Test Results And Final Analysis
We'll be comparing other X370 boards over time, but since this is the first, we want to see how far AMD has come, so we'll be comparing the Taichi to our original AMD platform.
Test Results: Synthetics and Apps
Surprisingly, the AMD 970 system can keep pace with the X370 in the PCMark Work and Storage benchmarks despite having a relatively antiquated processor and storage solution. However, X370 decides to shift gears and starts to annihilate its older brother in the remaining PCMark workloads by upwards of 33%. The ASRock X370 Taichi and 1700X continue to pour salt into the AMD 970’s wounds by more than doubling the AMD 970 scores in Sandra Arithmetic and tripling Multimedia and some Cryptographic metrics. The FX-8350 is no slouch, running 500MHz faster than the 1700X, but the Zen architecture is just that much more efficient.
An interesting observation with Cinebench: single-threaded performance matches the marketed claim of 40% better instructions per cycle, although having twice as many threads available doesn’t compound that IPS gain across all threads and cores.
Compubench right now is configured to use the GPUs for OpenCL performance, and the AMD 7970 manages to hang on in some workloads but obviously shows its age.
Many testers have claimed that Ryzen is a great workstation processor and this Handbrake result only solidifies that claim by cutting the render time by more than half. Blender shows similar trends with the CPU render taking one third less time to complete. Compression only seals the deal in real world applications.
Test Results: 3DMark and Games
To be honest, these 3DMark results are comical. The AMD 7970 is leagues behind the GTX 970 in age, and only as I start ramping up the resolution and detail does the gap shrink. Standard Firestrike appears to be the AMD 7970s tipping point but the GTX 970 shows around 20 FPS while running Firestrike Extreme.
In Ashes of the Singularity, we see a similar trend, and at high settings the ASRock X370 setup gains 20 FPS. With the move to Crazy settings, the lead shrinks to less than 10 FPS with signs of bottlenecking. Again, F1 2015 shows barely playable framerates with the AMD 970 system, but a smooth experience with the X370 system. As I crawl through the tunnels in Metro Last Light, the ASRock X370 Taichi system operates better at Very High than the AMD 970 system at High detail settings. Still, both GPUs provide playable rates, though the GTX 970 is clearly smoother. The Talos Principle has been fixed in the latest version of the test image and again the X370/GTX 970 combo provides better framerates at higher detail settings than my old test bench.
It is no surprise to anyone reading this article that the ASRock X370 Taichi system equipped with 1700X and GTX 970 is going to decimate a five-year-old computer. Synthetics are showing about a 60% delta between both systems, whereas the games are only separated by 35%.
Overclocking, Thermals, and Power
Given the infancy of Zen in consumer hands, there is a lot of conjecture and confusion among internet message boards across the entire spectrum of expertise. Our usual software tools for monitoring voltages and temperatures are no longer functional, and AMD's Ryzen Master software requires settings that we honestly don't have time to diagnose and properly analyze. Upon Paul Alcorn's (our CPU reviewer) recommendation, AIDA 64 beta provides the data presented in this article.
Our trusty Kill-A-Watt doesn't care if it's connected to a refrigerator or a high-end computer; watts are watts. While running idle, the X370 Taichi coupled with the Ryzen 1700X only draw a respectful 69W. Temperatures are slightly confusing, though expected, at 29°C for the CPU and 48°C for the CPU1 diode.
Loading up Prime95 for maximum CPU power pulls 184W from the wall while the delta between CPU and CPU1 diode increases to 30°C. Having reinstalled our cooler a couple of times, we don't know which value to trust, so we trudge forward.
Loading up FurMark in parallel on our 970 system ends up drawing 404W and the CPU temperature delta still sits at 30°C. Looking back at the AMD 970 system data, we were using a much smaller power supply so we were unable to grab full system stress data. Regardless, this 1700X sample saves nearly 90W when running Prime95 when compared to full load with the FX-8350. Given that the 32nm chip has a TDP of 125W compared to the 1700X’s 95W, the ASRock X370 Taichi platform is far more efficient than its predecessor.
As we tread into lightly understood waters, overclocking the 1700X was both easy and difficult at the same time. Various outlets describe some safe recommendations and claim success in the realm of 3.8-4.0GHz utilizing air cooling. Paul Alcorn could achieve 4.0GHz using watercooling for his sample, so we are optimistic while deploying the Nocuta NH-D15 for the AM4 socket. Given the specific voltage and temperature monitoring of the Zen architecture, 1.35 to 1.4V set point appears to be the safe range for these processors. Since we need this sample to survive for the long haul, we're handicapping ourselves to 1.3875V and a target frequency of 4GHz.
The ASRock X370 Taichi is well suited for overclocking, given the 12+4 phase design and ample options provided through the UEFI. Having utilized loadline settings heavily during testing for our C232 article, step one was to increase the clock multiplier and tweak this setting by one adjustment. We hit 3.8GHz right off the bat without even breaking a sweat. Both CPU temperatures were solid and we felt jumping up to 4.0GHz would be straightforward.
Windows will load, but we got no response from the system after the boot animation stopped spinning. The X370 Taichi enables both fixed and offset voltage settings, but we were very cautious of the offset option given the ambiguous definition and units of the adjustments. Upping the voltage to 1.3875 using fixed voltage enabled us to get to the idle Windows screen, but even adjusting the loadline up to level two didn't improve the situation. Dialing back down to 3.9GHz got Prime95 up and running, but within an hour of runtime we were back to the black screen. Rather than damage our processor with more voltage, we will have to settle for 3.8GHz using slightly more aggressive voltages and loadline than stock settings.
As for memory, these boring Crucial DDR4-2400 could bump up to DDR4-2666MHz with a single click press of the “+” key. Timings are available through the AMD CBS menu in the UEFI, and we just dialed the tCL back to stock 2400 settings. We do have newer memory modules en route, so we look forward to putting these green sticks back in the boring workstation build.
Efficiency, Value, and Verdict
With the performance gap of nearly 50% for both platforms and the latest AMD release drawing nearly 30% less power, the efficiency discussion is not even a fair comparison. For those builders hoping to jump from an older AMD system to another, the power savings alone could justify the cost. For gamers though, sometimes efficiency has little sway in the entire equation.
Prices are likely to fluctuate for a while. Comparing several online retailers’ prices for this ASRock X370 Taichi, it can be found on sale for as low as $199.99, and the older 970 chipset boards are starting to drop in price or go out of stock. Despite the lackluster numbers, the performance per dollar calculation goes to the older platform. We still wouldn’t recommend going out and specifically buying the AMD 970 boards because this “value” comes at the cost modern features, electricity, and performance.
The ASRock X370 Taichi is clearly a top tier motherboard, providing stability and performance out of this new ecosystem and AM4 socket. Unfortunately our processor sample did not win the silicon lottery, though manufacturing processes improve daily. There is no doubt that both AMD and third party developers are feverishly tweaking drivers and firmware to ensure that Zen is running as optimally as possible. We look forward to revisiting this motherboard once the dust has settled and we've reviewed others. And we can hardly wait for B350 for single GPU deployments and the quest to win the value title back from the i7-7700k.
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