AMD executives said Thursday that the company is working with developers to ensure the “vital optimizations” required to boost the disappointing performance of its Ryzen chip in low-end gaming applications.
In PCWorld.com’s review, AMD’s Ryzen competed well when paired with a high-end GPU, in graphics-bound games that could take advantage of Ryzen’s multicore capabilities. At the more common 1080p resolutions, though, Ryzen struggled.
That will change, AMD chief executive Lisa Su promised fans in a series of posts on Reddit. “We hear people on wanting to see improved 1080p performance and we fully expect that Ryzen performance in 1080p will only get better as developers get more time with ‘Zen,’” Su wrote. “We have over 300+ developers now working with ‘Zen’ and several of the developers for Ashes of Singularity and Total [War:] Warhammer are actively optimizing now.”
Why this matters: AMD’s claims that it had elevated Ryzen’s instructions per clock more than 50 percent over the previous generation didn’t match up with its, well, surprising lack of performance when tested in real-world gaming. And when Ryzen was beaten by a 5-year-old (overclocked) processor?! Wow. But it’s true that Ryzen is a brand-new architecture, in a PC market dominated by Intel, and that developers are still catching up. Let’s just hope that AMD and developers can patch up Ryzen’s performance to a level users had hoped for.
The Ryzen strategy: Boost performance via patches
Late in our review, AMD provided a statement promising that gaming performance would get better. So why didn’t the company recognize that Ryzen’s 1080p and 1440p gaming performance would suffer, and prepare reviewers accordingly? According to Robert Hallock, a member of the CPU technical marketing team at AMD, reviewers ended up using a number of unoptimized benchmarks.
“We clearly have some work to do with game developers on some of these titles to invest in the vital optimizations that can so dramatically improve an application’s performance on a new microarchitecture,” Hallock wrote. “This takes time, but we’ll get it done.”
Specifically, Hallock said that games will be patched to improve performance on the Ryzen architecture. Oxide Games, Bethesda, and Sega are already working with AMD on “near-term optimizations” that will improve Ryzen’s gaming performance, he wrote.
“[W]hat’s also clear is that there’s a distribution of games that run well, and a distribution of games that run poorly,” Hallock added. “Call it a ‘bell curve’ if you will. It’s unfortunate that the outliers are some notable titles, but many of these game devs (e.g. Oxide, Sega, Bethesda) have already said there’s significant improvement that can be gleaned.”
Hallock also addressed concerns that Ryzen’s architecture was too limiting. Though Ryzen only supports 40 PCI Express lanes, Hallock said that was satisfactory for about 98 percent of the desktop market and that the number of lanes would not be increased. Hallock also dismissed the need to move to quad-channel RAM, writing that dual-channel was enough. Hallock further stated that the consumer Ryzen chips support ECC memory for servers and NAS boxes, though the ECC capability has not been formally validated, or tested, by the company. (AMD’s first chip for servers, Naples, will be released later this year.)
AMD plans to continue working with motherboard vendors to further refine their BIOSes, and with developers to ensure that game performance matches the competition. Early motherboard BIOSes were “troubled,” Hallock wrote, as disabling features would turn off cores. AMD’s Ryzen also benefits from the “high performance” Windows power setting, which turns off core parking, and from disabling High Precision Event Timers within the BIOS. And, of course, there’s the simple fact that some games use code optimized for AMD’s rival, the Core chips manufactured by Intel.
“These are just some examples of the early growing pains that can be overcome with time,” Hallock wrote.
The bottom line: Though Hallock acknowledged that the Ryzen’s memory controller would be an “area of improvement” for AMD, he denied that AMD was responsible for Ryzen’s low-end gaming performance. “There is no architectural reason why the remaining [game] titles should be performing as they are,” he wrote.