AMD has unveiled more details about its forthcoming Zen architecture, in a bid to put off anyone thinking of buying an Intel Skylake-based PC for Christmas and to stoke-up interest in the device that, it claims, will be available from the first quarter of 2017.
The company claims that, with the Zen architecture, it will no longer be the poor relation to Intel, performance-wise, and that it can compete with Intel's finest (ie: most expensive) parts.
In an hour-long event hosted by "TV personality" Geoff Keighley - no, we've barely heard of him either, but presume he was cheap excellent value - the company showed off an eight-core, 16-thread desktop Zen-based processor running at 3.4GHz that, it claimed, can outperform the Intel i7 6900K (current list price: £1,125.99) running heavyweight applications like Blender.
AMD also show-cased its latest architecture in combination with the also-upcoming Vega GPU by demonstrating 'Star Wars Battlefront - Rogue One' at 4k resolution with decently high frame-rates. It was the first time that the company had shown off the new Vega GPU cores, which are intended to compete with the Nvidia's GeForce 10 series architecture that has turned heads this year.
Mystifyingly, though, the marketing bods at AMD, who have done such a splendid job in confusing the market in recent years, decided that the 'Zen' name wasn't good enough, and elected to name AMD's desktop family 'Ryzen' instead. (If Zen was too common a name, why not call it 'Orac' instead?)
AMD claims that the Ryzen/Vega combination can outperform the Intel Core i7 6900K paired with an Nvidia Titan X playing 'Battlefield 1' at 4k resolution. But how good is it at 'Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed', eh?
"The 'Zen' core at the heart of our Ryzen processors is the result of focused execution and thousands of engineering hours designing and delivering a next-level experience for high-end PC and workstation users," said Doctor Lisa Su, presenting what is arguably the first real technical fruits of her tenure as the company's chief executive.
The key to Zen, she added, in addition to the shift to 14nm process manufacturing, was what the company called SenseMI, which has enabled an increase of more than 40 per cent in instructions per clock cycle. It, claims AMD, is comprised of five main components:
- Pure Power. More than 100 embedded sensors with accuracy to the millivolt, milliwatt, and single degree level of temperature enable optimal voltage, clock frequency, and operating mode with minimal energy consumption;
- Precision Boost. Smart logic that monitors integrated sensors and optimises clock speeds, in increments as low as 25MHz, at up to a thousand times a second;
- Extended Frequency Range. When the system senses added cooling capability, this raises the Precision Boost frequency to enhance performance;
- Neural Net Prediction. An AI-based neural network that learns to predict what future pathway an application will take based on past runs;
- Smart Prefetch. Learning algorithms that track software behaviour to anticipate the needs of an application and prepare the data in advance.
AMD has been drip-feeding information about its next-gen architecture for the past year or so, in a bid to persuade the market that it isn't being totally left behind by Intel.
In February, for example, it revealed plans for 32-core monsters built using 14nm FinFET technology, while in August it slipped open its dressing gown a little more widely to reveal more on the high-performance desktop microprocessors it is planning to ship next year. µ
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