While he was practically alone in the field of gaming and his performance in computing was good, Intel Core i9-9900K saw in July landed a first real challenger: the Ryzen 9 3900X AMD . More cores, more threads, a favorable price … the AMD processor seems to display at its launch undeniable assets. But does he really manage to worry about the sure value of Intel?

Credit: Vladimir Malyutin // Unsplash

Launched last July 7th, AMD Ryzen processors of third generation raised great hopes from their announcement. After the first two strains of Ryzen chips that had allowed Lisa Su's firm to come back in the spotlight, this third generation of "reinvented" processors was to be the beginning of an even stronger renaissance among the reds. The contribution of the engraving in 7 nm, the complete change of architecture (to go from ZEN to ZEN 2) and the renewed confidence of the group of Sunnyvale had to allow to give birth of chips equivalent or superior to those of Intel field performance. A little more than a month after their launch, the promise is held, but only partially.

Through the prism of AMD and Intel's two high-end consumer processors: the Ryzen 9 3900X (12 cores / 24 threads) and Core i9-9900K (8 cores / 16 threads), we have tried to see more clear. What to expect from the last standard door of the Ryzen 3 range (pending the actual launch of the Ryzen 9 3950X, expected in September)? Is Intel really worried? Is AMD's flagship up for grabs in the latest games? Here are some questions that we will try to elucidate in the next lines.

The Ryzen 9 3900X: a gaming chip?

With the arrival in 2017 of its first Ryzen processors, AMD was able to fill part of the huge backlog accumulated for years against Intel. At best, of course, but that did not allow AMD to take over or – failing that – to do as well as the solid Core i5 and i7 marketed by Intel two years ago. This year, the deal changes, the contribution of engraving in 7 nm allows a significant gain in performance and better energy efficiency (105 Watts for the Ryzen 9 3900 X and its 12 cores, against the 95 Watts displayed by the i9- 9900K for "only" 8 cores), while the change of architecture gives the new chips Ryzen the opportunity to catch up a little more Intel Core … without ever equaling the control of Intel on the field of gaming.

The Division 2

  • Core i9 :
    151
  • Ryzen 9 :
    141

Factually, the Core i9-9900K comes in between 10 and 40 FPS in front of the Ryzen 9 3900 X in 1080p on many games. This is the case under The Division 2 (151 FPS on average for the Core i9 against 141 for the Ryzen 9), but also with Hitman 2 (132 FPS against 100) or Far Cry 5 (153 against 115 FPS), after the measurements of Tom's Hardware US. Armed with its 8 cores and 16 threads CPU blues holds despite an engraving that is now the age of its arteries. It must be said that there are still few games to really take advantage of more cores, which tends to explain the lead of the Core i9 at stake against his rival.

Far Cry 5

  • Core i9 :
    153
  • Ryzen 9 :
    115

A better overclocking potential at Intel

Another important element to play, but also and above all give a boost to its CPU after a few years of good and loyal services: the potential for overclocking. And on this side, the Core i9-9900K is also to be preferred. If the two chips support the manual increase of the frequencies, the processor of Intel keeps the hand and supports without harm of overclocking allowing to reach 4,8 to 5 GHz on all the cores and threads (that is 1,2 / 1, 4 GHz more than its base frequency, set at 3.6 GHz).

The Ryzen 9 3900X for its part is much more chiche by limiting itself to a rise of 500 MHz to 4.3 GHz on all of its cores and threads. Why such a difference ? It seems that AMD is already pushing the frequencies of its chips right from the factory configuration, especially through its Precision Boost mode.

Very honorable performances in calculation

As it stands, the record could seem rather dull for AMD and its Ryzen 9 3900X, but that's without counting on the favorite area of ​​the reds: the calculation. In productivity (editing, encoding, application …), it is the AMD processor that arrives in front of … and most of the time * very far * in front of Intel Core i9-9900K. The number of cores shipped on the Ryzen 9 is clearly there to help applications that can make good use of it.

Under Bender Benchmark 1.02, the Ryzen 9 3900X manages to complete the requested task in 653 seconds against 857 seconds for a Core i9-9900K yet overcapped at 5.0 GHz. Same logic for CineBench R15 in multi-core, with 3134 points for the Ryzen 9 against only 2172 for the Core i9 at 5 GHz (just 2044 points when not overclocked); or CineBench R20 multi-core (7146 points for the AMD chip and 5266 for the Intel chip when overckloquée). Note that the Core i9-9900K keeps in some cases a slight advantage in single core use on some of these Benchmark (including CineBench R15), thanks to its higher frequencies.

These global application field results make it possible for AMD's flagship to be in the lead in most contexts where its many cores and threads are involved. It will therefore be the processor to advise users who need high performance for video editing, encoding or 3D rendering for example. For this type of user we can even say that a Ryzen 9 will be more versatile than a Core i9, offering performance still very decent in game and a firepower virtually unmatched in calculation on the processor market general public (the new Threadripper, expected soon will probably do better, but in the market HEDT – "high-end desktop", thought primarily for professionals).

Beware of the prices charged in France for both processors. Problem of supply requires, the Ryzen 9 3900X is now trading at nearly 620 euros against only 500 to 550 euros requested online for a Core i9-9900K. That said, users who do not need the PCIe Gen 4 standard can turn to older AMD (X470) platforms. A good way to make some savings thanks to the durability of AMD AM4 socket. The issue of energy efficiency is also another argument of the Ryzen 9, facing a Core i9 that tends to consume a lot (too much?) Once overclocked.

Intel trolling with its 14nm ++ engraving? Not that easy.

Should we throw the stone to Intel and its Skylake architecture, declined to more thirsty since its launch in 2015? Yes and no. If it is true that Intel has stagnated technologically (for want of too much perfection of its engraving in 10 nm, recently confessed the new boss of the group, Bob Swan), the company remains nonetheless very comfortably installed on the market.

Even with an etching in 14 nm ++ (second refining of this etching process to overcome the many reports of the node 10 nm) now a little crumbling, Intel still manages to hold the dragee high AMD, its architecture ZEN 2, and engraving in 7 nm yet brand new. Proof if it were still necessary that the difference in fineness in the engraving process is not always synonymous with a radical difference in performance … and this is what the marketing cliques say.

In fact, and although AMD is definitely back in the race for performance, the firm of Lisa Su has yet to perfect its ZEN micro-architecture to succeed to surpass Intel. With a dated design and an engraving that is just as good, Intel is still doing well with the honors despite a grotesque pricing in many cases and energy efficiency that tends to become less and less advantageous (the multiplication of cores and the increase of default frequencies has its limits).

However, we can draw a big trend. If your heart swings between Ryzen 9 3900X and Core i9-9900K ask yourself what use you want from your future processor. For pure gaming, the Intel CPU remains a reference. For a more varied use, combining gaming and application, the alternative AMD is to be studied with great attention, especially for video editing and heavy computing enthusiasts. As mentioned above, energy efficiency is also one of the things that makes the difference in favor of AMD and its new favorite. It remains to know what the red reserve us with their next door standard, the Ryzen 9 3950X.

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