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AMD will launch Zen in 2017, claims landmark improvements over previous generation

By Koh Wanzi - on 18 Aug 2016, 9:00pm

AMD will launch Zen in 2017, claims landmark improvements over previous generation

Image Source: AMD

AMD held an event last night in San Francisco, where it showcased the capabilities of its upcoming Zen CPUs. It also confirmed details on the release timeline, which has been subject to incessant speculation over either a Q4 2016 or early 2017 release. Starting with desktop processors, Zen will launch in early 2017, and could provide up to a 40 per cent improvement in instructions per clock over the previous generation.

In its demonstration, AMD showed an 8-core, 16-thread Summit Ridge desktop processor that featured AMD’s Zen core outperforming a similarly configured 8-core, 16-thread Intel Broadwell-E processor in the multi-threaded Blender rendering software. Both CPUs had also been set to run at the same clock speed.

AMD didn’t provide us with any concrete numbers, but you should probably take these claims with a pinch of salt. It’s not uncommon for companies to choose benchmarks or scenarios that favor their own products and exacerbate the weaknesses of competitors, so manufacturer numbers aren’t necessarily representative of real-world performance.

Zen will be based on the new AM4 platform.

In addition, AMD also showed off its upcoming 32-core, 64-thread Zen-based server processor, codenamed Naples. The chip was running in a dual-processor server and the Windows Server OS. Zen may launch with desktop processors first, but AMD has plans to make its way into servers and data center environments as well.

In fact, thanks to what AMD says are multiple architectural improvements, the company expects Zen to be able to scale to meet the needs of a variety of applications, from fanless 2-in-1 machines to embedded systems and high-performance computing.

Improvements on Zen include a new cache hierarchy, better branch prediction, and simultaneous multi-threading (SMT). The latter marks quite a departure for AMD, which used cluster multi-threading (CMT) over SMT in its Bulldozer architecture.

Finally, Zen will debut on AMD’s AM4 socket, a new unified socket that will support the seventh-generation AMD A-series Bristol Ridge processors as well. The AM4 platform brings several new features to the table, including support for DDR4 memory, PCIe 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 2, NVMe, and SATA Express.

This finally brings AMD up to speed with Intel’s Z170 chipset, and should help it compete on a more even keel.

We’ll even get to see some of AM4 this year. The first desktop systems with seventh-generation AMD A-series chips and the new AM4 sockets are expected to ship later this year in OEM PCs.