AMD Close to Big Breakthrough

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.  Is the future of the company riding on the Zen core?  Some think so.  It’s been a rough road for AMD in recent years as they’ve been outpaced by Intel in performance.  This might be a last-ditch effort for a turn-around, but bro – we’re talking a completely new design from the ground up using many of the latest best practices.


How Does the Zen Stack Up?

AMD is touting a 40% instructions-per-clock (IPC) performance increase for the Zen core over their latest Bulldozer/Excavator evolution.  That’s a great improvement if true.  How did they get there?
Faster cache access … check.
Smarter instruction processing engine … check.
Lower power needs – check.

It’s still too early to see very many published performance analyses, but let’s glance at some of the specs.


AMD Zen Core, 2016

14nm process
64/32KB split L1 cache per core
512KB L2 cache per core
1 – 2MB L3 cache per core
L1/L2 bandwidth 2x faster than Bulldozer
L3 bandwidth 5x faster than Bulldozer
Up to 95W thermal design power (TDP)
Support for DDR4 memory

AMD Bulldozer Core, 2011
32nm process
2MB L2 per double core module
8MB shared L3
Up to 140W TDP
Support for DDR3 memory

Intel Broadwell, 2014
14nm process
32/32KB split L1 cache per core
256KB L2 cache per core
Up to 6MB shared L3 cache
Up to 140W TDP
Intel Skylake, 2015
14nm process
32/32KB split L1 cache per core
256KB L2 cache per core
Up to 8MB shared L3 cache
Up to 95W TDP


Benchmark Estimates
Only a few sources have put together some numbers comparing the Zen to recent AMD and Intel core speeds.  We’ll sum it up for you, using the Bulldozer as a baseline.  Remember also that there is a considerable margin of error for these estimates:
Bulldozer = baseline
Excavator = 25% higher core performance
Zen = 65% higher core performance
Ivy Bridge = 55% higher core performance
Haswell = 66% higher core performance
Skylake = 72% higher core performance

That IPC increase looms especially large when you consider that Intel’s new Skylake core is supposed to only have a 6% gain on the Haswell and 3% gain on Broadwell.  This appears to be a BIG jump forward for AMD, instantly making them more competitive with Intel’s premium desktop offerings on performance.  If the price is right and we can take AMD’s performance reports at face value, the Zen core could be a great option for your next system.