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Sash Rant: "Slow" cores and single-thread performance.

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

Something was bugging me since yesterday, when I made the mistake of engaging in the comment-sections of some websites. Not that website, don't worry. We don't talk about that website anymore. (If you know me, you'll know which one I'm talking about). Anyway, it bugged me enough that I decided to make a Micro-Rant on it. I say it's going to be a Micro-Rant but knowing me it'll probably turn out to be a long-ass one. >_>

Either way, as usual this is a rant so please read this before attempting to hunt me down and brutally murderise me, thanks!

8 Fast Cores Is Better Than 12 Slow Cores

Okay, this is basically a direct quote, as you probably guessed it's related to the release of the Core i9-9900KS and a comparison to its (almost) price competition, the Ryzen 9 3900X. I've seen this a lot, being thrown around online in comment sections - by people who seem to wish to defend Intel's pricing strategies or product positions. The argument, according to them, is that Intel has a significant advantage in single-core performance - or that Ryzen has "slow" cores. Well, they seem to acknowledge Ryzen's multi-threaded advantage. That's a start, but...

... Ryzen doesn't have "Slow" cores.

I thought I'd put that in quotes just to emphasise my point. This is especially true with the 3rd Generation Ryzen parts - those based on the Zen2 architecture, but even those from the second and first generation are covered by this statement.

This is sort of like everyone's favourite graph with axis that do not start at 0, so you can see an artifically huge difference between two comparisons, even though the difference might only be something like 10-15% - which by the way, is almost always the case with the 3rd Generation Ryzen CPUs versus their 9th gen Intel counterparts.

So let me just stop beating around the bush and say it how it is, Ryzen 9 3900X (and the other parts but for the sake of this comparison to the i9 9900KS) has absolutely fantastic single-threaded performance. It absolutely does not have "Slow" cores - with a single-threaded turbo of up to 4.6 GHz, lightly threaded turbo speeds in excess of 4.5 GHz, and industry-leading IPC for an x86 processor , it is absolutely incorrect to classify those 12 cores as "slow".

Well, unless you're a proponent of graphs like this:

Intel i9-9900KS has higher single-threaded performance and faster cores.

I'm going to try and un-rustle the jimmies of anyone who's just bought an i9-9900KS, because I'm a nice person. The Core i9-9900KS has the highest single-threaded performance and "fastest" cores of any processor currently available on the market, at stock. This is a fact and I absolutely acknowledge it...

... But it's all about perspective.

Here's the same graph, with the same data, but arranged to be more accurate in comparing these items. I'm using this graph as a visual example, not that I've seen anyone actually using a graph like the one above the one above (with the axis starting at not-zero) because people tend to get quite riled up about them. And they should, because the first graph will look (to uneducated people) like there's an absolutely enormous gap between the two points of comparison - when there's not.

This is like saying "8 Fast cores is better than 12 slow cores". It's the same principal, and in my opinion which I'm very much entitled to, is misleading and factually innaccurate.

Oooh, I'll give one more analogy. A fighter jet one!

You've got two jet aircraft, a MiG-25 and an F/A-18. The MiG-25 can reach speeds in excess of 2,300 Kilometres per hour. That's fast. That's really, really fast.
The F/A-18, on the other hand, can reach speeds just under 2,000 Kilometres per hour. That's not quite as fast, but that's still really, really damn fast!

Forgive the fighter jet analogy. But the point still stands, both aircraft are really bloody fast. Just because one is 15% faster doesn't make the other one "slow". Now, let's put that into perspective. Take a Cessna 172 for example. That's a little plane with a piston engine and it can do around 300 Kilometres per hour.

That's slow. Well, in all honesty - not really, but compared to the Jet Aircraft it definitely is. Taking this back to Processors, take an FX-8150. Now this is slow. This is so slow in fact, it makes my eyes water just thinking about it.

Anyway to wrap this rant (which did end up being longer than expected, what a surprise), Zen isn't Bulldozer. Just because Intel has has 15% (a lot of the time, tops) 'faster' cores, doesn't mean Zen has terrible single-threaded performance or "slow" cores.

To use a better term, you could say (for some workloads):

8 slightly faster cores are better than 12 fast cores.

I still disagree with this statement, though. Because the difference really isn't enough (yes even in gaming) to warrant the other disadvantages of the Intel product. But that's just me. Anyway, I do vouch for Ryzen a lot (<3) and some may accuse me of being a shill or something.

When Intel releases a consumer product line that I can truly get behind, in terms of value, innovation and features, I'll vouch for them too. (I miss the Sandy Bridge days, I loved my i7-2600K).

But until then, they're fair game.

Thanks for reading! ~ <3

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