Patching Up, Overclocking & Test Setup
The Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities impose overhead that affect performance, but it's the Spectre Variant 2 patches that incur the largest penalties. We've been waiting for AMD and Intel to release their respective updates, leveling the playing field. AMD gave no indication in its press material that the X470 motherboards used in our Ryzen 7 2700X review already had Spectre 2 mitigations built-in. But hours before launch, we learned that the patches were present. At that point, we didn't have enough time to test with Intel's corresponding microcode.
In our 2700X review, the test rigs included Meltdown And Spectre Variant 1 mitigations. Spectre Variant 2 requires both motherboard firmware/microcode and operating system patches, though. We had already installed the operating system updates for Variant 2 on our Intel-based platforms, so we only lacked the fourth and final piece: new microcode.
There are two options for applying this microcode. One is a Windows KB that allows the operating system to load microcode during boot-up. The other is a motherboard firmware update. We used the Windows KB to install patches on our Z270-based platform, providing a true measure of pre- and post-patch performance.
Faster processors suffer less from the Spectre Variant 2 updates. This creates a conundrum for us and our Z370-based platform. In previous reviews, we noticed that Intel's Core i7-8700 was consistently faster than the more expensive Core i7-8700K on MSI and Gigabyte motherboards. We disclosed this during our launch coverage. The issue becomes relevant today because MSI's latest firmware update, which also includes the Spectre Variant 2 microcode, fixes most of the performance disparities we observed. As we suspected, the problem seems attributable to the Core i7-8700K. It's now faster in several games, performing the way we originally expected. So, on this motherboard, we're using new firmware instead of the Windows-based patch since it fixes our Core i7-8700K issues. That means our Coffee Lake-based CPUs don't correctly reflect pre- and post-patch performance. Instead, allow those results to serve as a general indication of competitive deltas.
In any case, with the exception of our AMD X370-based motherboards, all of the platforms in today's review are fully patched. The company hasn't given us a time frame for securing its previous-gen chipsets, but you can bet that we'll follow up with benchmark results once a Spectre Variant 2 patch becomes available.
We ran our gaming and application tests in the U.S. lab, while power/thermal measurements were collected in our German lab.
In the U.S. lab, we paired our Ryzen 5 2600X with Corsair's H115i cooler for overclocking. This allowed us to maintain a 4.2 GHz all-core frequency at 1.3875V Vcore, 1.2V SoC voltage, and default Load Line Calibration settings. These are the same settings used on the Ryzen 7 2700X, albeit with a slight 0.009V Vcore boost to ensure stability.
First-gen Ryzen processors don't have much memory overclocking headroom, so we're still testing tuned X370 platforms at DDR4-3200. The X470 chipset is remarkably stable at higher data rates with both 2000-series Ryzen CPUs installed. So, we settled on DDR4-3466 with 14-14-14-34 timings. We also ran our overclocked Intel processors at DDR4-3466.
Precision Boost Overdrive
AMD hasn't shared much information on this pending feature, which increases the maximum boost voltage and boost duration. We attempted to disable Precision Boost Overdrive as we tested for our Ryzen 7 2700X review, but didn't observe a performance difference one way or the other. Now we know the feature wasn't toggling correctly due to an issue with the board. Instead, it remained enabled throughout our benchmarking.
Precision Boost Overdrive is an AMD-sanctioned feature, unlike the multi-core enhancements you often find in Intel-based motherboards. Because this is a standard capability for Ryzen 2000-series processors, we leave it enabled.
MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC
Our MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC has a PCI Express 3.0 slot with a x16 link, a slot with a x8 connection, and another PCI Express 2.0 slot with a four-lane link for graphics cards. Its four RAM slots support DDR4-2933 and can scale up quite a bit higher through overclocking.
The motherboard also provides two M.2 slots with PCIe connectivity. The I/O panel has a USB 3.1 Type C connector. The USB 3.1 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support fast charging for smartphones and tablets. If RGB is your thing, MSI has you covered. The integrated RGB Mystic lighting allows customizable effects with several software-controlled zones.
|Test System & Configuration|
|Hardware||Germany AMD Socket AM4 (400-Series)AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, Ryzen 5 2600XMSI X470 Gaming M7 AC2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933, DDR4-3466Intel LGA 1151 (Z370):Intel Core i5-8600K, i5-8600K, Core i5-8400MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC2x 8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200 @ 2666AMD Socket AM4 Workstation (300-Series)AMD Ryzen 5 1500X, Ryzen 5 1600X, Ryzen 5 1400MSI X370 Tomahawk4x 8GB G.Skill TridentZ DDR4-3200 @ 2667 and 3200 Intel LGA 1151 (Z270)Intel Core i7-7700KMSI Z270 Gaming 72x 8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3200 @ 2400 and 3200All SystemsGeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition (Gaming)Nvidia Quadro P6000 (Workstation)1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System)2x 960GB Toshiba OCZ TR150 (Storage, Images)be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11, 850W Power SupplyWindows 10 Pro (Creators Update)U.S.AMD Socket AM4 (400-Series)AMD Ryzen 7 2700XMSI X470 Gaming M7 AC2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933, DDR4-3466Intel LGA 1151 (Z370):Intel Core i7-8700K, i5-8600K, Core i5-8400MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2400, DDR4-2667, DDR4-3466AMD Socket AM4 (300-Series)AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, 1700X, 1700, Ryzen 5 1600XMSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667, DDR4-3200Intel LGA 1151 (Z270)Intel Core i7-7700K MSI Z270 Gaming M72x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2400All EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FE 1TB Samsung PM863 SilverStone ST1500-TI, 1500W Windows 10 Creators Update Version 1703 - All Spectre and Meltdown mitigations|
|Cooling||GermanyAlphacool Eiszeit 2000 ChillerAlphacool Eisblock XPXThermal Grizzly Kryonaut (For Cooler Switch)U.S.Corsair H115i|
|PC Case||Lian Li PC-T70 with Extension Kit and Mods Configurations: Open Benchtable, Closed Case|
|Power Consumption Measurement||Contact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card) Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply 2x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500 MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function4x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100 kHz, DC) 4x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500 MHz) 1x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function|
|Thermal Measurement||1x Optris PI640 80 Hz Infrared Camera + PI Connect Real-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording|
|Acoustic Measurement||NTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50Hz) Steinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)Creative X7, Smaart v.7 Custom-Made Proprietary Measurement Chamber, 3.5 x 1.8 x 2.2m (L x D x H) Perpendicular to Center of Noise Source(s), Measurement Distance of 50cm Noise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA) Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise|
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