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
WebXPRT15

System Tests

PDF Opening
FCAT
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

PCMark8
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
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  • mapesdhs - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    Ok, you get a billion points for knowing Commodore BASIC. 8) Reply
  • IanHagen - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    Dr. Ian, I would like to apologize for my poor choice of words. Reading it again, it sounds like I accused you of something which is not the case.

    I'm merely puzzled by how Ryzen performs poorly using msvc compared to other compilers. To be honest, your finds are very relevant to anyone using Visual Studio. But again, I find Microsoft's VS compilar to be a bit of an oddball.

    A few weeks ago I was running my own tests to determine wether my Core i5 4690K was up to my compiling tasks. Since most of my professional job sits on top of programming languages with either short compile times or no compilation needed at all, I never bothered much about it. But recently I've been using C++ more and more during my game development hobby and compile times started to bother me. What I found puzzling is that after running a few test I couldn't manage to get any gains through parallelism, even after verifying that msvc was indeed spanning all 4 threads to compile files. Than I tried disabling two cores and clocking the thing higher and... it was faster! Not by a lot, but faster still. How could it be faster with a 50% decrease in the number of active cores and consequently threads doing compile jobs? I'm fully aware that linking is single threaded, but at least a few seconds should be gained with two extra cores, at least in theory. Today I had the chance to compile the same project on a Core i7 7700HQ and it was substantially slower than my Core i5 4690K even with clocks capped to 3.2 GHz. In fact, it was 33% slower than my Core i5 at stock speeds.

    Anyhow… Dr. Ian’s findings are a very good to point out to those compiling C++ using msvc that Skylake-X is probably worth it over Ryzen. For my particular case, it would appear that Kaby Lake-X with the Core i7 7740X could even be the best choice, since my project somehow only scales nicely with clocks.

    I just would like to see the wording pointing out that Skylake-X isn’t a better compiling core. It’s a better compiling core using msvc at this particular workload. On the GCC side of things, Ryzen is very competitive to it and a much better value in my humble opinion.

    As for the suggestion, I’d say that since Windows is a requirement trying to script something to benchmark compile times using GCC would be daunting and unrealistic. Not a lot of people are using GCC to work on the Windows side of things. If Linux could be thrown into the equation, I’d suggest a project based on CMake. That would make it somewhat easy to write a simple script to setup, create a makefile and compile the project. Unfortunately, I can not readily think of any big name projects such as Chromium that fulfill that requirement without having to meddle with eventual dependency problems as the time goes by.
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    These chips edge out their LGA 1151 counter parts at stock with overclocking also carrying a slight razor edge over LGA 1151 overclocks. There are gains but ultimately these really don't seem worth it, especially in light of the fragmentation that this causes the X299 platform. Hard to place real figures on this but I'd wager that the platform confusion is going to cost Intel more than what they will gain with these chips. Intel should have kept these in the lab until they could offer something a bit more substantial. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    I wonder if it would have been at least a tad better received if they hadn't cripplied the on-die gfx, etc. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    LGA2066 doesn't have video out pins because it was originally designed only for the bigger dies that don't include them; and even if Intel had some 'spare' pins it could use adding video out would only make already expensive mobos with a wide set of features that vary based on the CPU model even more expensive and more confusing. Unless they add a GPU to either future CPUs in the family (or IMO a bit more likely) a very basic one to a chipset variant (to remove the crappy one some server boards add for KVM support) keeping the IGP fully off in mainstream dies on the platform is the right call IMO. Reply
  • DrKlahn - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    Great article, but the conclusion feels off:

    "The benefits in the benchmarks are clear against the nearest competition: these are the fastest CPUs to open a complex PDF, at the top for office work, and at the top for most web interactions by a noticeable amount."

    In most cases you're talking about a second or less between the Intel and AMD systems. That will not be noticeable to the average office worker. You're much more likely to run into scenarios where the extra cores or threads will make an impact. I know in my own user base shaving a couple of seconds off opening a large PDF will pale in comparison to running complex reports with 2 (4 threads) extra cores for less money. I have nothing against Intel, but I struggle to see anything in here that makes their product worth the premium for an Office environment. The conclusion seems a stretch to me.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    Indeed, and for those dealing with office work it makes more sense to emphasise investment where it makes the biggest difference to productivity, which for PCs is having an SSD (ie. don't buy a cheap grunge box for office work), but more generally dear god just make sure employees have a damn good chair to sit on and a decent IPS display that'll be kind to their eyes. Plus/minus 1s opening a PDF is a nothingburger compared to good ergonomics for office productivity. Reply
  • DrKlahn - Tuesday, July 25, 2017 - link

    Yeah an SSD is by far the best bang for the buck. From a CPU standpoint there are more use cases for Ryzen 1600 than there is the i5/i7 options we have from HP/Dell. Even the Ryzen 1500 series would probably be sufficient and allow even more per unit savings to put into other areas that would benefit folks more. Reply
  • JimmiG - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    The 7740X runs at a just over 2% higher clock speed than the 7700X. It can overclock maybe 4% higher than the 7700X. You'd really have to be a special kind of stupid to pay hundreds more for an X299 mobo just for those gains that are nearly within the margin of error.

    It doesn't make sense as a "stepping stone" onto HEDT either, because you're much better off simply buying a real HEDT right away. You'll pay a lot more in total if you first get the 7740X and then the 7820X for example.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, July 24, 2017 - link

    Intel seems to think there's a market for people who buy a HEDT platform but can't afford a relevant CPU, but would upgrade later. Highly unlikely such a market exists. By the time such a theoretical user would be in a position to upgrade, more than likely they'd want a better platform anyway, given how fast the tech is changing. Reply

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