AMD Readies New Remedies for Ryzen

BIOS updates, AGESA revisions, and engine updates…

Last week AMD published another entry in an ongoing series of Community Updates that are aimed at soothing concerns about their Ryzen CPUs. In this blog AMD announced a roadmap of AGESA updates that will improve the stability of Ryzen in FMA3 workloads and improve the performance of its memory controller.

AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture

AGESA release should be rolling out to end-users through another round of BIOS updates over the next couple of weeks. This update resolves the FMA3 stability issue, a S3 sleep state issue, problems with high precision event timers (HPET) in Windows 10, and reduces memory latency by about 6 ns. Previous AGESA updates resolved stability and memory controller performance problems in prelaunch revisions of Ryzen. Looking to the future AMD is working on an overclocking-focused AGESA update in May that aims to offer better support for clocking DDR4 memory above 2666 Mhz.

AMD’s Shaky AM4 Platform

It’s been an interesting process to watch as AMD and its partners have refined their DDR4 memory support. From the prelaunch BIOSes where XMP profiles failed to set DRAM voltage correctly on some motherboards to a second set of post launch BIOS updates that provided better stability at memory clocks above 2933 Mhz.

While it’s unfortunate that Ryzen’s memory controller, platform, and ecosystem were so rough at launch it appears that AMD’s commitment to refining Ryzen and resolving these pain points is not wavering in the face of motherboard shortage and a month’s worth of harsh critiques.

At S|A we opted to suspend our testing of AMD’s 1700 and 1700X SKUs after our 1800X review went live because of the issues and inconsistencies that surrounded the AM4 platform at the time. Our resources are limited and we can’t afford to re-review derivative Ryzen parts once a month.

As some have noted our 1800X review showed Ryzen in a better light competitively than a number of other reviews. This comes down three factors: our use of an RX 480, our commitment to using the latest BIOS revisions, and our test suite’s focus on real world workloads.

That’s not to say that working with Ryzen has not been a frustrating and at times infuriating process. While the AM4 platform isn’t out of the woods yet at least we can now see where AMD is leading us.

Windows 10 Power Management

Another item that AMD has been mentioning since before launch but that has yet to arrive is a utility/app/OS patch that automatically configures Windows 10’s power management settings to maximize Ryzen’s performance potential. According to AMD Ryzen is at its best when it’s not taking power management orders from Windows. Hopefully we’ll see this roll out in the near future.

Gaming Performance

AMD also used this Community Update to highlight some impressive performance gains in Ashes of the Singularity and DOTA2 which have both been updated with optimizations for Ryzen.  AotS performed 30 percent better on Ryzen with the latest update than it did at launch. Minimum frame rates in DOTA2 have also improved by about 15 percent according to AMD.

Simultaneous multithreading

In the first Community Update AMD claimed that SMT has a neutral to positive performance impact in games. Our own testing and the review that AMD linked to support this claim both happen to dispute it. In Civ VI we’ve found that 99th percentile frametime improve by 10 percent and turn times decrease by 6 percent when you disable SMT on the 1800X. In the Techspot review that AMD linked disabling SMT resulted in smaller gains in both minimum and average framerates. Of course the experiential difference is insignificant in most scenarios. But if you need the best gaming performance then disabling SMT on Ryzen is a reasonable choice.

It’s been a few years since we looked at the impact of SMT on Intel’s chips so while we can’t make any cross vendor comparisons today. Still SMT impact is clearly a good target for future investigation.

For now it’s time to sit tight and wait for Ryzen 5 which is coming next week on April 11th.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.