After floundering for the last five years with their Bulldozer architecture and its derivatives, AMD is releasing processors based on a new architecture called Zen. The Ryzen CPUs, starting with the high end chips launching this March, have been made to tackle Intel head on.
On March 2nd AMD is releasing three high end CPUs aimed at gamers, content creators, and enthusiasts, all with 8 cores and 16 threads. The Ryzen 7 1800X is the flagship with a base clock of 3.6GHz, a boost speed of 4.0GHz, a TDP of 95W, and retails for $500. AMD is claiming that this chip will outperform Intel's core i7 6900K by 9% in multi threaded work and is dead even in single thread performance. The 6900K is also an 8 core/16 thread CPU, has a clock speed of 3.2GHz and a turbo of 3.7GHz. It'll also run you about $1050.
In the middle is the 1700X with a base clock speed of 3.4GHz and a 3.8GHz boost clock. This is also a 95W TDP chip. AMD claims this will significantly outperform the core i7 6800K, which has 2 fewer cores, in multi threaded workloads by 39%. The 1700X will cost slightly less at $400 compared to about $425 for the 6800K.
Finally, the 1700 rounds out the high end. For $330 you're getting a CPU with a base clock of 3.0GHz, a boost speed of 3.7GHz, and a TDP of only 65W. Intel's core i7 7700K ($350), which AMD is choosing to compare to, only has 4 cores and a TDP of 91W. The i7's 4.2GHz clock and 4.5GHz turbo will be faster in single threaded performance, but AMD is claiming up to 46% better performance in multi threaded applications.
Later this year AMD will also release chips for the Ryzen 5 class, which sits in the middle, and the Ryzen 3 class, which will be more budget oriented. Leaked benchmarks of the Ryzen 5 1600X, a 6 core/12 thread CPU, show it outperforming many i7 processors, so that's definitely something to look out for in a few months.
The performance of Ryzen is possible thanks to not least of which is the fact that the Zen architecture was built from scratch. AMD set out to achieve high performance on PCs, data centers, and everything in between. They had a goal to increase the IPC (Instructions Per Clock, one way to measure CPU performance) by 40% over the previous major AMD desktop CPU code named Excavator. They said they not only reached that goal, but surpassed it by reaching a 52% increase in IPC.
To put that leap into perspective, Intel has only been claiming 5-10% increases with every new release for many years now. This is mostly due to the fact that Moore's Law is running up against the reality of physics with the way processors are currently made. That being said, this is a one time performance jump for AMD, as they were playing catch up to Intel. From here on out they will see similar 5-10% IPC gains with subsequent releases.
While some Intel chips will maintain an advantage with pure clock speeds, Ryzen may have a huge leg up for anything that utilizes more cores/threads.
AMD likely isn't stretching the truth here for a few reasons. Ryzen CPUs are built on a 14nm process, compared to the 28nm Excavator CPUs. And the Ryzen processors lack any sort of integrated graphics, which helps make room for additional cores. (AMD won't launch Zen based APUs until later this year.) While some Intel chips will maintain an advantage with pure clock speeds, Ryzen may have a huge leg up for anything that utilizes more cores/threads. And even then, AMD isn't limiting overclocking for the Ryzen 7 CPUs like Intel does, so that will only be limited by the motherboard, if at all. And speaking of motherboards, these new processors will be supported by AMD's new AM4 socket.
AMD products in recent years have been known for being over hyped and under delivering. With Ryzen however it seems like AMD will actually deliver on most, if not all, of their promises. The Polaris GPU line launched with generally positive reviews last year. Meanwhile, Intel's Kaby Lake processors made no impact on the desktop side, and Intel announced that they'll be releasing a fourth generation of processors at 14nm. With momentum on AMD's side, and a desperate need for competition in the x86 processor market, it's hard to not believe in Ryzen.