Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has seen success recently in the graphics card sector with the Radeon R9 Fury X. However, the server, desktop and notebook processors have not had as much success. The industry is anxiously awaiting the release of the Zen CPU, which is slated to help the company get back some of its standing in the server and desktop processor market.
How does the Zen CPU work?
The Zen CPU uses Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), which works somewhat like the Hyperthreading system released by Intel. SMT is marketed as boosting a system’s performance in instructions per clock (IPC) by 40%. The Zen CPU also works in a cache system that is high in bandwidth and low in latency. This resembles the High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) that has broughtp owerful results in AMD graphics cards. These processors will run with AM4 sockets, which support DDR4.
When Zen comes out next year, it will begin in the high-end desktop CPU niche. The more basic versions of the CPU and the APUs are set to follow, but they may not come out until 2017.
How will the product roll out?
Engineering samples of the “Summit Ridge” CPUs are expected to go out from AMD to partners in April 2016. Tehse are usually A1 revision chips that are fully functional, but they often run at clock-rates that are lower than the final processor. The A2 PC (production candidate) chips that operate at the target clock-rates and support all of the machine’s features are slated to ship out to AMD partmerns in July 2016. The A2 PR (production ready) processors, fully marked, are set to go out in September 2016. A month later, the first CPUs that have “Zen” cores inside them are scheduled for introduction.
Currently, chip production at high volume begins between 9 and 12 months after the first tape-out. For AMD, the A2 revision is generally the first version commercially available. If the company begins producing the “Summit Ridge” chips in high volume in July 2016, that is a sign that the company’s design has already been finalized and the chip has been taped out.
What’s inside the “Summit Ridge” processor?
The information remains unofficial, but it sounds like each “Summit Ridge” processor from AMD is set to have as many as eight “Zen” cores, each with 512K level two cache, its own DD4 memory controller with dual channels, 16MB worth of unified level three cache, a built-in PCle 3.0 x4 port that has SATA and NVMe support for connection with input/output peripherals and storage devices, and a fully integrated PCI 3.0 x16 bus that connects with graphic cards.
Don’t expect the AMD Zen processors to come out when people are heading back to school, though; expect them to show up in volume around the winter holidays. If the AMD chips turn out to be a lot better than the Intel microprocessors that are set to hit the market in the second half of 2016, AMD will sell a good number to enthusiasts, similar to its 2003 strategy with the Athlon 64 FX-51 and the Athlon 64 3200+. This does mean, though, that the “Summit Ridge” processors may only be available in high volume in 2017 at this point.