AMD flexes 7nm muscle with a 12-core Ryzen 9 CPU and Radeon RX 5000 graphics cards

AMD challenges Intel and Nvidia with more efficient CPUs and GPUs, including our first look at the "Navi" brand and some great next-gen Ryzen parts.

Credit: Mark Hachman / IDG

The coremageddon has begun: AMD Monday dropped its long-awaited 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X at Computex on Monday, saying that it will outpace Intel’s 12-core CPUs for almost a third to half the price—and that’s just an inkling of AMD’s 7nm onslaught against Intel and Nvidia.

"To be a technology leader, you have to make big bets," said Lisa Su, AMD's chief executive, speaking at her first Computex keynote. AMD's biggest bet was in developing its chips for 7nm, and those bets are beginning to pay off.

During the kick-off keynote for Computex, AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled:

  • “RDNA,” AMD’s new graphics architecture brand for its next-gen "Navi" core, which will be called the Radeon RX 5700 graphics card and go head-to-head with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070.
  • An 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 3700X with stupidly good power efficiency of 65 watts.
  • An 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 3800X that all but erases any gaming deficits the CPUs have had versus the Intel competition.
  • The world’s first PCIe 4.0-ready PC parts
  • A dual-processor “Rome” Epyc server running laps on a dual-processor Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 server.

The most anticipated news, though, was AMD's Ryzen 9 3900X CPU. Su said the 12-core Ryzen 9 will have a boost clock of 4.6GHz with a base clock of 3.8GHz. The Ryzen 9 3900X will also pack in 70MB of cache and cost just $499.

That's incredibly aggressive, especially when you consider that rival Intel wants $1,199 for its 12-core Core i9-9920X. Intel's core-count per dollar value looks even worse when you consider that AMD claims the Ryzen 9 3900X will outperform it by 14 percent in single-threaded tasks in Maxon’s new Cinebench R20 and 6 percent in multi-threaded tasks. It’s not just Cinebench R20 either. During the keynote, Su showed the Ryzen 9 3900X throwing down with $1,199 Core i9-9920X in a Blender demonstration too.

Even more impressively, the Ryzen 9 3900X will do it with a TDP rating of 105 watts, while the 14nm-based Core i9-9920X has a TDP of 165 watts. That’s not even mentioning that AMD typically measures its maximum thermal dissipation on a worst-case scenario while Intel’s TDP ratings shy toward what it calls normal use. Intel CPUs often exceed their formal TDP.

"We were not satisfied," Su said of the second-generation Ryzen. "Our engineering teams wanted to do more."

ryzen 3000 1 Gordon Mah Ung

The new Ryzen 3000 chips will features PCIe 4.0 support. When combined with a PCIe 4.0 GPU and X570 motherboard, you can build an all PCIe 4.0 system.

The Ryzen 7 3700X’s TDP is just as stunning though. With 8-cores and 16-threads, it’ll produce just 65W of heat and hit a boost clock of 4.4GHz with a base clock of 3.6GHz. A comparable 8-core, 8-thread Core i7-9700K will put out 95 watts (and often exceed that).

While Su didn’t detail where all of the added performance comes from, a lot probably comes from the increased efficiency of the CPU. It had been rumored that the new Zen 2 cores would offer a very impressive 15 percent increase in Instructions Per Clock (or IPC). That rumor turned to be correct, as Su confirmed that the Zen 2 cores are 15 percent more efficiency the previous Zen cores.

Compared to the 95W Core i7-9700K, Su said the 65 watt Ryzen 7 3700X will outperform it by about 1 percent in single-threaded tasks (again using Cinebench R20 as the yardstick) and a smoking 28 percent in multi-threaded tasks. If you’re not impressed by a 1 percent performance difference, remember the Ryzen 7 3700X has a maximum boost clock speed of 4.4GHz while the Core i7-9700K’s Turbo Boost speed is 4.9GHz. And yes, the Ryzen 7 3700X is lower in cost too, with a list price of $329 compared to the $385 for the Core i7-9700K.

If you want to burn a little more power and create a little more heat, Su also teased a second Ryzen 7 3800X that pushes the TDP up to 105 watts. That takes the boost clock to 4.5GHz and the base clock to 3.9GHz. 

Although AMD's Su didn't mention them in her keynote, AMD also announced several new Ryzen chips: the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 3800X (3.9GHz base/4.5GHz boost, 105W, $399); the 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 3600X (3.8GHz base/4.4GHz boost, 95W, $249); and the 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 3600 (3.6GHz base/4.2GHz boost, 65W, $199).

Ryzen’s gaming deficit looks to be erased

Compared to the fantastic Ryzen 7 2700X, the Ryzen 7 3800X has a 34 percent higher frame rate in League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, AMD said. In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s about 22 percent faster, with Overwatch coughing up 21 percent higher frame rates. AMD also said Dota 2 is 15 percent faster and Grand Theft Auto V is about 14 percent faster on the Ryzen 7 3800X. 

AMD didn’t share comparisons against an Intel CPU, but with that sort of frame rate increase, it looks like one of the penalties AMD’s Ryzen chips have long held against Intel CPUs at lower resolutions might be nearly non-existent now (assuming AMD’s numbers come courtesy of a system with a fast GPU like the GeForce RTX 2080 and a common 1080p resolution).

The Ryzen 7 3800X offers about three percent more performance in single-threaded tasks than a Core i7-9700K and about 37 percent increased performance in multi-threaded tasks, AMD said.

But that’s not the CPU that AMD probably wants you compare the Ryzen 7 3800X against. That’s because Su also showed off the Ryzen 7 3800X outperforming Intel’s vaunted 8-core, 16-thread Core i9-9900K by about 1 percent in single-threaded tasks and about two percent in multi-threaded tasks. The Ryzen 7 3800X costs $399 though, while Intel’s Core i9-9900K tilts it at $484 or more on the street.

Why not show the $499 Ryzen 9 3900X against the $484 Core i9-9900K? We’d guess there’s a bit of gamesmanship there. While the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X should easily clean Intel’s clock on multi-threaded tasks, it would also probably lose ground in single-threaded tasks. Of course, they’re both about the same price so it’s probably a wash. (AMD likely gives you a cooler too.)

Winning the race to PCI Express 4

Under the heat spreader, AMD officials told us the 12-core Ryzen 9 will be built using two Client Computing Devices (or CCDs) while the two 8-core Ryzen 7 chips will be built using single CCDs. The CPU is said to have 40 PCIe lanes. How that’s counted up isn’t clear, but it may also count up PCIe lanes in the new X570 chipset too. For its part, Asus appeared on stage to announce that it will have over 30 X570 boards.

We’re still looking for clarity but we’d guess that AMD is counting lanes located in the chipset controller, which typically aren’t as “good” as PCIe lanes in the CPU. We’ll update our story once we have more details. 

Still, even if they’re in the chipset, they’re still PCIe 4.0 lanes though, right? To that point, AMD said with the PCIe 4.0 support in the new Ryzen chips, combined with the PCIe 4.0 in X570 motherboards, plus the PCIe 4.0 in its new Radeon RX 5700, you basically have all the makings of the “world’s first PCIe 4.0-ready gaming PC.”

Company officials are quite proud of that fact because it basically means that AMD already crossed the PCIe 4.0 finish line before Intel and Nvidia appear to even care to enter the race.

A 7nm Radeon RX 5700 too?

radeon rx 5800 Gordon Mah Ung

AMD’s new Radeon RX 5000-series of GPUs will offer 25 percent better performance per clock and 50 percent better performance per watt, the company said.

With Ryzen out of the way, AMD also teased its long-awaited “Navi” graphics architecture. According to Su, over 400 million gamers use the Radeon brand, from consoles to PCs to the data center. 

RDNA, though, was created with the same thinking that powered the Zen brand: a ground-up rebranding for an entirely new architecture, Su said. 

Su said its first 7nm Navi implementation will be part of the first Navi card: the Radeon RX 5000 family (with the 50-00 name deriving from the company’s milestone anniversary this year). The first GPU to hit the road will be the Radeon RX 5700, which will go toe-to-toe with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070. As AMD’s first 7nm GPU, Su said the card will hit higher clock speeds and use less power than the current Radeon generation.

And Su Radeon Mark Hachman/IDG

With a multi-level cache hierarchy, the Radeon RX 5700 offers greater bandwidth too. Su said the new Radeon RX 5000-series cards and their RDNA GPU architecture will offer 25 percent greater performance per clock and 50 percent greater performance per watt than its previous Vega-based cores. AMD also showed off a "preview" of Navi outperforming an RTX 2070 on Strange Brigade.

If you’re thirsty for more details on the Radeon RX 5700, you probably won’t have to wait much longer. Su said the Radeon RX 5700 cards should be available by July, and the company is holding an event at the annual E3 gaming show on June 10, where we’d expect to hear more details, including pricing, about Navi’s consumer form. 

And yup, that July launch is on purpose. AMD said the new Ryzen processors are expected to be available on July 7 (psst, July is the 7th month) because, well, 7nm. As the first major chipmaker shipping 7nm chips to the public, AMD might as well rub it in.

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Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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