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.

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