Tech Babble #15: GAMING! YEAH!
Slow down there, gamer. I know everyone's all excited about AMD's new Ryzen 5000 processors based on the Zen3 architecture, but you really should calm down and get a reality check. This post aims to help you with that.
Oh, if you want to listen to my thoughts on Ryzen 5000 series, you can watch a video of me babbling, here.
Okay, so I didn't intend this to be a long post, but I often don't and it often still ends up long anyway; so I'mma just go with it. Everyone is so hyped about AMD Ryzen taking the 'Gaming Crown', that people have been talking about, well, since Zen launched in 2017. I mean, they were talking about how Intel was 'better' in gaming and it was AMD's last, well, the last area for them to conquer, so to speak.
Well... If you read my "Tools" series, you'll also notice that some of the more vocal of the 'gamer-types' (No offence if you play video games on your PC and appreciate the technology, too), I am talking about even go so far as to attack earlier generations of Ryzen processors as "Trash architectures" or "Ryzen sucks for gaming", and one of my personal favourite quotes (from a Discord chat, alas, no screenshot evidence) "Playability doesn't matter". Oh, that makes me cringe every time I remember that I was told that by someone with seriousness.
So what is this post about, Sash?
Oh, right. Well, this post is to remind everyone that while AMD's Ryzen 5000 processors might just be the 'best gaming CPU' (at least according to AMD), that accolade hasn't historically held a lot of weight, at least not when comparing Intel to AMD. Comparing AMD to AMD, though, well it looks a bit better but the message I'm trying to get across with this babbly, early-Sunday morning only-just-post-coffee "piece" is that...
Ryzen was always great for gaming.
This statement has a 99.5% chance to rustle the jimmies of the people I am referring to as 'gamer-types'. The sorts of people that think 120 FPS with perfect frame-time pacing is "unplayable" because the alternative (with all the disadvantages it comes with, including price) gets 160 FPS with the same great pacing. Just remember that while Ryzen 5000 won that final "thing" AMD didn't do quite as fast - gaming - that, in reality, it never really mattered for 95% of gamers with 60 - 120 Hz monitors, and even those with 144+ Hz monitors, Ryzen 3000, 2000 and, yes, even 1000 can hold these frame rates in many games.
Games, by nature, have a threshold-based, non-time limited performance requirement. That is, over a certain point - there are no noticeable, objective gains at all. I'll make one small concession and say that Ultra-competitive, high-refresh (200Hz+) gamers for E-sports titles or whatever, might notice and they occupy that last 5% of gamers, as I never use 100% as a blanket percentage. That is to say, that if your CPU is 25% faster in render / productivity times, vs your CPU being 10% faster in gaming at realistic frame rates, then you'd notice the 25% time reduction to start your next project for your next client, whereas you'd have a hard time noticing the increase in FPS from 100 to 125.
CPU cores aren't 'built for gaming'.
AMD's apparent focus on Gaming with Ryzen 5000 isn't because the core was 'built' for gaming, it's probably not even a major factor in the design of these cores. Zen's cache system from the very start was built with offsetting the modular-design's inherent latency penalty in workloads that need ultra-low latency operation (thread synchronisation, transactions and fast/random memory access for example - something games do a lot). It just so happens that the "GameCache" in Zen2 was always just going to be a large L3 buffer to mitigate the chiplet design. Zen3? That unified L3 cache, the improved prefetchers and front-end? This wasn't 'built for gaming'.
Even intel's core wasn't 'built for gaming'. Do you even know how insignificantly tiny the PC gaming market requirement is for CPU cores, especially when any design can provide serviceable gaming performance for a massive majority of that already small market?
People gamed on Bulldozer. Was Bulldozer the best architecture ever made? Hell no, now that was an objectively bad architecture from many points of view. That brings me back to Zen, even Zen1 from 2017. Zen is in fact, excellent at gaming in comparison to something like that.
To conclude this section of what is now basically a Tech Babble, I'm going to say that any methods of improving bursty, single-threaded and latency sensitive applications on these CPU cores will benefit gaming. Your video game isn't the focus of the architecture and I'll be damned if I'm going to accept that gamer-types judge the merit of an architecture by this metric, especially when you consider that the 'advantage' the "best gaming CPUs" have is arbitrary at best, and downright meaningless at worst.
Sash, you're just salty because your CPU sucks for gaming!
Were you even reading? I've said from the very start of my online presence here on my website that Ryzen doesn't "Suck for gaming" and I stand by that, and there is no salt, only pure confidence. :3 If those arbitrary numbers mattered to me, why would I spend over a thousand pounds setting up a Zen1 and Zen+-based compute farm with over 80 cores? Oh, maybe because Zen1 and Zen+ don't suck for gaming.
I've drunk my coffee, and I think I have got most of the point across that I wanted to try and make. But just in case it didn't come across, I'll re-iterate what I mean here.
Just because Ryzen 5000 is here and AMD's processor "finally beats Intel in gaming", don't let that get to your head and start thinking that A) it actually, objectively matters, and B) Ryzen 3000, 2000 and 1000 were objectively "bad for gaming"; because they're not, and that attitude will just make you spend more money than you need to, especially because AMD'z Ryzen 5000 series are hella expensive for what they offer - drawing comparisons to Intel's own lineup; representing value and tier regressions, something I vehemently oppose and one of the cornerstones of my support for AMD's Ryzen brand.
Summary of useful links on this topic by Sash:
Thanks for reading, gamer!