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Guide: AMD Ryzen & AMD Raven Ridge

Guide: AMD Ryzen & AMD Raven Ridge

AMD RYZEN THREADRIPPER 1900X RET WOFIt’s been a busy few years for the AMD processor division. The red team introduced Zen in early 2017 with the first Ryzen chips, and they shook the market up – taking the fight to Intel and gaining back market share. AMD Ryzen made an impact – and now the next wave has arrived. They’re exciting AMD Raven Ridge APUs.

We’re here to explain what’s going on with these new APUs and the existing range of Ryzen chips, too.

Let’s Get Zen

AMD’s Zen architecture marked a fresh start for AMD, which had suffered with poorer processing systems.

The big focus was increasing per-core performance, and AMD delivered: the Zen architecture matches Intel in many scenarios, especially when it comes to more complex workloads. Caching has been improved, which means higher bandwidth and lower latency. And, beyond that, there’s more cache than before.

Elsewhere, Zen serves up more efficient power handling, which means lower power consumption. That, in turn, means less heat – which means cooler, quieter machines.

The Zen architecture also moved to a 14nm manufacturing process, which is a huge leap from the 28nm and 32nm processes AMD used before. That’s another move that improves efficiency.

Ryzen Die ShotZen uses Precision Boost to dynamically increase clock speed if a chip has headroom. The process mimics Intel’s Turbo boost. The amount of boost is determined by the price and status of the chip – if it’s higher up the range, it’ll have a higher boost ceiling.

On top of Precision Boost is XFR, which adds a little extra speed when necessary. Standard Ryzen chips can use XFR in 50Hz increments, while X-branded chips can jump up at 100Hz increments.

The Zen architecture is used inside processors and APUs – otherwise known as Accelerated Processing Units. While they both use Zen cores, there’s a fundamental difference between the two categories of chip.

APUs combine Zen processing cores with graphics chips – so you’ve got the whole computing package on one bit of silicon. AMD’s Ryzen processors have Zen CPU cores, but no integrated graphics. If you buy one of these, you’ll need a separate graphics card.

AMD Ryzen At Speed

Ryzen 3 chips have four cores, but no multi-threading and reduced Turbo speeds. Mainstream Ryzen 5 parts are divided into quad- and hexa-core chips, and they’re multi-threaded for better multi-tasking. At the top of the consumer stack are Ryzen 7 chips, which have eight cores, better Turbo speeds and more cache.

There’s another range of Ryzen parts: Threadripper. These extreme chips have up to sixteen cores, which means huge multi-tasking speed. However, they’re designed for high-end work, so few people need to worry about them – and few people can afford them.

AMD Ryzen chart

The Debut of AMD Raven Ridge

Ryzen’s opening salvo arrived throughout the spring and summer of 2017, and now AMD Raven Ridge is here.

AMD’s Zen APUs pair the architecture with Vega graphics. Vega is AMD’s latest GPU architecture, and it delivers more instructions per clock cycle, support for better memory and higher clock speeds.

AMD Raven Ridge Ryzen 3Two Raven Ridge APUs are available. The more expensive part is the £149/$167 Ryzen 5 2400G, which has four multi-threaded cores clocked to 3.6GHz with a peak speed of 3.9GHz. It’s paired with a VEGA 11 graphics, which has 704 stream processors and a 1,250MHz clock.

The more affordable Raven Ridge silicon is the £90/$100 Ryzen 3 2200G. It’s got four cores without multi-threading, and its 3.5GHz base speed accelerates to 3.7GHz. It’s got a Vega 8 graphics, which has 512 stream processors and a 1,100MHz clock.

The read team will be bringing low-power versions to market soon. AMD Raven Ridge will also expand with mobile Ryzen 3, 5 and 7 APUs later this year.

AMD Ryzen, Raven Ridge, and Purpose

AMD’s Zen architecture powers a lot of different processors – and, unsurprisingly, these chips do a lot of different jobs.

Ryzen 3 processors are for entry-level computing: web browsing, basic office tasks and light gaming. They’re easily able to handle those tasks, and their lack of multi-threading doesn’t really affect their abilities in these departments. They’re designed to compete with Intel Core i3.

AMD RyzenAMD’s Ryzen 5 chips are do-all parts that are more adept with multi-tasking and multi-threaded applications. That makes them more suitable for tougher work software. These chips will also handle games at higher resolutions, and on VR headsets. Unsurprisingly, they go head-to-head with Intel Core i5 processors.

AMD Ryzen 7 chips go head-on with Intel’s consumer Core i7 chips. They have loads of cores and ample clock speed, so they can cope with any game, even at 4K and on VR headsets. They’ll handle streaming and almost all work applications, too.

Both of the AMD Raven Ridge chips are more modest. The 2200G is a basic chip that’ll handle web-browsing, office applications and other less demanding tasks. The 2400G is quicker, but only expect a small boost to productivity and multi-tasking.

The Vega 8 and Vega 11 graphics cores will both run top esports games without problems – if you’re into Fortnite, League of Legends, CS:GO or DOTA 2, then AMD Raven Ridge is better than Intel. However, you’ll have to make some more drastic compromises in the graphics settings if you want today’s top single-player games to run smoothly.

The AMD Processor Ecosystem

There’s a lot to like about the latest AMD processor architecture. However, you can’t just pay attention to the processor or APU if you want to build a system with these chips.

Take motherboards – where your choice of product determines the kind of machine you’ll be able to build. Almost all of AMD’s Ryzen processors and Raven Ridge APUs use the AM4 socket, which makes things easier. The only exception is Threadripper, which uses a larger socket called TR4.

AMD Ryzen boardThe reliance on a single socket means that more coolers are compatible with Ryzen and Raven Ridge. That bodes well if you don’t want to use AMD’s default hardware – you can choose an affordable air cooler or a more effective liquid-cooled model if you’d like to do some overclocking.

When considering a motherboard, check the number and speed of its memory slots. And check the storage, too: if you want a lightning-fast NVMe SSD then you’ll need an M.2 socket.

Gamers will want to consider PCI-Express x16 slots – and if you might add a second card in the future, make sure you have a second slot.

AM4 motherboards are available in the full-size ATX form factor, which is great for building conventional systems. Handily, micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards are also available. That gives you more versatility when it comes to systems. That’s perfect for producing a compact gaming PC or a tiny living room media system.

And, finally, check your chipset. AM4 uses six different chipsets, all of which have different features. They also all have fundamental improvements, like better memory support and more storage options.

The high-end X370 chipset has the most PCI lanes, the best dual-graphics support and better options when it comes to storage and overclocking.

Boards with the B350 and A320 chipsets have fewer features, but don’t fear – they’ll still sate most people. And the X300 chipset is offers overclocking and dual GPU support for more affordable gaming. At the bottom of the stack is A300 and B300, which offers a basic feature set for simpler systems.

If you want the best high-end gaming ATX boards then you’ll be paying at least £100/$100. That said, it’s easy to find more modest B350 products for between £60/$70 and £90/$95.

If you want to build a tiny PC, expect to pay £100/$100 or more for a mini-ITX board. And if you’re on a budget, you can find ATX AM4 boards for £50/$50 – or sometimes a little less.

RYZEN 7 1800X AM4 RET WOFAMD Ryzen & AMD Raven Ridge: Our Choices

We’ve picked out our favourite AMD Ryzen and AMD Raven Ridge processors for several key scenarios.

If you’re a gamer, then the £290/$329 Ryzen 7 1800X is great: it’ll run every top game – and there’s plenty of overclocking potential. If you’re on a budget, the £249/$289 Ryzen 7 1700 will do the job, too.

For mid-range office systems and general-purpose home rigs, the £147/$160 Ryzen 5 1500X or £218/$199 Ryzen 5 1600X will be perfect. The former chip is a capable quad-core part. The more expensive latter chip has six cores, so it has a bit more versatility.

If you want a monster work system to handle rendering, databases, financial modelling and design, then the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X should be your chip of choice. It’s expensive, at £929/$870, but its sixteen cores will sate your system for years.

If you want a budget gaming system, then the £110/$115 Ryzen 3 1300X is perfect. This chip has ample overclocking potential, and it doesn’t cost the earth. It also has four cores, which is plenty for single-screen gaming.

And, finally, there are the AMD Raven Ridge APUs. They’re both excellent: if you need an extreme budget PC then the 2200G will deliver solid, low-end performance. The 2400G rivals Ryzen 5 in some respects and will handle esports with even more ability.

Chillblast Fusion Centauri Ryzen Threadripper UltimateFurther Reading

We’ve also reviewed several machines that use an AMD processor with the AMD Zen architecture.

The Falcon Raptor RX costs just £570, and it uses the Ryzen 3 2200G – the more affordable APU from the new AMD Raven Ridge range. It’s a tempting rig with a stunning price.

At the other end of the scale is the Chillblast Fusion Centauri Ryzen Threadripper Ultimate. This ridiculous rig costs £7,500 and pairs an AMD Threadripper Ryzen 1950X with two GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards and stunning water-cooling. It’s the most expensive PC we’ve ever reviewed.

Another Chillblast machine, The Fusion Yogscast, delivers loads of power for gaming or productivity thanks to an AMD Ryzen 7 1800X. The CyberPower Ultra 7 GTX is a mid-range system that offers the AMD Ryzen 7 1700 for less than £1,000. Our other favourite mid-range rig is the Wired2Fire Pyro Ultima, which has an AMD Ryzen 5 1500X and a GTX 1060 6GB graphics card for a tempting £828 price.

Discuss our AMD Ryzen and AMD Raven Ridge guide on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or click here to read about the best desktop PCs.

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AMD Ryzen and Raven Ridge

About Author

Mike Jennings

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