Ryzen AMA Summary
*Takes Deep Breath*
It’s here. The long awaited return of AMD to high end desktop computing is finally here. As of the time of writing, reviews (including our own) are pouring in, and the general reception appears to be the same amongst most reviewers. The Ryzen 7 1800X is a fantastic CPU for professional multi-threaded workloads, like video editing and rendering, providing double the price/performance of a 6900K, with emphasis on performance. However, for gaming it’s simply a poor choice, often beaten by both the 6900K, and the cheaper 7700K. For those markets, the Ryzen 7 1700 might be a better choice due to the far more reasonable price tag.
But that’s a topic for another day, this article is here to summarize the launch day Ask Me Anything done by AMD over on reddit on AMD’s subreddit. In it participated Robert Hallock of AMD’s Technical Marketing department, James Prior of AMD’s CPU Business Development department, and the star guest – Dr. Lisa Su – President and CEO of AMD!
The big take aways from the AMA are this: AMD believes there are no architectural reasons for Ryzen to fall short in some games like it does, and they’re working with developers to patch games as necessary, to better take advantage of Zen’s micro-architecture.
The questions have been rewritten for readability or for brevity’s sake.
Conerncs Regarding Perforamce in Games
Q: “It appears that AMD’s SMT implementation is causing performance regressions in multiple different games. Where does the issue stem from, and how will AMD address it?”
A (Lisa Su): “Thanks for the question. 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 GPU drivers alleviate the issue?”
A (Robert Hallock): “No, this is strictly (caused by) CPU scheduling within the game.”
Q: “What would be the time frame for releasing these improvements?”
A (Robert Hallock): “To be perfectly frank, it’s always difficult to estimate the timetables for these things. Every developer has their own schedule. But, for example, Oxide Games, Bethesda and SEGA are already engaged with us for some near-term optimizations. We’re confident that this is not a long-term project.”
Q: “Are these game specific changes, or a general improvement like a Windows scheduler patch?”
A (Robert Hallock): “Game code (Game specific)”
Q: “Would this not be too big of an undertaking considering the amount of titles on the market?”
A (Robert Hallock): “No, because we see that the number of titles with this issue is small.”
Q: “Why are there large differences observed between different reviewers in similar games? Are BIOS updates the cause?”
A (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”
Editors Notes: Lisa didn’t quite answer the question, she did however add the interesting detail of 300+ developers now working with and presumably optimizing for the Zen micro-architecture.
Q: “Isn’t it unfair to test CPU’s at higher resolutions such as 4K, where GPU’s become the main bottleneck, therefore performing similarly on different CPU’s? Potentially hiding the CPU’s shortcomings?”
A (Robert Hallock): “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.“
Q: “Is gaming performance something you will work towards going forward with the Zen architecture?”
A (Lisa Su):“Absolutely! You should expect gaming performance to only get better with time as the developers have more time with “Zen”.”
Q: “Any information regarding Ryzen’s high memory latency observed in multiple reviews?”
A (Lisa Su):“From a performance standpoint, we achieved >52% IPC improvement with Ryzen so we have definitely made significant improvements in the CPU architecture, we do see that our memory latency is a bit higher, for most games this is not a huge sensitivity, but we do see this as a place to improve going forward. Thanks.”
Q: “What improvements are in the works via software/firmware updates to the Ryzen 7 series chips?”
A (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: “How is the communication between cores in different Core Complexes done?”
A (James Prior): “The infinity fabric handles core to core communication across complexes. When a core requests data that is not inside the CCX L3 a strobe to both the adjoining L3 and main memory is made, and the data returned either via the infinty fabric internal connection or memory controller, based on the location.”
Q: “What are the plans for embedded CPU/APU products using ZEN, will there be altered cores the “same way” there are Jaguar and Puma cores, or will pure lowering of operating frequency be enough?”
A (James Prior):“Zen will enter all lines of business products over time, and the products will be tailored to the market needs. The specifics will be announced when we disclose the product details.”
Q: “Will all Zen products have all of the instruction sets and platform extensions, or could lower end chips lose features like virtualization?”
A (James Prior): “In the consumer client space we have no plans to turn off virtualization or features.”
Q: “What are the limiting factors of XFR, temperature voltage and power consumption?”
A (James Prior):“The XFR limit is a hard fused limit, and the basis of core frequency is the TDP available for the chip.”
Q: “How does XFR know what frequencies and voltages are stable?”
A (James Prior):“We characterize each chip as it comes off the line to understand the frequency voltage curve at a 25Mhz/6mv level of accuracy. This helps us select the processors for different models.”
Q: “Is there any plan on having per core overclocking in BIOS?”
A (James Prior): “Yes, we are looking into developing and enabling this feature.”
Q: “What do you think about 10nm and 7nm fabrication processes and their cost effectiveness when they require a lot more manhours to design the chip?”
A (James Prior):“As a high performance chip design company, we will investigate any avenue that offers potential for more competitive products that deliver winning experiences.”
General Ryzen Questions
Q: “Do Ryzen CPU’s support ECC memory?”
A (Lisa Su):“Yes they do!”
A (Robert Hallock):“ECC is not disabled. It works, but not validated for our consumer client platform.”
Q: “What does ‘not being validated’ mean in practice?”
A (Robert Hallock):“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.”
Q: “Is registered/buffered ECC memory also supported?”
A (James Prior):“No, registered or buffered memory is not supported.”
Q: “Is there support for dual socket configurations?”
A (James Prior):“No, Ryzen does not support 2P(rocessor) configurations.”
Q: “Is Zen 2 going to come out around February to March 2018 like Zen 1, or will it come out in a different time?”
A (Lisa Su):“Zen2 – can’t comment just yet on release timing, just tell you that we have a large team working on it”
Q: “Who had the biggest role in the creation of Ryzen? Was it you? Jim Keller? Someone else?”
A (Lisa Su):“In terms of the creation of Ryzen, I am really really really PROUD of our team. To build something like Ryzen takes really smart people coming together around a big, audacious goal and the Ryen team did it. The lead architect on Ryzen was a guy named Mike Clark and together with the entire global team, made Ryzen a reality.”
Q: “What provoked you to make an RGB Stock cooler?”
A (Lisa Su): “We thought RGB stock cooler would look really cool… :-)”
Q: “What/When was a huge breakthrough during the Ryzen development?”
A (Lisa Su):“The biggest breakthrough was getting first silicon and seeing the IPC performance actually doing better than our commitments…. that was super cool and fun. Incredible excitement in the lab.”
Q: “Will Raven Ridge APUs also be named “Ryzen”, or will they be named something else?”
A (Lisa Su):“Raven Ridge APUs will also be named Ryzen.”
Q: “Where do you guys think Ryzen is lacking? Was there something about Ryzen that you felt like could have been improved but wasn’t due to constraints?”
A (Lisa Su):“I am really happy with what we have done with Ryzen. Getting >52% performance improvement in one generation is really really hard. In new product development, you always learn a lot and we have our list of things that we are adding to Zen2 and Zen3 to get even more performance going forward.”
Q: “Are there any plans for mobile Ryzens? Are we going to see laptops, hybrids and etc in a near future powered by Ryzen?”
A (Lisa Su):“Yes you will see Ryzen mobile parts going into laptops and 2-in-1’s in 2H (of) 2017.”
Q: “Any plans specifically for the workstation market?”
A (Lisa Su):“We like the workstation market and we will be talking more about those plans in the coming months.”
Q: “What were some of the determining factors that led you to decide to go with a staggered launch for Ryzen?”
A (Lisa Su):We have had a very very busy few months getting Ryzen ready for production. So, it was always planned to have Ryzen 7 first and then Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3. It helps us execute a strong worldwide launch and lets reviewers also spend the time to review the products well. You will hear more from us on Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3 and Vega shortly. Thanks.
Q: “Dear AMD, could you please release the Platform Security Processor (PSP) source code to the Coreboot / Libreboot project? The current perception of AMD (and Intel) among FOSS (Free Open Source Software) groups like this is not exactly, stellar.”
A (James Prior):“Thanks for the inquiry. Currently we do not have plans to release source code but you make a good argument for reasons to do so. We will evaluate and find a way to work with security vendors and the community to everyone’s benefit.”
Q: “What is your plan with the AM4 Platform and its future?”
A (James Prior):“We plan for AM4 to be around a long time. Future generations of processors will be delivered into the socket at many price points.”
Q: “Is the RY7 line-up as of now considered to be more workstation-like and the RY5/RY3 series are to be the gaming processors?”
A (James Prior): “We definitely want to redefine the market by bringing Ryzen 7s multithread performance to the sub $500 USD market. We see great results at higher resolutions for gaming, and as we work with developers on learning how to use Zen cores we expect to see an improved 1080p gaming experience as well.”
Q: “What is Infinity Fabric and does it produce better results when paired with AMD GPUs?”
A (Lisa Su):“Infinity fabric is used within our Ryzen and Vega chips to connect the IPs together in a very efficient and scalable way. Thanks.”
Editor’s Notes:AMD as a semi-custom company wishes to serve customer’s specific needs. A customer, such as Sony and Microsoft with the consoles, might want chips produced according to specific requirements, with various technologies from AMD IP’s put together. Infinity Fabric allows AMD to treat their IP almost like “legos”, combining together existing blocks of IP to create a new chip according to the customer’s orders. This reduces design costs and time to market by a significant amount.
Q: “There were reports that AMD specifically told motherboard manufacturers to delay mini-ITX launch, can you confirm/deny/explain that? Also, are Bristol Ridge APUs ever going to be released to the public?”
A (James Prior):”AMD did not ask for any delays on mini-ITX, rather the partners are free to release when their product line is ready. We will introduce 7th Gen A-series APUs for socket AM4 in the channel later this year.”
Other Random/Fun Questions
Q: “What is it like working at AMD? How was the work environment like leading up to the Ryzen launch? Any quirky Ryzen-related stories to share?”
A (Lisa Su):“It’s incredibly busy but the excitement is fantastic. Our engineers love seeing their products in the market. There are lots of quirky Ryzen-related stories… but the most fun I have is visiting the labs each time we get new silicon – we just kept trying each application and things kept looking better and better.”
Q: “Lisa Su, what is your favorite thing to do outside of working?”
A (Lisa Su):“Golf and drinking good red wine! :-)”
Q: “Will it be possible to buy one of those Ryzen jackets sometime soon?”
A (Lisa Su):“Our Ryzen hoodies have become popular since Raja has modeled them on twitter… we are looking for a way to get them to our fans… stay tuned. :-)”
And that’s the end of that!
An unusually informative AMA from AMD this time around. I personally quite enjoyed it, and hope you too!
Lisa Su’s apperance was highly welcome, here’s hoping she will return to answer some more questions at a later time. Perhaps Ryzen 2’s release 😉