An Introduction to AMD Ryzen family
AMD’s Ryzen CPUs are attractive choices for those who require strong multi-threaded performance on a budget, going head-to-head against Intel Broadwell-E processors that cost twice as much.
Yes, gaming performance is a little lackluster, especially at 1080p where the CPU tends to be the limiting factor. However, AMD says that over 300 developers – including the likes of Oxide, Sega, and Bethesda – are working on optimizations that will be better able to take advantage of Ryzen’s capabilities.
Having said that, the new Ryzen 7 CPUs promise great performance as long as applications are able to take advantage of its 8-core/16-thread architecture, and that’s one aspect may possibly improve as time passes. And after the announcement of the 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 5 CPUs, it looks like AMD will continue to appeal to those who are both content creators and gamers in the mid-range.
Five different chipsets
Unlike past AMD processors however, Ryzen, and AMD’s APUs, will work on the same unified AM4 platform, which should simplify matters quite a bit. What’s more, AMD has said it intends to use AM4 for multiple generations to come with modern features like support for DDR4 memory, NVMe storage, and USB 3.1 (Gen 2).
AMD has released five different AM4 chipsets to cater to different subsets of users. You’ll notice that the main points of differentiation center around USB support, the number of SATA 6Gbps ports, the number of PCIe lanes provided through the chipset, and whether or not the chipset supports the splitting of PCIe lanes from the CPU. Furthermore, AMD has also designed the X300 and A300 chipsets explicitly for small form factor systems, while X370, B350, and A320 are intended for regular-sized boards.
That said, all AM4 chipsets allocate two PCIe 3.0 lanes for NVMe storage devices, but this can be expanded into four lanes if you are willing to give up to SATA 6Gbps ports. They also connect to the CPU using a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection, which is equivalent to Intel’s DMI 3.0 interface. These PCIe lanes are drawn from the 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes provided by the CPU, while the remaining 16 lanes are allocated to the GPU.
The X370 and B350 chipsets will be the ones most people gravitate toward, and the main difference between the two is the lack of official support for SLI and Crossfire on B350.
That said, the X370, B350, and X300 chipsets are the only ones that will support overclocking, even though all Ryzen CPUs come with unlocked multipliers. This is also one of the key advantages that the mid-range B350 chipset has over Intel’s H270 as the latter doesn’t allow overclocking.
The X300 chipset is actually the small form factor version of the enthusiast X370 platform. It features fewer connectivity options than X370, but it still supports splitting of the CPU’s PCIe lanes between two GPUs and allows overclocking.
If all that seems confusing, here’s a simpler slide that parses the information based on major features like support for SLI/Crossfire and overclocking.