With the arrival of Ryzen early this year the discussion of desktop computing performance got interesting again. Ryzen 7 delivered next-level productivity performance at prices previously unheard of for 8-core/16-thread CPUs. With PC gaming being a key part of the performance equation for many enthusiasts, it was still open for debate how good gaming on AMD's new chips was as first reviews gave us a less than impressive outlook in spite of all that processing power.
By the time Ryzen 5 came around a month later, AMD took a number of important steps to improve performance and compatibility of the Ryzen platform. Gaming saw noteworthy gains but Ryzen kept trailing the Core i7-7700K in the vast majority of modern titles.
At this point, countless theories have been presented to explain Ryzen's weakness on gaming performance, and most of them have proven to be incorrect. However, early on many noticed that Ryzen's DirectX 12 performance was not good, which added to the confusion as we expected the core-heavy AMD CPUs to have an advantage using the more modern API.
After further investigation, the guys at AdoredTV discovered that Ryzen's poor performance in some DirectX 12 titles, namely Rise of the Tomb Raider, was actually down to the GeForce graphics card. This discovery set online discussion alight with claims that Nvidia was gimping Ryzen's gaming performance and with no high-end AMD GPUs on the market this was harder to verify.
But this alone couldn't explain away Ryzen's often lackluster gaming performance, as the issue was only seen in select DX12 titles and wasn't a problem for older DX11 games. DX11 simply favors higher clock speeds and Intel still has a significant advantage here. Couple higher clocks frequencies with superior IPC performance and that makes it difficult for Ryzen to put in a strong showing with these older titles.
Still, Ryzen should look very capable in games taking advantage of DirectX 12 and yet with a GeForce graphics card handling the rendering work this wasn't the case in Rise of the Tomb Raider, Total War Warhammer, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, The Division, and Hitman, to cite some examples. The good news is that with the release of Vega 64, we how have a high-end GPU from AMD and one that we can compare to the GeForce GTX 1080.
Like Ryzen, Vega has had a bumpy launch on the gaming performance front and some have even blamed that on Intel's CPUs, which are often used for testing high-end GPUs. So I thought, why not kill two sets of benchmarks with one go?
Ryzen 5 System Specs
Kaby Lake System Specs
By using the Core i7-7700K and Ryzen 5 1600, each with the Vega 64 and GTX 1080 at 1080p and 1440p we have some very interesting results to go over. Further, we suspect these are typical hardware combinations many are considering for building a new high-end rig when gaming is a big factor.
For testing we have overclocked both CPUs: the 7700K was pushed to 4.9GHz while the Ryzen 5 1600 sat at 4GHz, both fairly typical overclocks for these CPUs...
Starting things off, let's check out the Battlefield 1 results. I'm still testing this title using DX11 as it generally provides the best results. That said, I do have to investigate DX12 performance again here and I will do that soon. For now we have the DX11 figures.
Here the Ryzen 5 1600 is extremely competitive, even at 1080p, though it has to be said the 1% low results are noticeably lower. Still, the margins between the GTX 1080 and Vega 64 graphics cards to remain much the same with either CPU.
PlayerUnkonwn’s Battlegrounds isn't a game we tested with previously as it wasn't released back when I conducted my initial Ryzen vs. Core i7 tests. Given how hugely popular the game is right now, I thought we might as well take a look anyway. Looking at the 1080p results first, we see that Vega 64 delivers the exact same performance using either the R5 1600 or 7700K.
The GTX 1080 on the other hand sees slightly lower 1% results with the R5 1600 than Vega 65 did, though the average is slightly increased. However, the GTX 1080 was miles faster with the 7700K, which is likely down to the fact that we have more headroom here with the faster CPU. This certainly seems to be the case as we move to 1440p as here the GTX 1080 delivers the exact same performance using either CPU.
We also noticed something of interest at 1440p: the Vega 64 is slightly faster using the R5 1600 versus the 7700K. Spoiler... this won't be the last time you'll see results like this.
Remember that all the results in this article are based on an average of three runs. However, these results were reconfirmed days later and I found the exact same margins. Also as I said, other games exhibited this same strange behavior at 1440p as well.
In fact, another game where we can see this is DiRT 4. Here Vega 64 was consistently faster with the R5 1600 processor at 1440p. The margins weren't huge but here Vega delivered 7% more frames on average with the Ryzen CPU. Oddly however it was a different story at 1080p and here the 7700K provided 5% more frames with Vega.
In an interesting twist Ryzen was consistently faster than the Core i7 at both resolutions when comparing the 1% low results with the GTX 1080. So DiRT 4 provided quite a few interesting results for us.
Dawn of War III, F1 2016, Mass Effect Andromeda
Moving on, I have some more typical results, though some explaining will still be in order here. At 1080p we again see that the Core i7-7700K is quite clearly the better CPU in this title and interestingly Vega 64 actually does much better with the Intel CPU. The GTX 1080 was 5% faster than Vega 64 when using the 7700K but 10% faster with the R5 1600.
Moving to 1440p things change quite a bit but this has less to do with the CPUs and more to do with Vega 64 coming on stronger at higher resolutions. The 7700K also allows Vega to stretch its legs more. Here it was 18% faster than the GTX 1080 while it was just 12% faster using the R5 1600.
Next we have the F1 2016 results -- what's going on here? Well at 1080p it's pretty standard stuff, the 7700K provides the best results and allows Vega 64 to deliver a better 1% low result. Meanwhile, Ryzen 5 is slower and limits both cards to the same 1% low performance.
Increasing the resolution to 1440p allows Vega to comfortably pull ahead of the GTX 1080 when using the 7700K. However, with the R5 1600 we see that while Vega does deliver a better 1% low result it falls slightly behind for the average result. Basically what we are seeing here is better overall performance using the 7700K so it will be interesting to see if it's the same story with F1 2017. Unfortunately though I haven't had time to include that title yet.
Mass Effect Andromeda provides what are probably the most 'normal' looking results we've seen so far. They're also highly competitive for what that's worth. Ryzen really isn't much slower at 1080p and naturally that small margin is reduced further at 1440p. This isn't an overly CPU demanding title but we have seen in the past it does utilize Ryzen quite well.
Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Resident Evil 7
Ryzen is rather competitive in Overwatch at 1080p and in fact does much better with the GTX 1080 than it does Vega 64, which is something we've seen in other DX11 titles. Moving to 1440p the margins close up as the game becomes primarily GPU bound and here the R5 1600 delivers the exact same experience as the 7700K.
We again see more competitive results from the Ryzen CPU, this time when testing with Rainbow Six Siege. That said, at 1080p the 7700K is really able to turn Vega 64 on and get the most out of AMD's high-end GPU, pushing 193 fps on average with an impressive 155 fps for the 1% low result. The GTX 1080 though delivers similar results on both CPUs.
As we move to 1440p the gap closes even more and here the 7700K is only a fraction faster than the R5 1600 while Vega 64 offers slightly better performance than the GTX 1080.
The numbers seen when testing with Resident Evil 7 are similar to those we just saw in Rainbow Six Siege. The Ryzen 5 1600 is again competitive with the 7700K while Vega 64 is able to comfortably edge out the GTX 1080. Of course the Vega graphics card does cost more so this isn't a huge win for AMD, I'm merely noting the margins.
Ghost Recon Wildlands, Ashes of the Singularity, Civilization VI
The last of the DirectX 11 titles tested is Ghost Recon Wildlands and here we again see competitive performance for the most part. Interestingly, with Vega 64 running at 1080p we saw the R5 1600 struggle quite a bit, significantly more than the 7700K. Meanwhile, with the GTX 1080 installed the R5 1600 is competitive with the 7700K.
Increasing the resolution to 1440p we see the R5 1600 struggling with Vega 64, again the 1% low result is particularly troubling. Using the GTX 1080 though we see that Ryzen is indeed now competitive.
Ashes of the Singularity was tested using DirectX 12 and no I haven't had time to explore how the game behaves with Vulkan yet. Anyway, using DX12 we do see some interesting things.
First, at 1080p we are mostly CPU limited I'd say. The 7700K and R5 1600 appear evenly matched under heavy usage scenarios in games as they can be seen delivering similar performance.
Moving to 1440p load begins to shift more towards the GPU but we do see something of note. The R5 1600 and its many threads is still able to get the most out of the Vega 64 GPU and is now quite a bit faster than the GTX 1080. This is also seen when using the GTX 1080, though to a much lesser degree. Vega's superior DX12 support is certainly allowing Ryzen to shine here, at least this is my interpretation of the results.
What was just seen when testing with Ashes of the Singularity is somewhat amplified in Civilization VI. Vega's superior DX12 support appears hampered by the Core i7-7700K's limited cores and as a result Vega 64 is actually seen to be slower than the GTX 1080 at 1080p.
However, throw both the GTX 1080 and Vega 64 graphics cards on the Ryzen 5 1600 and we find a different story. The GTX 1080 is capable of basically the same numbers we saw when testing with the 7700K. However, Vega 64 is now 15% faster for the average frame rate and a whopping 21% faster for the 1% low result.
This massive boost in frame rate can even be seen at 1440p as the R5 1600 allows Vega 64 to push well beyond 60 fps at all times, impressive stuff indeed.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Doom, Hitman
Although Deus Ex: Mankind Divided supports DX12 and is AMD sponsored, it's not terribly demanding on the CPU and therefore the 7700K shouldn't be getting overwhelmed here and it isn't. In fact, the Vega 64 actually performs much better at 1080p with the Intel CPU.
Moving to 1440p, we are now mostly GPU-limited, though it's worth mentioning that at this more realistic resolution the R5 1600 and 7700K deliver the exact same experience.
Doom is another game that's extremely light on CPU usage, even more so than Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. As a result, the R5 1600 and 7700K both deliver the same experience once again and at 1080p run into the 200 fps frame cap.
For the most part, we've seen Ryzen dominating the low-level API testing, or at the very least delivering highly competitive numbers. This isn't true for Hitman though as here the 7700K is quite a bit faster, even at 1440p. The Vega 64 and GTX 1080 GPUs deliver much the same performance on Ryzen as we are heavily CPU-bound here.
Sniper Elite 4, The Division, Rise of the Tomb Raider
Moving on, we have Sniper Elite 4 and these results look much like what we saw when testing with older DX11 titles such as Resident Evil 7 and Rainbow Six Siege for example. The Core i7-7700K does offer slightly better numbers though it has to be said that the Ryzen 5 1600 is competitive and turns in a number of respectable results.
The Division provides fairly typical results much like what we just saw in Sniper Elite 4, here Ryzen is slightly slower but still competitive while the GTX 1080 and Vega 64 GPUs deliver similar results using either CPU.
Much like what we saw in Dawn of War III and F1 2016, for some reason Ryzen really struggles when using Vega 64 at 1080p and this isn't something we saw with the GTX 1080. When at 1440p, we were heavily GPU-bound and the experience is exactly the same regardless of the combo used.
Total War: Warhammer, Prey, Power Consumption
Wrapping up the benchmarks we have Total War: Warhammer and these results are a bit all over the place -- the elephant in the room being Vega's weaker than expected 1% low results. Whereas the GTX 1080 never dipped below 89 fps when paired with the 7700K, Vega 64 dropped down to 70 fps and much the same was seen when using the R5 1600.
The unexplainable 1440p numbers can again be seen, this time when testing with Prey. At 1080p we see competitive performance between the R5 1600 and 7700K as both deliver pretty much the same experience with both GPUs.
However, things change dramatically as we increase the resolution to 1440p. Looking at the GTX 1080 results we see that frame rates with the 7700K are reduced by 40% from what was seen at 1080p. There's around 44% fewer pixels to deal with at 1080p so this makes sense.
Comparing the GTX 1080 results with Ryzen we see just a 24% reduction in frame rate and that doesn't seem possible. It's extremely odd how Ryzen goes from roughly matching the 7700K at 1080p to considerably better average results 1440p. I have no idea why this is happening and I triple checked these numbers of course but I'd love for someone else to confirm them.
Once we increase the resolution to 1440p the margins tighten up and now the 7700K and R5 1600 both deliver a similar experience, as does the GTX 1080 and Vega 64 GPUs.
Fuel consumption is where Ryzen really impresses. Granted, the Core i7-7700K is clocked 23% higher but the Ryzen CPU does pack 50% more cores so its overall consumption is great when gaming. What's less impressive is how much go-juice Vega 64 gobbles up, but we already knew this about Vega 64.
Side-by-side Breakdown of the Results
Not that long ago I compared the overclocked R5 1600 and i7-7700K in 30 games using the GTX 1080 Ti and at 1080p the Ryzen CPU was on average 9% slower. Here we see with the slower GTX 1080 the Ryzen CPU was just 5% slower, so that's pretty well in line with previous findings.
What's interesting to note about this side-by-side game comparison is that in the more modern and well put together titles, Ryzen is extremely competitive. In fact, the only real head scratchers here are Hitman, Dawn of War III and Total War Warhammer.
In many other games such as Dirt 4, Doom, Sniper Elite 4, Battlefield 1, Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division, Prey, Overwatch and Resident Evil 7 we found Ryzen to be extremely competitive. These results are of course based on the GTX 1080 handling the rendering work, so let's see how things look at 1080p with Vega 64.
Dropping in Vega 64 we see that overall Ryzen is actually slightly slower as it now trailed the 7700K by a 7% margin overall. Although the Ryzen 5 1600 processor does much better in Civilization VI, it now struggles in quite a few more titles than what was seen previously with the GeForce graphics card and we'll take a closer look at that in a moment.
For now let's see how things change at 1440p.
At 1440p we are more GPU limited but even so we saw some strange things when comparing the Core i7 and Ryzen CPUs. A number of times Ryzen was at best able to match the 7700K at 1080p though at 1440p delivered noticeably better results. Only in Hitman Ryzen is slower by a 10% margin or greater and as a result is now just 2% slower overall.
Moving to the Vega 64 results at 1440p, we again find that overall Ryzen was a mere 1% slower than the Core i7 processor. The margins on a per-game basis though are significantly different to what we just saw with the GTX 1080 so let's explore that a little closer.
I guess one takeaway here is that it's bad to generalize. For example claiming that Nvidia's DX12 performance handicaps Ryzen is certainly not true in all titles, though we might start to see more of this as newer games take better advantage of modern PC hardware.
For now though, Ryzen isn't always superior in DX12 titles and we can look to Hitman as an example. The 7700K is miles better in this game. Vega 64 doesn't always perform better with Ryzen either, as seen in titles like Dawn of War III, F1 2016 and Rise of the Tomb Raider where we witnessed the R5 1600 doing much better with the Nvidia GeForce GPU.
We also saw how much more the higher 1440p resolution brings both Ryzen and Vega into play. Ryzen still did well at 1080p for the most part, though Vega certainly appears much more competitive at 1440p versus 1080p.
- Ryzen 5 1600 - Amazon, Newegg
- Core i7-7700K - Amazon, Newegg
- GeForce GTX 1080 - Amazon, Newegg
- Radeon RX Vega 64 Liquid Cooled - Amazon, Newegg
Overall, the higher-end Vega 64 parts don't offer a great value while the complete opposite is true for Ryzen. If I didn't have money to burn, which I don't, and I was building a gaming system today intending it to last for the next three, four or possibly even five years, then I'd invest in the Ryzen 5 1600 rather than the more expensive Core i7-7700K, especially if $500+ GPUs aren't in your future.
Bottom line, it's safe to say that it doesn't matter what GPU reviewers use to compare AMD and Intel CPUs and it doesn't matter what CPU reviewers use to compare AMD and Nvidia GPUs either. It's all fair game.