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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  • 0siris - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    In the end, this doesn't change anything for those of us who read reviews and decided based on those if the performance in our workloads was acceptable for the price AMD was asking. But if your marketing is going to dumb the performance down to a (set of) number(s), then you will also have to deal with the complaints of people whose understanding doesn't go beyond those simple numbers. Looks like the "bigger number!" marketing we've seen with is finally starting to hurt companies.

    It seems completely logical to me that boosting algorithms will become ever more refined to ensure optimal performance at all times. That's a good thing for all of us.
    Reply
  • WaltC - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    The so-called Bulldozer lawsuit was settled by the lawyers who brought the suit (not just by AMD, as is erroneously often implied), who agreed to take the money and run rather than chance the loss of their suit, ultimately, because AMD surely would have won, anyway. AMD agreed to the payout as it amounted to less money than it would have cost AMD to actually go all the way and win the suit--this is why companies settle spurious lawsuits--and is the only reason they do. Additionally, in writing, the suing attorney's agreed with AMD that AMD had done nothing wrong--no false advertising, etc. Whenever this "issue" *cough* is raised, it is never explained fully--with a sort of mindless "AMD did something wrong" emphasis. Of course, nothing about this *old* lawsuit has anything at all to do with the burst frequency issue which AMD recently corrected in the ABBA AGESA is distributed a week ago--so what is the purpose of mentioning a lawsuit that the suing attorney's have dropped and agreed with AMD that AMD had done nothing wrong?....;) Clearly, the suing attorneys believed they could not win, else they would not have agreed to such a tiny settlement, eh? Or agreed to signing a statement clearing AMD of any wrongdoing whatsoever. (There is something wrong with the civil system when this kind of garbage is allowed to clog up the courts, imo, but that's another issue entirely.)

    I really don't understand why some people don't understand that "teething" issues with a new architecture release are common--and it doesn't matter whether AMD makes the CPU or Intel makes it--new architectures all demand a period of software adjustment--six months to a year is common for both companies when new architectures are released! I marvel that this needs explanation...;) It's been so long since Intel has shipped a ground-up new architecture, though, that likely few remember Intel-architecture teething problems. I hate to see all the red faces appearing when and if Intel ever makes it to 7nm with a new architecture....)

    AMD has also made it clear that the AGESA bugs caused the loss of boost MHz, in all cases. They've surely fixed it--my 3600X boosts now like it did with AGESAs 1002/3 in bios releases for my x570Arus Master--and a tad faster--to 4.424GHz, instead of 4.401GHz. (Wowee...;)) Later AGESAs up through ABB cut max boost by ~125Mhz. Happy to report that has been remedied with the newer AMD AGESA ABBA bios for my x570 Master.
    Reply
  • hansmuff - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Outrage culture and the lawyers are just cashing in on it. Can't blame them either. Reply
  • WaltC - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Yes! I really don't blame the starving lawyers quite as much as I blame the judges who greenlight spurious stuff like this. I mean, it creates the impression that either the judges don't understand the issues involved, or else that it's a racket with "everyone" hoping to share the ill-gotten gains...;) Because in the end--it's we the customers who pay for all of the spurious junk that isn't thrown out on day 1--just as much as if it was a direct tax. This reminds me so much of the infamous class-action suit they tried and failed to throw at the HDD makers a few years back. The lawyers alleged that everyone who bought a hard drive was "mislead" by false advertising because the HDD makers decided to call a "megabyte" 1,000,000 bytes instead of 1,024,000 bytes--*even though* all of the HDD makers posted that information not only in all their product advertising, but also on the HDD product boxes! The judge in that case was savvy enough to throw it out on Day 1, IIRC. In the Bulldozer case, of course, the lawyers will earn $6M-$8M (or more) of the $12M and the Bulldozer owners might be lucky to get $10 each....;) What a racket!...;) Reply
  • Targon - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Intel hasn't had a new architecture for so long at this point, many people have forgotten about the problems. Reply
  • WaltC - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Shades of Prescott..;) Reply
  • Korguz - Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - link

    Targon, not according to one person that comments on here, sunny cove is a new architecture, and is completely different then all the cpu's intel has made over the last 5 or so years.

    but yea.. its time intel stopped milking the same architecture, and its customers, and came out with something that is actually new
    Reply
  • Phynaz - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    Why do you care, you would never buy intel? Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    "its time intel stopped milking the same architecture, and its customers, and came out with something that is actually new"

    'architecture' is constrained by the Law's of God, aka maths, so once the 'best' has been found, that's it. IMHO, all these 'architectures' amount to:
    1) pulling previously off-chip function on-chip
    2) rearranging them to implement Cray's shorter wires
    3) adding more transistors to make certain functions bigger

    not really much 'architecture' progress to any of that. in any case, how much more 'architecture' does it take to do word processing, spreadsheets, and e-mail? you know, the Three Killer Apps of the PC?
    Reply
  • Korguz - Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - link

    once the best has been found ??? intel hasnt released a new architecture because they have had no reason to. but i bet now, with Zen, intel is doing just that, working on something that is actually new and not based on the same cpu we have had from them for the last 5 or so years. Reply

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