It’s no secret that AMD’s CPU business has struggled in recent years, with Intel having firmly planted itself at the top of the performance pile, in effect becoming a de facto choice for those building a new PC. This is not to say that AMD’s chips have been lackluster, because that’s far from being the case. It’s just that when high-performance is the name of the game, Intel has been the only realistic option.
With AMD’s Zen, which will deliver ‘Ryzen’ CPU models, AMD is confident that the tide is about to turn.
How’s that going to happen? First and foremost, Zen’s architecture is about as fresh as one could come. It’s a revolution rather than an evolution, and that’s just what AMD’s needed to strike back at Intel. Even so, this striking-back is impressive. Ryzen models, formally known as ‘Summit Ridge’ will be spec’d with up to 8 cores, and double the number of threads.
An 8 core / 16 thread chip would put a top-end Ryzen chip against Intel’s Broadwell-E based Core i7-6900K. Both chips even include the same 20MB of L3 cache, although AMD’s chip is clocked 200MHz quicker. According to AMD, those specs are enough to tie or perhaps even beat the equivalent Broadwell-E chip. How that translates to our own testing, we’ll have to wait and see.
I mentioned that Zen, and in turn Ryzen, is as “fresh” an architecture as one could come, and proof of that can be seen with the slide above. Beginning with Bulldozer and progressing all the way to Excavator, it was rare that a major leap was made; although it is worth noting that Excavator did reduce energy-per-cycle pretty significantly.
With Zen, the IPC is increased 40% over Excavator, at the same energy-per-cycle.
Part of the reason Ryzen is said to be so fast owes some thanks to the introduction of AMD SenseMI. This is a technology that’s built into all Zen-based CPUs that intelligently predicts future decisions, preloads instructions, and even chooses the “best path through the CPU”. All modern CPUs have complex energy-saving functions built-in, but SenseMI is about more than just that: a huge focus is that it gets each job done quicker.
As seen in the above slide, SenseMI sports five major features: Pure Power (monitors temp, speed, and voltage); Precision Boost (aims to provide higher performance for the same power on a per-process basis); Extended Frequency Range (or XFR for short; allows clocks to scale higher when temperatures are low); Neural Net Prediction (“a true artificial network”, which optimizes performance relating to preload instructions and predictions); and Smart Prefetch (predicts locations of future data stores).
Also coming with Zen is AMD’s AM4, a platform we’ve been hearing about for quite some time. With it, AMD fans will be able to enjoy such technologies as PCIe 3, USB 3.1 gen 2, NVMe, and SATA Express. I’d assume that also means it will include M.2 support, as it’d only make sense at this point (and if you look close at the board in the image below, it does appear to have such a slot).
So, the big question. When will Zen, and Ryzen, get here? Well, AMD is hosting a webcast as this post goes live, so we can hope that such information will be revealed then. Stay tuned.