AMD plans to regain CPU performance crown

  • More details revealed on Zen CPU architecture
  • Single architecture for both desktop and mobile
AMD plans to regain CPU performance crown
 
BELEAGURED chip manufacturer, AMD has now revealed additional architectural details and a first look at the performance of its next-generation, Zen CPU core. AMD demonstrated the Zen core achieving a 40 percent improvement in instructions per clock over its current architecture.
 
At an event in San Francisco, AMD demonstrated an  eight core, 16-thread “Summit Ridge” desktop processor (featuring the “Zen” architecture) outperforming a similarly configured eight core, 16-thread Intel Broadwell-E processor when running the multi-threaded Blender rendering software with both CPUs set to the same clock speed.
 
You can see a video of AMD's Zen demonstration below.
 
 
But you need to take this demonstration with a pinch of salt. It is likely that AMD chose the Blender rendering benchmark as it clearly beats Intel's latest CPU. The Zen may not be a winner in other benchmarks. Even so, it is still an impressive demonstration when you consider that AMD's current desktop CPU architecture, Bulldozer, does not even come close to Intel in performance.
 
AMD also conducted the first public demonstration of its upcoming 32-core, 64-thread Zen-based server processor, codenamed “Naples,” in a dual processor server running the Windows Server operating system.
 
“The performance and efficiency of our Zen core showcases AMD at its best,” said Dr. Lisa Su, president and CEO of AMD. “Over the last four years we have made significant investments to develop a high-performance, multi-generation CPU roadmap that will power leadership products. Customer excitement for Zen continues to grow as we make significant progress towards the launch of new products that will span from the datacenter to high-end PCs.”
 
The Zen processor features multiple architectural changes. Zen is based on a brand new design and features a new cache hierarchy, improved branch prediction and simultaneous multithreading.



Expected to launch first, the Zen-based Summit Ridge desktops will utilise the AMD AM4 socket, a new unified socket infrastructure that is compatible with current sockets.
 
But the bad news is that the new Zen CPU has been officially delayed until "early 2017." Built on a 14nm FinFET process, it had originally been expected sometime in Q3 or Q4 2016.
 
This means that the Zen would go up against Intel's Kaby Lake CPU due to hit the market later this year. Or to put it another way, if AMD has to claim the CPU performance crown, the Zen cannot just exceed Intel's current CPU architecture (as it does in the Blender benchmark), but beat the next generation Intel architecture as well. And that is not going to be easy.
 
At the conference, AMD confirmed that desktop Zen parts will have a "new cache memory hierarchy with 8MB of L3 cache" with an enhanced pre-fetcher, a large unified L2 cache, and separate low-latency L1 instruction and data caches.
 
Improved power consumption via "aggressive clock gating with multi-level regions" is also a target for the Zen architecture. But the biggest saving in power consumption will come from the new smaller 14nm manufacturing process.
 
Also, going forward, the Zen will be AMD's only CPU architecture - for both desktop and mobile. The Zen will replace the current platform-specific cores such as Bulldozer and Jaguar.
 
If Zen actually delivers and manages to beat Intel's best desktop CPU, it would be the first time in almost a decade that AMD had worn the CPU performance crown. The last AMD CPU to comprehensively trounce Intel was the Athlon, which debuted in 1999.

More than the glory of getting the CPU performance crown again, AMD needs profits. The company has been bleeding money for several years now and it is hanging on by the slimmest of threads. If Zen fails to deliver, it will likely prove a death knell for the company - at least as a unified CPU and GPU manufacturer.
 
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