“I don’t think there’s any reason people would buy an Intel processor after we do this,” says AMD’s Travis Kirsch.
It’s not the first time during my weekend in Los Angeles that I’ve heard such hubris, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s deserved. Because AMD is about to release a wave of 3rd gen Ryzen desktop CPUs that — on paper — sound like they might trounce Intel for the first time in years.
At AMD’s Next Horizon Gaming Event, on the outskirts of the E3 2019 gaming show, Kirsch isn’t even referring to the just-announced 16-core, 32-thread $750 Ryzen 9 3950X processor, which — with its 3.5GHz base clock, 4.7GHz boost clock, a tremendous 72MB of cache and an unheard-of 105W TDP for that many cores — sounds like it could give AMD’s own 32-core Threadripper a run for its money. (Even a 16-core Threadripper is rated at 180 watts; Intel’s 16-core has a 165W TDP, and each of them require expensive motherboards with larger sockets.)
Image by Sean Hollister / The Verge
I took the 16-core CPU for a spin… but even though the game felt buttery smooth, there’s only so much you can tell from a quick out-of-context game demo.
But no, Kirsch is actually talking about the rest of the Ryzen 3000 lineup that AMD announced at Computex two weeks ago, and coming July 7th. Because today, the company is sharing data that suggests that its new 7nm processors are not only cheaper and more power efficient, not only faster at creator tasks because of the additional cores, but neck-and-neck with Intel’s very best in gaming performance as well.
Here’s a selection of that data from AMD’s slidedecks, for you to peruse at your leisure:
AMD says that while 40 percent of its speed and efficiency boosts can be attributed to the smaller 7nm circuitry, 60 percent is the new design of its Zen 2 cores, which offer a 15 percent boost over the previous Zen architecture clock for clock.
One of the most impressive demos I saw on stage was targeted directly at streamers, suggesting that even though Intel and AMD might play games at the same framerate, only the AMD chip can let you stream ultra high-quality video to your Twitch audience at the same time:
And then there’s AMD’s claim that it’s added so much cache to these chips — up to 72MB — that we’re talking about CPUs that can actually make games run meaningfully faster:
Assuming all these claims stack up, it feels like AMD could be an attractive alternative to Intel at every price point.
Perhaps most impressively, none of these new Ryzen processors — not even the 16-core — require a new size and shape of chip. They’ll all fit into almost any existing AM4 motherboard, thanks to AMD’s painstaking work designing a 12-layer substrate to route each of the new, smaller 7nm process circuits to the existing AM4 pins that go into the socket on your board.
One of the routing layers devised to maintain AM4 compatibility
And AMD says it plans to keep offering that kind of backward compatibility through 2020 and for the foreseeable future, instead of making you buy a new board alongside your next CPU upgrade. “It will really take a major inflection point in the platform technology for us to move off of socket AM4,” says AMD’s David McAfee, adding that it would probably take a major change in how memory or PCI expansion slots work before AMD needs to move to a new socket. AMD’s new X570 platform already supports PCIe 4.0, so that’s one potential bullet dodged.
AMD’s also throwing in high-end stock coolers with each of the new CPUs, with every Ryzen 7 and 9 coming with the RGB LED-lit Wraith Prism cooler, which should support Razer Chroma lighting to sync up with your mouse, keyboard and other gaming gear.
Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
The Wraith Prism cooler. I saw it light up in time with Razer peripherals.
For the first time in years, I’m wondering if I should choose AMD for my next gaming PC. I’m eagerly waiting to see what reviewers discover in July.
By the way, AMD says its 7nm Zen 3 cores are already on track, and Zen 4 is in the design stage. Intel, which has barely just made it down to 10nm circuitry, is focused on the arguably larger market of laptops for now where AMD is still weak. We have no idea when Intel’s 10nm parts will arrive, though the company reminded us today that it will have more Intel Core X series parts for creators this fall.
One last note: Not every Ryzen 3000 part has 7nm Zen 2 cores. The company’s also announcing a pair of APUs today with integrated graphics, the Ryzen 5 3400G and Ryzen 3 3200G, that technically have last-gen CPUs mated with more powerful Vega graphics than previously, which AMD’s calling the most powerful graphics on a desktop processor.