- AMD finally released its much-awaited Zen CPU line-up, starting with Ryzen (codenamed as Summit Ridge).
- Preliminary benchmarks published by AMD look promising.
- Performance improvements in final products might help in increasing AMD's market share going forward.
We’ve all been hearing about AMD's (NASDAQ: AMD) Zen CPU line-up for more than a year now. While some believed that it would turn out to be yet another flop, others were optimistic that it would at least match equivalent Intel offerings in terms of performance and efficiency. But it seems neither of the cases came to fruition. Preliminary benchmarks suggest that AMD’s Ryzen CPUs are far better than equivalent Intel Broadwell chips in terms of performance and efficiency. Very few had expected this scenario. So what's going right for AMD here, will AMD stock gain big with this latest development. Let's take a closer look.
The Big Deal
AMD held its new horizon event yesterday and revealed its Ryzen CPU. It’s an 8-core, 16 thread, SKU with a massive 20MB L2 + L3 cache and a stock speed of 3.4GHz. The chipmaker didn’t reveal many technical specifications about the chip most likely to keep the Intel’s engineering team guessing. However, AMD did provide us with a few performance benchmarks, with its latest CPU running at its 3.4GHz stock speed.
(Source: AMD, Snaps taken by Author)
AMD compared its Ryzen CPU with Intel’s similar 8-core, 16 thread offering, the i7 6900K. The key thing to note here is that this is the extreme edition SKU, falling under the Broadwell-E category, and retails for about $1100 apiece. More to the point, both the chips were manufactured using a 14nm fabrication process so it was basically the architectural differences that were being compared.
At the event, AMD ran its Ryzen CPU alongside the i7 6900K to show the comparative performance in blender and handbrake benchmarks along with playing games such as Battlefield 1 and DOTA2 at 4k resolution. Interestingly, AMD’s Ryzen beat Intel’s offering in handbrake video transcoding and performed at par with its Intel counterpart on other fronts. But that’s not it.
The key thing to note here is that the Intel SKU has a boost speed of as high as 3.7GHz and sports a TDP of 140W. On the other hand, the AMD SKU was locked onto a 3.4GHz frequency and had a rated TDP of just 95W. This goes to show that AMD was able to match and surpass in some cases, it’s larger rival’s equivalent offering at lower clock speeds and power consumption, indicating better efficiency all around.
This is a very big deal for AMD. Merely a year ago, there were speculative discussions about how AMD could go bankrupt because it lacked any competitive offering in the CPU or GPU segments. But now it has come out with a product that’s faster and 28% more power efficient than the equivalent offering from Intel, which happens to be the world’s leading semiconductor in various regards. But the positives don’t end with just one SKU.
The Big Plus
AMD is also attempting to take this fight to Intel’s camp with its next line of Naples CPUs. These SKUs would carry 16 to 32 cores each and cater to the High-Performance Computing (HPC) and server segments. Since these would be based on the Zen architecture, it is highly likely that AMD’s next-gen CPUs would also match or surpass rival offerings from Intel in terms of efficiency and raw performance.
Talking about the Ryzen SKUs, there are reports that this is not just a CPU, but a System on Chip or a System in Chip. This means that the Ryzen SoCs can be equipped with a range of applications, be it laptops, desktops, HPC or scalable server networks. These two factors give AMD a serious shot of competing fiercely with Intel in various computing segments (laptop, desktop, server) which were previously shut for the smaller stalwart. So, altogether, things are looking bright for AMD.
That’s not it either.
Final Product Would Be Better
The main point to note here is that the AMD product that was benchmarked against Intel’s extreme edition 6900k, was an engineering sample (ES). The ES Ryzen didn’t have a boost clock, while its Intel counterpart did. Yet it managed to match or surpass Intel’s SKU in terms of raw performance and efficiency.
The final Ryzen product would have automatic boosting capabilities baked in, that would allow it to operate at a higher frequency when operating load of the CPU increases, so we can expect further improvements from the SKU in terms of raw performance.
Gauging from these performance improvements, I’m inclined to suggest that AMD’s Ryzen would be able to defend its turf against Intel’s latest Kaby Lake CPUs as well, which are in the process of being rolled out. Since, both Broadwell and Kaby Lake line-ups are being manufactured using the 14nm fabrication process, the performance improvements in the latter shouldn’t be out of the world.
AMD didn’t provide any technical or pricing-related specifications of the new SKUs at the launch event, probably to hide this critical data from Intel. But the final products would most likely pack-in another 5-15% performance improvement compared to the one they benchmarked.
If AMD prices its products well, in the budget category, then it's highly likely that a lot of consumers (like me) would consider getting Zen-based desktops. Consumers who used to ignore AMD due to its lackluster offering might reconsider getting back onto the AMD platform as well.
This could result in market share gains across laptop, desktop and server segments. So things are certainly looking good for technology enthusiasts and AMD investors. Hence, it is still a good time to be bullish on AMD.
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