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Your next desktop PC might be AMD-powered: Here's why Bristol Ridge is a big deal

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AMD Bristol Ridge desktop 1

AMD reveals Bristol Ridge desktop processors for smaller, thinner and more efficient PCs.

The next generation of PCs look set to benefit from thinner and more attractive designs thanks to improved efficiency and performance from AMD’s line-up of desktop processors.

While all of AMD’s press coverage might have been geared towards its revamped graphics card line-up and Zen CPU core architecture, goings on elsewhere in the company look set to shake-up the all-in-one PC market. The company unveiled its 7th-generation ‘Bristol Ridge’ architecture for laptops earlier this year, and now it’s followed that up with a series of desktop-level APU announcements.

Related: Best gaming PC specs to build yourself

The line-up includes eight desktop processors, although for now they will only be available for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for now – sorry custom builders, no word on what 7th-generation AMD chips will be in your next rig – starting from the low-end dual-core A6-9500 and 9500E chips all the way up to top-end quad-core A12-9800 and 9800E. The E-suffix represents a lower-power chip tuned to work at a thermal design power (TDP) of 35W, whereas the non-E version works at a full 65W and requires a more powerful cooling system.AMD Bristol Ridge desktop 3

AMD’s claims – via PCMark 8 benchmarks – that the A12-9800 matches the equivalent Intel Core i5-6500 CPU while the A12-9800E manages 17% better performance when compared with the equivalent 35W Core i5-6500T. It’s not hugely surprising, however, since AMD’s own chips run at a higher clock speed than Intel’s. Still, managing better performance from the same power consumption is impressive. If the numbers add up in the real world, AMD could have a decent, albeit brief advantage.

Why brief? Intel’s yet to show off its desktop-specification 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ desktop chips, so we don’t know how much of an improvement they’ll be over the previous generation. If we were to hazard a guess, we'd reckon the new processors will put Intel slightly ahead on full desktop chips and neck-and-neck when it comes to its lower-power ‘T’-suffix chips that go toe-to-toe with AMD’s ‘E’-suffix models.AMD Bristol Ridge desktop 2

Graphics performance is on the up, too. AMD has traditionally managed significantly better on-chip graphics performance than Intel, and while the gap has narrowed in recent generations, it’ll be interesting to see how the two stack up. RIght now, AMD reckons its graphics performance advantage over Intel in is between 88% and 99%, which is significant. Good news for gamers.

The new APUs slot into the new AM4 chipset platform, which applies across AMD’s range of 7th-generation processors. The AM4 platform supports all the latest standards you’d hope from a desktop chip including DDR4 memory, USB 3.1, NVMe storage and SATA Express. AMD Bristol Ridge desktop

There’ll be a selection of chipsets when the time comes to launch motherboards for custom PC builders, with X300, B300 and A300 forming the small form-factor chipset line up. A320, B350 and an as-yet unnamed chipset fills up the rest of the range.

What does all this mean for consumers? Thinner, more powerful all-in-one PCs initially and more power-efficient custom builds when the time comes to sell the new processors as standalone items. While Intel still hasn’t shown its hand, it looks like 2017 is going to be an exciting year for desktop PCs.

You'll see the fruits of AMD's labour on Lenovo and HP all-in-ones this Autumn.

While we wait for AMD desktop chips, watch our AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card review

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