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Comparing CPU Cache and Cores: An Examination of AMD Ryzen Processors

ByYasmeeta Oon

Mar 6, 2024
Comparing CPU Cache and Cores: An Examination of AMD Ryzen Processors

In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the intricate relationship between L3 cache capacity and gaming performance, with a specific focus on AMD’s Zen 3-based Ryzen processors. This investigation serves not just as a curiosity-driven examination (“for science”) but also aligns with several of our past recommendations. Although not directly intended as purchasing advice, this analysis provides valuable insights for informed decision-making in the gaming hardware realm.

Unraveling the Core and Cache Conundrum

Historically, the belief that “more cores equate to better gaming performance” has been prevalent. Our prior analysis in 2021 challenged this by comparing the performance enhancements observed by users upgrading from CPUs like the Core i5-10600K or Core i7-8700K to the Core i9-10900K. The 10900K’s jump from 6 to 10 cores (a 67% increase) also came with a proportional increase in L3 cache capacity. Since games at the time rarely utilized all 6 cores effectively, it raised the question: was the performance boost due to the additional cores or the increased cache?

To investigate, we disabled cores on the 10700K and 10900K, standardizing the operating frequency, ring bus, and memory timings. This allowed for a comparative analysis across 6-core, 8-core, and 10-core configurations with varying L3 cache sizes. The findings were revealing: upgrading from a 6-core configuration with 20MB L3 cache to a 10-core setup (with the same cache size) yielded a mere 3% average performance increase. However, increasing the L3 cache from 12MB to 20MB in 6-core configurations led to a significant 14% performance uplift, underscoring the cache’s importance over core count for gaming.

Benchmark Insights and AMD’s Cache Evolution

The advent of AMD’s 3D V-Cache processors, particularly the Ryzen 5800X3D, marked a pivotal moment in recognizing L3 cache’s role in gaming performance. Despite the widespread acceptance of this fact, our ongoing curiosity prompts a revisitation of this topic, especially in light of AMD’s consistent advancements in cache technology.

Key Findings:

  • Cache vs. Cores: Our comprehensive testing, including a variety of game benchmarks, demonstrates that L3 cache capacity has a more substantial impact on gaming performance than simply increasing the core count.
  • AMD’s 3D V-Cache: The introduction of Ryzen CPUs with up to 96MB L3 cache has significantly shifted the performance landscape, offering dramatic improvements in gaming scenarios.

Benchmark Highlights:

  • In games like Baldur’s Gate 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, the dominance of cache capacity over core count in determining gaming performance is evident.
  • Titles such as Hogwarts Legacy and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor further exemplify this, showing negligible benefits from increased cores but significant gains from larger cache sizes.

Comprehensive Performance Analysis

Our tests spanned a variety of gaming titles, comparing 6-core and 8-core Ryzen processors with 16MB, 32MB, and 96MB L3 cache capacities. This analysis revealed:

  • A consistent performance advantage for processors with larger L3 caches across most gaming titles tested.
  • A diminishing return on performance with increased core counts, especially when compared to the gains from expanded cache capacities.

Conclusion: The Primacy of Cache in Gaming Performance

Our investigation reaffirms the critical role of L3 cache in enhancing gaming performance, often overshadowing the benefits of increased core counts. This insight not only validates our previous recommendations but also highlights the significant impact of AMD’s 3D V-Cache technology in the gaming hardware arena.

Key Takeaways:

  • L3 Cache Significance: A larger L3 cache consistently delivers more substantial performance improvements in gaming than merely increasing the processor’s core count.
  • Gaming Hardware Recommendations: Our findings support the selection of processors with enhanced cache capacities for gaming, emphasizing efficiency and performance over core quantity.

This exploration into the effects of L3 cache capacity on gaming performance underscores the evolving landscape of PC gaming hardware. It highlights the importance of informed hardware selection to optimize gaming experiences, reinforcing the notion that in the realm of gaming performance, quality often trumps quantity.

Continuing our deep dive into the dynamics between L3 cache capacity and gaming performance, it becomes clear that the evolution of CPU technology is reshaping the benchmarks for optimal gaming experiences. The intricate balance between core count and cache size is a testament to the nuanced complexity of modern gaming requirements, where not just any high-spec processor will suffice, but one that aligns with the architectural demands of today’s games.

Revisiting AMD’s Zen 3 Architecture

AMD’s Zen 3-based Ryzen processors serve as a prime example of this shift. With the introduction of processors like the Ryzen 5800X3D, featuring unprecedented L3 cache sizes (up to 96MB), AMD has not only challenged conventional wisdom but also set new standards for gaming CPUs. This strategic focus on cache enhancement over core proliferation speaks volumes about the changing landscape of PC gaming, where cache efficiency can significantly impact game loading times, frame rates, and overall performance stability.

In-depth Analysis of Gaming Benchmarks:

Our benchmarks extended across a wide array of gaming titles, from action-packed adventures like Assassin’s Creed Mirage to the intricate worlds of Hitman 3 and A Plague Tale: Requiem. These tests were meticulously designed to isolate the impact of L3 cache variations while controlling for other variables, such as core count and clock speeds. The results were telling, with games consistently showing marked improvements in performance correlating with increases in cache size rather than core count. For instance, the transition from 16MB to 96MB L3 cache capacities yielded dramatic performance uplifts, affirming the cache’s pivotal role in gaming performance.

Theoretical Insights and Practical Applications

This comprehensive analysis does more than just quantify the benefits of larger cache sizes; it offers a window into the future of gaming hardware optimization. As games become more complex, featuring richer environments and more sophisticated physics, the demand on processors evolves. The findings from our benchmarks underscore a critical insight: the path to superior gaming performance is increasingly paved by advancements in cache technology rather than mere increases in core count.

Moreover, our research provides a valuable framework for gamers and system builders alike, guiding hardware selections that prioritize cache capacities for gaming rigs. This approach not only ensures better performance per dollar spent but also future-proofs systems against the rapidly escalating demands of next-generation gaming titles.

The Role of Cache in Future Gaming Technologies

As we look to the future, the significance of L3 cache in gaming CPUs is likely to grow even further. With the advent of new gaming technologies, including more immersive virtual reality experiences and AI-driven game environments, the processing demands will become even more cache-intensive. This evolution highlights the importance of staying ahead of the curve in hardware technology, understanding the underlying principles that drive gaming performance, and making informed choices that maximize gaming enjoyment and performance.

In conclusion, our exploration into the effects of L3 cache on gaming performance not only illuminates the current state of CPU technology but also charts a course for future developments. By emphasizing the strategic importance of cache capacity, we provide a roadmap for gamers and system builders to navigate the complex landscape of PC gaming hardware, ensuring that their systems are not just equipped for today’s games but are ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

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Featured Image courtesy of Beebom

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.