AMD hosted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) Q&A thread on Reddit to celebrate the launch of their new Ryzen CPUs and address some key concerns. Participants included Dr Lisa Su (AMD CEO), Robert Hallock (CPU Technical Marketing), and James Prior (CPU Business Development). We’ve sorted through the thread and extracted the important bits.
Q: Is gaming performance something you will work towards going forward with the Zen architecture? (Reddit user Makkarikock)
Lisa Su: Absolutely! You should expect gaming performance to only get better with time as the developers have more time with “Zen”.
AMD had also recently announced a close partnership with Bethesda at GDC 2017. Expect higher optimization for both Ryzen CPUs and Vega GPUs in the upcoming titles from more developers.
Q: Why is there a huge discrepancy in gaming benchmarks for reviewers today? Is this something related to BIOS? (usmanmuum)
Lisa Su: Ryzen is doing really well in 1440p and 4K gaming when the applications are more graphics bound. And we do exceptionally well in rendering and workstation applications where more cores are really useful. In 1080p, we have tested over 100+ titles in the labs…. And depending on the test conditions, we do better in some games and worse in others. We hear people on wanting to see improved 1080p performance and we fully expect that Ryzen performance in 1080p will only get better as developers get more time with “Zen”. We have over 300+ developers now working with “Zen” and several of the developers for Ashes of Singularity and Total Warhammer are actively optimizing now.
Robert Hallock: In addition to Lisa’s comments, there are also some variables that could affect performance: 1) Early motherboard BIOSes were certainly troubled: disabling unrelated features would turn off cores. Setting memory overclocks on some motherboards would disable boost. Some BIOS revisions would plain produce universally suppressed performance. 2) Ryzen benefits from disabling High Precision Event Timers (HPET). The timer resolution of HPET can cause an observer effect that can subtract performance. This is a BIOS option, or a function that can be disabled from the Windows command shell. 3) Ryzen benefits from enabling the High Performance power profile. This overrides core parking. Eventually we will have a driver that allows people to stay on balanced and disable core parking anyways. Gamers have been doing this for a while, too. These are just some examples of the early growing pains that can be overcome with time.
It seems like the relatively mediocre performance of Ryzen can be chalked up to needing more optimizations in motherboard BIOS and software. Additional performance gains can be had by disabling high-precision Event Timers. What Robert means by the “observer effect” could be that the resolution of the timing interval is mismatched with the CPU, causing more wait cycles.
Robert recently sent us a clarification for the third point he made.
Ryzen benefits from enabling the High Performance power profile. This overrides core parking. Eventually we will have a driver that allows people to stay on balanced and disable core parking anyways. Gamers have been doing this for a while, too. I misspoke, here. I want to clarify the benefit: High Performance mode allows the CPU to update its voltage/clockspeed in 1ms, vs. the 30ms that it takes balanced mode. This is what our driver will accomplish. Apologies for the confusion!
…But isn’t it unfair to compare CPUs if there is GPU bottleneck? Then all CPUs will perform similarly. (Killver)
First, I think it’s important that readers get a complete picture of a processor. People who have 1440p and 4K displays deserve to read how their potential processor will perform on the monitor they have. Don’t you agree? We’re also not shying away from the 1080p results. We clearly have some work to do with game developers on some of these titles to invest in the vital optimizations that can so dramatically improve an application’s performance on a new microarchitecture. This takes time, but we’ll get it done. But what’s also clear is that there’s a distribution of games that run well, and a distribution of games that run poorly. Call it a “bell curve” if you will. It’s unfortunate that the outliers are some notable titles, but many of these game devs (e.g. Oxide, Sega, Bethesda) have already said there’s significant improvement that can be gleaned. We have proven the Zen performance and IPC. Many reviewers today proved that, at 1080p in games. There is no architectural reason why the remaining titles should be performing as they are.
Again, optimization seems to be the keyword here. With Ryzen being a completely new chip, developers will have to take the time to get accustomed to the new architecture and adjust the code accordingly. AMD’s decision to partner with major game developers is an excellent move to push the industry to adopt a newer standard of chips.
Q: What improvements are in the works via software/firmware updates to the Ryzen 7 series chips? (Cjhom89)
Robert Hallock: Our next steps are to continue working with motherboard vendors to further refine their BIOSes. We’re also working with game devs to address the cases where SMT is a performance reduction, or the game does not perform comparably to our competition. Based on IPC, clockspeeds, non-gaming performance that our performance should be more or less identical. In the cases where it’s not, we’ll get it addressed.
Q: In some workloads, SMT seems to be causing lower framerates. Have AMD seen this behavior in testing? (nallar)
Lisa Su: In general, we’ve seen great performance from SMT in applications and benchmarks but there are some games that are using code optimized for our competitor… we are confident that we can work through these issues with the game developers who are actively engaging with our engineering teams.
Q: Could you speak to ECC being disabled in these CPUs? (whatever0601)
ECC is not disabled. It works, but not validated for our consumer client platform. Validated means run it through server/workstation grade testing. For the first Ryzen processors, focused on the prosumer / gaming market, this feature is enabled and working but not validated by AMD. You should not have issues creating a whitebox homelab or NAS with ECC memory enabled.
This is great news for users looking to build powerful home servers. Ryzen stands as a no-brainer for users looking to acquire a high-end, octa-core chip at a reasonable price.