AMD Further Unveils Zen Processor Details And An Impressive Benchmark Showdown Versus Intel Broadwell-E

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AMD Says Zen Is Ready And 8-Core Summit Ridge Is Strong

amd lisa su
AMD President And CEO Dr. Lisa Su

AMD has been slowly releasing information about its next-generation Zen processor core architecture since mid-last year. Complete specifications haven’t been officially released, but we do know that initial Zen-based processors will be manufactured using a 14nm FinFET process, and that a Zen core-based family of products will eventually scale all the way from mobile devices on up to big-iron, enterprise servers. News of a 32-core / 64-thread Zen-based server processor codenamed “Naples” broke a few months back, and AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su recently showed off an 8-core / 16-thread desktop variant codenamed Summit Ridge. Desktop and mobile Zen processors and APUs with lower core counts are also planned.

amd mark papermaster
Mark Papermaster, SVP And CTO At AMD

We’ve been talking about the claimed 40% IPC (Instructions Per Clock) improvement of AMD's forthcoming Zen processor, versus the company's existing Excavator core, for ages. We also know Zen's initial availability is slated for later this year, with a lager-scale roll-out planned for early 2017. Finally, AMD has also made it known previously that it will be standardizing on the new socket AM4 platform, which has support for DDR4 memory, PCIe Gen 3, USB 3.1 Gen2 10Gbps, NVMe, and SATA Express. There is already a lot of Zen-related information out there if you know where to look – like right here at HH, of course – but we’ve got much more meat on Zen to share with you today.

AMD Summit Ridge 8 Core Zen System
AMD Summit Ridge Demo System

AMD has plans to disclose additional details regarding Zen at Hot Chips 28 next week. However, we had a chance to see a few Zen-based systems in action last night at an intimate press event and wanted to share as much as we could. Last night we witnessed the first Zen performance demos pitting an AMD “Summit Ridge” processor against an Intel Extreme Edition “Broadwell-E” based processor. We also got a first look at the 32-core / 64-thread server product codenamed “Naples”, and got to see Summit Ridge-powered systems running games like Dues Ex at 4K (with a Radeon Fury X), pulling workstation duty (along with a Radeon Pro Duo), and paired to a Radeon RX 480 powering an Oculus Rift.


In a demo that many of you will probably find most interesting, AMD showed its 8-core / 16-thread “Summit Ridge” desktop processor actually outperforming a similarly configured 8-core / 16-thread Intel “Broadwell-E” processor with a multi-threaded Blender rendering software workload, with both processors configured to the same 3GHz clock speed. Essentially, it was a clock-for-clock, core-for-core comparison of both AMD's and Intel's high-performance desktop architectures.

amd naples 32 core zen
2P AMD "Naples" 32-Core / 64-Thread Zen Enterprise Processors

Blender may have been chosen for a reason, and we strongly advise not making any final judgements until we can run a full suite of independent benchmarks of our own. However, what this demos suggests is that in some workloads, the AMD Zen core could actually be faster than Broadwell-E. The scuttlebutt is AMD will launch at higher clocks than this as well. But just how high, we do not know yet.

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