AMD's return to prominence last year found it rolling out a long stream of CPUs that pressured Intel in almost every segment of the desktop PC market. Even after Intel countered with dramatic adjustments to its processor portfolio, AMD continues gobbling up market share. Even in the face of stiff competition, AMD says it enjoys as much as 50% of CPU sales to DIYers on sites like Newegg and Amazon.
And a slow transition to 10nm manufacturing continues to leave Intel vulnerable. AMD is now ready to evolve its Zen architecture with a round of new processors. To be sure, the improvements they offer are iterative. The low-hanging fruit that made it possible for first-gen Ryzen to compete are already baked in. These chips do incorporate some notable advantages, though.
To begin, second-generation Ryzen processors are manufactured using an optimized 12nm LP node that promises performance and efficiency gains compared to the original Ryzen's 14nm LPP process. AMD also tweaked the Zen architecture, now dubbed Zen+, to support higher frequencies, more sophisticated multi-core boost rates, and faster memory/caches. Overall, the company claims that its 2000-series facilitates nearly equivalent gaming performance compared to similarly-priced Core CPUs, plus a 20% advantage in threaded workloads.
AMD certainly hasn't forgotten its core message: more cores and features for less money. The second-gen Ryzen processors are priced competitively, all models come with beefy stock coolers, and they are backward compatible with older Socket AM4 motherboards. AMD even throws in free caching software to sweeten the deal. It all starts with silicon though, so let's take a look.
Ryzen 7 2700X
Ryzen 2000-series processors, otherwise known by their "Pinnacle Ridge" code name, are based on the same basic Zen core design as previous-gen models. But they benefit from 12nm manufacturing, along with targeted tweaks to improve cache and memory latency. The company says its resulting Zen+ architecture delivers up to a 3% boost in IPC (instructions per cycle) throughput.
The CPUs still utilize a dual-CCX configuration tied, together with Infinity Fabric. Not surprisingly, then, they're divided into eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 and six-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 families, both with 16MB of L3 cache. Like the Ryzens that came before, all 2000-series models boast unlocked ratio multipliers for easy overclocking. Intel, in comparison, still charges a premium for its overclockable K-series SKUs.
AMD separates its the 2000-series stack into high-performance X-series models and their non-X counterparts. But it shrinks the Ryzen 7 family from three models to two. Ryzen 7 2700X would seem to suggest a Ryzen 7 1700X replacement. However, it actually replaces the flagship Ryzen 7 1800X. AMD claims that its 2700X offers up to 12% more performance than Ryzen 7 1800X in threaded applications. Much of that improvement comes from a 100 MHz-higher base clock and 200 MHz of additional boost frequency (though multiple other refinements also contribute).
While the Pinnacle Ridge processors drop into 400-series motherboards, AMD is only releasing its X470 chipset at launch time. We still don't have a release date for the less expensive B450- and A420-based motherboards. As the company originally promised, it continues supporting Socket AM4 (and purportedly will until 2020), so the new Ryzen CPUs also work with 300-series motherboards after a BIOS update. First-gen Ryzens do work with 400-series platforms as well, allowing you to drop an older CPU into a brand-new board, if desired.
|AMD Ryzen 7 2700X||AMD Ryzen 7 1800X||AMD Ryzen 7 2700||AMD Ryzen 5 1600X||AMD Ryzen 5 2600X||AMD Ryzen 5 2600||Intel Core i7-8700K||Intel Core i7-8700||Intel Core i5-8600K||Intel Core i5-8400|
|Base Freq. (GHz)||3.7||3.6||3.2||3.6||3.6||3.4||3.7||3.2||3.6||2.8|
|Precision Boost Freq. (GHz)||4.3||4.1||4.1||4.0||4.2||3.9||4.7||4.6||4.3||4.0|
|Cooler||105W Wraith Prism (LED)||-||95W Wraith Spire (LED)||-||95W Wraith Spire||65W Wraith Stealth||-||Intel||-||Intel|
The $329 Ryzen 7 2700X should sell for $20 less than an 1800X (though prices of previous-generation chips will likely fall as long as stock is robust), while the $299 Ryzen 7 2700 lands right where you formerly found the 1700. AMD's non-X models were apparently more popular with enthusiasts since they also had unlocked multipliers, enabling similar performance as the pricier models (after some tuning) for less money. You could save $50 stepping down from Ryzen 7 1800X to the 1700, for example. But that gap shrinks to $30 this time around.
AMD's Ryzen 7 2700X grapples with Intel's $359 flagship Core i7-8700K. Though that seems like an uncomfortably close comparison, AMD allows you to overclock with one of its value-oriented B-series motherboards (B350-based, for now), whereas Intel compels users splurge on a Z-series platform for overclocking. Adding the CPU and motherboard together, Intel's premium ends up being quite a bit higher.
Second-gen Ryzens now support up to DDR4-2933 RAM as well, trumping the Coffee Lake architecture's official DDR4-2666 ceiling (with a few caveats that we'll cover shortly). More bandwidth should help latency-sensitive apps, such as games. Also, X470 motherboards pave the way for better memory overclocking than previous-gen platforms.
AMD's first-gen X-series processors, which topped out at 95W, came without a bundled thermal solution. This time around, all 2000-series CPUs include a cooler. The 105W Ryzen 7 2700X includes a "Wraith Prism" LED cooler that features four direct-contact copper heat pipes, three independent RGB zones, switchable fan profiles, and a 39 dB(A) noise rating. The cooler is rated to dissipate 116W of waste heat in "L" mode (2800 RPM) and 124W in "H" mode (3600 RPM). Cooler Master manufactures the heat sink/fan, while AMD provides software for controlling the lighting and fan profiles. Company representatives claim the cooler represents a roughly $43 value, and that it also allows for some overclocking headroom.
As with the generation before, AMD employs Indium solder between its die and heat spreader to improve thermal transfer. In contrast, Intel uses standard thermal interface material on its Core i7-8700K. Also, that Intel chip doesn't come with a cooler, widening the price gap between a Ryzen 7 2700X-based configuration and a current-generation unlocked Intel Core i7.
According to AMD, its 2000-series CPUs benefit from an improved SensMI suite that also includes its new StorMI Technology. The latter is a software-based tiering solution that melds the low price and high capacity of a hard drive with the speed of an SSD, 3D XPoint (including Intel's Optane parts), or even up to 2GB of RAM. AMD sold this software as a $20 add-on in the past, but now it comes free as part of the 2000-series package. As with any tiering utility, you assume the same risks of data loss inherent to a RAID 0 array. For more details about this software, read our feature: AMD and Enmotus Expand FuzeDrive Offerings.
The GlobalFoundries 12nm LP Process
As mentioned, AMD's 2000-series CPUs are not manufactured on GlobalFoundries' 14nm GPP node, but rather its 12nm LP process technology. The ported-over design helps boost transistor performance, but does not affect die area or transistor density. As a result, Pinnacle Ridge's ~4.8 billion transistors and 213mm2 area remain the same as first-gen Ryzen.
Lower leakage current does enable roughly 300 MHz-higher clock rates or a 50mV core voltage reduction at any given frequency compared to 14nm manufacturing. The company also refined some of the architecture's critical pathways with higher-performance transistors. All told, AMD claims the 12nm design enables up to 11% less power consumption than 14nm-based Ryzen CPUs at the same clock rates, or up to 16% more performance at the same thermal design power. All-core overclocks are expected to land in the 4.2 GHz range moving forward.
AMD also adds other nuanced refinements to the performance story, reportedly improving L1, L2, and L3 cache latencies, while also reducing memory latency by 11%.
Ryzen 7 2700X's 105W TDP represents a 10.5% increase compared to the 1800X for a 4.65% increase in boost frequencies. That seems like a simple trade-off of power consumption for higher clock rates. But the TDP rating also takes the multi-core Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 algorithms' higher power draw into account, allowing access to Socket AM4's full 95-amp current ceiling even during stock operation.
Precision Boost 2 And XFR2
AMD's previous-gen Ryzen processors have Precision Boost (a Dynamic Voltage Frequency Scaling implementation similar to Intel's Turbo Boost), and eXtended Frequency Range, which provides additional frequency uplift if your cooling solution has thermal headroom to spare. Those 1000-series CPUs only offer dual-core or all-core Precision Boost and XFR clock rates. But lightly-threaded applications (like games) often offload less-critical tasks to other threads. Unfortunately, light helper threads can apply enough of a load to trigger the lower all-core frequency, limiting performance potential even when the CPU could be operating at higher clock rates.
The new Precision Boost 2 (which debuted on the desktop with AMD's Raven Ridge processors) and XFR2 algorithms improve performance in threaded workloads by raising the frequency of any number of cores. Precision Boost 2 delivers up to 500 MHz-higher clocks during multi-core workloads, while XFR2 adds an additional 7% boost if your cooler is beefy enough. This extends Ryzen's already-strong threaded performance to a wider variety of tasks, though it levels off when the processor reaches 60°C (tCase) or 95 amps of current. Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 also work on 300-series motherboards.
AMD doesn't share a list of specific multi-core Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 bins, because its opportunistic algorithms achieve different frequencies based on temperature, current, and load.
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