While Intel has been dealing with unprecedented delays to its process roadmap, to the point that it let senior management go and is actively considering working with fabs like TSMC, AMD is well on track to delivering 7nm+ parts later this year. While RDNA 2 and Big Navi are certainly interesting, it’s hard to tell right now whether or not those parts will be worth it over NVIDIA’s upcoming Ampere lineup.
Much more likely, however, is that AMD will deliver massive gains in performance and power with its desktop Ryzen 4000 parts, based on the new Zen 3 architecture. Zen 3 parts are now just months away and there’s a quite a bit we know about them already. We’re putting it all together here. This is what we know about Zen 3.
When will Ryzen 4000 CPUs Launch?
The release date is, of course, a top priority. If you’re looking to buy a Ryzen 4000 CPU as an upgrade to Comet Lake or if you’re looking to bump performance up on your existing AM4+ setup, you’ll want to know exactly when you can buy a Zen 3-based CPU. While rumors last month hinted that AMD was delaying Zen 3 to 2021, a later confirmation from the CPU maker about the end-2020 is the strongest evidence yet that Zen 3 parts will arrive this year.
We expect a launch sometime around November, which mean that Zen 3 parts get to share the spotlight with AMD Big Navi. That way, even if Big Navi disappoints on the performance front (and recent rumors indicate that it might not match the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti), AMD will still have a win in the form of high-end Zen 3 parts like the purported Ryzen 7 4700X.
AMD Ryzen 4000 Specs and Performance
As far as the specs and performance are concerned, at the present, we don’t have any official figures but we do have a good idea about to expect:
Core Counts: The core counts should stay the same with Zen 3. The Ryzen 4000 consumer CPUs should top out at 16 cores with the mainstream 4700X and 4900X featuring 8 and 12 cores, respectively.
Core Clocks: The core clocks will most certainly increase as AMD moves to an enhanced version of the 7nm process. While this isn’t exactly 7nm EUV, it’s still a more mature variant of the 7nm node that powered Matisse. As such, you can expect 200-300MHz higher boost clocks compared to 3rd Gen as well as better overclocking capabilities. Thanks to better yields, AMD’s already managed to squeeze out higher clocks with the Ryzen XT series. We wouldn’t be surprised to see midrange parts like the purported Ryzen 5 4600X hit single-core boosts as high as 4.7 GHz or 4.8 GHz.
IPC: As far as IPC is concerned, sources claim an increase of around 15%, the chunk of it coming from integer workloads. AVX-512 support will still be limited to Intel’s Sunny Cove core and for good reasons. Not many applications make use of it. Regardless, a 15-20% increase in IPC should be enough to push AMD’s 4th Gen offerings far ahead of Intel’s Comet Lake.
Unified L3 Cache: We know that Milan will feature a L3 cache across the two CCXs on a CCD. Matisse and Rome consisted of a chunk of 16MB L3 cache per CCX and was exclusive to the cores on it. Zen 3 will unify the L3 cache across the two CCXs on a CCD, resulting in better cache hit rates and lower core-to-core latency.
Price: We don’t expect AMD to substantially shake up their pricing structure. The by now legendary Ryzen 5 3600 actually released for US$20 less than the first-generation Ryzen 5 1600, at the US$199 price point. We expect Zen 3 CPUs to more or less track Zen 2 pricing. This means you’ll see 6-core Ryzen 5 4000 series parts starting at around US$200 and going up to US$250. You’ll have 8-core Ryzen 7 parts in the US$300 to US$400 range.
Should you buy Zen 3?
Surprisingly, this isn’t a straightforward question to answer. If you’re rocking an older quad-core flagship from the Kaby Lake era, Zen 3 parts will provide you with a truly generational leap in capabilities — with more cores that run faster and perform miles better in games and general-purpose workloads. If you’re still running a Ryzen 1000 or Ryzen 2000 series CPU and decided to sit out the 3000 series, Ryzen 4000 and Zen 3 will give you as much as a 30-35 percent boost to performance.
Since both the ninth-generation consoles utilise Zen 2-based eight-core CPUs, the move to Zen 3 will mean that your gaming rig won’t be CPU limited, especially if you buy a Ryzen 7 8-core model. If you already have a Zen 2 part, though, you might not really see major gaming performance gains. Moreover, since the console CPUs are based on Zen 2, you won’t exactly be at a disadvantage in the years to come. If you have an eight or 12-core Zen 2 part, we suggest waiting till AM5 rolls around for a more thorough system upgrade.