Jay Little
The Rise of Ryzen

07/20/2021 12:39:27

So anybody who is even remotely paying attention to processors knows that Intel is in some really deep shit. Back in 2014 they were essentially riding high above all of the competition and nobody could even come close to challenging their vice like grip on the market. My my how times have changed.

Fast forward to the present day, seven years later and you'll find a situation that is almost unrecognizable. Intel is still pushing processors built on the same tech as they were in 2014. They just have more cores, generate more heat and suck down way more power. To be fair, their integrated GPU (Intel Xe) is actually a bit better nowadays. But only if you ignore the woeful state of the drivers.

Meanwhile, Intel's competitors are clearly far past the point of fucking around. ARM based processors are getting scary fast and all while using a fraction of the power that Intel processors do. RISC V, though still in the very early stages, seems to be making huge strides forward and given the open nature of the platform is the horse I'm betting on in the long term.

Of course in terms of the right now, there is AMD and their x86 compatible Ryzen processors. Now as regular readers know, I've been heavy into the "small server / low powered office" thing for awhile. Climate change is real and I like the challenge of trying to do more with less. However, with the 150 watt Office blog post, that project effectively came to an end a few months back. As a follow up, I decided it would be good to scale back a bit on my low powered aspirations and get a feel for what life is like when you give yourself permission to use a few extra watts.

To be clear, I wasn't looking to go crazy here, and I didn't. I did end up giving my wife my Intel powered System 76 Lemur Pro with its 45 watt charger and upgrading to a Tuxedo Book Pulse 15 along with its 90 watt charger. Relatively this is a huge change both in terms of max power usage and in terms of real world performance. I even went so far as to upgrade the Pulse 15 with 32 gigs of RAM because for the first time in years I was able to run Virtual Machines with no effort and annoyance.

The Pulse 15 is quiet, its cool (the magnesium alloy case certainly helps) and it has insane battery life, at least as good as the Lemur Pro, thanks to a massive 91 watt hour battery crammed inside. It sports a Ryzen 4800H processor which is specced for 45 watts but likely tops out at 55 to 60 watts. It has eight cores and sixteen threads of power and it runs like an absolute dream. However there is no discrete GPU on this thing as I long ago decided I didn't need discrete GPUs in my life.

In fact I liked the 4800H processor in the Pulse 15 so much, I decided to buy a Chinese Mini PC with its 100 watt AC adapter from BangGood that contains the exact same processor. The idea of having the exact same performance in my office as in my laptop is very appealing. The Mini PC only recently arrived and I haven't been able to even open it due to being out of town over the last few weeks. However the basic idea is that it will replace the two low powered ODroid H2 PCs sitting on my office desk now (as Windows can be run in a VM on the new machine hence no longer needing a second one).

If that project works out (time will tell as I'm looking to mod that mini PC to make it more quiet), then that will likely result in a net increase in power usage while I'm actually working, but more or less the same power usage while the office is idle. Oh and as if that wasn't enough this past week Valve announced their handheld gaming unit, the Steam Deck. And guess what? It is also powered by Ryzen and I have also reserved my spot in line as I fully intend on buying it in Q1 2022 when the opportunity arises.

Assuming the Mini PC project and the Steam Deck both work out, that will mean that I have replaced virtually every Intel PC that I use on a daily basis with a Ryzen powered PC in less than a year. In addition my wife and I both have backup laptops (in case the primary ones experience trouble) and both of our backups are Ryzen powered Motile laptops we bought on the cheap. In terms of the Intel powered ODroid H2s, I plan on keeping one intact and leaving it powered off as a backup since it technically belongs to my employer. Right now I'm toying with the idea of turning the second one into a Linux powered network router / firewall with the H2 Net Card accessory. That will effectively leave my wife's Lemur Pro as the only Intel powered piece of hardware in regular use within the household.

I've been an Intel die hard for a very long time while AMD processors weren't as reliable and/or as performant. We've seen AMD and Intel trade blows before but there is something about it this time around that feels just a bit more permanent. In less than a year I've totally turned the corner on this issue.

My my how times have changed.

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