A large number of column inches have been put towards describing and explaining AMD's new underlying scalable interconnect: the Infinity Fabric. A superset of HyperTransport, this interconnect is designed to enable both the CPUs and GPUs from AMD to communicate quickly, at high bandwidth, low latency, and with low power with the ability to scale out to large systems. One of the results of the implementation of Infinity Fabric on the processor side is that it runs at the frequency of the DRAM in the system, with a secondary potential uplift in performance when using faster memory. The debate between enthusiasts, consumers and the general populous in regards to Ryzen's memory performance and has been an ever-raging topic since the AGESA BIOS updates were introduced several weeks ago. We dedicated some time to test the effect of high-performance memory on Ryzen using Team Group's latest Night Hawk RGB memory.

Memory Scaling on Ryzen 7: AMD's Infinity Fabric

Typically overlooked by many when outlining components for a new system, memory can a key role in system operation. For the last ten years, memory performance for consumers has been generally inconseqential on memory speed: we tested this for DDR3 for Haswell and DDR4 for Haswell-E, and two major conclusions came out of that testing:

  • As long as a user buys something above the bargain basement specification, performance is better than the worst,
  • Performance tapers to a point with memory, very quickly hitting large price increases for little gain,
  • The only major performance gain that scales comes from integrated gaming

So it is perhaps not surprising to read in forums that the general pervasive commentary is that “memory speed over DDR4-2400 does not matter and is a con by manufacturers”. This has the potential to change with AMD's Infinity Fabric, where the interconnect speed between sets of cores is directly linked with the memory speed. For any workload that transfers data between cores or out to main memory, the speed of the Infinity Fabric can potentially directly influence the performance. Despite the fact that pure speed isn’t always the ‘be all and end all’ of establishing performance gains, it has the potential to provide some gains with this new interconnect design.

The Infinity Fabric (hereafter shortened to IF) consists of two fabric planes: the Scalable Control Fabric (SCF) and the Scalable Data Fabric (SDF). 

The SCF is all about control: power management, remote management and security and IO. Essentially when data has to flow to different elements of the processor other than main memory, the SCF is in control.

The SDF is where main memory access comes into play. There's still management here - being able to organize buffers and queues in order of priority assists with latency, and the organization also relies on a speedy implementaiton. The slide below is aimed more towards the IF implementation in AMD's server products, such as power control on individual memory channels, but still relevant to accelerating consumer workflow.

AMD's goal with IF was to develop an interconnect that could scale beyond CPUs, groups of CPUs, and GPUs. In the EPYC server product line, IF connects not only cores within the same piece of silicon, but silicon within the same processor and also processor to processor. Two important factors come into the design here: power (usually measured in energy per bit transferred) and bandwidth.

The bandwidth of the IF is designed to match the bandwidth of each channel of main memory, creating a solution that should potentially be unified without resorting to large buffers or delays.

Discussing IF in the server context is a bit beyond the scope of what we are testing in this article, but the point we're trying to get across is that IF was built with a wide scope of products in mind. On the consumer platform, while IF isn't necessarily used to such a large degree as in server, the potential for the speed of IF to affect performance is just as high.

AGESA (aka AGESA 1006) and Memory Support

At the time of the launch of Ryzen, a number of industry sources privately disclosed to us that the platform side of the product line was rushed. There was little time to do full DRAM compatibility lists, even with standard memory kits in the marketplace, and this lead to a few issues for early adopters to try and get matching kits that worked well without some tweaking. Within a few weeks this was ironed out when the memory vendors and motherboard vendors had time to test and adjust their firmware.

Overriding this was a lower than expected level of DRAM frequency support. During the launch, AMD had promized that Ryzen would be compatible with high speed memory, however reviewers and customers were having issues with higher speed memory kits (3200 MT/s and above) . These issues have been addressed via a wave of motherboard BIOS updates built upon an updated version of the AGESA (AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture), specifically up to version

Given that the Ryzen platform itself has matured over the last couple of months, now is the time for a quick test on the scalability on AMDs Zen architecture to see if performance can scale consistency with raw memory frequency, or if any performance gains are achieved at all. For this testing we are using Team Group's latest Night Hawk RGB memory kit at several different memory straps under our shorter CPU and CPU gaming benchmark suites.

Recommended Reading

Team Group's Night Hawk RGB Memory: 2x8GB of DDR4-3000 CL16
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  • willis936 - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    QDR is the same thing as DDR with a the clock running at half frequency. It's not a magical way to make your datarates higher. The same paltry MHz increase would be seen on QDR but with just tighter jitter requirements. I don't see the benefit since DDR isn't running into a power limit.
  • NeatOman - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    Now that i don't play to many games I'm ok with my 5 year old FX-8320@4.5GHz and R9 280x. Although i find that it does keep up with heavy multi-tasking, like having 20-50 tabs open while playing a FHD youtube video and working in SketchUp on a 40" 4K monitor. It also runs a file server, media server that real time transcodes 1080p in high quality, and i won't really notice while browsing and watching videos other than the lights getting brighter inside the case because the fans ramp up a bit.
  • Zeed - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    Well poor test in my eyes... Gyuess You dont know that pass 3200 its TIMINGS ALL THE WAY !!!! Join us at Overclockers.net for PROPER numbers and tests with carious timings ect.
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    I hope your comment isn't an example of Overclockers.net writing quality. Proper numbers and tests aren't very useful when the supporting writing is almost incoherent.
  • chikatana - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    I'm more interested in how will the system perform when all DIMMs are fully loaded.
  • TAspect - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    All gaming tests are GPU bound, and that is why the CPU shows little to no scaling. The GTX 980 is clearly the bottleneck here. Either test with a GTX 1080 /Ti or lower settings until GPU is not a bottleneck.

    Tests only show average fps, which is a mistake as faster RAM affects minimum fps more than average. You should add 99% and 99.9% minimum fps to the graphs.

    You should also include G. Skill Flare X 3200 CL14 RAM with the Stilt's 3200 fast OC profile found in the Crosshair VI Hero UEFI. On other MB's the settings are relatively simple to configure and you only have to test stability once instead of tuning all subtimings for days.
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    Agreed on this. Game testing at more modest resolutions and settings would remove potential GPU bottlenecks from the results. Then again, there is a little bit of support for testing at settings closer to the settings an end user would realistically used on a daily basis. It does at least demonstrate the lack of change memory timings would have in a real-world gaming scenario. It'd be optimal to do both really so readers could see results free of GPU concerns AND see how memory perfomance will impact their day-to-day gaming.
  • lyssword - Friday, September 29, 2017 - link

    I think AT is one of the worst sites to get an idea of CPU gaming performance, always GPU limited or scripted part of the game with low cpu demand. Really the only time you see difference is 10% on bulldozer vs i7, where as in real world the difference is 40%. Most of the time AT test show almost no difference between core i3 and i7 because of that testing methodology
  • DabuXian - Thursday, September 28, 2017 - link

    Trying to find a CPU bottleneck while using an old Geforce 980? Seriously? I'd expect some basic hardware knowledge from Anandtech?
  • r3loaded - Friday, September 29, 2017 - link

    I'd like to see what the effects are on Threadripper, considering that the IF spans two dies and the platform is geared towards maximising memory bandwidth.

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