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New leaked benchmarks show AMD's Ryzen going toe-to-toe with Intel's Core i7

There’s a new leaked benchmark for AMD’s Ryzen (née Zen), and it shows a CPU core that’s capable of slugging it out with the upper-end of Intel’s product line in a way that no AMD chip has in nearly five years. This is the closest we’ve come to third-party metrics for how Zen will perform — past leaks have either focused on single tests like Ashes of the Singularity or have been official, carefully controlled demos of the chip by AMD itself.

This data comes from French tech magazine Canard PC, which managed to test an engineering sample CPU with a base clock of 3.15GHz and a boost clock of 3.3GHz. That’s below the 3.4GHz base clock that AMD has promised for top-end Ryzen cores, so if we assume a modest boost clock of 3.6GHz it means final test results should be somewhat higher than what we see below.

Since the text is in French, we asked our (non-native) French speaker Jessica Hall to help with the translation, with one paragraph for each result. The first graph is based on 3D rendering and video encoding performance in a number of applications. The ES Ryzen chip with all eight cores active wins past Intel’s six-core Core i7-6800K and is bested only by the eight-core Core i7-6900K, with its much higher boost clock of 3.7GHz. The French reads:

Performance – brute/front-facing/dumb calculations. [this is a straight-up number crunching test]
With its eight true cores, Zen achieves prowess despite its limited frequency [“clock speed?”] of 3.3gHz. It’s getting dangerously close – for intel – to the Core i7 6900K by offering performances comparable to the Core i7 5960X at the same frequency. AMD’s story from a few months ago seems to be well verified in practice, and this is excellent news. Compared to the FX-8370, there’s a performance gain of about 35% at the same frequency, which is also in line with the manufacturer’s forecasts.

Next up, we’ve got an overview of game performance, as calculated using Far Cry 4, Grid: Autosport, BF4, Arma III, X3: TC, The Witcher 3, and Anno 2070. Game performance isn’t literally a single-thread test anymore — most games can take advantage of four or so cores — but only a handful of titles can reliably benefit from more than that. This is particularly true where Intel chips are concerned, since Intel CPUs have offered vastly better single-thread performance than their AMD counterparts. Of the two sets of benchmarks, this is going to be less friendly to AMD than its counterpart above. The French translation is: “If the results seem much more disappointing across the average of video games tested, keep in mind that the prototype tested was an 8-core with a fairly low frequency (particularly in Turbo mode). However, the games remain very sensitive to frequency and still struggle to exploit more than four cores. Difficult in these conditions to compare it with a core i7 whose frequency exceeds 4GHz. Still, the Zen architecture shows an efficiency that we have not seen in AMD for a long time.”

Closing to within 3% of the Core i5-6500K is a significant achievement for Ryzen, since we expect clock speeds to be at least modestly higher on shipping hardware. It’s also a vast improvement over previous generation cores based on Excavator or Piledriver. For the first time, if these leaks are accurate, AMD can credibly say it’s offering some competition to Intel in gaming.

Finally, there’s power consumption. The text states: “The power consumption measurement of the Zen CPU was taken from the amperemeter[multimeter? voltmeter/ammeter?] clamp on the ATX 12V connector at full load. Although it is less accurate than the oscilloscope we usually use, it gives a good idea of the performance of the 14nm LPP process of Global Foundries. After removing the VRM losses from the motherboard, it can be estimated that the CPU consumes just under 90W, a value very close to that of a 6900K. Auspicious results for the future.”

Again, very strong results here from AMD. Ryzen at 93W is significantly below the FX-8370, yet much faster than that core. In absolute terms, Intel’s performance-per-watt is likely higher, though this will need to be checked benchmark-by-benchmark. What’s changed is that AMD can, once again, credibly claim to be offering competitive performance. It’s a huge leap forward for the smaller CPU firm.

As always, these test results should be taken with a grain of salt. They aren’t official, they aren’t run on final hardware, and they can’t be verified at this point. But, importantly, these test results do generally match what I’ve personally been expecting Zen would offer. It’s never been reasonable to think AMD would, in one fell swoop, leap from farther behind Intel than it ever was during the Bad Old Days when the P4 was cleaning the Athlon XP’s clock. What AMD needs Zen / Ryzen to do is prove that it can build a chip that’s competitive with Intel, at solid price points, with a core it can scale and improve over the next few years. If these benchmarks are accurate, with a little more oomph from clock speed and a little adjustment for the whims of any specific single test, it’s done that overall.

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