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AMD hopes Zen chips will bring back the Intel faithful

Agam Shah | March 7, 2016
AMD says Zen puts the company on par with Intel on technology and manufacturing.

The Zen chips will be based on FinFET, a manufacturing technology that will bring significant performance and power-efficiency gains. FinFET technology stacks transistors on top of each other in a skyscraper structure, an improvement over placing transistors next to each other.

AMD's chip manufacturer, GlobalFoundries, has caught up on manufacturing with Intel, which also makes 14-nm chips. Intel has historically been ahead of AMD on manufacturing, but recently stumbled with its implementation of the 14-nm process. Intel has been making 14-nm for longer than expected, and that has led to wholesale changes in chip roadmaps.

However, AMD's parity with Intel on manufacturing will be short-lived. Intel will release the first chips code-named Cannonlake, made using the 10-nm process, in the second half of 2017.

AMD's trump card could be graphics, which can be combined with Zen CPUs for fast-growing markets like gaming and virtual reality. AMD is working with headset and PC makers on VR. Intel doesn't have a GPU as powerful as AMD's Radeon graphics core. 

But Intel chips have their own advantages and features. Later this year the company will come out with products based on 3D Xpoint, which is a fast form of memory and storage. The new memory and SSD technology could bring overall performance improvements to Intel-based PCs.

 

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