The big talk of the computer enthusiast world is the upcoming launch of AMD’s new flagship desktop CPU, the “Zen” processor.
The Zen will replace the older architecture that could never achieve the same single thread performance as its Intel competition, so if the leaked specs are anywhere close to reality, AMD will significantly close the single thread performance gap. Also introduced is simultaneous multi threading (SMT) which is essentially the same technology as Intel’s Hyperthreading technology (works the same way at least). This is a step up from the Cluster Multi Threading technology that AMD tried before, but never got much traction with in terms of performance or acceptance.
But, in a world where Intel is still offering a flagship processor with ten cores with hyperthreading (20 total threads), AMD will only launch with an 8 core with SMT offering (for 16 total threads). Clock for clock AMD is coming out of the gate knowing that it isn’t going to unseat Intel as the king of the enthusiast CPUs, and anyone telling you otherwise is probably a die hard AMD fanboi.
But what AMD has done consistently better is get you an awesome “bang for buck” processor. And yes, in the past AMD has seriously overpriced some premium CPUs (it offered an over $1,000 dollar consumer CPU before Intel did), but where AMD has always made a good name for itself is in cost per core at the high end, and core(thread) per watt at the low (although this last generation really closed the cost per thread to the point where low end CPUs are essentially a wash on cost, but the 4 thread Celeron is 65 watts and the 4 thread Kaveri is 25 watts). So there really isn’t anything that you truly need an AMD to do that Intel doesn’t already offer at a competitive price point on the bottom end of the spectrum.
But where we are really hoping AMD hits hard is in the 150 to 200 dollar price bracket, which is square in the middle of Intels price/performance curve. If the eight core SMT Zen can hit harder than a top of the line i5 and compete with the lower end i7 processors, Intel will be forced to up their game or lower their prices. Honestly anyone who is a gamer knows that the video card matters more between an i5 and an i7 system at this point, so as long as you can remove the CPU as a bottleneck in performance might as well go with the lowest priced CPU and spend more on better other parts.
Essentially what people are looking forward to is AMD bringing competition back into the marketplace. The CPU offerings from both company have largely stagnated in the past five years (yes they have gotten better, but in an evolutionary manner). The Zen is the first real “next big thing” we’ve had in the CPU realm for a very long time, and the sad part is that all it really does is target the price point of its competitor.
So I am really looking forward to the Zen hitting the market and hopefully showing the world that AMD can really push the market forward. I hope that the initial 4 and 8 core offerings are followed up with 12 and 16 core offerings that are affordable to the enthusiast market.