When AMD launched Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 earlier this year, it recommended that reviewers test with Windows 10’s power plan set to “High Performance,” as opposed to the “Balanced” configuration we typically prefer for testing and that Windows uses by default. Now, the company has released a new chipset driver that will add and automatically activate a power profile that gives Ryzen more control over its own power states.
The problem initially occurred because of a mismatch in how AMD’s SenseMI technology operates compared with Windows’ native power management. SenseMI is AMD’s brand name for a set of technologies related to power management, fine-grained clock speeds, and prefetch behaviors. In this case, AMD designed SenseMI to make changes to the CPUs clock and voltage with as little as 1ms latency between frequency and voltage shifts. The problem is, this runs counter to Windows 10’s own power management, which sets higher thresholds and longer timers when transitioning in and out of P-states (Performance States).
To understand what’s happening here it helps to understand a bit more of the power management landscape. Once upon a time (the late 1990s), computers ran at whatever steady clock rate they were ordered to run at, whether they took their marching orders from BIOS settings or from the CPU itself. Intel first introduced SpeedStep in mobile as a way to improve Pentium III battery life. Over the past two decades, Windows’ ability to manage the system’s overall power state has advanced significantly, even as AMD and Intel implemented more nuanced capabilities of their own. At times, what CPUs are capable of can outpace integrated OS capabilities — Intel has its own power management drivers that it distributes with its products, and what AMD is doing with SenseMI and this new chipset driver is aimed at accomplishing a similar goal.
In this case, AMD’s new power plan reduces the thresholds for moving in and out of idle states and disables core parking to improve overall performance. The CPU, in other words, is now running more of the show.
AMD’s new power plan
AMD’s new chipset driver adds support for a new Ryzen Balanced power plan and activates it by default. The impact of this new plan will vary from game to game and workload to workload, but AMD’s own results suggest a reasonable uplift in a variety of titles.
Total War: Warhammer, Alien: Isolation, Crysis 3, Gears of War 4, Battlefield 4, Project Cars, are also listed as seeing performance improvements from this new driver, though no specifics are given. AMD won’t share its Q1 results until next Monday, but we expect to see good — though not exceptional things. Ryzen was only available for one month in Q1 2017 (Q2 will be the first quarter with full availability), only debuted at the upper end of the market, and will be fighting back against the ordinary seasonal slump. CPU and GPU sales are typically highest in Q4 while console sales (from AMD’s position) peak in Q3; Q1 is an off-season for both categories. Given these initial conditions, AMD won’t need to deliver major quarter-on-quarter sales improvements to see a noticeable uptick in revenue from Ryzen 7.
We’ve been watching AMD’s performance on Amazon’s Top 20 bestselling CPU list to see how the company is faring, and the results look strong so far. Ryzen sales have slipped a bit, with the Ryzen 7 1700 topping out at #7 (AMD’s FX-8350 is, for some reason, holding strong at #4 and the FX-6300 is at #8), but the Ryzen 5 1500X, 1800X, 1600X, 1600, and 1700X are all still in the Top 20 (#14, 15, 17, 18, and 19, respectively). AMD currently holds 9 of the Top 20 spots overall, with the A8-7600 anchoring 20th place. Previous spot checks prior to Ryzen’s launch showed AMD holding 3-4 spots, so if nothing else the data suggests significantly more AMD chips are selling into the retail channel. Exactly how many? We’ll get an inkling of that on Monday.
You can read more about AMD’s Ryzen Balanced power profile in the company’s blog post and download the new chipset driver here.