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Zen Q&A with AMD's CTO: 'We’re bringing competition back to high-performance x86'

Gordon Mah Ung, Mark Hachman | Aug. 19, 2016
AMD is pretty much betting the company on the new Zen core. We wanted to know more.

What about more average users, who don’t care about such high-end performance? When do we get a quad-core Zen?

Well, we’ll start with the desktop configuration we [talked about] today. And when you think about the rest of the markets, you’ll see it permeate, as we complete that Zen rollout. What we said was that in the second half of 2017 there will be an APU—take that same Zen core and bring it into an APU configuration. We didn’t release too far in advance the details of that, but that’s when you’re going to see the permeation right into our mobile PC markets. 

So it really will scale? You’ll be able to get Zen into a laptop, with reasonable power?

It’s designed for scalability. The key points I made are twofold: microarchitecture and design methodologies. I showed you this whole history of our prior cores; there was no FinFET. What I showed you was a bigger gap in [our] foundry versus Intel’s foundry capabilities. That drove us to really hone the techniques in energy efficiency. We applied all of that to the Zen core design. Then we leveraged FinFET. That combination gives us tremendous scale.

Just to clarify: you guys said tonight that your thermal design power will be “competitive” with Intel. What does that mean? Will you match them, TDP for TDP?

As you heard Jim Anderson say, we’re not going to match TDPs for TDPs. Because that’s the spec that goes out on each product as we ship. But what we said is that we’ll be competitive by core, and have competitive designs. That means that they have to drop into the ecosystem. And that means form factors and product specifics. 

Does that mean tablets, too?

What we’ve said is that with this generation of products we’ll put it into the APUs. What we said tonight is that will come out in the second half of 2017. It’s far enough that we haven’t released any details of the specific form factors it’s going into, but it’s an APU. You’ll certainly see it beginning with the notebook market. That’s our sweet spot today.

One point on the Zen slides mentioned that you’re optimizing for single-core performance—most workloads that consumers run aren’t heavily multithreaded. Does that mean you’re going to adopt a higher clock speed or “turbo boost” strategy with Zen?

Well, interesting. What you’re seeing with Zen is its versatility. What is Cinebench trying to represent, or the benchmark that we showed today? They show off—we show off a number of multithreaded applications. And you saw that we’ve done a true simultaneous multithreaded implementation. That really helps double the effective cores for those applications.


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