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Image analysis with picCOLOR
It's been a while since we tested CPUs with picCOLOR, but we now have the latest version of this image-analysis tool in our hands courtesy of Dr. Reinert H.G. Mueller of the FIBUS research institute. This isn't Photoshop; picCOLOR's image analysis capabilities can be used for scientific applications like particle flow analysis. In its current form, picCOLOR supports AVX2 instructions, multi-core CPUs, and simultaneous multithreading, so it's an ideal match for the CPUs on our bench today. Check out FIBUS' page for more information about the institute's work and picCOLOR.

picCOLOR's real-world results seem to scale nearly perfectly with CPU resources, so as usual, the most cores and threads at the highest clocks win. In this case, that means the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X beat out the Core i7-6800K, and they're only rivaled by the i7-7700K. The Ryzen 7 1800X blows away the rest of the field with its sixteen threads, so much so that we had to double-check its score for accuracy. The result checks out, though.

CFD performance with Euler3D
Euler3D tackles the difficult problem of simulating fluid dynamics. It tends to be very memory-bandwidth intensive. You can read more about it right here. We configured Euler3D to use every thread available from each of our CPUs.

Euler3D hungers for memory bandwidth, and only the Core i7-6800K can truly sate it. The Broadwell-E chip roughly doubles the performance of its six-core Ryzen competition. While the Ryzen 5 1600s can still put up a fair fight with the Core i5-7600K and Core i7-7700K, they simply can't match Broadwell-E's quad-channel memory bandwidth. Save us, Threadripper, you're AMD's only hope.

Digital audio workstation performance
After our trial run with DAWBench in our last CPU review, we (gasp) read the instructions for the benchmark and discovered that we had been doing it wrong (though not in a fashion that would have unduly favored one CPU over another). This time around, we're doing it right. We're able to run both the DAWBench DSP benchmark, which tests the number of instances of a VST plugin a CPU can handle before being overloaded, and the DAWBench VI test, which tests virtual instrument and sampler performance. We chose the most demanding versions of both the DAWBench DSP and DAWBench VI tests from the project file to put as much hurt as possible on our test systems.

We used the latest version of the Reaper DAW for Windows as the platform for our tests. To simulate a demanding workload, we tested each CPU with a 24-bit and 96 KHz sampling rate, and at two ASIO buffer depths: a punishing 64 and a slightly-less-punishing 128. We then added VSTs or notes of polyphony to each session until we started hearing popping or other audio artifacts. We used Focusrite's Scarlett 2i2 audio interface and the latest version of the company's own ASIO driver for monitoring purposes.

A very special thanks is in order here for Native Instruments, who kindly provided us with the Kontakt licenses necessary to run the DAWBench VI project file. We greatly appreciate NI's support—this benchmark would not have been possible without the help of the fine folks there.

In the steady-state DSP test, the six-core Ryzen 5s slightly trail the Core i7-6800K. Excepting the Core i5-4690K's unusually good performance (which may be a reflection of platform differences rather than pure CPU performance among Intel parts), the Ryzen 5 1500X comes out on top versus Intel's four-core, four-thread parts. For serious power behind this type of work, however, more cores and threads really seem to help, and the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X both offer quite a bit of DSP prowess for not a ton of cash.

The DAWBench VI test starts each of its loops with a many-voiced instrumental stab, so performance in this test depends on how a CPU can handle a steady-state workload interrupted by a sudden, much more resource-intensive and latency-sensitive burst of work.

At the punishing buffer size of 64, the older and lower-clocked chips in our lineup can't handle the VI test at all. The Ryzen 5 1500X redeems itself nicely over the i5-7500, and the Core i7-7700K only barely edges by the Ryzen 5 1600s. The Core i7-6800K turns in a freakishly good performance here, though, and we can only presume that's because of its scads of memory bandwidth compared to every other chip in our lineup.

Relax the buffer size to 128, and every chip in our lineup can at least run the VI test. The 1500X still comes out atop the i5-7500, although the matchup is much closer at these more forgiving settings. The Ryzen 5 1600s just trail the i7-7700K. Meanwhile, the i7-6800K maxes out the number of voices available in the DAWBench VI test file. If you need to do this kind of work, the X99 platform simply can't be beat.

The Ryzen 5 chips make digital audio workstation performance more accesible than similarly-priced Intel parts, and that's a major win for AMD. However, the Core i7-6800K's total dominance of these tests suggests the Ryzen parts could do with more memory bandwidth to play with. Bring on the Threadripper.