, and Ubuntu dropping and re-adding 32-bit support. We also follow-up on Huawei news (and how Microsoft and Intel are still supporting it) and trade tensions.
Show notes continue after the embedded video.
Hardware news this week has a few more AMD rumors -- one of which we're debunking (X590) and another we're re-highlighting (B550) -- with additional news coverage of the US tariffs and impact to consumer pricing. On the topic of pricing, aside from an overall increase as a result of tariffs, Intel has expressed interest to reduce its desktop CPU prices by 10-15% with the launch of Ryzen.
The show notes continue below the embedded video.
AMD’s X570 chipset marks the arrival of some technology that was first deployed on Epyc, although that was done through the CPU as there isn’t a traditional chipset. With the shift to PCIe 4, X570 motherboards have grown more complex than X370 and X470, furthered by difficulties cooling the higher power consumption of X570. All of these changes mean that it’s time to compare the differences between X370, X470, and X570 motherboard chipsets, hopefully helping newcomers to Ryzen understand the changes.
The persistence of AMD’s AM4 socket, still slated for life through 2020, means that new CPUs are compatible with older chipsets (provided the motherboard makers update BIOS for detection). It also means that older CPUs (like the reduced price R5 2600X) are compatible with new motherboards, if you for some reason ended up with that combination. The only real downside, aside from potential cost of the latter option, is that new CPUs on old motherboards will mean no PCIe Gen4 support. AMD is disabling it in AGESA at launch, and unless a motherboard manufacturers finds the binary switch to flip in AGESA, it’ll be off for good. Realistically, this isn’t all that relevant: Most users will never touch the bandwidth of Gen4 for this round of products (in the future, maybe), and so the loss of running a new CPU on an old motherboard may be outweighed by the cost savings of keeping an already known-good board, provided the VRM is sufficient.
AMD’s technical press event bore information for both AMD Ryzen and AMD Navi, including overclocking information for Ryzen, Navi base, boost, and average clocks, architectural information and block diagrams, product-level specifications, and extreme overclocking information for Ryzen with liquid nitrogen. We understand both lines better now than before and can brief you on what AMD is working on. We’ll start with Navi specs, die size, and top-level architectural information, then move on to Ryzen. AMD also talked about ray tracing during its tech day, throwing some casual shade at NVIDIA in so doing, and we’ll also cover that here.
First, note that AMD did not give pricing to the press ahead of its livestream at E3, so this content will be live right around when the prices are announced. We’ll try to update with pricing information as soon as we see it, although we anticipate our video’s comments section will have the information immediately. UPDATE: Prices are $450 for the RX 5700 XT, $380 for the RX 5700.
AMD’s press event yielded a ton of interesting, useful information, especially on the architecture side. There was some marketing screwery in there, but a surprisingly low amount for this type of event. The biggest example was taking a thermographic image of two heatsinks to try and show comparative CPU temperature, even though the range was 23 to 27 degrees, which makes the delta look astronomically large despite being in common measurement error. Also, the heatsink actually should be hot because that means it’s working, and taking a thermographic image of a shiny metal object means you’re more showing reflected room temperature or encountering issues with emissivity, and ultimately they should just be showing junction temperature, anyway. This was our only major gripe with the event -- otherwise, the information was technical, detailed, and generally free of marketing BS. Not completely free of it, but mostly. The biggest issue with the comparison was the 28-degree result that exited the already silly 23-27 degree range, making it look like 28 degrees was somehow massively overheating.
Let’s start with the GPU side.
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