Last year AMD shocked the market when they released the first generation of Ryzen processors. These processors were built on the Zen architecture, and they proved to be the first processor from AMD that can rival against Intel’s core series.
The most noticeable aspect of the Ryzen family was their G series APUs. These APUs have the similar CPU as their ‘X’ (Only CPU) versions alongside VEGA graphics. While these APUs did not have much slack to compete against their counterparts from Intel, their Graphics horsepower and the competitive prices were enough to beat Intel.
This year AMD came even strong and released the 2nd generation of Ryzen CPUs / APUs based on the Zen+ architecture. These processors were priced the same as their respective predecessors but had a modest performance improvement. They really made Intel ran for its money. AMD sold more processors than Intel for the first time in many years.
AMD is now working on the Zen 2 architecture that will boast 7nm node. According to recent rumors, the chips that will be called Ryzen 3000 series based on the Zen 2 architecture will be released by the end of 2019.
But we cannot really say when will the third generation of these processors arrive in the market. Let’s take a look at what we actually know or infer about the information that AMD has been releasing since CES 2018.
Processors require a socket to work. The socket connects the processor with the motherboard and hence all other essential components of the computer. AM4 socket was introduced with the first generation of Ryzen processors. AMD promised its customers that the AM4 socket could be used until 2020. Which means you can put any Ryzen processor on an AM4 socket and hence the users can upgrade their systems easily. It is the exact opposite of what Intel does with its chipsets; Intel has been introducing different sockets with every generation of their CPUs. This sure can increase the revenues of the company, but it adds disturbance cost for the users.
On the other hand, AMD’s long support of AM4 socket has earned a reputation and trust from the enthusiast, but the upgradability for the 3rd generation of Ryzen processors is at stake.
Provided that the expected release date of the new CPUs is late 2019 and the use of AM4 socket, we can make educated guesses about the configurations of the processors. It is a common knowledge that the AM4 socket only supports dual channel DDR4 memory and it is not going to change for the upcoming Ryzen 3000 series since it requires dedicated pins for communication.
Now given that these processors will only support dual channel memory we can safely disregard the rumored 16 Core CPUs. A processor requires direct connection of memory with the execution cores throughout to “feed the beast” with doubling the core count AMD would have to make separate channels for the core clusters which is pretty much out of the window.
If AMD decides to go for 16 core configuration, it would have to face the same challenges as the Threadrippers face. The functionality of some cores in the Threadrippers is greatly impaired due to the indirect memory connection.
Memory controllers are the biggest problem that can be arrived if AMD decides to go with the 16 Core CPU. Starving cores is okay with the enthusiast line of the processors, starved cores in the mainstream lineup is a mistake that we think AMD is smart enough to avoid.
We have seen that the Graphics processors are now to the GDDR6 memory module while the processors are still using the good old DDR4 module. According to certain rumors, it is expected that AMD wants to debut the Ryzen 3000 series with the DDR5 memory module. The rumors behind the DDR5 module can be debunked by the fact that the AM4 socket does not support the DDR5 memory. The other point worth mentioning is the AMD’s history. AMD tries to follow its competitors only when the technology introduced by them is developed enough.
We have seen the case with the Ray Tracing technology that Nvidia introduced with its Turing architecture. AMD is still waiting to see the reaction of people before they decide whether to implement it in their upcoming Graphics cards or to stay away from it.
Same would be the case with the implementation of the DDR5 memory module. If the PC ecosystem is going to move towards DDR5, it would probably be Intel’s move.
A few weeks ago, we talked about the PCI express lanes and how they are still behind their plan. According to the plan, PCI-e 4.0 should be the standard communication lane between the processors and memory in the mainstream systems.
Unfortunately, we are still at the PCIe 3.0 standard, and it is still unsure whether we will migrate towards the new standard in the coming year.
The new Ryzen processors, however, will come with the support of both data transferring lanes like the newer Rome and EPYC processors unveiled by AMD. It will help people who want to use their old AM4 motherboard and will also help the board partners to make the technology mainstream in the coming years. The newer AM4 motherboards will likely come with the support of the PCI express 4.0 lanes.
The 7nm process
AMD has not said much about the new manufacturing process about the Ryzen processors though it is almost certain that the Zen 2 architecture will be built around the 7nm process.
During the reveal of the EPYC data center processors, AMD claimed that the process would bring twice the density while halving the power consumption.
The company also claims 1.25x performance boost at the same level. These advantages will come to the user as a result of faster and cheaper chips. It will complicate matters as we have already seen that Intel is struggling with the stability of its 10nm process.
AMD was claiming a 25% performance boost with the new process, but the company’s CTO Mark Papermaster told EEtimes in an interview that the new process is challenging. He said
“Moore’s Law is slowing down, semiconductor nodes are more expensive, and we’re not getting the frequency lift we used to get,” he said in a talk during the launch, calling the 7-nm migration “a rough lift that added masks, more resistance, and parasitics.”
He also said that the use of EUV (extreme Ultraviolet) would come with the 7nm+ node, but the performance improvements will only be modest compared to Intel’s 10nm process.
According to a rumor came from a Youtuber the established that these new processors would be unveiled during the CES 2019 with the expected release date of Q3 2019. On the other hand, AMD has clearly mentioned that AMD is now focusing on the release of the new EPYC processors. So, it is safe to assume that these CPUs and APUs will be released for the consumer market late next year.
We only have to wait now and see whether these new processors can close the single core performance gap between its Intel’s counterparts.