2017 CPU Benchmarking

For our review, we are implementing our fresh CPU testing benchmark suite, using new scripts developed specifically for this testing. This means that with a fresh OS install, we can configure the OS to be more consistent, install the new benchmarks, maintain version consistency without random updates and start running the tests in under 5 minutes. After that it's a one button press to start an 8-10hr test (with a high-performance core) with nearly 100 relevant data points in the benchmarks given below. The tests cover a wide range of segments, some of which will be familiar but some of the tests are new to benchmarking in general, but still highly relevant for the markets they come from.

Our new CPU tests go through six main areas. We cover the Web (we've got an un-updateable version of Chrome 56), general system tests (opening tricky PDFs, emulation, brain simulation, AI, 2D image to 3D model conversion), rendering (ray tracing, modeling), encoding (compression, AES, h264 and HEVC), office based tests (PCMark and others), and our legacy tests, throwbacks from another generation of bad code but interesting to compare.

Our graphs typically list CPUs with microarchitecture, SKU name, cost and power. The cost will be one of two numbers, either the 1k unit price 'tray price' for when a business customer purchases 1000 CPUs, or the MSRP likely to be found at retail. The problem here is that neither Intel nor AMD are consistent: Intel has a tray price for every CPU, but an MSRP only for parts sold at retail. AMD typically quotes MSRP for CPUs at retail, tray prices for enterprise CPUs, and doesn't say much about OEM only parts. We try to find a balance here, so prices may be $10-$20 from what you might expect.

A side note on OS preparation. As we're using Windows 10, there's a large opportunity for something to come in and disrupt our testing. So our default strategy is multiple: disable the ability to update as much as possible, disable Windows Defender, uninstall OneDrive, disable Cortana as much as possible, implement the high performance mode in the power options, and disable the internal platform clock which can drift away from being accurate if the base frequency drifts (and thus the timing ends up inaccurate).

Web Tests on Chrome 56

Sunspider 1.0.2
Mozilla Kraken 1.1
Google Octane 2.0

System Tests

PDF Opening
3DPM v2.1
Dolphin v5.0
DigiCortex v1.20
Agisoft PhotoScan v1.0

Rendering Tests

Corona 1.3
Blender 2.78
LuxMark CPU C++
LuxMark CPU OpenCL
POV-Ray 3.7.1b4
Cinebench R15 ST
Cinebench R15 MT

Encoding Tests

7-Zip 9.2
WinRAR 5.40
AES Encoding (TrueCrypt 7.2)
HandBrake v1.0.2 x264 LQ
HandBrake v1.0.2 x264-HQ
HandBrake v1.0.2 HEVC-4K

Office / Professional

Chromium Compile (v56)
SYSmark 2014 SE

Legacy Tests

3DPM v1 ST / MT
x264 HD 3 Pass 1, Pass 2
Cinebench R11.5 ST / MT
Cinebench R10 ST / MT

A side note - a couple of benchmarks (LuxMark) weren't fully 100% giving good data during testing. Need to go back and re-work this part of our testing.

2017 CPU Gaming Tests

For our new set of GPU tests, we wanted to think big. There are a lot of users in the ecosystem that prioritize gaming above all else, especially when it comes to choosing the correct CPU. If there's a chance to save $50 and get a better graphics card for no loss in performance, then this is the route that gamers would prefer to tread. The angle here though is tough - lots of games have different requirements and cause different stresses on a system, with various graphics cards having different reactions to the code flow of a game. Then users also have different resolutions and different perceptions of what feels 'normal'. This all amounts to more degrees of freedom than we could hope to test in a lifetime, only for the data to become irrelevant in a few months when a new game or new GPU comes into the mix. Just for good measure, let us add in DirectX 12 titles that make it easier to use more CPU cores in a game to enhance fidelity.

Our original list of nine games planned in February quickly became six, due to the lack of professional-grade controls on Ubisoft titles. If you want to see For Honor, Steep or Ghost Recon: Wildlands benchmarked on AnandTech, point Ubisoft Annecy or Ubisoft Montreal in my direction. While these games have in-game benchmarks worth using, unfortunately they do not provide enough frame-by-frame detail to the end user, despite using it internally to produce the data the user eventually sees (and it typically ends up obfuscated by another layer as well). I would instead perhaps choose to automate these benchmarks via inputs, however the extremely variable loading time is a strong barrier to this.

So we have the following benchmarks as part of our 4/2 script, automated to the point of a one-button run and out pops the results four hours later, per GPU. Also listed are the resolutions and settings used.

  • Civilization 6 (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation* (1080p Extreme, 4K Extreme)
  • Shadow of Mordor (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #1 - GeoValley (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #2 - Prophets (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rise of the Tomb Raider #3 - Mountain (1080p High, 4K Medium)
  • Rocket League (1080p Ultra, 4K Ultra)
  • Grand Theft Auto V (1080p Very High, 4K High)

For each of the GPUs in our testing, these games (at each resolution/setting combination) are run four times each, with outliers discarded. Average frame rates, 99th percentiles and 'Time Under x FPS' data is sorted, and the raw data is archived.

The four GPUs we've managed to obtain for these tests are:

  • MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G
  • ASUS GTX 1060 Strix 6G
  • Sapphire Nitro R9 Fury 4GB
  • Sapphire Nitro RX 480 8GB

In our testing script, we save a couple of special things for the GTX 1080 here. The following tests are also added:

  • Civilization 6 (8K Ultra, 16K Lowest)

This benchmark, with a little coercion, are able to be run beyond the specifications of the monitor being used, allowing for 'future' testing of GPUs at 8K and 16K with some amusing results. We are only running these tests on the GTX 1080, because there's no point watching a slideshow more than once.

Test Bed and Setup Benchmarking Performance: CPU System Tests


View All Comments

  • Alistair - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    I look at it this way: in 2016 I bought a 6600k for $350 CAD. In 2017 I bought a Ryzen 1700 for $350 CAD. Overall speed increase 240%. So AMD delivered 240 percent more performance at the same price in one year. Intel continues to deliver less than 10 percent per dollar. I could care less if the single performance is the same.

    Call me next time Intel releases a chip a year later that is 240 percent faster for the same price.
  • Hurr Durr - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    So you bought yourself inferior IPC and a sad attempt at ameliorating it by piling up cores, and now have to cope with this through wishful thinking of never materializing performance percents. Classic AMD victim behavior. Reply
  • Alistair - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    First of all, stop using IPC, an expression you don't understand. Use single core performance. In almost every single benchmark I see dramatic speed improvements. I'm comparing the i5 with a Ryzen 1700 as they were the same cost. People harping over the i7-7700k apparantly didn't notice the 1700 selling for as low as $279 USD.

    Also get higher fps in almost every single game (Mass Effect Andromeda, Civilization and Overwatch in particular).
  • Alistair - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    I have tremendous respect for Ian, whose knowledge and integrity is of the highest order. I just think some of his words in this review lose the plot. As he said, "it would appear Intel has an uphill struggle to convince users that Kaby Lake-X is worth the investment". He should have emphasized that a little more.

    In Canada, Ryzen 1700 plus motherboard = $450. i5 (not i7) plus motherboard is $600. Yes, $150 dollars more!

    Intel has 20 percent faster single core performance and yet Ryzen is 2.4 times (+140 percent) faster overall... Numbers should speak for themselves if you don't lose the plot. I agree single threaded performance is very important when the divergence is large, such as Apple's A10 vs Snapdragon 835, or the old Bulldozer. But the single threaded gap has mostly closed and a yawning gulf has opened up in total price/performance. Story of the year!
  • Hurr Durr - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    Extolling price slashing right after launch, boy you`re on a roll today. Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    I think you should prove why you think Intel is the superior buy, instead of just trolling and not actually providing any rationale behind your "arguments".

    On Amazon.co.uk right now, there are four Ryzen and one FX CPU in the top 10. Here's the list (some of the recommended retail price values are missing or a bit - in the case of the 8350 - misleading):

    1) i7-7700K £308.00; RRP £415.99
    2) R5 1600 £189.19; RRP £219.95
    3) R7 1700 £272.89; RRP £315.95
    4) i5-7600K £219.99; RRP £?
    5) i5-7500 £173.00; RRP £?
    6) FX-8350 £105.50; RRP £128.09
    7) i5-6500 £175.09; RRP £?
    8) R5 1500X £165.99; RRP £189.98
    9) Pentium G4400 £48.90; RRP £?
    10) R5 1600X £215.79; RRP £249.99

    There must be a ton of stupid people buying CPUs now then, or perhaps they just prefer solder as their thermal interface material of choice.

    Advantages for Intel right now: clock speed; overclocking headroom past 4 GHz; iGPU (not -X CPUs)
    Disadvantages for Intel right now: price; limited availability of G4560; feature segmentation (well, that's always been a factor); overall platform cost

    An AMD CPU would probably consume similar amounts of power if they could be pushed past 4.1GHz so I won't list that as a disadvantage for Intel, nor will I list Intel's generally inferior box coolers as not every AMD part comes with one to begin with.

    The performance gap in single threaded workloads at the same clock speed has shrunk from 60%+ to about 10%, power consumption has tumbled, and it also looks like AMD scales better as more cores are added. Unless you're just playing old or unoptimised games, or work in a corporate environment where money is no object, I don't see how AMD wouldn't be a viable alternative. That's just me, though - I'm really looking forward to your reasons.
  • Gothmoth - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    no first of = stop arguing with stupid trolls... Reply
  • prisonerX - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    I can double my IPC by having another core. Are you really that dumb? Reply
  • Hurr Durr - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    AMD victim calling anyone dumb is peak ironing. You guys are out in force today, does it really hurt so bad? Reply
  • wira123 - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    yeah intel victim is in full force as well today, which is indeed ironic Reply

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