Zen – How to fix a Bulldozer

AMD Logo AMD ZenZen and the Art of CPU Lithography; or AMD Finally Faces Facts

It can’t just be that we’re the cheaper solution

I have admittedly been an AMD fan since my first K7 Athlon XP . My current rig which I built back in 2012 runs an FX-8120 and it really has served me well, still running most software and games without any issues. I knew going into the CPU choice that I wasn’t going to be getting ultra-high end performance like an i7 – it was more of a “I use AMD, so this is the CPU I’ll choose” decision.

While I was fully aware that I was choosing the lesser of two platforms, it seems AMD is finally coming around to understand that being the “also ran” competitor isn’t doing them any favors. To be fair, Intel is a massive 500 pound gorilla so it’s not surprising that they have been ahead for ages in the performance arena, but this was not always the case. Back when AMD launched the Athlon 64, Intel was still making Pentium 4 processors and AMD was actually in the lead. Intel responded with the Core Duo and Core2 Duo family of processors and quickly reclaimed the crown, though. With the release of the Core i3, i5, i7 series of processors AMD fell yet further behind. The FX line of CPUs was supposed to change that, making AMD more closely competitive but for various architectural reasons, it didn’t succeed.

So what’s so great about Zen?

AMD Zen - Good to be the kingThe new AMD Zen platform is supposed to finally rectify that situation and bring AMD to a place of higher relevance. Zen promises to be 40% faster per cycle than the aging Bulldozer architecture and should get AMD back to performance parity with Intel, barring any major research developments on Intel’s part; which you can never rule out. It is, after all good to be the king.

At the very least, AMD should be back in the competition, which is a position it has decidedly not found itself in for a number of years at this point. Oh sure, that FX chip is cheaper than a good i5 or a good i7, but there’s absolutely a reason for that. Single threaded performance is no where near Intel’s offerings on the current architecture. Zen is supposedly the answer to that issue. Time will tell.

I’m confident that AMD’s realization that with Zen they need to focus on performance instead of the bargain basement market, because when you’re losing ground you can’t make up for it in volume.

What will be interesting is the developments in other CPU architectures in the coming 2 years or so – x86_64 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but there are other prospects on the horizon. Though many a competitive architecture has come and gone, falling into obscurity along the way in the past 35 years or so.

Do you think  Zen will be the savior that they have so long waited for, or will Intel continue to rule the roost?


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