AMD’s Zen Is Twice As Fast As The FX 8350 – Zen 8 Core CPU Die Shot Revealed

Khalid Moammer
Posted May 23, 2016
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AMD has revealed that Zen will have double the performance of the FX 8350 and will trade blows with Intel’s eight core i7 5960X Extreme Edition. Not only that but a die shot of “Summit” what will be the basis of AMD’s long awaited next generation high performance FX Zen CPUs has finally been revealed.

AMD’s Zen 8 core enthusiast class Summit Ridge CPUs are reportedly slated for an October launch on the company’s brand new AM4 socket based desktop platform. These next generation FX CPUs will include eight, six and quad core configurations. Which will deliver double the performance core for core of AMD’s current desktop FX 8300 and 6300 series lineup.

AMD’s Zen Eight Core CPU Delivers Double The Performance Of The FX 8350, A Real Challenger To Intel’s i7 5960X Extreme Edition

AMD has finally published additional performance figures for Zen beyond the 40% IPC improvement over excavator that the company talked about last year. The 40% IPC uplift figure represents the architectural performance per clock improvement of Zen vs AMD’s last CPU architecture, code named Excavator. And while comparing the architectural capabilities of zen to Excavator may have been informative, it doesn’t offer a direct real-world product to product comparison. Thankfully, we do finally have direct real-world performance figures for Zen.

AMD Zen Performance Double FX 8350(1)
Compared to AMD’s “Orochi” quad module, eight core die powering the FX 8350, the Zen based desktop Summit Ridge eight core CPU delivers double the performance in Cinebench R15. This means that a single Zen core is in effect equivalent to two Piledriver cores in performance, which is incredibly impressive. This dramatic performance difference comes from the significant architectural performance per clock improvements in addition to Zen’s simultaneous multithreading capability.

it’s important to remember that AMD’s latest Orochi dies feature Piledriver cores rather than Excavator. Excavator cores are roughly 15% faster per clock than Piledriver This in turn puts Zen at a lead in excess of 60% vs Piledriver in terms of performance per clock. Doubling the performance of the FX 8350 puts Zen in direct competition with Intel’s eight core i7 5960X.

Meet Summit, AMD’s Eight Core Zen CPU

Along with the performance numbers that we just discussed above, AMD has also published a wafer shot of the company’s upcoming eight core “Summit” die. This die shot represents the very first at the foundation of AMD’s upcoming Zen FX CPUs. Shout out to Thomas Ryan of Semiaccurate who spotted the wafer shot.

AMD Zen Die Shot
The Summit die is rectangular in shape. It houses two computing clusters placed at the opposite ends of the chip. Each computing cluster is comprised of four Zen cores. This rounds up to a total of eight Zen cores in each die. Each core in a given cluster of four shares L3 cache with the other three adjacent cores in the same cluster. In terms of other logic we can also see what appears to a DDR4 PHY placed in the lower left corner of the die. In addition to the DDR4 memory controller the Summit SOC also includes an integrated northbridge as well as numerous I/O logic.

We published an exclusive report last year detailing AMD’s plans to introduce its Zen based FX CPUs later this year and Zen based APUs in 2017. We also broke down details about Zen CPUs, APUs, AM4 motherboards and the features of AMD’s next generation platform which haven’t been made public yet. So we would highly recommend that you go check out that report if you’re interested in finding out more about Zen.

Desktop Zen CPUs are part of the “Summit Ridge” family. Which is going to include a full lineup of high-end Zen based FX CPUs that will feature “high core counts” and are set to compete in the “enthusiast” segment, AMD revealed last year and reiterated again earlier this year.

AMD announced Zen for the very first time at its Financial Analyst Day last year. That’s when the company touted the 40% improvement in instructions per clock versus its latest high performance core code named Excavator. However, earlier this year President and CEO of the company Lisa Su announced that Zen is actually exceeding initial expectations and that it’s now on track to achieve an IPC uplift that’s greater than 40%.

AMD Preisdent & CEO Lisa Su – Q4 2015 AMD Earnings Call Transcript
Our Zen-based CPU development is on track to achieve greater than 40% IPC uplift from our previous generation and we’re on schedule to sample later this year.

In client computing, our opportunities to regain share in 2016 will be driven by our design win momentum, continued progress expanding into
the commercial market, and reentering the high-performance desktop market late in the year with our Zen-based Summit Ridge CPU.

AMD announced that it will launch an entirely new line-up of FX CPUs later this year on a brand new platform. These Zen FX CPUs are what AMD refers to as “Summit Ridge”. The new platform will include a new socket with DDR4 memory support. AM4 will also support upcoming Bristol Ridge APUs. This is in effort to unify all of AMD’s desktop computing products under one roof which will give users a wider range of choice and a direct upgrade path from APUs to CPUs.

AMD’s Most Important Proudct In More Than A Decade – A CPU Architecture For Gamers, Professionals & The Datacenter

Zen has been one of the most hotly anticipated AMD products for as far as I can remember. It’s the company’s first attempt to compete at the high-end, enthusiast, CPU market since its last attempt five years ago. Zen breaks new ground for AMD in many ways. It’s the company’s first truly innovative next generation CPU architecture since the Phenom . It’s also the very first CPU for AMD to actually be on parity with Intel in terms of process technology since the days of the original Athlon.

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So for the very first time in the market since the early 2000s AMD’s CPU products won’t be at an inherent disadvantage due to Intel’s process lead. From an architectural point of view Zen is a brand new clean-slate design that’s been led from the get-go by accomplished CPU architect Jim Keller. The very same man that brought us the original Athlon XP and Athlon64 processors. The most competitive CPU products in the history of the company.

AMD History
So it seems all the stars are lining up for AMD this year, which has seen its fair share of struggles over the past several years. All the components are there to make Zen a successful product.  It has taken more than a decade, but it’s finally here. An AMD product that can actually challenge Intel’s highest performing Extreme Edition CPUs. It’s almost unfathomable at first thought, after all we all grew accustomed to seeing Intel’s enthusiast CPUs go uncontested for the longest time.

Zen is AMD’s biggest long-term technology bet and one of the company’s largest engineering efforts in recent memory. AMD’s President & CEO Lisa Su stated that this year’s products, culminated in Zen and Polaris, represent company’s most competitive roadmap in more than a decade.

AMD President & CEO Lisa Su – Q4 2015 Earnings Call

We remain focused on completing our strategic work around three key growth pillars. First, in PCs, even in a declining overall market, we believe we can regain client compute and discrete graphics share for the year, driven by gaming, VR, commercial, and our most competitive product roadmap in more than a decade.
We have clear opportunities to regain GPU share in 2016 based on the performance per watt of our new GPUs and software leadership. Earlier this quarter at CES, we announced our new Polaris GPU architecture, which we expect to begin shipping in the middle of 2016.”

The microarchitecture taped out back in 2015 and products are on track to launch later this year on the desktop. However, we know that AMD is working on far more than just high performance desktop CPUs. The company has had 32 Core Zen server CPU, a sixteen core Zen HPC APU and a quadcore Zen consumer APU all in the works for several years.

AMD’s President & CEO Lisa Su confirmed earlier this month at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders that Zen is has been running in the company’s labs for sometime and is showing results that exceed expectations. She also confirmed that Zen will begin sampling this quarter.

The AIDA64 benchmark added support to Zen based Summit Ridge as well as Raven Ridge FX CPUs and APUs last year. Raven Ridge will succeed Bristol Ridge and will be the first generation of APUs to feature Zen, while Bristrol Ridge will be a refresh based on the 28nm Excavator core. Several leaks have also revealed that AMD is working on several Zen APUs with large discrete class built-in GPUs and high bandwidth memory.

On the server side AMD is preparing Zen based CPUs with up to 32 cores and 64 threads. That’s four times as many threads as AMD’s current highest end server offering. A very significant jump that’s going to play a crucial role in giving Zen the competitive edge it needs in servers. A market that Intel has virtually monopolized over the past several years.

AMD’s Zen Core Under The Microscope

14nm FinFET Process

Samsung’s 14nm FinFET process which Globalfoundries has licensed is going to be the basis of all of AMD’s next generation CPU, APU and GPU products. The company’s Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster made the announcement last year that the 14LPP process – Samsung’s high performance 14nm process – will be leveraged across all of AMD’s future products.

The 14LPP process features 3D finfet transistors and significantly smaller gates compared to 28nm. Chips manufactured on the 14LPP process have more than double the density of 28nm. Additionally, 14nm FinFET transistors are capable of significantly faster switching speeds. Products designed for the process will be able to achieve much higher frequencies than the same designs on 28nm. The process also delivers considerable power savings, essentially cutting power consumption by half.

Higher Integer And Floating Point Throughput & Lower Latency Cache Sub-System

AMD’s Linux Kernel patches which have been a rich source of information about Zen. The patches revealed so much about the inner-workings of Zen to the point where we are actually able to visualize the high-level design of the core. If you’re interested in all the nitty gritty details about what the core is capable of I’d highly recommend our exclusive in-depth analysis of Zen’s micrarchitecture.

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AMD Zen Steamroller Block DiagramWCCFTech.com Rendition Of Zen’s High-Level Design Based On The AMD Linux Kernel Patch

Above you can see a visual representation of Zen on the right in comparison to AMD’s Steamroller CPU core. Which is the third generation based on the Bulldozer design and is pretty much identical from a high-level standpoint to Excavator, the fourth and last Bulldozer based core. There are several key differences between Zen and the bulldozer family.

AMD has done away with the CMT – clustered multi-threading – concept in favor of a more traditional SMT – sumultaneous multi-threading – design. This means that each Zen core will be able to execute two threads simultaneously. One main, very high throughput thread and one secondary thread that can be used opportunistically.

In contrast, each Bulldozer module can execute two equal threads. This is achieved through two separate integer clusters with a single front-end. This approach saves area versus building two separate cores and delivers two high throughput threads. However, there are advantages that Zen’s SMT implementation holds over the Bulldozer CMT implementation. For one it allows AMD to build a single larger integer cluster with significantly higher single threaded performance. Another advantage with this approach is that it still leaves room for opportunistic savings in area and power.

The final result is similar overall throughput when we look at both treads of each SMT core vs both threads in each CMT module. However, the SMT style core will deliver significantly higher single threaded performance. Furthermore, because each Bulldozer module houses two integer clusters and a single floating point unit it was always been very integer heavy. Each Zen core on the other hand includes one large integer cluster and one large floating point unit, making it an inherently more balanced design.

CPU MicroarchitectureAMD Phenom II / K10AMD BD/PDAMD SR/XVAMD ZenIntel Skylake
Instruction Decode Width3-wide4-wide8-wide4-wide4-wide
Single Core Peak Decode Rate3 instructions4 instructions8 instructions4 instructions4 instructions
Dual Core Peak Decode Rate6 instructions4 instructions8 instructions8 instructions8 instructions

A lot of the engineering effort around Zen has also been done to address one of Bulldozer’s major flaws. Bulldozer and Intel’s Sandy Bridge – and subsqeuent Intel architectures including Skylake – had equally deep pipelines to achieve high clock speeds. The deeper the pipeline the more latency that design will exhibit. Particularly when it comes to branch misprediction errors, which are quite common in modern pipelines.

The latency that results from branch mispredicts are quite significant. To combat this issue Intel introduced a micro-op cache with Sandy Bridge. It worked to considerably reduce mispredict penalties and it was the principle reason why Sandy Bridge had much better single threaded performance as opposed to Bulldozer. The latest Linux Kernal patch as well as a group of AMD patents indicate that the company has implemented a similar solution in Zen.

AM4 : AMD’s Brand New Unified Socket

In our exclusive report we published last year we shared an exclusive look at the features that Summit Ridge products and the new AM4 platform will bring to market later this year. For starts Summit Ridge CPUs will include models with eight, six and four Zen cores. Four cores being the lowest core count Summit Ridge CPU AMD is going to sell. All CPUs will include the company’s new platform security processor, PCIe 3.0 support, dual channel DDR4 memory controllers, copious amounts of L3 cache and updated storage features.

John Taylor, head of worldwide marketing at AMD, revealed that the company has poured a lot into R&D to make sure that it’s AM4 platform and Zen CPUs support the latest & greatest features. He confirmed that USB 3.1, M.2 SATA and NVMe will all be supported. He also said that a lot of effort has gone into ensuring that Zen delivers the best possible experience to users. This includes thermals and acoustics. “Our new Wraith coolers are getting rave reviews – you don’t need an expensive third party cooler any more” he said.

AMD Data Center Roadmap Opteron Zen HPC APU

Bringing this to a close, it’s clear that AMD’s is doing a lot of things right with Zen. Pushing IPC and power efficiency to where they need to be. Building a comprehensive modern platform and bringing much needed updates to the feature-set. Creating an attractive value proposition for desktop users, servers and notebooks. All the ingredients to make Zen a success are here, all that’s left is for AMD to execute and deliver. The mere prospect that enthusiasts may actually have AMD CPUs as a worthwile option again for the first time in a decade come this October is refreshing. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally be able to say “AMD’s back”.

Next Generation AMD CPUs And APUs

WCCFTechAMD Raven RidgeAMD Gray HawkAMD Summit RidgeAMD Bristol Ridge
Product ArchitectureZenZen+ZenExcavator
Process Node14nm7nm14nm28nm
CPU CoresUp to 4Up to 4Up to 8Up to 4
GPU ArchitectureVegaNaviN/ACaribbean Islands
TDPTBATBA65W-95W35-65W
SocketAM4AM4+AM4AM4
Memory SupportDDR4 & HBMDDR4 & HBMDDR4DDR4
Launch20172019Q1 2017October 2016

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