While many younger readers will only really recall AMD as a competitor in the CPU market for mid-range or low-end processors, there was a time when AMD and Intel were duking it out on fairly even footing, much like AMD and nVidia do nowadays in the graphics card market. Unfortunately, while peaking with the Athlon series of processors, they began to lose ground over the years, and by the time the Core series by Intel came out, it was no longer able to compete at the highest level. This gave Intel a de facto monopoly and while their products evolved, progress slowed and prices rose, especially at the top end.
Today for example, if a consumer wanted to buy an 8-core Intel processor such as the i7-6900k, then just the CPU in the US would cost a cool $1049 not to mention a minimum $200 for a supporting motherboard. This would give you top-of-the-line chess analysis, but at what a cost!
Back in 2014 AMD first announced it was pursuing an all-new microarchitecture, and for over two years the industry has been in a frenzy waiting to see if AMD could pull it off. Today the new 14nm processors hit the shelves and benchmarks have been appearing all over the place.
AMD’s new line has started with three processors, the R7 1800x, priced at $499, the R7 1700X priced at $399, and the R7 1700 priced at $329. All three processors are full 8-core CPUs, with hyperthreading just as the top Intel i7 series offer. The Ryzen family of CPUs is designed to compete, initially, in the performance-mainstream and high-end desktop market.
All the processors will be using the AM4 socket, with bases frequencies from 3.2 GHz to 3.6 GHz, and turbo frequencies up to 4.0 GHz for the high-end parts. The base design supports 512MB of private L2 cache per core and 2MB of a shared exclusive L3 victim cache.
Naturally AMD has suggested processors which it feels offer direct competition against the various Ryzen CPUs. These are as follows:
Ryzen 7 1800X vs Core i7-6900K
|Features||AMD Ryzen 7 1800X||Intel Core i7-6900K|
|Cores/Threads||8 / 16||8 / 16|
|Base/Turbo||3.6 / 4.0 GHz||3.2 / 3.7GHz|
|PCIe 3.0 Lanes||16||40|
|L3 Cache||16 MB||20 MB|
|TDP||95 W||140 W|
At the top end we see the eight-core R7 1800X put directly against a Broadwell-E based eight-core Core i7-6900K. The Ryzen 7 1800X ($499) sits at 3.6 GHz base and 4.0 GHz turbo for 95W, while the Core i7-6900X ($1049) is 3.2G/3.7G for 140W.
The two most obvious takeaways from the above chart, presuming comparable performances, are that the Intel not only costs more than double, but also consumes a lot more power (140W vs 95W)
Ryzen 7 1700 vs Core i7-7700K
Ryzen 7 1700
|Cores/Threads||8 / 16||4 / 8|
|Base/Turbo||3.0 / 3.7 GHz||4.2 / 4.5 GHz|
|PCIe 3.0 Lanes||16||16|
|L3 Cache||16 MB||8MB|
|TDP||65 W||91 W|
In the mid-range, the comparison between the Ryzen 7 1700 and the Core i7-7700K is far more intriguing. While Intel gets a frequency advantage (4.2G/4.5G vs 3.0G/3.7G), the AMD Ryzen 7 1700 comes with eight cores over four, and has 16MB of L3 cache compared to 8MB on Intel. The 1700 and 7700K are similar in price ($330 vs $350) but the 1700 also comes with a new variant of AMD’s high performing Wraith cooler.
All this is fine and well, but what about performance? It isn't universally one-sided for one or the other, but one battery of tests really piqued our interest and should for any player building a machine for chess: the new AMD Ryzen processors offer unparalleled value for chess analysis.
French hardware site Hardware.fr benchmarked both the new AMD processor and Intel's offerings on Stockfish 8 and Komodo 10. The numbers are KNPS, or thousands of nodes per second.
A great result as the AMD offering not only beats Intel's equivalent 8-core offering (the i7-6950 is a 10-core CPU and costs over $1600), but at half the price! Over 16.5 million nodes per second... incredible.
In the testing with Komodo 10, the difference is even greater, and it bears remembering that the cheaper R7 1700 will most likely clean the floor with Intel's i7-7700K in regards to chess analysis. This does not mean that it will do similarly at all things. Indeed the Intel higher clock for each core will garner it an edge for applications that do not make the most of multi-core computing, but applications such as video encoding, data compression, and of course chess analysis will see AMD's processor shine like no other.
The best news of this all, is not who is best, but that there no longer is one obvious best at all things. Competition means better prices, and better products, and the biggest winner is the consumer.