AMD shows off Zen CPU

The first Zens to fea­ture an octa-core con­sumer chip and a 32-core server chip, re­ports Gor­don Mah Ung

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

AMD has un­veiled its new Zen mi­croar­chi­tec­ture, with a pair of CPUs that could put the com­pany back into the fight with In­tel’s best (see our fea­ture on page 80).

The firm said its Sum­mit Ridge CPU, aimed at high-per­for­mance desk­tops, will pack eight cores and fea­ture si­mul­ta­ne­ous mul­ti­thread­ing tech­nol­ogy to give it 16 threads of pro­cess­ing power. Sum­mit Ridge is tar­geted for a Q1 2017 re­lease, though a trickle of chips could ap­pear sooner. A sec­ond chip for servers, co­de­named Naples, will fea­ture an as­tound­ing 32 cores with SMT, giv­ing it 64 threads per CPU. SMT is sim­i­lar to In­tel’s Hyper-Thread­ing tech­nol­ogy, which splits a sin­gle core into two vir­tual cores for more per­for­mance.

This mat­ters be­cause up to now, some had spec­u­lated that Zen would fall short as re­cently-leaked bench­marks ap­peared to in­di­cate it was no bet­ter than In­tel’s two-year old Haswell mi­croar­chi­tec­ture. If other tests back up AMD’s de­mon­stra­tion, how­ever, it ap­pears to run neck and neck with the newly re­leased Broad­well-E. If AMD can live up to its prom­ise, it’s great news for the com­pany as well as for con­sumers.

Clock-for-clock, it’s look­ing fast

The de­mon­stra­tion used the mul­ti­threaded Blen­der ren­der­ing ap­pli­ca­tion on two sim­i­larly con­fig­ured PCs. One fea­tured an en­gi­neer­ing sam­ple Sum­mit Ridge chip, while the other had a new In­tel Broad­well-E Core i7-6900K CPU – the lat­ter can run up to 4GHz on some work­loads. AMD con­ducted the test with both CPUs locked at 3GHz.

This method­ol­ogy may seem un­ortho­dox to some, but match­ing the chips clock­for-clock re­vealed their ef­fi­cien­cies. It also al­lowed AMD to pro­tect the fi­nal ship­ping clock speeds of the chips. In the de­mon­stra­tion, which was per­formed just once, the Zen fin­ished a nose ahead of the Broad­well-E Core i7-6900K chip.

It’s just one test on an un­re­leased CPU, and un­der the con­trol of AMD, but the sig­nif­i­cance of the per­for­mance feat quells any fears that Zen would be the all-toofa­mil­iar ‘too lit­tle, too late’ story from a com­pany that has eaten In­tel’s dust.

The de­mon­stra­tion ex­ceeded the crowd’s ex­pec­ta­tions. “This is the most ex­cit­ing AMD (CPU) launch in a decade,” en­thused Kevin Krewell, prin­ci­pal an­a­lyst with Tirias Re­search, who at­tended the event. “They re­ally have hit the mark on this.”

Per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency

AMD of­fi­cials also lifted the cur­tain on Zen’s com­pletely new mi­croar­chi­tec­ture. Gone are the shared, clus­tered mul­ti­thread cores of the pre­vi­ous Bull­dozer and Piledriver de­signs – Zen’s cores are stand­alone cores with SMT. The chip is be­ing built by spin-off com­pany Global Foundries on a 14nm process, us­ing FinFet tech­nol­ogy.

AMD CTO Mark Paper­mas­ter said the Zen core is about per­for­mance, through­put and ef­fi­ciency. He re­vealed that it fea­tures a new high-per­for­mance cache, a greatly im­proved prefetcher and a com­pletely re­designed branch pre­dic­tion unit.

This is a big deal for AMD and the CTO showed it. “It’s a thrill to tell you we fully val­i­dated our per­for­mance achieve­ment,” he said. Paper­mas­ter also promised that AMD was just warm­ing up. “We are back. I told you a year ago we are back. And I’m very happy to tell you we de­liv­ered that per­for­mance and the team is not stop­ping, they are full for­ward on the next-gen­er­a­tion de­sign.”

The Sum­mit Ridge chips are ac­tu­ally SoCs and will sup­port DDR4, USB 3.1 10Gb/s, NVMe, SATA Ex­press and PCIe 3.0. Other de­tails of Sum­mit Ridge such as die size, tran­sis­tor count and ther­mals weren’t re­leased at AMD’s event.

Naples brings 32 cores and 128 threads

It’s not just about the desk­top, ei­ther. The chip­maker also wowed the crowd by demon­strat­ing its server-ori­ented Naples SoC run­ning in a dual-pro­ces­sor sys­tem. With each chip pack­ing 32 cores and SMT, a Naples-based server would fea­ture 128 threads of com­pute power.

Of­fi­cials said Zen will con­tinue to evolve – the new chip de­sign will scale down to lap­tops some­time next year, though AMD first needs to ship the chips.

The con­sumer-fo­cused Sum­mit Ridge is ex­pected to hit shelves in the first quar­ter of 2017, but AMD of­fi­cials said some may ship in sys­tems as soon as the end of this year. The server-ori­ented Naples chip would hit in the first half of 2017.

“I told you the best is yet to come,” en­thused AMD CEO Lisa Su. “The next 12 months will be even more ex­cit­ing.”

AMD’s Sum­mit Ridge SoC (left) run­ning at 3GHz can run a Blen­der ren­der just as fast as a Core i76900K (right) run­ning at 3GHz

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.