There’s no doubt that the Ryzen 7 1800X is the most exciting processor from AMD in a long while. Intel is clearly already feeling the heat, and it has since slashed the prices across its Kaby Lake and Broadwell-E line-up.
However, the 8-core/16-thread architecture of the Ryzen 7 chips will need applications that are able to fully utilize all the threads. Unfortunately, games generally haven’t been the best at doing this, although that looks set to change with DirectX 12. But if you have been on the fence with your upgrade, and gaming performance is a priority, you may still be better off with a chip like the Core i7-7700K at this point in time, which has fewer cores but higher base and boost clocks. And the results do bore out results in favor of Intel. The lackluster overclocking headroom on the Ryzen 7 1800X also tilts the balance in favor of the Core i7-7700K, which simply appears the more sensible choice for those who don't need crazy multi-core scaling and performance.
This doesn’t mean that the Ryzen 7 chip is bad at games, it's a brand new architecture with a lot of nifty new hardware-specific features that developers will need to optimize for. Once developers begin to catch on and support more cores, AMD's Ryzen architecture will be quite the beast, as evinced by its multi-threaded Cinebench scores and even Handbrake performance.
How else would the Ryzen 7 entice gamers? Probably with its video encoding capabilities, which means a better experience for avid Twitch streamers. Streaming is very CPU-intensive, and Ryzen's strength in this area will be to allow better multi-tasking performance and less drop off in frame rates while streaming.
For power users, AMD’s new chip is probably most attractive when compared against the far pricier octa-core Broadwell-E CPUs. However, the cheaper Intel Core i7-7700K, which costs around S$500-plus here, manages to hold its own in gaming performance, content creation and general productivity tasks. So, if you compare Ryzen with Kaby Lake, which then moves the price advantage back to Intel's favor, it’s difficult to recommend Ryzen over it. In fact, the Ryzen 7 stack's price point can be confusing as it has an architecture to compete against Broadwell-E, but priced in-between Kaby Lake and Broadwell-E. Yet, it's not a complete workstation CPU derivative like the Broadwell-E that has much more native PCIe lanes made available direct from the CPU. So who exactly stands to gain from the Ryzen 7? With its price points and performance, the processor looks like an excellent mega-tasker at a much more palatable price point as opposed to the Intel Broadwell-E processors.
All in, Ryzen 7 solidly puts AMD back into the mindshare of enthusiast PCs. The Zen architecture is definitely much more exciting than Intel's incremental Kaby Lake and proof that AMD is able fight Intel head to head in terms of innovation. However, the new processor clearly needs developer support to properly utilize its multiple cores and threads to really shine. While those may not be too common today, AMD’s debut of its relatively affordable 8-core chips vis-à-vis Intel could provide the much-needed impetus to change that as high-end octa-core parts become more palatable for mainstream consumers. When that happens, AMD will be remembered as the one that kickstarted it all.