More AMD Ryzen details and a local CPU price roundup

AMD Ryzen is launching worldwide on 2 March 2017. Wrap your head around that one for a minute. Not only is AMD launching a product on time, with products from their partners ready to go, as well as a small ecosystem of custom aftermarket coolers to choose from, but all of that – ALL OF IT – is going to be available locally on the same day. That’s just crazy talk, right? Well, it’s going to get a lot more crazy after the jump, so follow me for all the juicy details that AMD has allowed me to talk about today.

AMD Ryzen local price comparison

Cores/Threads Clock Speed Cache Unlocked Cooler Price
Intel Core i7-6900K 8/16 3.2-3.7GHz 20MB L3 Yes No R18,299
Intel Core i7-6850K 6/12 3.6-3.8GHz 15MB L3 Yes No R10,699
Ryzen R7 1800X 8/16 3.6-4.0GHz 16MB L3 Yes No R8,299
Intel Core i7-6800K 6/12 3.4-3.6GHz 15MB L3 Yes No R7,699
Intel Core i7-5820K 6/12 3.3-3.6GHz 15MB L3 Yes No R6,899
Ryzen R7 1700X 8/16 3.4-3.8GHz 16MB L3 Yes No R6,299
Intel Core i7-7700K 4/8 4.2-4.5GHz 8MB L3 Yes No R5,899
Ryzen R7 1700 8/16 3.0-3.7GHz 16MB L3 Yes Wraith Spire R5,199

We now have official local pricing for Ryzen, and it is looking pretty good so far. AMD’s flagship, the R7 1800X is priced below the Intel Core i7-6850K, but offers more cores, a higher average clock speed, and more cache for only R8,299. Being generally faster in Cinebench and Handbrake than the Core i7-6850K isn’t enough though, because the R7 1800X also matches the Core i7-6900K blow-for-blow in some pre-release benchmarks and costs less than half the price. That’s value for money that we haven’t seen in a long time.

Going down the ladder is the R7 1700X, which is like the R7 1800X, but binned differently. It might hit lower clock speeds when you’re overclocking it with an aftermarket cooler, but if you can just match the stock clocks of the R7 1800X, well… that’s Core i7-6900K performance for a third of the price. When you get down to the R7 1700, which ships with a bundled cooler and an unlocked multiplier, we’re getting into plain silly territory now. If you win in the silicon lottery just a little bit, and can overclock it to 4.0GHz, then not only are you blowing away systems with a Core i7-7700K in them, but you’re also getting insane value for money. If you’re an enthusiast building a high-end system in the coming months, Ryzen is an incredibly enticing offering because it promises far more performance than what you get from Intel’s high-end desktop lineup.

Keep in mind, as well, that it’s not just the multithreaded performance that is going to be impressive, the single-core performance is also going to be up there with Intel’s best. When we look at benchmarks in a bit, you’ll see that AMD has more than caught up with Intel – they’re actually on par with the Broadwell-E family and can match Skylake performance quite easily.

Although Ryzen is launching with these three chips on 2 March 2017, you can already pre-order these processors from select local retailers. Check them out:

While I certainly do think that there’s great value to be had here, I’m not going to be making any price comparisons between vendors just yet. There’s no telling what the stock situation of Ryzen CPUs is, and I’ve been hearing murmurs that motherboard stock may also be an issue at launch, at least for the first month while the shipments come in. This is the kind of stuff you can safely pre-order though. AMD is not about to pull another Bulldozer with this one, and I think it’s going to be pretty good.

Let’s talk about performance

While Ryzen is definitely fast enough to whip Intel’s processors in multi-threaded benchmarks, one thing they are careful about is performance comparisons with Intel Skylake and Kaby Lake processors. It’s worth noting that Intel’s offerings in this range are significantly higher-clocked than anything from the Ryzen family, and that’s because Intel has their chips on a very mature process that yields amazing clock speeds. Despite having IPC parity with Intel, we may find that single-threaded workloads are where Kaby Lake pulls ahead thanks to higher boost frequencies because those are simpler designs on a process that is less dense than AMD’s process developed jointly by Samsung and Global Foundries.

What this means it that the R7 1700 may indeed pull ahead of the Core i7-6800K in benchmarks, but in single-core workloads it might only match Broadwell-E, while Skylake and Kaby Lake may end up being 20% faster thanks to a clock speed advantage.

That is not an unexpected thing, mind you. We’ve known for over a year now that Ryzen, as a first-generation product, is only the stepping stone to AMD matching everything Intel makes blow-for-blow. Maybe the ceiling for the silicon is only something like 4.3GHz for the best chips on air cooling, and maybe it is slower than Kaby Lake in applications that favour clock speed. Despite that, it’s still fantastic value for multi-threaded applications, power users, media creation professionals, competitive distributed computing teams, and even game streamers.

Keep Intel’s clock speed advantage in mind when reading reviews on 2 May. Intel might not be that far ahead when all is said and done.

Bundled Coolers!

AMD’s bundled cooler situation recently turned around when they revamped their offerings with their Godavari-based APUs and their Piledriver refresh FX processors, bundling in either a 95W cooler with a larger, quieter fan, or introducing a new design called the Wraith for their FX lineup. These coolers are good as far as stock coolers go, and the Wraith actually negates a necessary purchase because it performs on the same level as the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo.

AMD’s new lineup now consists of three cooler options. The badass on the top left is the Wraith Max LED, a redesign of the Wraith with an even quieter fan, but now with an added shroud that features RGB LEDs. Yes, that’s RGB lighting, on a stock cooler. It’s still as dense as the original Wraith, and still up there with a Hyper 212 Evo in performance. However, this may end up being a separate purchase, because the Wraith Max isn’t bundled with the R7 1800X or the R7 1700X. Can AMD play in the cooler market with the other established name brands? Maybe they can. It will be interesting to see if it does end up being bundled with the X-series chips along with a slightly higher price tag to compensate for the extra expense.

The Ryzen R7 1700 ships with the Wraith Spire, a redesigned heatsink that also requires a new mounting mechanism for AMD. While it looks like Intel’s twist-and-push clamp design from afar, if you zoom in a bit you’ll see that it is actually a screw mechanism with a regular Philips head. This is even better than I had anticipated, because I really, really loathe Intel’s mounting system. There is also a LED-lit Spire LED version that may or may not ship in the box with the cooler you buy. If that ends up being the case, then it costs you nothing to swap from having LEDs on the cooler, to not having them, and I hope that the method to remove them is to just swap out the shrouds without removing the cooler.

Finally, for processors that are still to come and as-yet-unannounced by AMD, there is the tiny Wraith Stealth. This is a diminutive cooler around the same size as the one Intel ships with their Celeron and Pentium Kaby Lake processors, but it should be a lot quieter than Intel’s solution. There isn’t a lot of aluminium to go around, so it’s going to be shipped with AMD’s quad-core CPUs that will be revealed in the not too distant future, I hope.

As for third-party coolers, there are quite a few that are ready for the AM4 socket, like Corsair’s H100i, H110i, and H60. The AM4 mounting bracket is a little taller and less wide than the AM3+ or FM2+ brackets, so some adjustments will have to be made. AMD’s board partners will ship longer extension brackets for the coolers that use the traditional mounting system, but some, like the ASUS X370 Crosshair VI, seem to include AM3+ mounting holes around the CPU socket as well. Very neat.

That’s all of the Ryzen CPU details for now. I’ll have a roundup of the motherboard announcements soon, and 82 new motherboards are slated for launch during the launch window, which is March to May 2017. Stay tuned!