AMD Ryzen System Tweaking Tips For Optimal Gaming, Overclocking And Performance

ryzen cpu top and bottom

Ryzen is here and it is giving Intel's Core series a run for its money, except in 1080p gaming in some instances (for now). AMD has said on multiple occasions that gaming performance will improve in time as developers start leveraging Ryzen's architecture and features. However, in the meantime, there are some things you can do to ensure you're getting the most out of AMD's latest processors. Some of the following information comes straight from the good folks at AMD, while other tib-bits are based on our experience with the Ryzen platform thus far. Let's get started.

Update, Update, Update

gigabyte ryzen ax370 gaming 5 ports
One of our most stable Ryzen Motherboards - Gigabyte's Aorus AX-370-Gaming 5

AMD released a new motherboard platform for Ryzen called AM4. It is the first time in a long time that AMD has truly targeted the performance enthusiast with CPUs, so there are going to be some growing pains and a maturation process. Whether you own a top-of-line X370 motherboard or one of the lower rung chipsets (B350, A320, etc.), check for firmware updates right out of the gate. With AMD working with developers and hardware partners to make sure Ryzen shines, it stands to reason that there will be important UEFI ROM and microcode updates on a regular basis. Even if you're running the latest firmware, check back every so often to make sure you're not missing out on an important update. Firmware updates can help in a number of ways, everything from playing nicer with Windows and improving stability, to making better use of memory and improving overall performance.

As a general tip, also be sure that your graphics card drivers are up to date, your games are patched, and that you're running the latest drivers for your motherboard and AMD Ryzen. It's not the easiest to find but AMD's Ryzen chipset/driver support page is located right here, and here's AMD's RAIDXpert support page for storage drivers. Side note, in our experience, the Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming 5 board we used for our review of the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X has been the most trouble free and stable so far, but we're sure others will catch up quickly with BIOS updates and patches.

Memory Matters

Kingston HyperX Predator

Ryzen processors do not offer memory dividers for DDR4-3000 or DDR4-3400. If you're shooting for a higher overclock, AMD suggests users should aim for 3200 or 3500 MT/s. That doesn't necessarily have to be in conflict with high capacity kits, either—some memory vendors have begun validating 32GB (4x8GB) kits at 3200 MT/s for certain motherboards.

After installing your RAM, take note of the recommended timings (CAS/tRCD/tRP/tRAS/tRC/CMD) and voltages. If an overclock is unstable, some motherboards will dial memory settings back as it chases a stable boot. Hop in there and make sure your RAM is running as advertised. If it's not, adjust the settings accordingly.

Getting back to our first tip, AMD has promised to increase support for overclocked memory configurations with higher memory multipliers as part of its ongoing effort with its AM4 platform. It intends to issue updates to motherboard partners in May, so keep checking for firmware updates throughout the year.

As to which kit you should go with, there are many out there. Likewise, memory makers are starting to churn out memory kits that are specifically targeted for Ryzen. We've had good luck with Kingston's HyperX Predator memory.

The Gigabyte AX370-Gaming 5 board we tested was limited to a max memory frequency of 2933MHz with the early BIOS installed on the board. We have seen memory speeds as high as 3400MHz on Ryzen, but this is an area that’s still actively being optimized, so maximum memory speeds and compatibility from board to board will be in flux for a while until the kinks are worked out.

Selecting The Right Power Plan

Power Plan

If it's performance you're after, select the High Performance plan in Windows. Not only is this power plan geared towards performance over power savings, but there are two specific reasons AMD recommends this for Ryzen:
  1. Core Parking OFF: Idle CPU cores are instantaneously available for thread scheduling. In contrast, the Balanced plan aggressively places idle CPU cores into low power states. This can cause additional latency when un-parking cores to accommodate varying loads.
  2. Fast frequency change: The AMD Ryzen processor can alter its voltage and frequency states in the 1ms intervals natively supported by the 'Zen' architecture. In contrast, the Balanced plan may take longer for voltage and frequency changes due to software participation in power state changes.
For those of you concerned about power savings, especially on laptops, this is a temporary solution. AMD says it will provide an update for Ryzen processors by the first week of April that optimizes the power policies of the Balanced plan.

Green Light To Overclock

msi am4 bios gaming 2gear red 1

The neat thing about overclocking, when it works, is that it gives you a free performance boost. Ryzen is no exception. In fact, AMD has embraced the fact that enthusiasts like to overclock, hence why every Ryzen processor has an unlocked multiplier.

There are some impressive gains to be had, and you don't need LN2 cooling to get there. In our evaluation of the Ryzen 7 1800X, we were able to overclock the chip from 3.6GHz to 4GHz without any trouble. It wasn't stable at 4.1GHz and above, though had we spent some more time tinkering and perhaps used a higher-end cooler, we're confident it would have got there.

Don't look for a magical elixir here—all standard overclocking tips apply, such as better cooling, keeping temps in check, not going crazy with voltage (around 1.4V should be the max without exotic cooling), and taking things slow in step increments as you determine stability at speed.

It is also worth mentioning that only the CPU multiplier can be altered at this time. There are no memory multipliers for 3000MHz+ available, at least with the most recent firmware updates. So to fine tune, you'll have to change the BLCK. It's not ideal, as that will also throw off PCIe clocks.

Final Takeaway

One thing to keep in mind is that Ryzen is brand new. It also represents a return to a frontier that AMD has mostly been off track from for the past several years. That means it will take some time for the industry to catch up with and the technology to mature. These tips aren't going to drastically change things, but they will make sure you're on solid footing as Ryzen becomes more potent.

Keep checking back at HotHardware too. We'll be following Ryzen's progression closely and plan on posting more guides in the future.