SPEC2006 & 2017: Industry Standard - ST Performance

One big talking point around the new Ryzen 3000 series is the new augmented single-threaded performance of the new Zen 2 core. In order to investigate the topic in a more controlled manner with better documented workloads, we’ve fallen back to the industry standard SPEC benchmark suite.

We’ll be investigating the previous generation SPEC CPU2006 test suite giving us some better context to past platforms, as well as introducing the new SPEC CPU2017 suite. We have to note that SPEC2006 has been deprecated in favour of 2017, and we must also mention that the scores posted today are noted as estimates as they’re not officially submitted to the SPEC organisation.

For SPEC2006, we’re still using the same setup as on our mobile suite, meaning all the C/C++ benchmarks, while for SPEC2017 I’ve also went ahead and prepared all the Fortran tests for a near complete suite for desktop systems. I say near complete as due to time constraints we’re running the suite via WSL on Windows. I’ve checked that there are no noticeable performance differences to native Linux (we’re also compiling statically), however one bug on WSL is that it has a fixed stack size so we’ll be missing 521.wrf_r from the SPECfp2017 collection.

In terms of compilers, I’ve opted to use LLVM both for C/C++ and Fortran tests. For Fortran, we’re using the Flang compiler. The rationale of using LLVM over GCC is better cross-platform comparisons to platforms that have only have LLVM support and future articles where we’ll investigate this aspect more. We’re not considering closed-sourced compilers such as MSVC or ICC.

clang version 8.0.0-svn350067-1~exp1+0~20181226174230.701~1.gbp6019f2 (trunk)
clang version 7.0.1 (ssh://git@github.com/flang-compiler/flang-driver.git 

-Ofast -fomit-frame-pointer
-mfma -mavx -mavx2

Our compiler flags are straightforward, with basic –Ofast and relevant ISA switches to allow for AVX2 instructions.

The Ryzen 3900X system was run in the same way as the rest of our article with DDR4-3200CL16, same as with the i9-9900K, whilst the Ryzen 2700X had DDR-2933 with similar CL16 16-16-16-38 timings.

SPECint2006 Speed Estimated Scores

In terms of the int2006 benchmarks, the improvements of the new Zen2 based Ryzen 3900X is quite even across the board when compared to the Zen+ based Ryzen 2700X. We do note however somewhat larger performance increases in 403.gcc and 483.xalancbmk – it’s not immediately clear as to why as the benchmarks don’t have one particular characteristic that would fit Zen2’s design improvements, however I suspect it’s linked to the larger L3 cache.

445.gobmk in particular is a branch-heavy workload, and the 35% increase in performance here would be better explained by Zen2’s new additional TAGE branch predictor which is able to reduce overall branch misses.

It’s also interesting that although Ryzen3900X posted worse memory latency results than the 2700X, it’s still able to outperform the latter in memory sensitive workloads such as 429.mcf, although the increases for 471.omnetpp is amongst the smallest in the suite.

However we still see that AMD has an overall larger disadvantage to Intel in these memory sensitive tests, as the 9900K has large advantages in 429.mcf, and posting a large lead in the very memory bandwidth intensive 462.libquantum, the two tests that put the most pressure on the caches and memory subsystem.

SPECfp2006(C/C++) Speed Estimated Scores

In the fp2006 benchmarks, we gain see some larger jumps on the part of the Ryzen 3900X, particularly in 482.sphinx3. These two tests along with 450.soplex are characterized by higher data cache misses, so Zen2’s 16MB L3 cache should definitely be part of the reason we see such larger jumps.

I found it interesting that we’re not seeing much improvements in 470.lbm even though this is a test that is data store heavy, so I would have expected Zen2’s additional store AGU to greatly benefit this workload. There must be some higher level memory limitations which is bottlenecking the test.

453.povray isn’t data heavy nor branch heavy, as it’s one of the more simple workloads in the suite. Here it’s mostly up to the execution backend throughput and the ability of the front-end to feed it fast enough that are the bottlenecks. So while the Ryzen 3900X provides a big boost over the 2700X, it’s still largely lagging behind the 9900K, a characteristic we’re also seeing in the similar execution bottlenecked 456.hmmer of the integer suite.

SPEC2006 Speed Estimated Total

Overall, the 3900X is 25% faster in the integer and floating point tests of the SPEC2006 suite, which corresponds to an 17% IPC increase, above AMD's officially published figures for IPC increases.

Moving on to the 2017 suite, we have to clarify that we’re using the Rate benchmark variations. The 2017 suite’s speed and rate benchmarks differ from each other in terms of workloads. The speed tests were designed for single-threaded testing and have large memory demands of up to 11GB, while the rate tests were meant for multi-process tests. We’re using the rate variations of the benchmarks because we don’t see any large differentiation between the two variations in terms of their characterisation and thus the performance scaling between the both should be extremely similar. On top of that, the rate benchmarks take up to 5x less time (+1 hour vs +6 hours), and we're able run them on more memory limited platforms (which we plan on to do in the future).

SPECint2017 Rate-1 Estimated Scores

In the int2017 suite, we’re seeing similar performance differences and improvements, although this time around there’s a few workloads that are a bit more limited in terms of their performance boosts on the new Ryzen 3900X.

Unfortunately I’m not quite as familiar with the exact characteristics of these tests as I am with the 2006 suite, so a more detailed analysis should follow in the next few months as we delve deeper into microarchitectural counters.

SPECfp2017 Rate-1 Estimated Scores

In the fp2017 suite, things are also quite even. Interesting enough here in particular AMD is able to leapfrog Intel’s 9900K in a lot more workloads, sometimes winning in terms of absolute performance and sometimes losing.

SPEC2017 Rate-1 Estimated Total

As for the overall performance scores, the new Ryzen 3900X improves by 23% over the 2700X. Although closing the gap greatly and completely, it’s just a hair's width shy of actually beating the 9900K’s absolute single-threaded performance.

SPEC2017 Rate-1 Estimated Performance Per GHz

Normalising the scores for frequency, we see that AMD has achieved something that the company hasn’t been able to claim in over 15 years: It has beat Intel in terms of overall IPC. Overall here, the IPC improvements over Zen+ are 15%, which is a bit lower than the 17% figure for SPEC2006.

We already know about Intel’s new upcoming Sunny Cove microarchitecture which should undoubtedly be able to regain the IPC crown with relative ease, but the question for Intel is if they’ll be able to still maintain the single-thread absolute performance crown and continue to see 5GHz or similar clock speeds with the new core design.

Test Bed and Setup Benchmarking Performance: Web Tests


View All Comments

  • imaheadcase - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    The problem is that the PC market is stagnant atm, if you are already a intel owner, absolutely no reason to upgrade to amd CPU. Most people who have systems now don't really have any need to upgrade like it used to be.

    He stated in article it took amd 15 YEARS to get this good CPU finally out and sounded like he was impressed by that?

    Its a impressive CPU, but lets be real here, Intel has dominated the market already for years because it has better marketing, better suppliers.

    Based on previous article comments, most people are still rocking 2600K CPU..FROM 2011! They still are very good CPU.

    Thats not counting the price difference, while yes the one intel cpu is crazy expensive, its not a normal CPU most people have to go by, if you a regular user with the previous mentioned 2600K CPU..that requires a total system overhaul if you wanted to go AMD route...which to be honest is a risk on betting that a new amd system is not going to last as long as a 2600K did for you.
  • catavalon21 - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    The 2600K had legs as good as any modern CPU, but I don't agree that "most" people are still using a CPU 6 to 8 years old. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Monday, July 8, 2019 - link

    Most people are still on Sandy bridge, ivy bridge or haswell. All of these are nothing compared to what 3900x offers and also 3700x. That is the main idea here. There is no point in buying 9900k just to pay a lot more for 5% fps increase at 1080p. That is nitpicking at its best. You are much better off with a 3900x. You get 2950x mt performance, you get more than enough gaming performance and you get lower power consumption than 9900k. Reply
  • Namisecond - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Intel had better marketing, better suppliers, better chipsets, better networking, etc. AMD having a better CPU just doesn't seem to be enough. Reply
  • just4U - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Better chipsets? Amd just released the x570 what does the 390 chipset offer that the x570 does not? Reply
  • Meteor2 - Sunday, July 14, 2019 - link

    "He stated in article it took amd 15 YEARS to get this good CPU finally out and sounded like he was impressed by that?" No. That's why it was awarded a Silver. Reply
  • Korguz - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    not according to Maxiking, catavalon21... starting to sound like Maxiking, is another HStewart ..... Reply
  • shabby - Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - link

    Where is Hstewart anyway? Lol Reply
  • Oliseo - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    "But not when the raw performance is tconsidered. It is a hypothetical scenario"

    How can you take someone seriously when they say this on an article that provides the evidence they claim is "hypothetical".

    You simply can't. Either they think you're stupid, or they don't know they are.

    It's one or the other. What do you reckon it is.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Please don't take our current numbers as any sign of overclockability - we didn't have enough time for it and motherboard firmwares are still getting updated. Reply

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