AMD is coming back with a vengeance, and it has number one chip-maker Intel squarely in its sights. It wants to make processors that PC-building enthusiasts choose, not just because they're good value, but because they're massively powerful as well. A brand new, high performance CPU called Zen built on a new-for-AMD, efficient production process will be the backbone of this bold attempt.
Zen is a big deal for AMD. The new processor designs will be a full 40 per cent more efficient (in instructions per clock cycle) than the outgoing Excavator core, and will use the FinFET production process with one of AMD's foundry partners. It's likely to be GlobalFoundries, a Taiwan group currently putting the finishing touches on a 14nm FinFET production process that will bring AMD directly up to date with the best of the best from Intel.
Expect to see quad-, hexa- and octa-core Zen processors in the year to come — the company is talking about chips with a high core count, support for DDR4 (the next gen of high-bandwidth desktop memory) and simultaneous multi-threading (a technology that Intel calls Hyper-Threading). Interestingly, the new Zen CPU cores for 2016 and beyond will be compatible the same motherboards that support AMD's lower powered, more integrated APUs because both will use the AM4 socket.
Graphics is a big part of AMD's repertoire, too — its Radeon GPUs are due for an overhaul, imminently. The refreshed graphics line-up will use High Bandwidth Memory as well as a massively improved performance per Watt level, using the same next-gen foundry processes. If you're a gamer, Nvidia's GeForce GTX 9-series graphics cards might not be your default choice in a few months to come — we can't wait.
There are also heaps of things going on behind the scenes at AMD as the company moves to structure itself across more tech categories. AMD will use the Zen core in its next-generation Opteron server processors, as well as introduce a super-high-performance server APU and server-grade ARM processor (codenamed K12) designed for absolute power efficiency. It'll almost certainly be the company powering the custom processor and graphics chipsets of the successors to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, too — a couple of undisclosed "semi-custom design wins" were announced at the same time as future technology roadmaps. [AMD]
Campbell Simpson travelled to New York as a guest of AMD.