AMD Found An Issue, for +25-50 MHz

Of course, with Roman’s dataset hitting the internet with its results, a number of outlets reported on it and a lot of people were in a spin. It wasn’t long for AMD to have a response, issued in the form of a blog post. I’m going to take bits and pieces here from what is relevant, starting with the acknowledgement that a flaw was indeed found:

As we noted in this blog, we also resolved an issue in our BIOS that was reducing maximum boost frequency by 25-50MHz depending on workload. We expect our motherboard partners to make this update available as a patch in two to three weeks. Following the installation of the latest BIOS update, a consumer running a bursty, single threaded application on a PC with the latest software updates and adequate voltage and thermal headroom should see the maximum boost frequency of their processor.

AMD acknowledged that they had found a bug in their firmware that was reducing the maximum boost frequency of their CPUs by 25-50 MHz. If we take Roman’s data survey, adding 50 MHz to every value would push all the averages and modal values for each CPU above the turbo frequency. It wouldn’t necessarily help the users who were reporting 200-300 MHz lower frequencies, to which AMD had an answer there:

Achieving this maximum boost frequency, and the duration of time the processor sits at this maximum boost frequency, will vary from PC to PC based on many factors such as having adequate voltage and current headroom, the ambient temperature, installing the most up-to-date software and BIOS, and especially the application of thermal paste and the effectiveness of the system/processor cooling solution.

As we stated at the AMD Turbo section of this piece, the way that AMD implements its turbo is different, and it does monitor things like power delivery, voltage and current headroom, and will adjust the voltage/frequency based on the platform in use. AMD is reiterating this, as I expected they would have to.

AMD in the blog post mentioned how it had changed its firmware (1003AB) in August for system stability reasons, categorically denying that it was for CPU longevity reasons, saying that the latest firmware (1003ABBA) improves performance and does not affect longevity either.

The way AMD distributes its firmware is through AGESA (AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture). The AGESA is essentially a base set of firmware and library files that gets distributed to motherboard vendors who then apply their own UEFI interfaces on top. The AGESA can also include updates for other parts of the system, such as the System Management Unit, that have their own firmware related to their operation. This can make updating things a bit annoying – motherboard vendors have been known to mix and match different firmware versions, because ultimately at the end of the day the user ends up with ‘BIOS F9’ or something similar.

AMD’s latest AGESA at the time of writing is 1003ABBA, which is going through motherboard vendors right now. MSI and GIGABYTE have already launched beta BIOS updates with the new AGESA, and should be pushing it through to stable versions shortly, as should be ASUS and ASRock.

Some media outlets have already tested this new firmware, and in almost all circumstances, are seeing a 25-50 MHz uplift in the way that the frequency was being reported. See the Tom’s Hardware article as a reference, but in general, reports are showing a 0.5-2.0% increase in performance in single thread turbo limited tests.

I Have a Ryzen 3000 CPU, Does It Affect Me?

The short answer is that if you are not overclocking, then yes. When your particular motherboard has a BIOS update for 1003ABBA, then it is advised to update. Note that updating a BIOS typically means that all BIOS settings are lost, so keep a track in case the DRAM needs XMP enabled or similar.

Users that are keeping their nose to the grindstone on the latest AMD BIOS developments should know the procedure.

The Future of Turbo

It would be at this point that I might make commentary that single thread frequency does not always equal performance. As part of the research for this article, I learned that some users believe that the turbo frequency listed on the box believe it is the all-core turbo frequency, which just goes to show that turbo still isn’t well understood in name alone. But as modern workloads move to multi-threaded environments with background processes, the amount of time spent in single-thread turbo is being reduced. Ultimately we’re ending up with a threading balance between background processes and immediate latency sensitive requirements.

At the end of the day, AMD identifying a 25-50 MHz deficit and fixing it is a good thing. The number of people for whom this is a critical boundary that enables a new workflow though, is zero. For all the media reports that drummed up AMD not hitting published turbo speeds as a big thing, most of those reporters ended up by contrast being very subdued with AMD’s fix. 2% on the single core turbo frequency hasn’t really changed anyone in this instance, despite all the fuss that was made.

I wrote this piece just to lay some cards on the table. The way AMD is approaching the concept of Turbo is very different to what most people are used to. The way AMD is binning its CPUs on a per-core basis is very different to what we’re used to. With all that in mind, peak turbo frequencies are not covered by warranty and are not guaranteed, despite the marketing material that goes into them. Users who find that a problem are encouraged to vote with their wallet in this instance.

Moving forward, I’m going to ask our motherboard editor, Gavin, to start tracking peak frequencies with our WSL tool. Because we’re defining the workload, our results might end up different to what users are seeing with their reporting tools while running CineBench or any other workload, but it can offer the purest result we can think of.

Ultimately the recommendations we made in our launch day Ryzen review still stand. If anything, if we had experienced some frequency loss, some extra MHz on the ST tests would push the parts slightly up the graph. Over time we will be retesting with the latest BIOS updates.

Detecting Turbo: Microseconds vs. Milliseconds
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  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    Pretty much the only people left OCing CPUs are epeen wavers with more money than sense.

    "$300 mobo and 360mm AIO for that Intel 8 core <10% OC at >200W...Look at all that *free* performance! Amirite?"
    Reply
  • Korguz - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    " Pretty much the only people left OCing CPUs are epeen wavers with more money than sense" that a pretty bold statement. i know quite a few people who overclock their cpus, because intel charged too much for the higher end ones, so they had to get a lower tier chip. with zen, thats not the case as much any more as they have switched over to amd, because by this time, they would of had to get a new mobo any way, because intels upgrade paths are only 2, maybe 3 years if they are lucky.
    dont " need " and AIO, as there are some pretty good air coolers out there, and some, dont like the idea of water, or liquid in their comps :-)
    Reply
  • Xyler94 - Thursday, September 19, 2019 - link

    Sorry, here's where I'll have to disagree with you.

    You'll never overclock an i3 to i5/i7 levels. If my choices were between an overclocking i3, with a Z series board, or a locked i5 with an H series board, I'd choose the i5 in a heartbeat, as that's just generally better. Overclocking will never make up the lack of physical cores.

    So I agree, mostly these days overclocking is reserved for A: People with e-peens, and B:, people who genuinely need 5ghz on a single core... which are fewer than those who can utilize the multi-threaded horsepower of Ryzen... so yeah,
    Reply
  • evernessince - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Does it deliver well? I see plenty of people on the Intel reddit not hitting advertised turbo speeds. That's considering they are using $50+ CPU coolers as well.

    "Pretty impressive to see a server cpu with 20% lower ST performance only because the
    low power process utilized is unable to deliver a clock speed near 4Ghz, absurd thing considering
    that Intel 14nm LP gives 4GHz at 1V without struggles."

    What CPU are you talking about? Even AMD's 64 core monster has damn near the same IPC as the Intel Xeon 8280 (thanks to Zen 2 IPC improvements) and that CPU has LESS THEN HALF THE CORES and only consumes 20w more. The Intel CPU also costs almost twice as much. Only a moron brings up single threaded performance in a server chip conversation anyways, it's one of the least important metric for server chips. AMD's new EPYC chip crushes Intel in Core count, TCO, power consumption, and security. Everything that is important to server.
    Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    You do realize that the clock speed does not depend only by the process, right? Your comment sounds like that that of a disgruntled Intel fanboy trying to put AMD in under a bar light. For 25MHz. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, September 23, 2019 - link

    Absolute codswallop. AMD are getting 100-300Mhz more on their peak clock speeds for Zen2 with this first-gen 7nm process tech than they were seeing with Zen+ 12nm (and nearly 400Mhz more than Zen on 14nm), so nothing about that implies that 7nm is slower than 14nm. Intel's architecture and process tech are not remotely comparable to AMD's, and we don't know what is the primary limiting factor on Zen clockspeeds.

    Not sure why you're claiming lower ST performance on the server parts either - Rome is better in every single regard than its predecessors, and it's better pound-for-pound than anything Intel will be able to offer in the next 12-18 months.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    I see a tempest in a teapot on the stove of a person who is busy splitting hairs at the kitchen table. It would be more interesting to calculate how much energy and time was expended on the issue to see if the performance uplift from the fix will offset the global societal cost of all the clamoring this generated. For that, I suppose you'd have to know how many Ryzen chips are actually doing something productive as opposed to crunching at video games.

    The idea of buying cheaper hardware for non-work needs sticks here. Less investment means less worry about maximizing your return on your super-happy-fun-box and less heartburn over a little bit of clockspeed on a component that plays second fiddle to GPU performance when it comes to entertainment anyway.
    Reply
  • psychobriggsy - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Ultimately in the end it isn't MHz that counts, it is observed performance in the software that you care about. That's why we read reviews, and why the review industry is so large.

    If performance X was good enough, does it matter if it was achieved at 4.5GHz or 4.425GHz? Not really. But if the CPU manufacturer is using it as a primary competitive comparison metric (rather than a comparative metric with their other SKUs) then it has to be considered, like in this article.

    It is sad that MHz is still a major metric in the industry, although now Intel IPC is similar to AMD IPC, it is actually kinda relevant.

    What I'd like is better CPU power draw measurements versus what the manufacturer says. Because TDP advertising seems to be even more fraught with lies/marketing than MHz marketing! Obviously most users don't care about 10 or 20% extra power draw at a CPU level, as at a system level it will be a tiny change, but it's when it is 100% that it matters.

    IMO, I'd like TDPs to be reported at all core sustained turbo, not base clocks. Sure, have a typical TDP measurement as well as the more information the better, but don't hide your 200W CPU under a 95W TDP.
    Reply
  • TechnicallyLogic - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Personally, I feel that AMD should have 2 numbers for the max frequency of the CPU; "Boost Clock" and "Burst Clock". Assuming that you have adequete cooling and power delivery, the boost clock would be sustainable indefinitely on a single core, while the burst clock would be the peak frequency that a single core on the CPU can reach, even if it's just for a few ms. Reply
  • fatweeb - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    I could see them eventually going in this direction considering Navi already has three clocks: Base, Gaming, and Boost. The first two would be guaranteed, the last not so much. Reply

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