AMD unveils Ryzen processors, boasts of Intel-beating performance

December 14, 2016 // 10:08 a.m.

Tags: #amd #architecture #benchmark #bulldozer #cpu #intel #jim-anderson #jim-keller #k7 #k8 #lisa-su #microarchitecture #new-horizon #overclocking #processor #ryzen #sense-mi #xfr #zen

AMD has officially announced the retail branding for its upcoming Zen architecture processors, and it's clearly hoping to rise like the phoenix: The chips will be known as Ryzen when they launch early next year.

According to figures unveiled by AMD at its New Horizon event last night, Ryzen will put an end to six years of sub-par performance suffered by users of the company's Bulldozer architecture and its follow-up releases. Based on similar paradigms to AMD's far more successful K7 and K8 architectures, thanks to the re-hiring of Jim Keller who left the company once again back in 2015, AMD claims the Zen architecture behind Ryzen will offer a 40 percent increase in instructions per clock (IPC) - an impressive feat if borne out by independent testing.

'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,' claimed AMD's president and chief executive Lisa Su at the event. 'Ryzen processors with SenseMI technology represent the bold and determined spirit of innovation that drives everything we do at AMD.'

SenseMI, something AMD has been keeping firmly under its hat until last night's unveiling, is the name given to a suite of five technologies: Pure Power, Precision Boost, Extended Frequency Range (XFR), Neural Net Prediction, and Smart Prefetch. Pure Power, the company has explained, takes the form of more than 100 embedded sensors tracking voltage, power draw, and temperature of individual components for finer-grained control of the chip's various operating specifications. Precision Boost, meanwhile, takes those data and uses it to tweak the processor's clock speed in 25MHz increments at up to a 1,000Hz polling rate.

Extended Frequency Range (XFR) is where SenseMI gets interesting for the enthusiast: XFR, AMD claims, amounts to an effective on-by-default overclock which triggers when the chip is sufficiently cooled. While stock heatsinks and fans will be expected to get the Ryzen chips to no more than their default advertised clocks, those adding beefier coolers - including liquid-cooling systems - can expect to see the processor running faster without the need to manually overclock the part.

Neural Net Prediction and Smart Prefetch round off the SenseMI offering, and offer similar performance-boosting claims: Neural Net Prediction uses an on-chip artificially intelligent self-learning neural network to predict the instructions and processor capabilities a particular application will need next based on previous runs; Smart Prefetch does the same for the data required by the application. While prefetch algorithms and cache prediction systems are nothing new to modern processors, AMD is confident it has something special in SenseMI that will help further boost the parts' performance.

The event also showed Ryzen chips in action, using a 3.4GHz eight-core 16-thread top-end part to run through Blender rendering and Handbrake transcoding benchmarks which demonstrated narrow wins against Intel's rival Core i7-6900K - impressive, given that the Ryzen part on test had a 95W thermal design profile (TDP) to the Core i7's 140W TDP. Gaming, too, saw a boost: AMD's chip equalled or improved upon the frame rates of Battlefield 1 played at a 4K resolution against Intel's processor, though to achieve said frame rates AMD was embarrassingly reliant on pairing both processors with a pair of Titan X GPUs from graphics rival Nvidia.

'The desktop market is hungry for change as new and demanding use cases like VR, 3D modelling, and eSports require intense amounts of processing and graphics power,' claimed AMD's general manager for the Computing and Graphics Group Jim Anderson. 'We designed Ryzen processors to excel in these areas and to bring much-needed innovation and competition back to desktop PCs.'

AMD has confirmed a Q1 2017 launch for desktop Ryzen parts, with lower-power notebook Ryzen chips pushed back to the second half of the year. The New Horizon webcast can be replayed from the official website, while AMD's Ryzen microsite has yet to be sent live.
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