AMD’s second generation of Ryzen CPUs are finally here. Also known as Ryzen+ or the 2000-series, these four new desktop chips are set to replace last year’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 families, offering more competitive performance compared to Intel’s 8th Gen Coffee Lake CPUs.
There’s a fair amount to get your head round, though, especially when you start throwing AMD’s 2000-series (but not Ryzen+) Ryzen Vega APUs into the mix as well, so I’ve put together this hopefully helpful guide that sets out all things Ryzen-related, including the price and specs of all the chips you can buy right now, as well as the proposed release dates for the rest of AMD’s upcoming Ryzen roll-out plan.
AMD Ryzen Vega: what is it?
AMD started its 2nd Gen Ryzen launch with the release of two 14nm APUs with built-in Vega graphics: the quad-core 3.5GHz Ryzen 3 2200G and the quad-core 3.6GHz Ryzen 5 2400G. These came out on February 12 2018 and currently cost a mere £84 / $105 and £130 / $160 respectively.
Thanks to their integrated Vega graphics, both of these chips can get by playing old and current games at 1080p (albeit on Low quality settings) without the need for a dedicated graphics card – although you’ll have much better results at 1280×720 or 1600×900.
This is great news considering the current GPU price crisis, where everything from the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 right up to the AMD Radeon Vega 64 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti are still astronomically expensive compared to when they first came out. Indeed, we currently don’t recommend you buy any graphics card in our best graphics card list right now unless it’s the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti, which continues to demand relatively sane prices due to its less crypto-mining-friendly performance output.
AMD 2nd Gen Ryzen+ CPUs: specs, price and release date
The main bulk of AMD’s 2nd Gen Ryzen family arrive today (that is, April 19). Code-named Ryzen+, these CPUs consist of four 12nm chips (a pair of Ryzen 7 CPUs and a pair of Ryzen 5 CPUs) that utilise AMD’s Zen+ architecture for the first time. Aimed at enthusiast PC builders, all four CPUs have higher clockspeeds and lower latencies than their 1st Gen predecessors, but you still won’t find any integrated graphics, so you’ll still need to pair them with a dedicated graphics card for playing games.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Ryzen 7 duo. As you can see from the brief summary below, both Ryzen 7 chips will have eight cores and 16 threads, but the more expensive Ryzen 2 2700X gives you a higher base and boost clock speed for an extra $20.
- Ryzen 7 2700X (8 cores, 16 threads, 3.7GHz base clock speed, 4.3GHz max boost clock speed) – £283 / $329
- Ryzen 7 2700 (8 cores, 16 threads, 3.2GHz base clock speed / 4.1GHz max boost clock speed) – £257 / $299
Both CPUs also have a 20MB smart pre-fetch cache to help boost performance, but the X variant has a much higher power-draw than its non-X sibling, drawing 105W as opposed to just 65W. They’ll also come with their own AMD cooler in the box – a Wraith Prism LED version for the Ryzen 7 2700X and a Wraith Spire LED for the regular 2700.
To give you an idea of its performance straight off the bat (full reviews will be here shortly), AMD gave me some figures comparing the Ryzen 7 2700X to Intel’s flagship Core i7-8700K Coffee Lake CPU. In gaming performance, the Ryzen 7 2700X is around 5% slower than the Core i7 (taken over an average of 12 games at 1080p on Ultra settings, according to AMD, although details on the exact graphics card they used were sadly lacking), but comes out much better when used with creative applications such as Blender and Handbrake, giving you a speed boost of around 20%. The same figures also apply to the top-end Ryzen 5 2600X when compared to Intel’s Core i5-8600K.
I will, of course, be testing the Ryzen 7 2700X myself very soon to see how these figures stack up, but when you consider the Ryzen 7 2700X costs $40 less than the Core i7-8700K (and comes with a cooler in the box), the amount you save may just be worth that small trade-off in gaming performance. Then again, if you’re already spending north of $300 on a processor, is another $40 really going to make much of a difference? We’ll have to wait and see.
The pair of Ryzen 5 CPUs, meanwhile, consist of the following:
- Ryzen 5 2600X (six cores, 12 threads, 3.6GHz base clock speed / 4.2GHz max boost clock speed) – £194 / $229
- Ryzen 5 2600 (six cores, 12 threads, 3.4GHz base clock speed / 3.9GHz max boost clock speed) – £170 / $199
With fewer cores than the Ryzen 7 pair, the Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 5 2600 are naturally less expensive than their high-end cousins, although you’ll notice the X version of the Ryzen 5 2600 actually has a higher base and boost clock speed than the baby Ryzen 7.
The downside is a higher power draw, as AMD says the 2600X will have a thermal design point of 95W, while the regular 2600 will also draw 65W like the non-X Ryzen 7 2700. These Ryzen 5 CPUs also only have a 19MB smart pre-fetch cache, and their respective Wraith Spire and Wraith Stealth coolers don’t come with any flashy LEDs.
What is Zen+?
Zen+ is the architecture behind these new processors that puts the + in Ryzen+. It’s not Zen 2, AMD are keen to point out, but an enhanced, tidied up version of what came before. The main focus has been on reducing latency times, with Zen+ delivering up to 11% better memory latency, according to AMD. This should make the 2000-series feel quicker and snappier overall, as well as help with gaming performance.
AMD have also made improvements to its SenseMI technology, specifically its Precision Boost 2 tech, which allows each core to better regulate its own clockspeed on the fly when overclocked and under load, allowing it to reach higher clockspeeds more regularly. Only the X variants, however, will be able to take advantage of what AMD’s calling their Precision Boost Overdrive software, which will give you even greater control over the speed of your CPU.
What difference does 12nm make?
Nm (or nanometer) refers to the size of a processor’s individual transistors. The smaller they are, the more you can cram on to any given bit of silicon, giving you better performance than chips with larger transistors. In this case, AMD’s Ryzen+ CPUs are the first processors to use the 12nm manufacturing process, making them faster and more efficient than both AMD’s 14nm Ryzen Vega chips and its 1st Gen Ryzen processors.
By going down to 12nm, this allows AMD to lift all top clockspeeds by around 250MHz, which is why the Ryzen 7 2700X can now reach that slightly mad max boost clockspeed of 4.3GHz. It also means AMD can reduce the amount of voltage used at every clockspeed, giving you a power consumption saving of 11% compared to its 1st Gen Ryzen chips, and up to 16% more performance when you compare them at the same power consumption level and TDP (or thermal design point) of 65W.
What motherboard do I need for Ryzen+?
In terms of motherboard requirements, all four of these Ryzen+ CPUs will slot happily into pre-existing AM4 sockets, so existing Ryzen owners shouldn’t need to buy a new motherboard. Take that Intel and your forcing of all Coffee Lake buyers to get a new motherboard at the same time…
Even better news is that AMD are planning to provide support for AM4 until 2020, so you’ve still got a good couple of years yet before you’ll need to upgrade. AM4 motherboards cover the following chipsets: A320, B350 and X370. These determine what kind of features you’ll get on your motherboard and can affect a CPU’s overall performance. There are also X300 and A/B300 chipsets that support AM4, but you’ll only find these on small form-factor PCs.
Those after the highest possible performance, however, will be pleased to hear AMD are also releasing a new X470 chipset that will help users get the very best of their new Ryzen+ CPUs. As well as having support for the 2000-series straight out of the box (older AM4 motherboards will require a BIOS update to make them compatible), the X470 chipset comes with AMD’s new StoreMI storage acceleration tech. This is meant to combine the speed of your SSD with the capacity of your hard disk into a single drive, so I’ll be interested to see how this pans out once I get them in for testing. These motherboards will launch alongside the Ryzen+ CPUs, with boards available from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and Asrock.
AMD Ryzen Pro Mobile with Vega graphics: do I need to care?
The next installment coming to the Ryzen family is the next generation of AMD’s Ryzen Pro Mobile processors, this time with built-in Vega graphics. As the ‘mobile’ bit of its name implies, these CPUs will only be found in laptops when they launch by the end of June, and only in business laptops to boot.
We don’t need to worry about these too much, but they’ll no doubt provide a massive graphics boost to creative applications on the move, as well as let hard-working business types kick back with their favourite games once they’ve finished doing important business things.
AMD Ryzen+ Pro: what’s different?
Then, later on in 2018, AMD will release its 2nd Gen Ryzen Pro desktop processors. These are due to arrive sometime in the second half of the year, and will once again be aimed at business desktops, so it’s unlikely these will be readily available to buy at a consumer level.
AMD Ryzen+ Threadripper: release date and HOW MUCH?
Also due to arrive in the second half of 2018 is AMD’s 2nd Gen Ryzen Threadripper CPUs. Much like their ridiculous 16-core predecessors, these are AMD’s answer to Intel’s high-end Core i9 desktop processors. They use a completely different motherboard socket to the Ryzen+ 2000-series, the TR4, as well as a different chipset, the X399.
Not much is known about these just yet, but they’ll no doubt utilise all the Ryzen+ features outlined above, as well as even higher clockspeeds and more efficient technologies. Last year’s Threadripper’s also launched in August, so don’t expect their Ryzen+ versions to appear before then, and you can also expect to fork out at least £350 / $450 for them, if not closer to £900 / $1000 if you want the full 16-core job, as these are the current prices for last year’s Threadrippers. Better start saving now, then…