New Single Thread Performance Champion?

Aside from rough microarchitectural performance claims, we don’t typically talk much about first-party benchmark numbers – they are unverified and we’d rather hold station until the reviews where we can talk about our own testing. There are a couple of numbers that I do want to pull out of AMD’s marketing however, if only to put some markers in the sand compared to numbers we already have.

One of the favorite benchmarks that both Intel and AMD have used over the years is Cinebench, a test scene render for Cinema4D. AMD has been promoting it with Ryzen because it holds a performance lead, whereas Intel prefers to highlight it as an example of a less-than-ideal representative workload. We use it in our test suite as only one of a number of rendering workloads, covering a large user base. From our numbers, Intel and AMD’s best processors have the following results in a single threaded test:

CineBench R20 Single Thread Score
(As Measured at AnandTech)
AnandTech uArch Process 1C Turbo Score
Intel Core i7-1185G7 Tiger Lake Intel 10nm SuperFin 4.8 GHz 595pts
Intel Core i9-10900K Comet Lake Intel 14+++ 5.3 GHz 538pts
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Zen2 TSMC 7nm 4.7 GHz 536pts
AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT Zen2 TSMC 7nm 4.7 GHz 523pts

(Note that in the single threaded test, the power limits ultimately should not apply because one core should not consume all the power of the chip. For the Tiger Lake processor, because this is a nominal 15 W TDP part with a 50 W turbo, this actually does go above the power limit with one core active, as it scores 554. As a result, the 50 W mode with a 28 W TDP was used and scores 595. This is more akin to a desktop processor anyway.)

AMD’s number for its Ryzen 9 5900X, at 4.8 GHz turbo, is 631.

CineBench R20 Single Thread Score
(As Measured by AMD)
AMD uArch Process 1C Turbo Score
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Zen3 TSMC 7nm 4.8 GHz 631pts

Generation-on-generation, this would be a 17.8% performance increase. Over Intel’s highest performing desktop Core i9, that would be a lead of 17.3%. Over Intel’s latest generation microarchitecture, Tiger Lake, this is a 6% performance increase at the same frequency.

Whichever way you slice it, whether you consider the lead a 17% lead from desktop-to-desktop, or a 6% lead from best-to-best, one thing is clear that if this result is correct, AMD will have the single threaded performance crown.

The previous time that AMD truly held this title was over a decade ago, and ever since the company has been playing catch-up. The argument over having enough single thread performance, if these results are correct, is one that AMD can fight toe-to-toe on. Not only that, but in AMD’s marketing materials, they believe it is a clear cut winner.

Mainstream Gaming

This sort of metric also extends out to gaming, which has been a contentious issue since Ryzen enabled AMD to play in this market again. AMD’s numbers here focus on 1080p gaming for two reasons: firstly it’s an area where CPUs are more important for performance, but secondly because they cite that 1080p monitors are still the bulk of monitor sales for gamers, especially when looking at high refresh rates.

For 1080p high quality gaming, AMD is making two clear claims.

Firstly, when comparing the Ryzen 9 5900X to the Ryzen 9 3900XT, the new processor is stated to boost average frame rates anywhere from +5% up to +50%, with an average around +26%.

Secondly, when comparing the Ryzen 9 5900X to the Core i9-10900K, the new processor is stated to win by 7%, with individual benchmarks varying from a 3% loss to a 21% win.

This latter one is important, as when the Core i9-10900K was released, there as a strong marketing message that this was the best gaming CPU available on the market. Now AMD believes it can make that claim and take the crown. The important element for AMD to manage however is availability – the availability of the 10900K has been so varied that Intel quietly released the 10850K to manage expectations. If AMD can put enough Ryzen 9 5900X processors into the hands of people that want them, then Intel has a bigger step to climb to regain the title when it will reportedly launch its Rocket Lake processors in Q1 next year.

AMD’s Claims

As always, we will wait until we have the hardware on hand to form our own conclusions. These results are AMD first party tests, so the usual standards of caution apply. AMD has a strong history of making accurate claims, confirmed by our testing in recent years, but we still recommend waiting for our review.

Chipset Support

As always, AMD is keen to highlight that the new Ryzen 5000 processors are supported in currently available motherboards. Due to the long life cycle of the AM4 platform, there has been some segmentation between chipset and processor support, however AMD this time around has made it very clear when it comes to supported chipsets. AMD has split its instructions in two.

For 500 series chipset users, motherboards firmware that supports the new hardware should already be available. Users will need to ensure that a minimum AGESA version of is installed which will ensure that the system will boot. For full support and performance, users should update to AGESA for the best experience.

For 400 series chipset users, AMD is currently hard at work with motherboard partners to update their firmware stacks. AMD expects the first beta BIOSes with Ryzen 5000 support to be made available from January, however part of this will be motherboard manufacturer dependent. Full release BIOSes will be at a later date. When asked if the new 5000-series firmware for 400-series chipsets will remove support for older processors, AMD said it would be on a case-by-case basis depending on how the motherboard vendor wanted to enable support.

For users that purchase motherboards that do not have the required BIOS support for Ryzen 5000, the Processor Loan Boot Kit programme will still be available.

A Word on Sticker Shock

It is hard not to notice that AMD is raising the prices of its hardware for this new generation. The company believes that it is truly in a winning position, and that better hardware in the market deserves to be priced at a level that matches this. For any competitive business owner with a belief of a better product, finding that right balance of demand and price is always critical to how to manage sales and ultimately market share.

Anand once said a very insightful phrase to me. “There are no bad products, only bad prices.”

So with AMD asking for another $50 on these processors, is that a lot to ask?

AMD’s argument is that, for performance per dollar, it still retains a healthy lead over its competition in each market segment. The spokespersons were keen to point out that they still remember where AMD has come from to reach this level of performance, and understand that a metric such as performance per dollar has always been high on the list of requirements from its most passionate users. The difference this time around is that, because AMD is claiming it has the best performance on the market, it can now charge that slight premium but still offer a more compelling product.

The success of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 family is easy to see. It offers a very attractive performance per dollar proposition, and nine of the top ten processors on Amazon’s best sellers list are from AMD. Here’s that list, with the pricing as given in our buyer’s guide last week:

Price Options
[#] is Amazon Best-Seller Position
# AMD Price
[1] Ryzen 5 3600 $205
[2] Ryzen 7 3700XT $295
[3] Ryzen 5 3600X $209
[4] Ryzen 5 2600 $149
[5] Ryzen 9 3900X $430
[6] Ryzen 7 3800XT $340
[7] Ryzen 5 3600XT $230
[8] Ryzen 7 2700X $218
[9] Ryzen 3 3200G $100

This is an impressive list, however there a theme I have noticed. Starting from the top, the first four best-selling processors are below $299. The lowest Ryzen 5000-series processor in this launch comes in at the $299 price bracket. Out of that top nine, only #5 and #6 are above $299. This is a clear indication of where the bulk of the market is, especially as AMD is likely in increasing both market share and revenue.

In discussing the pricing with AMD, I noted that the new Ryzen 5000 processors are not only replacing hardware with a $50 higher MSRP, but also replacing hardware that routinely sells below MSRP. This makes the differences more akin to $90-$150. This of course changes some of the dynamic when we start discussing performance per dollar.

AMD’s response to this commentary was the one I would have given if I were in their position. The Ryzen 5000 series is a new product, and the claim of market leading performance means that the early adopters and AMD enthusiasts that want the best on day one will be able to get the hardware they desire. During the initial phase in almost all launches, users looking for the best bang-for-buck build will always look to purchasing the previous generation, which is almost always offered at a good discount as stock transfers to the latest product. AMD believes it has set the pricing of the new Zen 3 processors where it remains competitive, but still balances the message that AMD claims it has the best, most efficient processors.

What Now?

For users looking for processors under that $299 mark, or more offerings at the 65 W TDP, we expect AMD to look at expanding the Ryzen 5000 product list over the next six months. No exact word from AMD was given about what might come in the future. I even asked about Threadripper with Zen 3, but as expected there was no official comment.

As for the processors announced today, November 5th is the date to put in your diary. On this date, reviews will go live, details about the microarchitecture will be revealed, and processors will be available. We’re already pre-testing a LOT of hardware for our review. Let us know what comparisons matter most to you.

AMD Ryzen 5000 and Zen 3 on Nov 5th
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  • Spunjji - Friday, October 9, 2020 - link

    "I will never believe a manufacturer's release hype"

    There's no good reason to apply that to AMD at the moment, though. Comparing them to Nvidia in that regard simply isn't warranted. I won't *buy* before the reviews, but I'm not expecting any big upset between now and then.
  • Kangal - Sunday, October 11, 2020 - link

    No, there is good reason. AMD is not immune to exaggeration, lies, fraud, or corruption. The same goes for other (consumer-friendly) "good guy companies" like LG and even CD Projekt Red.

    Never Pre-order, and Always wait for Reviews.

    ^That above mantra have saved people so much headache and money in the past, that its not funny. Let the idiots with more money than sense, let them waste their cash, and take the unnecessary risk in the tech products. If you don't get the CPU, GPU, Console, Phone, Game etc etc upon release, you're actually not missing out. You could get it a couple days later, or a couple weeks.... or even if it is a couple months later you still aren't missing out. In fact, some smarter people make money off these dumb/rich snobs by buying their older hardware at low prices, and flip it, or use it themselves (ergo Salty RTX-2080Ti owners recently).
  • Spunjji - Sunday, October 11, 2020 - link

    That's not a good reason, it's a truism contradicted by recent evidence. I didn't say we should believe them because they're "good guys", it's because all leaks to this point - and their previous releases - have indicated that these claims are thoroughly plausible.

    Not sure why the lecture about pre-orders, I just openly said I don't think buying before release and review makes sense.
  • Kangal - Sunday, October 11, 2020 - link

    That is a good reason.
    While I don't disagree with your assessment, I'm thoroughly against your premise. Sorry for the lecture, it's just that philehidiot's comment resonanted well with me. And yours was in contrary to it.

    My point is, at any time by any company, you can get duped. Wether if that's a paper launch, exaggerated numbers, or just brilliant marketing/hype. Or a combination of the three. You can never know how a product really measures up until it is tested and verified on the basis of merit.

    Let's look at an example, AMD's first Bulldozer CPUs, their 4c/8t (dubbed 8-core) seemed like a great product on the announcement and worthy of a pre-order. But they weren't upto snuff against Intel's second-gen Core-i processors of the time. You're point is "now is a different time" and that would be correct. But it is an unnecessary risk. There's no need to take the risk. You don't miss out. FOMO is plain BS. It always pays to be intelligent/skeptical as a consumer.
  • Spunjji - Monday, October 12, 2020 - link

    I think you're still misunderstanding me, because we're in agreement that you shouldn't make a decision to buy before launch, reviews, etc.
  • vanilla_gorilla - Friday, October 16, 2020 - link

    He specifically said that you shouldn't buy before reviews but that he doesn't expect any big surprises. AMD has been very accurate for several years about performance improvements in their CPUs. They've developed a track record of integrity. So while it's possible they could suddenly throw it all away its just not _very likely_.
  • JasonMZW20 - Monday, October 12, 2020 - link

    2017 - Broadwell-E 8-core was $1099 (HEDT). Ryzen 1800X 8-core was $499.

    It wasn't so long ago that Intel was charging a small fortune to get more than 4-cores and only incrementally updating its processors which needed new motherboards each time.

    AMD's pricing isn't unreasonable.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, October 13, 2020 - link

    Anyone paying attention can see the "logical" progression:
    2016: "Intel processors cost so much because they are have superior overall performance and perf/watt. Perf/$ is mostly static because AMD suck."
    2017: "Intel processors still cost more because they retain an overall performance advantage. Perf/$ is only relevant to scrubs who can't afford the best, perf/watt rules."
    2018: "Intel processors cost more for similar performance because they perform better in games. Single-core performance is king."
    2019: "Intel processors still cost so much because 99% frame times at 1080p maybe? Who cares about perf/watt anyway. It's about reliability / premium products / etc."
    2020: "How dare AMD charge more than Intel for processors that provide better perf/watt and superior single-core performance. Clearly per/$ is the most important metric. There is no excuse for taking advantage of consumers. I might buy Intel in protest because I am angry about this."
  • Qasar - Tuesday, October 13, 2020 - link

    as i said, if intel does it, its perfectly fine. if amd does it, its a crime, and people loose their minds.
  • Kung Fu - Thursday, October 8, 2020 - link

    lol - Intel been charging $1000 for its flagship CPUs for ages. AMD puts theirs at $549 and $799 and Intel fans cry foul. Unbelievable.

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