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AMD Zen 2 specs, technology, release date and more

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Details are already trickling out about AMD’s upcoming Zen 2 microarchitecture – but what is it, and when will it land? Here’s our guide to the AMD Zen 2 release date, design, performance and more.

A brief history of Zen

Zen is AMD’s marketing name for a new type of microarchitecture (chip design) that features in computer processors.

AMD started work on Zen way back in 2012, and finally revealed the new architecture in 2015. Then in March 2017, AMD released the new Ryzen series of CPUs, which were the first AMD processors to feature Zen architecture.

Zen architecture replace the old Bulldozer family of processors, which were released in 2011. Thanks to design improvements, Zen offers faster and more energy-efficient computing – more on that later.

We've already reviewed AMD's top-end Zen-based Ryzen 7 1800X, and the firm has promised lots more consumer Zen kit for the first half of this year

Related: Intel Kaby Lake review

Zen 2 Release Date: What is Zen 2, and when will we see it?

Zen 2 is basically the next evolution of the Zen architecture. AMD’s development roadmap has already confirmed that we’ll see a Zen 2 and a Zen 3, so it’s clear that Zen is here to stay for a while.

According to PC Games Hardware, Zen 2 will feature in the upcoming Pinnacle Ridge family of CPUs, which we’re expecting to see in early 2018. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), we haven’t heard any official word from AMD on an actual launch window, so take that with a pinch of salt.

amd zenRyzen is AMD's latest series of CPUs, based on the new Zen microarchitecture

The best official details we have come from Dr. Lisa Su, CEO of AMD, who shed some light on Zen 2 during an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on Reddit. Regarding a Zen 2 release date, Su said: “Can't comment just yet on release timing, just tell you that we have a large team working on it.”

On the matter of performance, Su was equally vague: “In new product development, you always learn a lot and we have our list of things that we are adding to Zen 2 and Zen 3 to get even more performance going forward.”

But the good news is that it will be “better” at gaming: "You should expect gaming performance to only get better with time as the developers have more time with “Zen”,” said Su.

We’ll update this article with more frustratingly ambiguous marketing chatter as and when it arrives.

Related: Best gaming PC

Zen 2 vs Zen: What’s the difference?

Zen is great, but there’s always room for improvement.

For a start, Zen CPU cores are built using a 14nm (nanometre) 'FinFET' manufacturing process. That’s a way of describing how densely the transistors on a chip can be packed. Transistors are like tiny electronic switches that allow computing to happen; transistors packed into a smaller space means greater energy efficiency for the same performance.

We’ve already seen a more efficient 10nm manufacturing process used for smartphone chips (see Snapdragon 835, Exynos 8895) in 2017, so it’s only a matter of time until computer CPUs catch up. Moving to a 10nm fabrication would be an easy way for Zen 2 CPU cores to offer significantly greater performance. 10nm is the same process size as Intel's Cannonlake, which will be appearing in laptops in the second half of this year.

Related: Best graphics card

amd zenIf AMD's Zen 2 is even half as cool as this official Zen logo, we'll be impressed

On the matter of moving to a 10nm design (and even 7nm), James Prior, AMD’s Head of CPU Business Development, said: "As a high performance chip design company, we will investigate any avenue that offers potential for more competitive products that deliver winning experiences.”

If Zen 2 does move to 10nm, we’ll see significant efficiency improvements across the entire system-on-a-chip. AMD may also opt to add additional components to the SoC too. However, rather than immediately changing process size, it's more likely than AMD will stick with 14nm and optimise the heck out of it before moving on.

With that in mind, AMD is working hard at improving the IPC (instructions-per-clock). For reference, Ryzen achieved a 52% IPC improvement over its predecessor, according to AMD. But what does that actually mean?

Well, every processor has a clock-rate, which is the frequency at which a CPU is running – that’s how we describe how fast a processor is, in MHz or GHz (megahertz or gigahertz). But there’s a lesser known metric called IPC, which describes the average number of instructions executed per clock cycle. The higher a processor’s IPC is, the more tasks it gets done in a given time.

It’s likely that AMD will be working on ways to improve the IPC of Zen architecture. This may also involve working with major software companies, as IPC isn’t a fixed constant on processors – it depends heavily on how the processor interacts with a given piece of software.

What will this all ultimately mean? Well, according to hardware rumour mongers WCCFTech, we’ll see gains of between 5% and 15% for Zen 2’s IPC count – huzzah!

Watch: Radeon RX 480 review

What do you think of AMD Zen 2? Let us know in the comments.

Mercurious1

March 14, 2017, 5:46 pm

I believe this quote from your article is out of context.

--- But the good news is that it will be
“better” at gaming: "You should expect gaming performance to only get
better with time as the developers have more time with “Zen”,” said Su. ---
Lisa Su made this statement within days of the release of Zen and at that time was referring to the 300+ game developers working on optimization of software to run on Zen, not Zen itself.

Brane212

March 14, 2017, 5:55 pm

IOW, you know basically nothing about Zen2.
On top of that you threw some obvious nonsense, like that 10nm transition.
They already stated ( and repeated N times) that they plan to skip 10nm and go for 7nm, when the time comes ( Zen3).

What is the point of such article ?

SolarZA

March 14, 2017, 6:01 pm

i was wondering that exact same thing. The way it was weazled into the article suggests gaming performancer will suffer with Zen, and only recover with Zen 2. That's a potential kybosh on current Zen sales if i ever saw one.

Jimmy Q

March 15, 2017, 6:02 am

1080p gaming IS suffering.

Ygarr Cozzakov Rozenstein

March 15, 2017, 7:04 am

AMD would skip 10nm. They are going straight into 7nm. This has been confirmed by various sources.

Mercurious1

March 15, 2017, 3:03 pm

Yep my monitors refresh rate at 75 hrz (i.e displays 75 frames per second) is going to be so effected by Ryzen running 125 FPS rather than 135 FPS.

Benchmarks are important but, it is just as important to understand what they mean in the real world. Most of us are on 60 to 75 hrz monitors, a few have 120 hrz monitors, while the latest and greatest is still just 144 hrz and costs over $1,000. Unless your dropping $1,000+ on a monitor to be over 120 hrz = over 120 FPS per second display, your 1080p gaming is actually not affected.

In addition to this, gaming performance on Ryzen will improve as the developers work with it. Heck, you could push your RAM up to 3200mhz and get a 5-8% boost in gaming performance right now today. See the PC World Article on "7 AMD Ryzen Tricks to improve Performance."

Ryzen is a cheap beasty and will only continue to improve over time.

Cooe

March 15, 2017, 4:48 pm

Most all of this is true; aside from the price of 144Hz displays. You can find 1080p 144Hz panels for <$200 these days and 1440p 144Hz panels for <$400 (I'd know, I bought one a few months ago).

Mercurious1

March 15, 2017, 6:06 pm

Dang, your right! Time for me to look at replacing my monitor. Hadn't priced them since last year. To bad I don't have the pocket book for it right now. Hmm... where can I create some money .....

Jimmy Q

March 15, 2017, 10:25 pm

"Benchmarks are important but, it is just as important to understand what they mean in the real world."

Um.. GPU reviewers test actual gameplay. Perhaps you've heard of a youtube channel called Digital Foundry, or any website that reviews GPU performance for that matter. smh...

btw, refresh rates have reached 200Hz+ (one is a G-Sync monitor), and my 144Hz monitor (XL2430T) didn't come anywhere near $1000. You're just making stuff up now, so I can't take anything you say seriously.

But hey, good luck waiting for noticeable Ryzen optimizations. I mean, they can't be any worse than the Windows Scheduler fix morons thought was coming to make Ryzen soar!

intgr

April 22, 2017, 12:01 am

Nice try, but "instructions per clock" is just as valid.

sircolby45

June 3, 2017, 10:59 pm

That is not actually true. Asus has a 165Hz monitor for $800 and Acer has the same panel for a bit cheaper than that. Even less if you can catch them on sale. This is also an IPS panel. You can get their TN 144Hz panel even cheaper. There are a plethora of very affordable 120Hz monitors.

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