AMD’s New Zen Core: Do We Care About Power Efficiency?
AMD Zen Core Release News
AMD is enthused about the release of their new processor architecture, and it appears they may have good reason to be. Starting this year, AMD expects to introduce “Zen” core-based computing products first for high-performance desktops, then for enterprise-class servers and then on down the line for laptops and embedded devices.
Understanding the Specs
Whenever new processors are announced, there are a lot of revealing terms and numbers thrown around regarding performance. For the technically uninitiated, it’s handy to periodically refresh on what these specifications mean. Today’s example – one of the advancements for the Zen core – is the reduced power usage of the new design.
I Just Plug It In And It Simply Works, Right?
Yes, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t a bit curious. One of the commonly used analogies in trying to explain how electricity works is to associate it with water flow. The analogy actually holds up surprisingly well in many contexts. Pretend that a positive charge is equivalent to a body of water stored up in the mountains at a high altitude. The fact of the earth’s gravitational pull gives that body of water a large potential energy to be harnessed when it rushes downstream. Now, think of the processor as a large collection of water mills sitting on many streams, getting powered by the rushing water.
Being Green Is About Energy Efficiency
A mill that requires a very large and powerful water stream, with a cumbersome wheel that doesn’t actually produce very much horsepower, isn’t very useful. Processor manufacturers have gotten better and better at squeezing greater utility out of lower amounts of power by narrowing the width of the streams they need and lowering the operating voltage thresholds of the microelectronics on the chip. You can see that increasing efficiency has been a focus of AMD research for quite some time.
Successive improvements are the name of the game. AMD’s re-designs for the Zen core have helped to achieve an efficiency gain over the company’s previous release by lowering energy use per clock cycle.
New Process to Beat the Heat
For the Zen core, AMD is using a new 14nm FinFET process with Samsung in the running to handle fabrication. According to Samsung’s process technology information, the core voltage is only 0.8V. We’ll tell you more about this new process in a follow up post. These advancements allow the placement of more circuits on a smaller area, which enables greater processing capabilities and less electrical power waste. Another benefit of power savings is a reduction in waste heat. Peel back the cover and take a peek inside your desktop. You’ll notice that there is a lot of real estate inside the box dedicated to keeping things cool. It’s there for a reason – to a certain point, the computer components will run better the cooler they are. For processor manufacturers to promise and maintain maximum efficiency, it’s essential to beat the heat.