Welcome back to the reinvigorated ScanProAudio blog and what better way to kick it back off than with a round of CPU performance testing to cover the hardware available in early '23. As we've seen in recent years (the last couple of round-ups can be found here on the main Scan site) the competition between Intel and AMD has continued to be be closely run. This time around we return with a look at both Intel's 13th generation and AMD's 7000 series offerings to see how they handle in the studio.
Intel on the 12th generation migrated over to a hybrid "big.little" core layout, mixing a number of higher and lower performance cores. With a supporting OS upgrade to Windows 11 this change proved effective, putting Intel and AMD back toe to toe once more. AMD at the time was on the last iteration of chips based around their AM4 chipset and now this time around we see that it's Intel who are focusing on refining their hardware, whilst instead it's AMD turn to introduce a brand new platform with AM5.
In the last round of testing we saw how DDR5 helped Intel make their performance gains and with AM5 introducing both PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 features to the new AMD platform, we entered into testing with high-expectations from the new hardware. By contrast the supporting Z790 chipset having already inherited those features from its predecessor takes a more reserved approach where we find that PCIe allocations have been switched around to improve overall PCIe 4.0 support, notably with up to a potential of 5 X M.2 drives being found on some of the newer board options.
The chips themselves have been dialled up to 11 by both camps, seeing a jump in power usage by both ranges overall. It's particularly noticeable with the flagship 7950X and 13900K models, although historically we've come to expect this when competing ranges are so close in performance, as each manufacturer will strive to offer the best overall performance in order to claim the generational crown.
With the Z790 Intel boards, we've seen manufacturers pushing the official power limits and applying a small degree of overclocking out of the box. In early testing we saw boards that applied the chips rated turbo based PL2 voltage to regular PL1 workloads, whilst then completely unlocking the potential PL2 power draw. This resulted in maximum loads occasionally spiking in excess of 320w's total draw, a level which is a challenge even the best cooling options available today. Whilst the power draw was unlocked, the gains achieved were surprisingly modest with only a small 100MHz being applied to each core. Bringing it back into Intel’s specification not only greatly reduces the power drawn but brings the average temperatures down to level which is far easier to cool quietly.
AMD has adopted a different tact with their new hardware, choosing to move away from setting a target speed in favour of a maximum thermal point. It still scales as normal when not being run to its limits, but once you place the CPU under full load you see it reach its turbo maximum before then averaging out on a slightly lower and fairly steady maximum clock rate. It leaves the chip the ability to run warm, but still ultimately keep it within the point of throttling, which on an ASIO workload could prove useful when maxing out a large project. AMD go a step further with the inclusion of BIOS options to setup various eco modes with lower power usage levels, although using the most power efficient modes would lead to a drop in performance when vastly reducing the voltage on those stricter settings. However, notably also amongst those options is an 170w TDP mode setting, which proves to be a stricter application of AMD's own settings for the chip. This proved interesting as whilst it lead to a slightly lower overall boost of 5.25Ghz all core against the unlocked 5.3GHz, but it would hold it a more constant level across all cores with less dips in performance overall which in turn helped to slightly improve the testing score. The testing itself was carried out with these observations in mind and with both arrangements being run strictly within their respective official specs.
Cooling in both testing instances is a be quiet! Silent loop 2 280mm AIO. Performance with the 7950X was similar when comparing results between a the Silent loop and our regular Dark Rock Pro 4 on the 170w TDP setting. By contrast the 13900X with its higher TDP target of around 253w under max load would still briefly peak at a level a little beyond this, a level we found only supported by the very best air coolers or a larger AIO water cooler. Both firms appear to have gone all out here as by comparison the next step down in both ranges, where we find that the 7900X and 13700X are both profiled with much more reserved upper power limits and are both easily managed with good quality air cooling.
RAM used in testing in both cases is 5600MHz, with EXPO profile RAM kits being swapped in for the AMD portion. It should be noted that whilst both platforms offer a theoretical 128GB of memory support, this comes with a few limits. On the Intel platform they advise up to 5600MHz on two stick arrangements, although it should be noted that 4800MHz platform baseline speed is what you will see it fall back to when using 4 X32GB sticks to maximise the 128GB memory limit.
The official AMD specification plays it even safer by listing 5200MHz as a maximum on 2 sticks and only 3600MHz for 4 stick arrangements. Indeed, looking through the QVL lists for Intel boards and a pattern of 4 X 16GB or 2 X 32GB seem to be commonly supported. It is however interesting to note that like earlier generations when overclocking the RAM it should have a sweet spot where it runs 1:1 with the memory controller. Initial testing at this speed rating has been mixed, but we expect ongoing BIOS releases to continue improving support and we look forward to revisiting this again in the future.
We see with the charts that competition is fierce at the top with the CPU notably showing both the 13900K and 7950X storming ahead of the pack. AMD's latency result still trails behind the curve a little at lowest latency rates but then performance open up and puts them neck and neck by the 256 ASIO buffer setting then even slightly ahead as we reach the upper 512 buffer. It was the Kontakt based VI test where Intel proved the strongest last time around, only to repeat the lead here again this time with particularly notable showing from the 13900K at the top. It's a pattern repeated across the chart where Intel comes out stronger when placed up against the competing model, although it's at a cost as with a power draw of potentially up to 40% - 50% more the Intel hardware really has gone all out to secure the result.
In real-terms however both platforms are going to scale the power draw depending on the required needs, so those headline upper limits are likely to be fairly uncommon in daily use. Although the remaining consideration here perhaps, is that with less heat being generated overall that there may prove to be a notable benefit for some with AMD's lower power consumption where configuring quieter systems are concerned.
The result that stands out from this round of testing was perhaps the AMD 5800X3D which appeared towards the end of the 5000 series reign, in that it may be a sign of things to come. AMD's new 3D cache design reduces internal latency as notable in the DAWBench VI test result, where at the lowest 64 buffer the performance far exceeds the regular 5800X model, even beating out the last generation AMD flagship 5950X above it. AMD has already announced a number of 7000 series based 3D cache enabled models coming in late February and it will be interesting to see this technology spread to more powerful models within the range as this should include the 7950X according to early announcements. With Intel also looking to introduce their long awaited high-end successor range to the world in March along with a potential April shipping date, the next wave of hardware already holds the promise of more interesting developments to come.
*Update* AMD 7000 Series X3D testing results.
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