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Intel Swipes At AMD's Ryzen Boost Issues, Teases 5GHz All-Core CPU

'Having the fastest frequency or having your boost clock frequency hit at the advertised speeds on all cores isn't going to be important in a real-world scenario. No high-end gamer could ever tell the difference unless you run tests. It's almost exclusively for bragging rights,' a PC builder exec tells CRN regarding the Intel-AMD tussle.

Intel has taken a jab at AMD over reports that its rival's Ryzen 3000 processors are not reaching their advertised boost clock speeds for some customers.

Ryan Shrout, chief performance strategist at Intel, referenced the Ryzen boost speed issues — which AMD said it plans to fix with an upcoming BIOS update — in a Wednesday blog post about Intel's new Core i9-9900KS that will offer 5GHz turbo clock speeds for all eight cores when it launches next month. Shrout also teased new Intel X-series CPUs for the high-end desktop market, code-named Cascade Lake-X, for next month.

[Related: AMD's Xbox, PlayStation Work Led To A Big Security Feature In EPYC]

"We are proud of the technologies and products we build, and despite some competitor solutions that the community is questioning, the Core i9–9900K and Core i9–9900KS are TRUE 5.0GHz processors," Shrout wrote, linking to a news story about a survey finding that only 5.6 percent of 2,700 Ryzen 9 3900X owners have reached the processor's advertised boost clock speeds.

Randy Copeland, president of Velocity Micro, a Richmond, Va.-based PC builder that partners with both Intel and AMD, said he doesn't see AMD's Ryzen boost clock speed issues as a temporary black eye "that doesn't degrade the processors' capabilities at all."

"It's a perception issue that's not helpful, but it's not going to be pervasive in the long run," he said.

In a tweet on Monday, AMD acknowledged reports that some third-generation Ryzen processors were not reaching their advertised boost speeds. The chipmaker said it was the result of an issue in its firmware that "reduces boost frequency in some situations," and it's now preparing a BIOS update for motherboard makers that will fix the problem and include additional optimizations.

Wallace Santos, CEO of Maingear, a Kenilworth, N.J.-based PC builder that partners with Intel and AMD, said he doesn't think the issue will hurt AMD's momentum with the Ryzen 3000 desktop processors, which received wide praise for having higher core counts and a price-performance advantage over Intel's ninth-generation Core CPUs.

"If you measure the performance based on the BIOS out there today, it's still all positive. It's still very competitive against their competitor's offering," he said. Santos said his company has already been testing beta versions of the BIOS updates that resolve the boost speed issue.

Both Santos and Copeland said part of the issue with processors not reaching their advertised boost speeds is that do-it-yourself builders don't always understand the amount of engineering work that goes into building computers, especially when it comes to thermal design.

"There's a whole science to building a computer properly," Santos said, adding that Maingear's PCs are overengineered with liquid cooling to optimize the performance of the processor and other parts.

Copeland said this issue underlines why PC builders like Velocity Micro provide an important service that can help customers avoid problems they might encounter when building their own systems.

"I think most DIYers think everything is plug and play, but to get to the last degree of performance, you need to have some engineering and expertise," he said.

The Intel-AMD Client Processor Battle Heats Up

Since AMD released its third-generation Ryzen processors in July, Intel has continued to position its Core i9-9900K, and the forthcoming i9-9900KS, as the world's best gaming processors. While the new Ryzen processors feature higher core counts with up to 12 cores — and up to 16 with the forthcoming Ryzen 9 3950X — Intel's Core processors, which first launched last fall, support a higher maximum turbo frequency at 5GHz.

"The new Core i9–9900KS is the first CPU to offer a 5.0GHz all-core turbo clock speed, taking the gaming performance leadership we have with the 9th Gen desktop product line and making it even better," Intel's Shrout wrote in the blog post." This capability will allow games that depend on IPC [instructions per cycle] and frequency, more than just raw core count, to offer better and more consistent frame rates."

AMD spokesperson Drew Prairie downplayed Intel's jabs at the chipmaker, saying that the third-generation Ryzen processors "successfully built on the global enthusiasm for these processors with PC enthusiasts, content creators, and gamers."

"Hundreds of reviews by independent press showcase why the enthusiasm and demand remains so high – 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen leads in delivered performance, power, I/O support, and more," he said in an email. "And we remain focused on community feedback to extend our leadership position by making Ryzen even better wherever an opportunity presents itself."

Velocity Micro’s Copeland likened Intel's currently available Core i9-9900K to a dragster, saying the processor's high clock speeds make it a top contender for single-threaded applications, while Ryzen 3000 is more akin to an SUV, with higher core counts that are better suited for multi-tasking and multi-threaded applications. He said while there is a need for both processor lines in the market, Ryzen might appeal more to the average user.

"Having the fastest frequency or having your boost clock frequency hit at the advertised speeds on all cores isn't going to be important in a real-world scenario," he said. "No high-end gamer could ever tell the difference unless you run tests. It's almost exclusively for bragging rights."

Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor that also partners with AMD, offered a differing view on the Intel-AMD competition, saying clock speeds remain top of mind for customers over core counts, which he said Intel should continue to emphasize.

"It's good for them to be out and beating that drum or getting that information out as opposed to 'let's just sit back and not do anything,'" Tibbils said.

Santos said the benefits of Intel's forthcoming Core i9-9900KS processor will depend on whether applications take advantage of high clock frequencies across multiple cores.

"If the software scales across eight cores, that's a substantial performance gain," he said.

Maingear, which is now seeing a 50-50 split in monthly sales for Intel- and AMD-based systems, plans to sell the new Intel gaming processor when it becomes available, according to Santos.

"Whenever there's a top performing product, we're always adamant about being first to market with it," he said.

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