AMD’s hectic release schedule continues; Intel wallows
AMD piles on the pressure; Bitcoin crashes, again; Win 7 still loved; $399 Surface Go surfaces; more.
THE GUYS AND GALS at AMD are busy bees. Not a month goes by without something interesting emerging. This month, we have some fleshing out of the midrange Ryzen family. There have been “leaks” (the processor world does seem very prone to this) on four new Ryzens.
We have the Ryzen 5 2500X, a four-core, eight-thread chip, running at a base of 3.6GHz, with a boost of 4GHz. It’s faster than the 1500X, but loses out on 8MB of L3 cache. Sitting under this is the Ryzen 3 2300X, a fourcore, four-thread CPU, running at 3.5GHz, with a 4GHz boost.
We also have two low-power Ryzens due soon. The Ryzen 5 2600E, a six-core, 12-thread chip, with a base speed of 3.1GHz. Above this is the Ryzen 7 2700E, an eight-core, 16-thread chip, running along at 2.8GHz. Both these “E” models have a TDP of 45W, under half of the “X” versions, although clock speeds take a pummeling to achieve this; the 2700E is 900MHz slower than the 2700X.
There’s nothing firm on the pricing yet, but expect the usual competitive numbers. Less practical, but more interesting, is the imminent arrival of the new Threadrippers—we saw the pre-production samples at Computex. The Threadripper 2990X has 32 cores and 64 threads, and is expected to run at a base of 3GHz, with a boost of up to 4GHz. Below this sits the 2950X, with 24 cores and 48 threads. Prices are unconfirmed as yet, but expect around $1,750 for the 2990X, undercutting Intel’s finest i9s. Both are due to ship in August, and performance will be spectacular.
Intel has nothing ready to match this. The best we have is a refresh of the eighthgeneration Coffee Lake S chips, due sometime soon; these ninth-generation chips will bump speeds here and there— 100MHz on some base speeds, and up to 200MHz on turbo. They all feature model numbers starting with 9. We have the i5-9600K, 9600, 9500, and 9400, and the i3-9100 and 9000. The i5-9600K has the biggest speed hikes, gaining 100MHz on the base clock—3.6 to 3.7GHz—and 200MHz on turbo, from 4.3 to 4.5GHz. There’s nothing yet on the i7 or i9 versions; perhaps something more interesting is still to be revealed.
Meanwhile, in China, we have a new entrant in the world of x86 processors: Hygon. It’s the result of a complicated licensing deal struck by AMD back in 2016, when the company needed the cash to fund its Ryzen development. In return for $293 million and a slice of sales revenue, AMD sold its chip design. The Dhyana chips are based on AMD’s Zen architecture, and are essentially EPYC chips in all but name. The deal precludes their sale outside China, where they are destined for server farms. This may have little impact now, but in time it will. This is a long-term strategic move by the Chinese, who hope to be independent in silicon by 2025. It can’t be good news for Intel either, as China’s huge server market goes AMD-based.
When AMD launched Ryzen, we expected a robust response from Intel, but didn’t expect to have to wait this long. The problem is Intel is moving to a 10nm process, and it’s become a nightmare. Huge engineering problems mean yields are terrible, and have caused delay after delay. Currently, the company reckons on sometime in 2019 for volume production. A far cry from the original estimate of 2015. 10nm Cannon Lake chips are shipping; tiny numbers of i3-8121U parts so far. Until 10nm really comes on stream, all Intel can do is fiddle with its existing 14nm chips, trying to squeeze what it can out of them using optimizations. It looks as though AMD’s timing has been rather fortuitous.
The best we have from Intel is a refresh of the eighth-gen Coffee Lake S chips.
The huge Threadripper 2990X is going straight to the top of the HEDT market.