Anirudh RegidiAugust 12, 2021 14:46:12 IST
The years 2020-21 have been an interesting period for computers. The increase in demand and the severe shortage caused by the pandemic mean that supply just couldn’t keep up with demand. Prices have been everywhere and parts are rarely in stock. Thus, getting AMD’s new Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000 chips has proven challenging.
Now, 6 months after the launch of the chips, things are finally looking up and we’re seeing processors and graphics processors on store shelves. If you’ve, like me, been waiting for an update for several years, it’s a good time to look at where things are and think again about that long-awaited update.
So … what processors should we buy in 2021?
AMD vs Intel: Design
Before we dive in, it’s worth looking at how AMD and Intel have approached CPU design. This will help us understand the strengths and weaknesses of the chips and inform us of our purchase decision.
If you want to go directly to the data, go to Part II of the overview here.
If we think of a CPU as a factory where data (raw material) is processed into a finished product, Intel’s approach is similar to Teslan’s Gigafactory, where everything happens under one roof, and AMD’s more decentralized approach, which includes smaller factories (called Core CompleX or CCX) and a complex data transfer system. (which AMD calls Infinity Fabric) between these mini-factories. Zen 3 also introduced chips where each component (such as CCX) can be manufactured separately.
Intel’s monolithic architecture means that the processor is designed and manufactured essentially as a single unit. This is good for efficiency and performance because everything works at the so-called frequency – but the design is difficult to scale and expensive to manufacture. An error in one transistor can ruin the entire chip. Whether you’re buying a quad-core or 10-core Intel processor, the entire processor works as a single unit in all respects.
AMD’s distributed approach divides the CPU into two main components: CCX and IO. A CCX is a 6- or 8-core unit that handles processing, while an IO mold handles data transfer between the CPU and other components (RAM, storage, GPU, etc.). AMD’s Infinity Fabric handles internal communication between CCX devices and the IO mold.
This design not only allows AMD to mix and match these CCXs as needed, but also allows AMD to scale the design relatively easily and offer more cores at a relatively low cost. AMD could simply add more CCXs to the design and build 6 (1x 6-core CCX), 8 (1x 8-core CCX), 12 (2x 6-core CCX), 32 (4x 8-core CCX) processors with relatively small changes design. Note that the Zen 3 currently exceeds 16 cores, but previous models hit 64-core cores.
The disadvantage of this approach is, of course, the difficulty of keeping these separate modules in sync. Tooth decay and developer support aside, this challenge played a significant role in the fact that AMD’s previous architectures – Zen and Zen + – did not offer real competition to Intel in 2017 and 2018. I think their biggest achievement was forcing Intel to lower prices and double the core drops in its CPUs.
Zen 2 vs Zen 3, and Intel’s answer
Zen 2, which arrived in 2019, was a major update that introduced the chips, 2nd Gen Infinity Fabric, which was much more powerful, larger cache (think of it as RAM, but on a CPU), 7nm manufacturing process, and support for PCIe Gen 4 (doubles bandwidth for GPU and PCIe-based storage).
Chiplets are small chips that can be manufactured separately and integrated into a larger mold. This in turn lowers CPU manufacturing costs because the returns are higher – a smaller chip has fewer fault points.
Intel’s response was a hot mess in the absence of a better sentence. Intel 10th The Gen Core architecture called Comet Lake was fast and beat Zen 2 on the game front, but was only able to do so when it was incredibly hot and consumed a huge amount of power. The Intel Core i9 10900K I was tested in 2020 and had a rated power of 125 W TDP (Thermal Design Power, an indicator of the heat that the CPU cooler needs to evaporate), easily reaches 300 W when pushed to the limit. The 240 mm liquid cooling loop was barely able to control temperatures and operate at 90-95 ° C with fan h normal. I used a 16-core 5950x with the same cooler with no problems and minimal noise.
In addition, Comet Lake had no support for PCIe Gen 4 and was based on a heavily modified 6th Gen microarchitecture and a respectable 14 nm fabrication process introduced in 2015.
While Comet Lake was Intel’s first chip to be competitively priced, the cost savings were offset by the need for expensive motherboards (overclocking and faster RAM support) and cooling solutions to make these chips work.
AMD squeezed Intel’s heels, and the Zen 2 had already proven to be a very good value.
Then, just months later, came Zen 3.
Zen 3: Overview
The name indicates that Zen 3 is a new architecture. than a completely new architecture.
The biggest upgrade here is to CCX, which now has up to 8 cores per CCX from the previous 4-core. Previous generation 6- and 8-core processors used 2x 3-core CCX and 2x 4-core CCX, respectively. Each Zen 3 CCX gets up to 32MB of L3 cache (ultra-fast data buffer), which is 16MB more than the previous generation.
Speaking of which, here is a complete list of Zen 3 desktops currently available to consumers. Variants of these processors are currently available to OEMs, but cannot be purchased at retail:
|Cores / threads
|Turbo frequency (GHz)
|L3 cache (MB)
|Ryzen 5 5600x
|Ryzen 7 5800x
|Ryzen 9 5900x
|Ryzen 9 5950x
The fundamental frequencies are what you get with the basic TDP and they increase based on your cooling solution. With my settings, these processors usually enjoy about 4.5 GHz on all cores at full load, and only the 5950x struggles to exceed the 4 GHz limit. Given the number of packed cores, this is understandable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Intel processors easily cross the 5 GHz limit with light, single-threaded loads, such as gaming, and I’ve personally pushed the Intel 10700K and 10900K into a 5-inch and 4.9 GHz core turbo with minimal effort. This is primarily Intel’s strength.
In fact, AMD claims that the IPC improvement of the Zen 3 is 19 percent compared to the Zen 2.
Neither of these processors has an integrated GPU.
11th Gen Intel (Rocket Lake) vs. Zen 3
Intel’s answer was … at least weird.
We had high expectations from Rocket Lake aka 11th Gen Intel Core architecture, but instead we got hacked. Hacking work done by some of the best engineers on the planet, but hacking work nonetheless.
Rocket Lake, Intel’s “2021” core architecture, was essentially a 10nm-based 2019 microarchitecture (designed for low-power laptops) that has been ported back to the 14nm manufacturing process and incorporated into the GPU architecture from the 2020 CPU upgrade. Yes, it’s just as confusing as it sounds.
But that’s not all. 6- and 8-core processors are essentially the same chip, 6-core with 2 cores, and 4-core 11th The Gen3 parts are actually only 10th Gen Comet Lake parts, some changes.
You can’t just take something built to 10 nm and magnify it by 40 percent and expect things to work. The length of processing paths changes, latencies increase, voltages and power consumption increase, heat increases, etc. The result is, as expected, a power-hungry chip that runs so hot that the flagship 11900K had to drop two cores. the core-to-core latency increases significantly and performance is low compared to the best games in Zen 3.
The 8-core flagship is actually so bad that the previous-generation 10-core 10900K won it in many workloads. Compared to 12- and 16-core Zen 3 chips, Intel’s flagship is pale.
I haven’t tested these 11th Gen Core desktop processors yet, so I’ll just summarize what dozens of reviewers have reported online:
- When it comes to high-end desktop processors, Intel’s way lost the plot. The high price, low number of cores, and the need for expensive cooling and motherboards mean there is very little value here. The bottom of the spectrum of Core i5 parts is still decent, but only if you already have an expensive motherboard or aren’t going to overclock. Even then, overclock the Zen 2 processor or 10th Gen’s Intel processor is usually a better option.
- For games, only 11700K and 11900K manage to beat the corresponding Zen 3 chips (5800x, 5900x, 5950x), but only by a small margin and again at a huge expense of heat and power.
If you’re looking for a high-end desktop in 2021, it only leaves you with a Zen 3, or Ryzen 5000.
In Part II, we’ll go through Zen 3 and take a closer look at its performance.