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Path to Zen for AMD

Advanced Micro Devices, or AMD, has been dueling in silicon with Intel for decades. Given the long rivalry, it should not be a surprise that during the Intel Developer Forum 2016 in San Francisco this year, AMD hosted a rival announcement-focused event a hop, skip and jump away. MCed by Lisa Su, AMD CEO, and Mark Papermaster, AMD CTO, the event featured announcements and a showcase of AMDs technology. Yes, gaming technology for PCs turned out to be a big part of the conversation, too.

Dr. Lisa Su, AMD CEO at Zen event (image source: AMD)
Dr. Lisa Su, AMD CEO at Zen event (image source: AMD)

Above all, as the event title even spelled out, it was about much-hyped AMD Zen processor architecture. The Zen is an X86 architecture, built from the ground up from the current-gen Bulldozer architecture. The intended aim through Zen is to achieve performance, throughput and efficiency. This trifecta of achievements may be achieving a 40 percent increase in instructions per clock, simultaneous multithreading for higher throughput and a 14nm FinFET (3D transistor) process.

AMD’s Zen core was featured in the 8-Zen core 16-thread (similar to the 8-core, 16-thread Intel Broadwell-E processor, but promoted as faster at equal clock speeds) Summit Ridge desktop CPU. An AMD-run visual demo showed the Summit Ridge to be superior in rendering speed to the aforementioned Intel processor.

Expected first to launch later this year and then in volume by early 2017, Summit Ridge desktops will launch with the AMD AM4 socket, which is a new unified socket architecture compatible with with seventh-generation AMD A-Series desktop processors. AM4 platform technology specs includes DDR4 Memory, PCIe Gen 3, USB 3.1 Gen2 10Gbps, NVMe and SATA Express. From the desktop space, Zen core technology is expected to migrate into including fanless two-in-one systems, embedded systems, high-performance computing and the datacenter.

Of the demos shown during the presentation, the ones that should be of greatest interest to gamers include demonstrations of what the Summit Ridge is capable of with 4K gaming with Deus EX: Mankind Divided and Oculus VR powered by a muscular Summit Ridge and Radeon RX 480 hardware duo.

Additionally, a server-level server processor, the 32-core, 64-thread processor, “Naples” was shown running the Windows Server OS.

AMD’s announcements were made following an uptick in growth this year. Mercury Research and Jon Peddie Research market share data for Q2 2016 have confirmed the fourth consecutive quarter of growth in desktop discrete GPUs, boosted by the shipment of the next-gen Polaris GPUs. In 2017, AMD is expected to keep up the pace of hardware launches with the “Vega” line of enthusiast GPUs. AMD hopes that in the 12 months to come, among other targets, it will regain GPU market share with Polaris and Vega and return to growth in desktop PCs through Zen.

For more official information about AMD and the Zen technology, visit AMD’s site.


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