The switch from Intel to AMD Ryzen: A year later…

I have never purchased a pre-built PC.  My very first PC came courtesy of my older brother back in the late 90’s (swapped my Amiga 500 for it).  My brother gave me external 5/14 hard drives (didn’t always spin up at first power on).  My next PC was my first self-build; a 486sx.  I purchased the parts, built and overclocked it by a staggering 25mhz!  Thus began my path of self-build PCs as well as building for other people.  I eventually built my brother a PC (Wolfdale era).

By the time I built my “Prescott” system I was cooling below zero with TEC and liquid (-7c idle and 14c full load).  I went through a series of cooling experiments with the various systems back in the mid 2000’s.  I had only ever built Intel based systems (not out of brand loyalty, more out of habit).  There was a time when AMD outperformed Intel processors (that state persisted for a number of years).  At a certain point I was planningt to ditch Intel and build my first AMD system, that is until Intel unleashed “Core Duo”...  Thus I stayed with the blue team for many more years… until 2017.

Ryzen came to market with the promise of competitive performance and lower pricing.  While Intel offered faster single-threaded performance… Ryzen was able to pull ahead in heavy multi-threaded applications such as 3d rendering.  I spent some weeks gathering up the courage to  jump ship to AMD… I wondered if it would bring any stability issues with the 3d software I use?  I needn’t have worried, there were no issues.

Good and bad…

My old i5 2500K was stable at 4.8ghz on liquid cooling, whereas my Ryzen 1700 isn’t stable past 3.85ghz.  At a certain point (around March 2018) I came very close to ditching the Ryzen and running back to Intel.  I was disappointed by the lower overclocks.  I’d made a number of attempts to boost performance for my flight sim interest (DCS World and IL-2).  I made a last-ditch attempt to push up the frame-rate (running HTC Vive VR on a GTX 1070); entered the BIOS and manually set all of the ram timings courtesy of a ram timings calculator.  To my surprise my system booted with the low latencies given to me by the calculator.  Windows booted much faster, was noticably snappier, Cinebench score was consistently higher.  The ram timing optimisation has made a dramatic difference to performance.  It is clear then that Ryzen is very dependant on low latency timing optimisation.  Relying on AUTO settings will not give Ryzen users anywhere near full performance.  Relying only on CPU and RAM overclock will not release full performance potential.  Ryzen needs low latency ram optimisation to unlock full performance.  The degree of success you have with these timing optimsations can vary according to motherboard/bios and DDR4 pedigree.  I went extreme and purchased 8Pack 4000mhz DDR4 to boost my chances of getting higher performance via lower latency settings and higher clock speed.

So, a year on from my switch to AMD I can say I am now at home with this system.  I was increasingly tired of Intel’s use of thermal paste on the IHS together with rising prices.

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