Published: Mon, January 08, 2018
Industry | By Terrell Bush

AMD Announces 12nm 2nd Generation Zen, 7nm Vega, 2018 Roadmaps

AMD Announces 12nm 2nd Generation Zen, 7nm Vega, 2018 Roadmaps

With CES kicking off this week, all the major names have announcements, and AMD is no exception.

Some Apple fans, like the good folks at iMore, would love to see AMD used in future Macs and yesterday AMD laid out their x86 roadmap and it was rather surprising.

When quizzed by us why AMD affected such a savage cut, the response was that, even in this state, the Ryzen 3 2200U can best its immediate Intel competitor. They all move on to a more power-efficient 12nm manufacturing process - albeit the gate size doesn't change - and will be endowed with the same Precision Boost 2 smarts as seen on the U-series models. We've seen reduced Ryzen CPU prices at places like Amazon and Newegg for a while now, but AMD has now officially reduced the price of every Ryzen model to keep them highly competitive with Intel. So we're getting down to sizes almost 1000 times smaller than a human hair. The new duo uses the same basic building blocks but reduce performance - and, more importantly for laptop makers, price - by shedding cores and frequency.

AMD said a new iteration of its hit Ryzen CPU, called Zen+, would come in April, using a new 12nm process instead of the current 14nm process.

He said the Zen 2 design is complete and will improve on the award-winning Zen design in multiple dimensions. Without knowing the system specs and detail settings used, this is hard to validate, but AMD's long-running graphics experience should provide a marked improvement in gaming on lower-cost machines. James Prior, one of AMD's desktop gurus, told us that "it's not an area statement, it's a power efficiency statement".

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But AMD are also promising extra features to optimise the performance per Watt capabilities of their new Zen+ processors. The new chipset will not be required, and existing X370/B350/A320 chipsets will support the new processors. These primarily target ultraportable laptops with 15W TDP, packing up to 4-cores/8-threads and 10 Vega CUs.

You'll probably want to hear about 2nd-generation Ryzen desktop CPUs first, which AMD briefly mentioned during their event. The Ryzen 5 2400G has a list price of $169; the Ryzen 3 2200G is listed at $99.

Even for folks who don't game, the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G open up a wide swath of systems that were hard for AMD to claim a foothold in with first-generation Ryzen CPUs. Obviously, both will offer lower performance than a 6-core or 8-core Ryzen desktop part with a discrete graphics card, but for budget-friendly builds that still offer decent gaming performance the Ryzen APUs will be attractive.

AMD has traditionally delivered value in its line of processors, so it sent a bit of a ripple through the industry when its first CPUs based on its latest "Zen" microarchitecture, in the new Ryzen line, started off on the upper end of the performance (and price) scale. Intel doesn't appear to have any current plans for a desktop oriented 8th Gen G-series part, however, so that will remain AMD's domain.

The first 7nm AMD product, a Radeon "Vega" based GPU built specifically for machine learning applications. As noted in our cover graphic, AMD will be introducing 12nm CPUs in Q2 and skipping 10nm and leaping to 7nm for 2019. There's a catch, however, as AMD says the 7nm Vega parts will initially be destined for machine learning Radeon Instinct products, presumably with consumer variants coming later. AMD will be putting an "AMD Ryzen Desktop 2000 Ready" sticker on all updated boards, so if it ain't got a sticker it needs updating before your new chip will work. It also shows the company is getting mileage out of its Vega graphics architecture, which competes with Nvidia's line of graphics processing units (GPUs). There was no specific timeframe given, so we don't know if 7nm Vega will arrive earlier in the year or later, but I'd lean toward the latter.

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