AMD Zen 3 Announcement: AMD Claim Every Crown

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AMD has made their Zen 3 Announcement, with a surprisingly quick 25-minute video. Running through a variety of improvements, the presentation focuses on the claim that AMD is now on top. AMD assert performance leads over the i9-10900K in all but one game shown, including esports games traditionally dominated by Intel. This combines with the existing lead in content creation to put AMD ahead in every category. SKUs have been announced from 6 up to 16 cores, with availability on the 5th of November.

AMD Zen 3 Announcement: The Performance Claims

The new Zen 3 architecture represents AMD’s biggest improvement in single-core performance since Zen launched back in 2017. AMD is claiming a huge 19% improvement in “IPC” (Instructions Per Clock, though the term applies to general performance rather than actual instructions). On top of this, max boost clocks are also slightly higher.

When it comes to gaming, in particular, AMD claims the overall improvement is 26% over Zen 2. This is enough to put the Ryzen 9 5900X ahead of Intel’s i9-10900K in 9 of the 10 games AMD highlighted, including League of Legends and DOTA 2 as well as CS:GO. Cinebench also made the inevitable appearance, with AMD showing off a single-threaded R20 score of 631 on the 5900X and 640 on the 5950X.

We’re used to AMD having a convincing lead in multithreaded performance and power efficiency. With Zen 3, AMD is saying this extends to gaming and single-threaded applications. This adds up to what AMD calls “absolute leadership in the x86 market”.

AMD Zen 3 Announcement: The Architecture in Brief

Though AMD kept the Zen 3 announcement video quick, we did get a brief overview of the architectural changes. The most striking change is to the CCX arrangement.

AMD introduced their “Core CompleX” or “CCX” with Zen 1 as a unit of 4 cores that acts as a building block. The cores and cache within the CCX benefit from fast links. Multiple CCXs then combine with slower links to make core counts higher than 4. This makes the job of designing and laying out processors much simpler, as they’re based on one repeatable unit. However, L3 cache is part of the CCX and those slower links become a problem. In practice, although the total L3 cache looks generous, each CCX has fast access to only a fraction of it.

For Zen 3, AMD is doubling the size of a single CCX to 8 cores with a full 32MB of L3 cache, compared to 4 cores with 16MB of cache for Zen 2 and 8MB for Zen 1. Total core count and cache size stay the same in each segment, but the cores are more closely connected. Each core also gains fast access to a full 32MB of L3 cache.

This is far from the only improvement. Zen 3 has beefed up cores as well. Both the floating-point and integer execution units are wider and more flexible, while the core can also do more loads and stores than Zen 2. Everything a CPU core can do, Zen 3 can do more of. AMD has also improved the systems that feed the cores, and a total of 6 different areas of improvement share credit for the 19% IPC boost.

AMD Zen 3 Announcement: The Lineup

The Zen 3 SKUs announced today cover 6, 8, 12 and 16 cores. AMD have numbered them in the Ryzen 5000 series, leaving 4000 for the Zen 2-based “Renoir” APUs. Hopefully, this means the 5000 series will be Zen 2 only, rather than the confusing mishmash of architectures that ended up filling out the 3000 series.

The new CPUs are as follows;

Only the 5600X will come with a cooler, and the merely adequate Wraith Stealth at that. The expectation is that a buyer of a high-end CPU with 8+ cores would invest in enthusiast cooling either way, and Intel doesn’t provide coolers with their K SKUs either.

As we mentioned previously, the total cache size is staying the same – even though the amount a single core has fast access to has doubled. Base clocks have actually regressed slightly, and the improvement in max boost is small. This means that if you look at Zen 2 and Zen 3 on paper, it’s difficult to see the benefit. We wonder if this might affect AMD’s ability to move the new processors. This brings us neatly to pricing.

Pricing and Availability

AMD’s Zen 3 lineup will be available from the 5th of November. Prices start at $299 US for the 5600X and rise to $449 for the 5800X, $549 for the 5900X and a high $799 for the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

This is an increase of $50 at every core count compared to the Ryzen 3000 series. Between the similar specs on paper and higher prices than its predecessor, Zen 3 might be a tough sell to the non-enthusiast.

Of course, if AMD’s claims hold up, Zen 3 will be significantly faster than Zen 2 in practice. The price to performance should still be better, ignoring any clearance pricing the older chips benefit from. However, this is still a little disappointing to those who are used to AMD as a budget option. Ryzen 5000 still looks compelling, but you have to wonder if AMD is constrained by TSMC’s manufacturing capacity. Regardless, come the 5th of November we’re sure all people will remember is the performance.

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