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AMD Performance Update

AMD Ryzen processors have redefined the way in which PC buyers evaluate performance and value. Built on the impressive Zen architecture - a grounds-up, clean-sheet design - the Ryzen range, debuted in March 2018, has consistently offered more absolute performance than rival Intel in each pricing category.

Now further improved by the Zen+ architecture present in the 2nd Generation Ryzen CPUs, AMD is in prime position to offer PC purchasers more for their money. This is particularly true when looking at the price-to-performance metric in applications that push the PC to the limit.

The method by which AMD has achieved solid performance and class-leading value is easy to explain. Using that robust Zen(+) architecture, Ryzen processors typically offer more cores and threads at a given price metric than Intel. Though a large simplification, using more cores and threads enables work to be done more quickly - after all, nobody wants to wait another minute for that video to encode, or for that 3D model to be finished, right?

AMD has four distinct ranges for Ryzen processors: there is the Ryzen 3 for entry-level computers, Ryzen 5 for mainstream machines, Ryzen 7 for performance PCs, and Ryzen Threadripper for ultimate CPU performance.

To fully understand the value and performance benefits of Ryzen, it is sensible to look at certain key price points and evaluate how select processors compare against their price-comparable Intel rivals. Such an exercise ought to demonstrate whether AMD really does offer more bang for the consumer's buck.

£150-£200

At the level of the market the consumer ought to expect excellent performance for everyday tasks, solid ability at compute-intensive programs such as rendering and encoding, whilst gaming should be nice and smooth.

The current market is such that, at £150, AMD offers the Ryzen 5 2600 processor endowed with six cores and 12 threads. £190 is needed to buy the entry-level Core i3-8100 from Intel - a chip that houses only four cores and four threads.

Performance Comparison: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X vs Intel Core i3-8100

Application
Ryzen 5 1600
Intel Core i3-8100
PiFast (lower is better)
22.3 seconds
17.9 seconds
Blender (lower is better)
373 seconds
786 seconds
3DMark (higher is better)
8,785 marks
7,478 marks

Looking at performance via light loads (PiFast), heavy loads (Blender rendering), and gaming (3DMark Time Spy), we see that AMD is a little behind in the first scenario, more than twice as fast for full-on performance, and better for gaming... and that's with a cheaper processor.

It is that 2x-plus performance improvement that is sure to whet the lips of users considering building a mainstream system capable of handling workloads of today and tomorrow.

£250-£300

Stepping it up to a larger CPU budget brings more performance into play, naturally. Here, AMD is well-represented with the £250 Ryzen 7 2700 - an eight-core, 16-thread chip that consumes a measly 65W under load, meaning it will fit into a wide variety of systems without the need for heavy-duty cooling. On the Intel front, again more expensive, is the £280 Core i5-8400 - a six-core, six-thread CPU. Remember how we mentioned that AMD offers more cores and threads at each reasonable price point? There's further obvious proof here.

Performance Comparison: AMD Ryzen 7 2700 vs Intel Core i5-8400

Application
Ryzen 7 2700
Intel Core i5-8400
PiFast (lower is better)
21.6s seconds
16.2 seconds
Blender (lower is better)
305 seconds
505 seconds
3DMark (higher is better)
9,202 marks
8,399 marks

The same pattern repeats itself at this price point. Light-load performance doesn't matter as much because, by their very nature, such programs are completed very, very quickly. Does it concern you if a spreadsheet opens 0.2s quicker? Not really.

However, the massive performance lead in heavy-load apps, such as Blender, is hugely significant. Extrapolating out, imagine if a rendering project took one hour on the Core i5-8400 but only 36 minutes on the Ryzen 7 2700. That saving of over 20 minutes is definitely worth it, especially if you are on strict deadlines. This is why Ryzen 7 is a great bet for the power user, all without breaking the bank.

£500-£600

Raising the financial stakes to over £500 brings some serious CPU firepower to the table, and it's worth looking at the latest technology if you are willing to spend this kind of money. AMD comes marching in with the Ryzen Threadripper 2920X - a 12-core, 24-thread processor armed with oodles of power and, given that it is run on the premium TR4 platform, the ability to run multiple fast hard drives and expansion cards without stifling performance.

Intel, on the other hand, uses a more-basic platform for its leading mainstream processor that also costs £600 at the time of writing.

Performance Comparison: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X vs Intel Core i9-9900K

Application
Ryzen TR 2920X
Intel Core i9-9900K
PiFast (lower is better)
20.4s seconds
12.9 seconds
Blender Long (lower is better)
1,521 seconds
1,758 seconds
3DMark (higher is better)
9,578 marks
9,549

Though the performance gap for light loads is larger in favour of Intel and the multi-thread performance is closer, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X remains faster where it truly counts. Using a longer, more strenuous Blender benchmark shows the Ryzen Threadripper to hold a 10 per cent-plus lead, which can be signficant if your rendering projects run into many hours.

And, of course, should the mighty 2920X chip not be fast enough, you can upgrade to the best-in-class processor though a simple chip swap; the underlying TR4 platform is able to house all Ryzen Threadrippers.

£1,500+

When money is no object, and for that we mean a CPU costing over £1,500 on its own, AMD has its headline Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX (£1,630) - a 32-core, 64-thread processor that is monster-ish in every aspect. The rival Intel Core i9-7980XE carries 18 cores and 36 threads at a £1,999 price tag. Remember that old mantra: more cores and threads for your money. It's very much in play here, too.

Performance Comparison: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX vs Intel Core i9-7980XE

Application
Ryzen TR 2990WX
Intel Core i9-7980XE
PiFast (lower is better)
21.3s seconds
15.4 seconds
Blender Long (lower is better)
884 seconds
1,318 seconds
3DMark (higher is better)
9,128 marks
9,489

One would expect truly gigantic performance at this stratospheric price point, and AMD does not disappoint where it matters. There is, quite simply, no other consumer processor that comes close to its multi-threaded performance, let alone beat it.

This ultra-enthusiast-cum-workstation chip demolishes the best Intel has to offer in big-project rendering - it is fully one-third faster in such applications, so imagine a massive 4K project completing in six hours instead of nine. When all the CPU horsepower in the world matters, the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is a true thoroughbred.

Closing Thoughts

It is fair to say AMD does indeed offer more performance where it truly counts with the current line-up of Ryzen processors. Very, very strong in multi-threaded applications, ones that take the longest time to complete, there are real-world time and energy savings to be gained by running a price-equivalent AMD platform over Intel's.

More than decent in everyday tasks and absolutely competent in gaming, especially at settings most users play at, the ace in the pack for Ryzen is its muscular, class-leading performance in applications that truly stress the PC's capabilities.

Think performance and value, think AMD Ryzen.