AMD's New Ryzen Desktop CPUs Outshine Intel's Chips in First Reviews

AMD's newest desktop CPUs strongly outperform Intel's Comet Lake-S CPUs in content-creation and power consumption tests, while often slightly outperforming in gaming tests.
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Reviews are in for AMD’s  (AMD) - Get Report new Ryzen 5000 desktop CPU line, and they suggest the products deliver top-notch performance for both gaming and content-creation workloads.

As it is, AMD’s older Ryzen 3000 desktop CPU line, which launched in 2019 and received a small refresh earlier this year, generally had a content-creation performance edge over comparable products within Intel’s Comet Lake-S desktop CPU line, which launched this spring.

These gains had much to do with the fact that -- aided by its use of Taiwan Semiconductor’s  (TSM) - Get Report 7-nanometer (7nm) manufacturing process node -- AMD’s most powerful desktop CPUs packed more cores and could run more simultaneous threads. Whereas Intel’s  (INTC) - Get Report most powerful Comet Lake-S CPU -- the Core i9-10900K -- contains 10 cores, AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X/XT and 3950X CPUs contain, respectively, 12 and 16 cores.

But while AMD did generally have an edge for multi-threaded content-creation workloads, Intel still often had a meaningful performance lead in gaming tests, thanks to the strong single-thread performance of its CPUs. This particularly held for games played at a 1080p resolution (higher-resolution gaming performance tends to be more GPU-dependent).

As reviews show, however, the story is quite different with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 line.

While core counts for the CPUs haven’t changed relative to those for comparable Ryzen 3000 products and clock speeds have been just slightly tweaked, large performance gains are delivered for both single and multi-threaded workloads thanks to the use of AMD’s new Zen 3 CPU core microarchitecture. AMD claims this new microarchitecture delivers a 19% improvement in terms of instructions per clock (IPC).

In PC World’s gaming tests, the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X and 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X either moderately beat or ran neck-and-neck with the Core i9-10900K when playing titles such as Metro Exodus, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Far Cry New Dawn on systems containing Nvidia’s  (NVDA) - Get Report GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU. This led reviewer Gordon Mah Ung to declare the Ryzen 5000 line to be the best CPUs on the market for gaming.

Not surprisingly, Ung and other reviewers also declared AMD to have the best CPUs for content-creation and productivity workloads. In its tests, Tom’s Hardware found the 5900X outperformed the comparably-priced 10900K by 20% and 23%, respectively, when running the Cinebench R20 video-rendering benchmark and the Handbrake x265 video-encoding benchmark. A 37% lead was revealed when testing multi-threaded workloads through the Geekbench 5 benchmark.

Moreover, since Comet Lake-S relies on Intel’s old 14nm process node, AMD maintains a healthy edge in terms of power consumption and heat dissipation.

In a stress test, Tom’s Hardware found the 5900X and 5950X’s CPU packages consumed 133 and 141 watts, respectively, of power at stock clock speeds, much less than the 10900K’s 170 watts. When testing system-level power draw, Ars Technica found that 5900X and 5950X desktops consumed 214 and 204 watts, respectively, when running Cinebench R20, much less than the 336 watts consumed by a 10900K desktop.

Intel, it should be noted, is prepping a counterattack. In Q1 2021, the company plans to launch its Rocket Lake-S desktop CPU line, which (thanks to the use of a new CPU core microarchitecture known as Cypress Cove) is promised to deliver double-digit percentage IPC gains. Assuming this is true, Rocket Lake-S could (with the caveat that the edge will probably diminish at higher game resolutions) give Intel a moderate gaming performance edge over AMD.

But with Rocket Lake-S set to top out at 8 cores -- two less than what the 10900K provides -- AMD should maintain a large multi-threaded performance lead. And with Rocket Lake-S still relying on Intel’s 14nm node -- Intel’s Alder Lake desktop CPUs, the first to rely on its newer 10nm node, aren’t due until some point in the second half of 2021 -- AMD should also maintain a power consumption edge.

Given the strong demand environment that exists right now for gaming and consumer tech hardware, as well as the elevated demand that TSMC is seeing for advanced process nodes, AMD’s biggest near-term challenge for the Ryzen 5000 line might be supplying enough of them to meet demand. For the moment, the 5900X and 5950X are selling for large premiums on eBay relative to their $549 and $799 list prices (Nvidia, whose new Ampere-architecture GPUs are also selling for large premiums, can sympathize).

But in terms of how gamers and content-creators -- not to mention those who qualify as both -- will judge the competitiveness of the Ryzen 5000 line, AMD has little to be concerned about, given the test scores that were just published in reviews.

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