Ryzen shook up the CPU market – now can AMD rule it?
For years, Intel ruled the CPU market with an iron fist, as AMD struggled to keep up on performance while Intel’s prices kept rising. But then Ryzen changed everything. AMD’s 14-nanometer chips launched in late 2016 and began rolling out early last year, promising higher core counts and better multi-thread performance at dramatically lower prices – and they absolutely delivered.
Throughout 2017, AMD delivered hit after hit starting with the Ryzen 7 1800X, which was a “dramatic return to form” as the company brought back choice, competition and revitalized the processor market. We were even more impressed by the Ryzen 5 1600X for its great price-to-performance and were almost as enthused with the dirt cheap Ryzen 3 1300X. Then AMD dropped its top-end Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, bringing core counts into the high teens at a price dramatically lower than Intel’s competing chips.
AMD scored big with Ryzen pretty much across the board, and has seen surging sales as a result. So what’s next? The next generation, of course. AMD has already shared some plans for the 2nd Generation Ryzen chips, so if you’re in the market for the PC upgrade this year and want something to power high-end gaming, content creation, and more, here’s a look at what might be waiting for you in a few short months.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? AMD’s upgraded, budget-friendly processor chips
- When is it out? The first chips should launch in April 2018
- What will it cost? TBD
AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation release date
AMD won’t be waiting very long to get the next wave of chips out to consumers. The first-generation Ryzen chips started shipping in March 2017 and have been rolling out in the year since, and they plan to start moving on to Ryzen 2nd Generation chips in April 2018.
The company’s official timeline, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, shows the first Ryzen 2nd Generation CPUs launching in the second quarter of the year, which a press release narrowed down to April 2018. That’ll be for the consumer-level chips, which provide impressive performance for sometimes-startling prices compared to their Intel counterparts.
Beyond those chips, the timeline points to releases for both the 2nd Generation Ryzen Pro and Ryzen Threadripper chips during the second half of the year. Ryzen Pro chips are designed for business and IT usage, with up to 8 cores and 16 threads, while the aforementioned Ryzen Threadripper is the big daddy of AMD’s offerings with 16 cores for die-hard gamers. Forbes reports that AMD plans to release a similar number of Ryzen 2nd Generation chips as last year.
Those are all desktop chips, mind you – AMD’s official 2nd Generation rollout timeline doesn’t include laptop versions on the 2018 calendar. It does show first-generation Ryzen 3 mobile chips out during the first quarter of the year, with Ryzen Pro following in Q2.
AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation price
While AMD announced its Ryzen 2nd Generation plans, we unfortunately don’t have any details on pricing at this time. However, this is where AMD made such a big splash with the first Ryzen models. Granted, delivering more affordable CPUs has always been AMD’s edge, but for the first time in years, the cheaper Ryzen chips could honestly hang with, if not surpass, Intel’s offerings.
Given that, we would be surprised to see AMD continue its course with the 2nd Generation models. It’s imperative that they deliver affordable, high-performance CPUs, so ideally we would see prices that aren’t too far off from what AMD asked for the last time around.
Last year, the quad-core Ryzen 3 1300X debuted at $129 (£112, AU$169), while Intel’s Core i3 7350K went for $149 (£169, AU$299). Bump up to the hexa-core Ryzen 5 1600X, and we saw it offered for $249 (£249, AU$359) – compare that to the quad-core Intel Core i5-7600K at $239 (£219, AU$339), although you lose a couple of cores in the process.
We saw the biggest price difference with the Ryzen 7 1800X, which at $499 (£500, around AU$650) was nearly half the price of Intel’s Core i7-5960X/6900K. Of course, this lead to Intel introducing a more affordable Intel Core i7-8700K and Intel Core i7-7820X. Meanwhile, the AMD Threadripper 1950X came in at $999 (£999, AU$1,439) and delivered even stronger performance than Intel’s like-priced Core i9-7900X.
Of course, AMD recently dropped its Ryzen prices across the board alongside the 2nd Generation announcement, keeping things competitive with Intel as the two companies wage war for your CPU-buying dollars.
AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation specs
At this point, we only have a few official details when it comes to exactly what kind of performance boost we’ll see from the Ryzen 2nd Generation chips. They’re built using a new 12-nanometer process, which will cram in even more transistors and thus provide more raw speed along the way.
According to ExtremeTech, AMD chief technology officer Mark Papermaster claims that the 12nm process results in an approximately 10% performance increase over the original Ryzen’s 14nm process, “with additional opportunities to optimize performance per watt.”
AMD says that the Ryzen 2nd Generation chips will be the smallest and fastest desktop processors to date – lofty promises, but ones that are sure to excite PC enthusiasts and users of all stripes. Ryzen 2nd Generation chips will deliver higher clock speeds and introduce the enhanced Precision Boost 2 technology to boost performance during high-drain scenarios.
AMD has a very technical primer on Precision Boost 2 from its Ryzen Mobile Processor with Radeon Vega Graphics, in case you want to dig into the specs.
We’ve seen some SenseMi improvements in AMD’s recent Ryzen-based desktop APUs, so it stands to reason that we’ll see similar performance and efficiency increases in the Ryzen 2nd Generation line. That could include optimized power usage through Pure Power smart sensors and improved overclocking potential from Extended Frequency Range 2.
And there’s some good news for prospective upgraders: unlike Intel, AMD will keep the same AM4 socket as the last Ryzen chips, so you won’t need to buy a new motherboard to slot one of these CPUs into your machine. There will also be an enhanced X470 chipset that’s optimized for Ryzen 2nd Generation and claims lowered power consumption, as well.
Note that AMD is calling the heart of the Ryzen 2nd Generation a Zen+ core, rather than the Zen 2. What’s the difference? Well, Zen 2 will be an entirely new architecture built on a 7nm process, which – as you can imagine – could provide a world of difference when it comes to performance boost.
AMD’s roadmap shows the Zen 2 and Zen 3 (listed at “7nm+”) cores coming somewhere between the release of the Zen+ and the year 2020, so that’s more likely to appear in 2019.
Zen 2 design is reportedly complete at this point, and it “improves on Zen in multiple dimensions” according to AMD. And the Zen 3 is “on track,” as well. AMD could be primed to shake up the CPU industry all over again with the Zen 2, but that’s not what we’ll see this year: Zen+ is what’s powering the Ryzen 2nd Gen chips.
Even so, there’s plenty of reason to get excited for the Ryzen 2nd Generation CPUs, especially if you are (or will be) in the market for a new or upgraded PC in 2018. Now that Intel is on the defensive, though, we’ll see whether AMD is able to repeat its surprising feat from last year.