AMD Zen - 16 CPU threads of Intel beating perf at $300?!

AMD's next-gen Zen could arrive with 16 CPU threads for $300, and that would be awesome.

4 minutes & read time

Alright... most of you will know that I'm beyond pumped for AMD and their next-gen Zen architecture, but there are some new details that have surfaced on the /r/AMD subreddit, and it has me even more excited.

AMD Zen - 16 CPU threads of Intel beating perf at $300?! |

Intel has been dominating the CPU world for what feels like forever, but when AMD does throw down - Thunderbird, Duron, Athlon X2 - it does it in a big way. Zen is the biggest stomping yet, with multiple things to be excited about. It looks like we can expect an 8-core/16-thread Zen CPU at around $300, which would be freakin' amazing.

Some of the bigger notes from the post is that Zen will arrive in a purported 6850K with 8 CPU cores/16 CPU threads for around $300. This is amazing if it's true, and I believe we are looking at this price bracket for Zen's higher-end SKUs. But then the tease that AMD's Hyper-Threading equivalent is something called SMU and that it's "******* good" with the "same efficiency as Intel's HT", should have everyone excited.

Even in gaming, the post says that Zen is "neck and neck" with Intel, "even at low res where CPU bound". As for clock speeds, as of August they were hitting 3.8GHz, but "right now" AMD is reaching 4.2GHz overclocked, and 5GHz+ using LN2. The samples will continue to improve until retail spec sampling begins to partners.

Zen details:

  • There are some errata issues present in the current testing samples, similar in a way to the TLB bug of the Phenom. The workaround right now is done via the BIOS. The workaround however, strips around 30 ~ 40% of the CPU performance.
  • The CPUs are well behind schedule and every day there's real progress and bug fixing being done. Unlike with INTEL's E0 CPUs which make it to the wild that are almost completely final silicon. AMD's samples will continue to get bug fixes right up until retail spec sampling to partners.
  • In August Clock speeds were 3.8GHz, right now 4.2GHz overclocking is possible, with LN2 5GHz is doable. Again this will change of course, but it is just the current silicon that is behaving like this.
  • AM4/ZEN uses an SOC design, that means even CMOS/BIOS configuration is on package (not necessarily on silicon, I can't confirm this) so it is possible to clear the "BIOS" and still have old value applied 30 minutes later. How this will be addressed remains to be seen. Perhaps it won't be the same scenario for final silicon
  • Operating voltages (nominal) are 1.3v and all the way up to 1.5v should be fine it seems for AIO cooling. Frequency scaling isn't a strong point but again that may have everything to do with the process at this point rather than an inherent design limitation.
  • Performance is particularly strong at this point vs. INTEL's latest offerings. Single thread performance is matching Haswell-E and of course multi-threading performance as well. Tests that are memory bandwidth dependent may go to the INTEL platform simply as a result of having more memory channels, but I can't confirm that right now and have no info on that. The important thing here is that the 16Thread/8-Core CPU is minimum 5960X performance if not better actually. (Based on Cinebench R15) with the error fix disabled.
  • Can't speak to how well the IMC is working as current samples are locked to low DRAM frequencies (2133MHz and lower) and of course this has an impact on performance.
  • As stated in the beginning, every week is progress and AMD is working at an unprecedented rate to get these ready by March.
  • You're unlikely to see any high-end boards for the CPUs prior to launch or at launch, simply because no vendors can commit to too much right now as plenty is changing at a rapid rate.
  • All overclocking is done via Overdrive, you can't change any performance features at all in the BIOS (on to that next) at all.
  • BIOS or UEFI is actually built into the CPU, so only AMD can update the "BIOS" or microcode. All overclocking must take place within the Operating system
  • Right now it takes up to 30 minutes to clear the BIOS. If you remove the CPU and place it on another motherboard, it'll have the same settings applied as on the previous board. So debugging is a nightmare
  • 6850K SKU (May not be final designation) is wait for it.... $300 roughly. That's 8 Cores and 16 Threads
  • AMD's Hyper Threading is called SMU and it is ************ good. The same efficiency as Intel's HT.
  • Performance is really good, be it SuperPi, Cinebench, 3DMark etc, it's FPU performance is incredibly good and easily matching that of what Intel offers.
  • Current performance is staggering even though it is limited to 2133MHz (as mentioned before) and NorthBridge Frequency is limited to 2400MHz
  • There will be a nigher SKU than the 6850K, but it is a higher bin so it will certainly overclock better than 6850K and that may carry a premium price, but unlikely to be double.
  • There's plenty of excitement from all board vendors about the platform, so we will see how it all pans out. (Especially with the hot mess that INTEL has in store for us H2 2017, that we can leave to another thread)
  • For Gaming, the CPU is neck and neck with INTEL, even at low res where CPU bound.

Anthony joined the TweakTown team in 2010 and has since reviewed 100s of graphics cards. Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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