AMD Ryzen 2, Next Gen Vega & More Detailed
I think I must have said “AMD is firing on all cylinders” more than two dozen times over the course of last year’s coverage on these pages. From Ryzen to Threadripper and ALMOST everything in between, there were more AMD hits last year than in the last decade. During that time there were some who thought 2017 was just going to be a flash in the pan -a fluke as certain pundits put it- and that in 2018 and beyond AMD’s cadence would surely sslow down.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room trying to put words to paper after having just finished a good six straight hours of briefings with AMD. Unlike other companies who tend to focus too much on flash and not enough on substance, the AMD of today feels subtle yet in better command of their future than ever before. So while there will always be naysayers, if the last day has taught be anything, it is that 2017 was no one shot deal for this company. The next half decade will be filled with a constant cadence of new technologies as AMD vies to put the past in its rear view mirror.
Basically this visit with AMD before CES was all about setting the stage for 2018 and preview what’s coming up rather than a deep dive into anything. That means details were spread a bit thin as they usually are before any major launches but there are still plenty of dates, names and other elements that were brought to light.
Let’s start things off with a very straightforward roadmap and then get deeper in to upcoming APUs and CPUs on the following page.
AMD’s master plan which was first set into motion when Lisa Su took over was to either match or pull ahead of Intel in the short to mid-term future. They want to do so not by just offering a better price structure but also battling it out in the sometimes-messy trenches of raw performance. But one of the primary challenges standing in AMD’s way was their own manufacturing process inferiority. While Intel CPUs were using 22 nanometer and 14 nanometer lithography, Mrs Su’s cohorts had been stuck on 28nm since around 2014. This placed them at a distinct disadvantage in terms of power consumption, heat and die size. Raw performance was seriously capped.
Ryzen marked a significant step to a much more efficient 14nm process but that was just the beginning. In 2018 we will see AMD’s first moves to a 12nm node for both desktop and mobile processors whereas Intel will remain with their refreshed 14nm technology until Cannon Lake is launched on 10 nanometer later this year. Amazingly, AMD is actually thinking that a move to 7nm will be possible as early as 2019 while a refresh of that will likely come in 2020.
Naturally, this rapid cadence will lead to an almost tick / tock approach to upcoming launches. The first out of the gate will be Zen+ which uses the 12nm manufacturing process to deliver up to 10% better performance by optimizing in some key areas. CPUs based on Zen+ are actually sampling to partners right now in preparation for a launch in April with a refreshed Ryzen series.
Now make sure you realize that there won’t be any fundamental changes to the overall Zen architecture until Zen 2 launches in 2019 with that 7nm process I was just talking about. But according to AMD Zen 2’s design is already complete.
Basically AMD has two dedicated CPU teams that leapfrog each other in the development cycle so once Zen’s architecture was done, that team started work on Zen 2. Meanwhile, the second team started working on Zen+ and now they’ll go on to Zen 3 designs which will be ready sometime in 2020. That’s impressive to say the least.
There’s more to all of this than just changing manufacturing processes too because AMD is also trying to move beyond the usual 7 to 8% yearly performance increase. Intel hasn’t really been moving the yardsticks forward in this respect but AMD thinks they can push things even further and offer their clients much more performance with each new cycle. Whether or not that’s actually achievable is another matter but given each revision should boost clock speeds and overall IPC, the potentially for a paradigm shift is certainly there.
But you have to start somewhere, right? And that first move was with Ryzen and now we know AMD will be launching the second generation of Ryzen desktop processors in April of this year. Due to that 12nm manufacturing process they’ll come with higher clock speeds, better boost algorithms and enhanced overall efficiency. We’ll definitely be covering that launch but it is just the tip of a large AMD iceberg that will be washing ashore in 2018. Let’s see what else they are offering up for both enthusiasts and almost everyone else too.
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