The beauty of building a PC is that a diversity of parts allows users to construct a computer specifically designed to best serve their particular needs. AMD's Ryzen 7 1800X may not have taken Intel's crown for gaming, but the price vs performance ratio for just about everything else propels the fledgling line of processors well into contention. The Ryzen 7 1800X we recently reviewed isn't the only new AMD eight-core chip you can buy: cheaper 1700X and 1700 processors are available, and that is where the value really becomes difficult to ignore.
Fundamentally, not much separates the three Ryzen 7s except clock-speeds. The 1700X drops a couple of hundred megahertz, but saves you £130/$100. Meanwhile, the entry-level 1700 sees a 3.0GHz base clock - some way off the top-tier model's 3.6GHz - but offers exceptional value at £299/$330. It's cheaper than the i7 7700K here, but offers twice as many cores and threads and absolutely monsters it in most - but not all - multithreaded tasks. All the Ryzen chips are can overclock, and all have the maximum L3 cache. Provided they OC to approximately the same level, it must be said that the entry-level 1700 looks particularly compelling.
Going into this review, we were considering the kind of processor that we would choose if we were building one of our office PCs, now dominated by enthusiast-level i7s and older, ten-core Xeons (amazingly cheap, and tend to slot into older Sandy Bridge-E boards). Our systems need to accommodate gaming, but just as important, if not more so, is multi-threaded performance for video editing and encoding. Ryzen 7 1800X offers great value against the eight-core i7s, but we suspect that the fight would be closer, up against an overclocked six-core enthusiast chip (our very own John Linneman runs an i7 5820K at a rock-solid 4.5GHz). However, the Ryzen line is cheaper, and processors can be run on cheaper motherboards - all of which overclock the processor if required.
The bottom line is that for a more versatile PC build, AMD's new Ryzen line has much to commend it, and as we shall see, if you're willing to spend a little extra on memory and a decent cooling solution, the Ryzen 7 1700 effectively makes its more expensive counterparts somewhat redundant. And while benchmarks and hardcore multithreaded apps do see a performance differential between the three Ryzen offerings in line with clock-speeds, the fact is that you really do pay a premium for just a little extra, which becomes even more of a non-issue in gaming tests. Ironically, while the 1800X does indeed compare favourably with Intel's $1050 Core i7 6900K, it does look over-priced compared to the 1700X and 1700.
|Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 7 1700X||Ryzen 7 1700|
Buy the Ryzen 7 line from Amazon with free shipping:
- AMD Ryzen 7 1700 Eight-Core CPU [?]
- AMD Ryzen 7 1700X Eight-Core CPU [?]
- AMD Ryzen 7 1800X Eight-Core CPU [?]
Initial benchmarks throw up some fascinating comparisons. Cinebench R15 is often used as a basic barometer for single and multi-thread performance. The top-tier Ryzen compares favourably with the last two generations of Intel's eight-core chips in terms of single-thread performance, but even the 1700X beats the 6900K in the multi-threaded benchmark, while the base 1700 takes point over Intel's last-gen eight-thread beast - the Core i7 5960X. The mainstream Intel quad-core i7 7700K falls behind in multi-thread performance, as expected, but it remains king of the hill in single-thread power owing to faster clocks and the latest Intel architecture.
The video encoding benchmarks are fascinating though. Handbrake uses the open source x264 video encoder for its h.264 support - a piece of code massively optimised for multi-threaded CPUs. It's fascinating to see the eight-core chips jostle for position in a hardcore 4K encoding challenge based on the settings we use for our video download site, DigitalFoundry.net, and indeed our YouTube uploads. The Ryzen 7 1800X is faster than the 6900K, while the 1700X is only a touch slower than the older 5960X. The entry-level Ryzen 7 1700 is slower, but should be on par or better than the Intel six-core processors, while easily besting the quad-core 7700K.
Thus far, what's clear is that AMD has taken a significant lead over Intel in terms of price vs performance, but even though there is a clear division between the Ryzens, the cheaper you go, the more value you gain. In terms of 'fps for the money', the Ryzen 7 1700 is the clear winner, with a 14 per cent lead over the 1700X, rising to 25 per cent over the 1800X. Effectively, losing five per cent performance compared to the top-tier chip saves prospective 1700X owners $100, while 1700 buyers lose 15 per cent in processing grunt but only pay around two thirds of the price.
However, the x265 HEVC encoding challenge sees all the challengers group up somewhat, and Intel starts to stage a stronger comeback. This 'next-gen' video codec is extremely challenging and takes an age to encode, but offers approximately the same image quality as h.264 for half the bandwidth. We introduced support for this on DigitalFoundry.net early this year, and it takes an age to complete with 4K content - even on our eight and ten-core Intel chips. Ryzen is still fast, but loses ground because HEVC encoding uses AVX2 instructions - an area where AMD's new architecture is weak. It's interesting to note that the sheer frequency offered by the 7700K sees it putting in a great showing overall, stealing a lead over the Ryzen 7 1700 with twice the cores. It's a sign that while Ryzen can command a great lead over its competition at similar price-points, it's not just gaming where it can fall a little short.
|Core i7 7700K||Core i7 5960X||Core i7 6900K||Ryzen 7 1700||Ryzen 7 1700X||Ryzen 7 1800X|
|Cinebench R15 Single-Core||187||133||167||153||144||162|
|Cinebench R15 Multi-Core||963||1310||1460||1390||1491||1605|
|Handbrake 0.10.5 x264||13.1fps||17.5fps||18.5fps||16.2fps||17.2fps||19.6fps|
|Handbrake 0.10.5 x265/HEVC||6.2fps||6.9fps||7.2fps||5.7fps||6.0fps||6.5fps|
However, overall, our tests show that the less expensive Ryzens still compete well overall, and if you're looking for a balanced build capable of fast performance on many different workloads, they demand attention. But as good as productivity and video encoding performance may be, gaming is still an important part of what we want from a PC so the question is this - to what extent do the frequency drops on the cheaper parts impact gaming performance?
We paired each Ryzen with low latency C14 3200MHz Flare-X DDR4 supplied by GSkill, and ran each processor on an Asus motherboard based on the X370 chipset - the Crosshair 6 Hero, specifically. As always, our gaming tests are carried out using an overclocked Titan X Pascal processor operating at 1080p. The objective here is to shift the primary limiting factor in gaming performance away from the GPU and squarely towards CPU and memory bandwidth. In short, we test raw processor power here to judge relative performance and to measure how much 'extra' each chip may have in the tank compared to one another. By extension, this is a pretty good measure of the longevity of the CPU in an age where we should realistically expect a processor to have a good four to five-year lifespan.
Suffice to say that the Intel processors dominate in key benchmarks here, but CPU-heavy titles like Assassin's Creed Unity and Crysis 3 still see AMD remaining competitive. Performance isn't bad per se on any of the titles (the cheapest Ryzen offering 107fps in one of The Witcher 3's most challenging areas is still quite a feat!) but it's clear to see that even some heavily multithreaded games where Ryzen should do well sees Intel push ahead. Rise of the Tomb Raider and Ashes of the Singularity's hardcore CPU test stand out here. Far Cry Primal's reliance on single-thread performance also sees a big Intel win, though this is one of the titles where disabling SMT (AMD's hyper-threading if you like), brings Ryzen back into contention - against the 6900K at least.
But the point is that assuming you're set on a Ryzen build for non-gaming reasons, you lose even less performance going for a cheaper AMD eight-core chip than you do in video encoding benchmarks. It's unlikely that you're going to notice much of a difference between the three chips running at stock frequencies based on the results we see here, especially in the here and now on less capable GPUs than the overclocked Titan X Pascal we're using here. Ryzen 7 1800X was a decent enough gaming CPU in our review, and the paltry differences with the cheaper chips make them much more compelling.
|1080p/Titan X OC||Ryzen 7 1700||Ryzen 7 1700X||Ryzen 7 1800X||Core i7 7700K||Core i7 6900K|
|Memory Frequency||3200MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4||3000MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4|
|Assassin's Creed Unity, Ultra High, FXAA||116.1||118.3||119.4||132.2||122.1|
|Ashes of the Singularity, DX12, CPU Test||33.5||34.6||35.3||41.9||46.6|
|Crysis 3, Very High, SMAA T2x||127.1||132.4||137.5||138.2||150.8|
|The Division, Ultra, SMAA||127.4||127.1||129.3||133.8||131.4|
|Far Cry Primal, Ultra, SMAA||85.2||89.3||91.1||137.9||105.6|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider DX12, Very High, SMAA||80.8||84.0||85.8||126.5||129.0|
|The Witcher 3, Ultra, No Hairworks||107.9||113.3||118.8||139.4||134.3|
As we researched further into Ryzen performance, the wafer-thin differential between each of the three offerings became even more evident. All of them support the same level of memory bandwidth. Similar to Intel processors, gaming performance scales according to the frequency of the DDR4 you have, and the first three entries on the table below are somewhat eye-opening. We ran our GSkill Flare-X modules at a slow 2133MHz to emulate cheaper, less performant DDR4 and then re-benched.
The bottom line is that the difference between 2133MHz and 3200MHz DDR4 is more impactful on gaming performance than the reductions in core-clock frequencies as we travel down the Ryzen 7 stack. Remarkably, a Ryzen 7 1700 paired with 3200MHz outperforms the much more expensive 1800X paired with 2133MHz memory on all but one game (Crysis 3 - and even there, it's a margin of error stuff). It should be stressed that we didn't see anything like this in video encoding benchmarks but the difference is profound enough that if gaming has more importance for you, it makes more sense to spend money on faster memory as opposed to a faster Ryzen.
But the big news based on our testing is that all the Ryzen 7 processors effectively hit their overclocking limits in 4.0GHz to 4.1GHz territory. Pushing higher requires voltages AMD doesn't recommend for the longevity of the processor, so we didn't push further. We benched all of them, and found results entirely within margin of error - so effectively, with a reasonable overclock in place, there is nothing to separate a cheap Ryzen 7 1700 with the top-of-the-line 1800X running at the same 4.0GHz all-core frequency. All things being equal, you can buy the 1700, pair it with fast memory and a decent cooler and still have cash left over. The result is a system that beats the Ryzen 7 1800X at stock frequencies and effectively a match when overclocked. However, we should stress that this is just a test based on one chip and with the silicon lottery, there is the chance that you may receive a less capable chip.
|1080p/Titan X OC||Ryzen 7 1700||Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 7 1800X 4.0GHz||Ryzen 7 1700X 4.0GHz||Ryzen 7 1700 4.0GHz|
|Memory Frequency||3200MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4||2133MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4||3200MHz DDR4|
|Assassin's Creed Unity, Ultra High, FXAA||116.1||119.4||112.2||120.8||119.5||121.3|
|Ashes of the Singularity, DX12, CPU Test||33.5||35.3||31.6||36.8||37.0||36.9|
|Crysis 3, Very High, SMAA T2x||127.1||137.5||128.6||143.8||143.5||144.1|
|The Division, Ultra, SMAA||127.4||129.3||125.5||128.4||129.4||128.3|
|Far Cry Primal, Ultra, SMAA||85.2||91.1||79.2||97.2||96.9||97.2|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider DX12, Very High, SMAA||80.8||85.8||76.8||89.9||88.9||90.0|
|The Witcher 3, Ultra, No Hairworks||107.9||118.8||98.9||121.3||120.8||120.4|
They say that there's no such thing as a free lunch but on the face of it, the Ryzen 7 1700 may beg to differ - given the right coaxing, it's just as good as an 1800X in virtually every measurable criterion. There is only one caveat: the lower binned chip requires more voltage to run at higher frequencies and in our tests, this resulted in about 45W extra under extreme load when compared to the 1800X performing the same task (more effort in voltage tweaking in the BIOS could address this, depending on how good your chip is). And of course, this translates into excess heat, meaning the supplied cooler really isn't up to the task - but it should be stated that overclocking any of the Ryzens requires a fairly meaty thermal solution.
There's diminishing returns in overclocking the 1800X and to a lesser extent, the 1700X. However, with a top-end 25 per cent boost to throughput on all eight cores and 16 threads with all under load, clearly the entry-level Ryzen offers the best deal here - and in gaming frame-rate terms, that overclock adds around 10 to 14 per cent of extra juice. And if you check out the h.264 encoding 'performance for the money' metrics below, you'll see just how stark the value proposition is. Even with the 7700K clocked to 4.8GHz, the entry-level Ryzen is still well ahead.
It's a fascinating result overall, and with at least one of our workstations here at Digital Foundry due for renewal, replacing it with an overclocked Ryzen 7 1700 seems like the best bet overall - alternatives would be a six-core 6800K Intel system, or an overclocked 7700K. For the kinds of workloads we have, Ryzen seems to be the best bet. But obviously, if your skew is more towards gaming, we still feel that the i7 7700K offers more longevity. That situation may change when Ryzen makes an appearance in future consoles: at that point, we can safely assume that the game optimisations AMD is promising will become commonplace. However, in the here and now, those who stream their video games and prefer higher quality software encoding results to the efforts of GPU solutions like Nvidia's Shadowplay may also consider Ryzen - hiving off a couple of cores for video is something you'd need a six-core CPU to achieve without impacting on gameplay frame-rates.
|Ranked by Value||4K h.264 Encoding||Price||FPS per $100 USD|
|Ryzen 1700 4.0GHz OC||20.2fps||$329||6.13|
|Core i7 7700K 4.8GHz OC||14.8fps||$349||4.24|
|Core i7 7700K||13.1fps||$349||3.75|
|Core i7 6900K 4.4GHz OC||22.8fps||$1050||2.17|
|Core i7 6900K||18.5fps||$1050||1.76|
AMD Ryzen 7 1700/1700X: the Digital Foundry verdict
There's a range of advice we can offer to any prospective Ryzen owners. First, the more expensive 1800X is only recommended if you want the fastest possible stock processor, no matter what the cost. Highly clocked out of the box, there's not a huge amount more you can squeeze out of it via overclocking. Compared to a $1050 Intel chip, it's a raging bargain but not a great deal when stacked up against its siblings. That said, it follows the grand PC hardware tradition of the top-end offering yielding diminishing returns in exchange for a large price premium.Why did ancient Egypt spend 3000 years playing a game nobody else liked? One of the great gaming mysteries explored.
Not only that, but based on our memory bandwidth testing, an 1800X should be matched with fast memory, or its advantages can swiftly diminish into nothingness compared to slower Ryzens running faster RAM (on gaming, at least). The 1700X is clearly the better buy out of the two X processors, offering around 95 per cent of the performance of the top-tier offering while saving you a hefty amount of cash - money better spent elsewhere in your PC system. If you're not so interested in overclocking and want a potent Ryzen system with the minimum of tweaking, the 1700X is our recommendation.
But in our opinion, it's the entry-level Ryzen 7 1700 that is perhaps the most appealing chip for the PC enthusiast. Its lower base clocks see the processor drop to a much lower TDP, meaning a good cut to energy consumption. And while it is obviously slower in CPU-heavy tasks at stock clocks, it remains surprisingly competitive in gaming - even before you start to overclock it. But it's when you do indeed start to ramp up the frequency that the chip hits the height of its appeal - with all the silicon lottery caveats in place, you do stand a good chance of getting 1800X performance or perhaps better with a third lopped off the price. As good as that is, it's still not going to challenge Intel in the gaming stakes, but you're effectively getting the best that the new Ryzen 7 line offers, and all at a highly reasonable price-point.