AMD ushered in the 3rd Gen Ryzen CPU and accompanying X570 motherboard platform on July 7. The introduction promised more of everything that matters to the gamer, enthusiast and content creator. The CPUs boasted higher performance through the all-new Zen 2 architecture mated to faster frequencies. There were more cores and threads on mainstream AM4 than ever before, up to 12C24T on release day, with the promise of a 16C32T chip arriving later in September, while X570 became the first consumer platform to offer PCIe 4.0 connectivity, enabling the latest slew of ultra-high-performance peripherals to really strut their stuff.
A wholesale improvement for a mainstream platform, coupled with little happening in the desktop space from rival Intel, enabled AMD to launch its high-performance ecosystem with much bombast. Now, a couple of months on, after the dust has settled, hindsight says the 3rd Gen Ryzen/X570 launch hasn't been absolutely flawless.
Minor problems have presented themselves on two linked fronts. Motherboard partners building X570 chipset-based boards have released a succession of BIOSes that naturally improve the stability and performance of the platform over time. This is normal. What's less normal is rapid updates to the AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture, better known as AGESA, which is rolled into respective BIOSes to improve across-the-board compatibility. Testing has shown that iterative AGESA releases can potentially reduce performance.
Of rather more concern to AMD, or at least to its image, is the relatively lacklustre boosting capability of the 3rd Gen Ryzen processors, particularly on the new, premium X570 motherboards, and reported in detail on the popular AMD board on reddit. The crux of the issue is that, according to many users, the various 3rd Gen Ryzen processors simply don't achieve their on-the-box boost speed, for one reason or another.
In response to this, AMD and its motherboard partners have been working on releasing an AGESA/BIOS update to ameliorate the problem, announced today, September 10, 2019. It is reasonable to conclude that AMD has known about the substandard boosting potential of the processors for a while, but given the dynamic nature of how Ryzen chips apportion frequency - a heady combination of environmental factors, cooling, ambient temperature, BIOS revision, AGESA code, workload, et al - improving their frequency potential, en masse, has taken some time.
The reason for mentioning all of this is related to that AGESA/BIOS update scheduled for today. AMD hopes that enthusiasts will be comforted by the knowledge that it is taking the boosting behaviour of its Ryzen chips seriously. To that end, AMD is publishing a couple of blogs that underscore exactly what it is doing to remedy the situation. I'll quote the release(s) verbatim.
"Hello, everyone! We’re delighted by your support and the strong momentum of 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen™ processors in the marketplace, and we continue to watch your feedback closely. Today we have some important updates for you concerning processor boost behavior, desktop idle behavior, and a new monitoring SDK. The first two changes will be arriving in BIOSes based on AGESA 1003ABBA, and we are planning to make the SDK public on developer.amd.com with a target release date of September 30.
Starting with our commitment to provide you an update on processor boost, our analysis indicates that the processor boost algorithm was affected by an issue that could cause target frequencies to be lower than expected. This has been resolved. We’ve also been exploring other opportunities to optimize performance, which can further enhance the frequency. These changes are now being implemented in flashable BIOSes from our motherboard partners. Across the stack of 3rd Gen Ryzen Processors, our internal testing shows that these changes can add approximately 25-50MHz to the current boost frequencies under various workloads.
- AMD Reference Motherboard (AGESA 1003ABBA beta BIOS)
- 2x8GB DDR4-3600C16
- AMD Wraith Prism and Noctua NH-D15S coolers
- Windows® 10 May 2019 Update
- 22°C ambient test lab
- Streacom BC1 Open Benchtable
- AMD Chipset Driver 1.8.19.xxx
- AMD Ryzen™ Balanced power plan
- BIOS defaults (except memory OC)
These improvements will be available in final BIOSes starting in about three weeks’ time, depending on the testing and implementation schedule of your motherboard manufacturer. Additional information on boost frequency in the 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen Processors can also be obtained from this separate blog update.
Going forward, it’s important to understand how our boost technology operates. Our processors perform intelligent real-time analysis of the CPU temperature, motherboard voltage regulator current (amps), socket power (watts), loaded cores, and workload intensity to maximize performance from millisecond to millisecond. Ensuring your system has adequate thermal paste; reliable system cooling; the latest motherboard BIOS; reliable BIOS settings/configuration; the latest AMD chipset driver; and the latest operating system can enhance your experience.
Following the installation of the latest BIOS update, a consumer running a bursty, single threaded application on a PC with the latest software updates and adequate voltage and thermal headroom should see the maximum boost frequency of their processor. PCMark® 10 is a good proxy for a user to test the maximum boost frequency of the processor in their system. It is fully expected that if users run a workload like Cinebench, which runs for an extended period of time, the operating frequencies may be lower than maximum throughout the run.
In addition, we do want to address recent questions about reliability. We perform extensive engineering analysis to develop reliability models and to model the lifetime of our processors before entering mass production. While AGESA 1003AB contained changes to improve system stability and performance for users, changes were not made for product longevity reasons. We do not expect that the improvements that have been made in boost frequency for AGESA 1003ABBA will have any impact on the lifetime of your Ryzen processor. "
Cutting to the chase, AMD is saying that the AGESA 1003ABBA, to be rolled into BIOSes by the start of October, promises the user will be able to achieve the maximum supported frequency by running single-threaded applications. Further, AMD expects that most 3rd Gen Ryzen CPUs will modulate their frequencies better, offering between 25-50MHz on top of what you see now. The full release notes also speak to a publicly-downloadable SDK on September 30 that enables "anyone to build a public monitoring utility that can reliably report a range of key processor metrics in a consistent manner."
I suppose the real question is one of why it has taken AMD and its motherboard partners the best part of three months - July 7 to Oct 1 (AGESA 1003ABBA release date) - to ensure its processors meet their rated specification? What's more, the sub-par boosting has apparently been identified by the community at large before AMD has taken real action, other than a number of AGESA updates that haven't directly addressed the boosting issue.
Expect motherboards to be running the relevant AGESA code come the start of next month. We plan to obtain the updates earlier, to put AMD's boost-fixing claims to the test. For the meantime, you can find the relevant blogs, in full, at the following links:
Thoughts? Fire away in the comments section below.