AMD admits Ryzen 9000 CPUs won’t steal the gaming crown – is this why 3D V-Cache chips might be coming early?

AMD has admitted that when its new Ryzen 9000 processors debut, they won’t be the fastest gaming chips – even if they do beat out Intel rivals, they’ll still be behind current-gen 7000X3D silicon for gaming.

Tom’s Hardware prised this nugget of info from Donny Woligroski, who is AMD’s Senior Technical Marketing Manager of Consumer Processors, during an interview at the recent Computex 2024 show.

When questioned about whether the incoming flagship Ryzen 9 9950X would steal the crown for the fastest gaming CPU out there, Woligroski replied: “Is it the fastest in gaming? It’s faster than the competition in our tests. X3D is still the king of the hill, but by a much smaller margin than typically between X3D and non-X3D.”

For clarification, Woligroski added: “So a 7800X3D would, yes, be faster than 9700X, but maybe not by as much as you would expect.”

The gap will be smaller than previously witnessed is the assertion here, then.

Tom’s notes that as part of the Computex Ryzen 9000 reveal, AMD said the Ryzen 9950X would offer the “fastest consumer desktop performance in the world,” but notably didn’t say anything about gaming (with this or other CPUs). However, Team Red did indicate the 9950X would beat out Intel’s current flagship, the Core i9-14900K, by around 10% on average for gaming.

Woligroski also underlined that while Ryzen 9000 sticks with the same core counts and clock speeds (by and large) as Ryzen 7000, it’ll still be a major step forward, in general terms, as a next-gen desktop CPU range (due to architectural advancements in the main, of course, and cache improvements).

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An AMD Ryzen 7 7800X3D slotted into a motherboard

(Image credit: Future/John Loeffler)

Analysis: AMD on the defensive?

To be fair to Woligroski, the exec is being quite open and frank in this discussion, which is commendable – although AMD’s position on this does feel rather defensive in one respect. What do we mean by that? Let’s dig in…

So, it’s not unexpected for X3D last-gen chips to maintain a lead over new vanilla (non-X3D) CPUs, we’re told – and Tom’s underscores that in its testing, the current Ryzen flagship, the 7950X, fell short of the 5800X3D by around 8%.

Fair enough, we don’t dispute that, but the 7950X / 9950X aren’t gaming silicon anyway, these are heavyweight CPUs – and Woligroski draws the comparison between the 9700X workhorse of the next-gen range, not the flagship, and the 7800X3D.

If we step back a generation for this comparison where last-gen X3D wins out (just), we’re looking at the 7700X versus the 5800X3D. And in that case, in our 7700X review where we drew comparisons, the 5800X3D did not win out – it was actually pretty even, with the 7700X holding a slight edge perhaps (the thinnest of victories, maybe, but still). Indeed, comparisons elsewhere – like this mammoth effort from TechSpot – actually have the 7600X (a tier down) as holding level with the 5800X3D, pretty much, with the X3D processor actually a touch slower.

So, are we missing something, or shouldn’t the expectation, based on past history, be that the 9700X should be able to equal the 7800X3D? Not that it ‘won’t be behind by as much as we expect?’

Okay, so perhaps this is splitting hairs – if the 9700X is a touch behind, while its predecessor was level, or a fraction ahead, does this really matter much in practical terms? Probably not, but still, the way this has been framed seems a touch odd to us.

This is what we’re referring to in terms of that ‘defensive’ feel here. Is this a suggestion that Ryzen 9000 is actually going to very slightly underperform for gaming? That may be reading too much into all this, but the thought certainly occurred to us. Moreover, if that’s the case, the rumors about Ryzen 9000X3D coming early, and very swiftly – maybe two months after the launch of vanilla Zen 5 desktop CPUs – start to make a little more sense.

Maybe this isn’t a case of AMD wanting to pile victory upon victory and hammer more nails into Intel’s CPU coffin, but perhaps Team Red is worried about how Ryzen 9000 might stack up against Arrow Lake, at least for gaming – and so is pushing to get X3D launched as soon as possible to head off that danger.

Are we getting carried away? Yes, we are, and leaping to speculatory conclusions, true enough – but all this does have us wondering about the nuances of this next-gen desktop processor battle.

As a final note, there’s definitely good news for Ryzen 9000X3D chips in this interview, though, as Woligroski observes: “We have some really, really cool updates to X3D coming. So we’re working on iterating and not just rehashing it.”

So, the new X3D processors could really be something whenever they do pitch up, earlier or later.

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