AMD's Ryzen could be the defining processor of 2017

It's no secret that AMD has had a tough decade or so, and that the brand has begun to wither in Intel's shadow. But all that could change with Ryzen.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
AMD's Ryzen could be the defining processor of 2017

AMD Ryzen

For the past decade Intel has ruled the processor roost. Sure, AMD has had a few minor hits, but they were never enough to get the company off the back foot and making real progress.

But in 2017 that could all change with Ryzen.

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Ryzen is the name for AMD's upcoming high-performance desktop processors based on the company's "Zen" core architecture (previously codenamed "Summit Ridge"). Ryzen chips built using 14-nanometer architecture will make their way into high-performance desktop and notebook systems, beginning in the first quarter of 2017.

So what's special about Ryzen? A claimed increase of greater than 40 percent in instructions per clock, that's what.

At the core of this is a technology that AMD calls SenseMI, which itself consists of five separate features:

  • Pure Power: more than 100 embedded sensors with accuracy to the millivolt, milliwatt, and single degree level of temperature enable optimal voltage, clock frequency, and operating mode with minimal energy consumption;
  • Precision Boost: smart logic that monitors integrated sensors and optimizes clock speeds, in increments as small as 25MHz, at up to a thousand times a second;
  • Extended Frequency Range (XFR): when the system senses added cooling capability, XFR raises the Precision Boost frequency to enhance performance;
  • Neural Net Prediction: an artificial intelligence neural network that learns to predict what future pathway an application will take based on past runs;
  • Smart Prefetch: sophisticated learning algorithms that track software behavior to anticipate the needs of an application and prepare the data in advance.

"The 'Zen' core at the heart of our Ryzen processors is the result of focused execution and thousands of engineering hours designing and delivering a next-level experience for high-end PC and workstation users," said AMD President and CEO Dr. Lisa Su. "Ryzen processors with SenseMI technology represent the bold and determined spirit of innovation that drives everything we do at AMD."

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While all we have are demos to go on at the moment, Ryzen seems pretty impressive, with AMD claiming that a 95-watt TDP Ryzen processor at 3.4 GHz without boost can "match or outperform" a 140-watt TDP Intel Core i7 6900K ran at stock processor speed and boost when it comes to image rendering and video transcoding.

"If you look at 2017, I don't think we've seen anything this exciting since, honestly, back towards the '90s," said Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Computing and Graphics business, who was referring back to the AMD K6 series of processors.

Ryzen will need a new socket -- the AM4 -- which means new motherboards, but support for the new silicon will also bring to the table DDR4 and PCIe gen 3 support, as well as USB 3.1 gen 2, NVMe, and SATA Express storage options.

Now we need to see how Intel responds with its Kaby Lake processors line. Possible counters to AMD are a core boost or a price cut, but with Ryzen now effectively weeks away, Intel might find finally itself on the back foot.

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