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AMD Promises Major Desktop CPU Gains, Previews Next-Gen GPUs

AMD claims its Ryzen 5000 desktop CPUs will deliver a 19% performance gain relative to their predecessors in terms of instructions per clock, while also being much more power-efficient than Intel desktop CPUs.

While the clock speeds for AMD’s  (AMD) - Get Free Report latest desktop CPUs are similar to those of their predecessors, it promises architectural changes will deliver major performance gains.

And that in turn has major implications not only for AMD’s desktop offerings, but also upcoming notebook and server CPU refreshes.

As expected, AMD unveiled its anticipated Ryzen 5000 desktop CPU line -- the first products to rely on its next-gen, Zen 3, CPU core microarchitecture -- during a Thursday event that was live-streamed on its website.

AMD’s Ryzen 5000 Desktop CPU Line

For now, the line features 4 CPUs: the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X, the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X, the 8-core Ryzen 7 5800X and the 6-core Ryzen 5 5600X. The CPUs will be available on Nov. 5.

With AMD once more relying on Taiwan Semiconductor’s  (TSM) - Get Free Report 7-nanometer (7nm) manufacturing process node, clock speeds for the new CPUs generally aren’t much different than those of comparable products relying on AMD’s Zen 2 microarchitecture, which was first unveiled in mid-2019. For example, the 5950X has a 3.4GHz base clock speed and a boost clock speed of 4.9GHz, which respectively compares with 3.5GHz and 4.7GHz base and boost clocks for its predecessor, the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X.

AMD's Ryzen 5000 desktop CPU lineup. Source: AMD.

AMD's Ryzen 5000 desktop CPU lineup. Source: AMD.

The other three CPUs have base clocks of either 3.7GHz or 3.8GHz, and boost clocks ranging from 4.6GHz to 4.8GHz. As a result, AMD is still differentiating its mid-range and high-end Ryzen desktop offerings primarily via core counts rather than clock speeds.

But while clock speeds aren’t changing much, AMD claims Zen 3 delivers a 19% performance gain in terms of instructions per clock (IPC). This gain -- the result of a slew of architectural improvements, including a new cache layout that lets each CPU core access twice as much L3 cache as before -- fits with comments made to TheStreet in Nov. 2019 by AMD SVP Forrest Norrod. Then, Norrod predicted Zen 3 would deliver IPC gains “right in line with what you would expect from an entirely new architecture.”

During its event, AMD showed off benchmarks indicating the 5900X would deliver significant double-digit performance gains -- often above 20% -- for 1080p gaming relative to its predecessor, the Ryzen 9 3900XT (performance gains might be lower when gaming at higher resolutions, since high-resolution gaming tends to be more GPU-dependent).

Notably -- at a time when gaming hardware spending is taking off -- AMD plans to charge $50 more for its Zen 3 desktop CPUs than what it charged for comparable Zen 2 desktop CPUs. Whereas the 3900XT and 3950X respectively listed for $499 and $749, the 5900X and 5950X will respectively list for $549 and $799.

Intel vs. AMD

AMD also showed benchmarks suggesting the 12-core, $549 5900X slightly outperforms Intel’s  (INTC) - Get Free Report 10-core Core i9-10900K CPU -- it officially lists for $488, but typically sells for more than $600 -- when playing popular games at 1080p, while also comfortably outperforming the 10900K when running the Cinebench content-creation benchmark.

And though Intel might differ with this number a bit, AMD also claimed that its Zen 3 desktop CPU line was more than 2.8 times more power-efficient than the 10900K, whose power consumption has been a point of criticism in reviews.

AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X CPU and Intel's Core i9-10900K CPU compared while running the Cinebench content-creation benchmark. Source: AMD.

AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X CPU and Intel's Core i9-10900K CPU compared while running the Cinebench content-creation benchmark. Source: AMD.

Ahead of AMD’s event, Intel announced on Wednesday that a next-gen desktop CPU line codenamed Rocket Lake will arrive in Q1 2021. Like Intel’s existing Comet Lake desktop CPU line, Rocket Lake will rely on Intel’s age-old 14nm manufacturing process node.

The first desktop CPUs to rely on Intel’s 10nm node -- seen as competitive with TSMC’s 7nm node -- aren’t expected until the second half of 2021. Those products will be based on a next-gen desktop and notebook CPU platform known as Alder Lake...and might launch just ahead of AMD CPUs relying on the Zen 4 microarchitecture and TSMC’s 5nm node, which many expect to arrive by early 2022.

In the meantime, Zen 3 should deliver major performance gains not only of AMD’s desktop CPU line, but also its notebook and server CPUs, provided that the IPC gains for Zen 3 notebook and server offerings are close to the 19% claimed for Zen 3 desktop CPUs.

AMD has promised its first Zen 3 server CPUs (codenamed Milan) will arrive by year’s end, and there’s speculation that its first Zen 3 notebook processors will be unveiled in January at CES 2021, where CEO Lisa Su will once more be delivering a keynote (virtually this time).

A Next-Gen GPU Preview

Though AMD’s event was largely focused on the Ryzen 5000 line, Su ended it by previewing AMD’s next-gen gaming GPU line. The GPUs will be known as the Radeon RX 6000 line (they’ve been nicknamed Big Navi), rely on a next-gen architecture known as RDNA 2 and be formally revealed during an Oct. 28 event.

Su showed a demo of a system featuring an RX 6000 GPU and a 5900X CPU playing first-person shooter Borderlands 3 at a 4K resolution and more than 60 frames per second (fps), with high-quality gameplay settings enabled. She also shared benchmarks suggesting the GPU would deliver high framerates when playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Gears of War 5 at 4K with high-quality settings enabled.

4K gaming benchmarks for an upcoming AMD RX 6000 GPU. Source: AMD.

4K gaming benchmarks for an upcoming AMD RX 6000 GPU. Source: AMD.

The preview comes as Nvidia  (NVDA) - Get Free Report continues seeing a strong initial reception for the GeForce RTX 3080 and 3090, the first gaming GPUs based on its Ampere architecture. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently indicated the $699 RTX 3080 and $1,499 RTX 3090, which both launched in September, would remain supply-constrained through year’s end thanks to stronger-than-expected demand.