One year after launching Zen and reasserting itself into the high-end sector of the processor scene, AMD is getting ready to launch a new round of processors based on its optimized Zen+ architecture, followed by Zen 2 next year and Zen 3 in 2020. That will not be the end of the line, however, as AMD's Senior Fellow in Design Engineering, Mike Clark, confirmed in a round table discussion that work on Zen 5 has already begun.
What about Zen 4, you say? That was not talked about, but since Zen 5 is already in development, then it stands to reason that Zen 4 is being worked on as well. Alternatively, AMD might opt to skip over Zen 4 because it is considered an unlucky number in parts of Asia. Just as some buildings in the United States skip having a floor labeled as "13" because of its bad luck connotation, some buildings in East Asia omit the 4th floor. Part of the reason is because the pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the word "death."
Getting back to Zen 5, Clark talked about the excitement and simultaneous scariness of working on a processor architecture so far in advance.
"It's very exciting. As an architect, I'm already working on Zen 5, actually. It is kind of scary also that it takes so long for these projects, that I have to be working on Zen 5 to be able to intersect," Clark explained.
Assuming that AMD does end up skipping Zen 4 and jumping straight to Zen 5, then based on the above roadmap, it should show up sometime in 2021. No other details are known, however, such as what manufacturing process will be used. That is always subject to change anyway. For example, Zen+ was originally planned to be built on a refined 14-nanometer manufacturing processor (14nm+), but ended up being built on a 12nm FinFET process node.
Those parts are right around the corner, too. Zen+ processors such as the Ryzen 7 2700X and Ryzen 5 2600 are set to be officially announced on April 19. In the meantime, several leaks have emerged, giving us a glimpse of performance and overclocking potential.
As for Zen 2 due out next year, AMD said as far back as May 2017 that it had completed a tape out of 7nm. That is when a company finalizes its semiconductor design before sending it off for manufacturing. That being the case, we don't expect any major delays with Zen 2 or even Zen 3, which will be built on a refined 7nm process. After that, it is anyone's guess what changes are in store for Zen 5.