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AMD Ryzen: Tech and specs explained, and what to expect from 2nd-gen Ryzen

Everything you need to know about AMD’s Ryzen processors including specification and performance info, plus all the latest news about the next-generation, 2nd-generation Ryzen processors.

What is AMD Ryzen? The story so far

Ryzen is AMD’s newest brand of high-end processors, taking on Intel’s own Core i3, i5 and i7 chips at their own game. The technology is based on AMD’s Zen architecture, which runs on everything from the upcoming Ryzen Mobile for laptops, AMD ThreadRipper high-performance processors and AMD’s EPYC server chips.

The announcement and subsequent release of Ryzen was important for a number of reasons. First, it signalled AMD’s long-awaited return to the PC gaming market. The company had been living in a very large shadow cast by arch rival Intel, which had happily been chugging along with world-beating desktop and laptop processors for a number of years without any major developments. That’s not to say Intel hadn’t made improvements, but year-by-year they felt more minor than many enthusiasts would have liked.

AMD’s response had always been fairly muted, which lead to stagnation in the CPU market, higher prices for consumers and less innovation.

Related: Best CPUs for gaming

To put a number on it, the most cores you could get on a mainstream processor for under £400 was four.

Ryzen arrived, launching three of its top-end Ryzen 7 processors, all of which had eight cores and two of which cost under £400. Then followed six-core Ryzen 5s to take on quad-core Intel Core i5, and finally quad-core Ryzen 3 to take on dual-core Core i3.

All our Ryzen reviews:

  • Ryzen 7 1800X
  • Ryzen 7 1700
  • Ryzen 5 1600X 1500X
  • Ryzen 3 1200 1300X

Intel’s response came seven months later, as the company quickly launched its 8th-generation Coffee Lake processors. i3, i5, and i7 became quad-, six- and eight-core processors respectively.

You can read more about the performance of Intel’s 8th-gen processors in our Intel Core i7-8700K review.

AMD Ryzen works with the AM4 socket, which includes the following chipsets and features you’ll find on whatever motherboard you choose to buy:

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Related: Best CPU coolers

AMD Ryzen 2: What’s coming in the second generation of Ryzen processors?

Hold your horses, we’re barely done with the first generation of Ryzen processors. But if we must look to the future, here’s AMD’s roadmap for its Zen-based processors.

The next generation of Ryzen processors will likely run on a refined version of the 14nm Zen cores, called 14nm+. After that, possibly around 2019 or 2010, the company will make the jump to 7nm technology. This depends upon 7nm fabrication being ready for mass production, which is still up for debate and rather out of AMD’s hands. 7nm technology is set to deliver even more power-efficient running and more densely-packed transistors.

Until that point, expect the second generation of Ryzen to be very similar to the first, but with higher clock speeds and even better stability and software support. Hopefully we’ll start hearing more about that at the start of 2018.

AMD Ryzen technology

Ryzen is capable of doing 40% more work per clock cycle, compared to the previous-generation Excavator core. Impressively, power consumption per cycle remains the same. AMD had these goals from the outset, but it’s good to know that this has been achieved.

So, how did AMD achieve Ryzen’s performance boost? Partly, it’s down to the new 14nm process, which means more transistors can fit onto a given piece of silicon, resulting in improved performance without a big increase in power consumption.

An entirely new architecture also helps. Importantly, Ryzen chips support “Simultaneous Multi-Threading”,  which is similar to Intel’s Hyper-Threading tech. This allows for better distribution and handling of multiple tasks. For the high-end chip, there are eight cores that can handle 16 threads.

SenseMI drives performance and efficiency

Underpinning the processor are a series of new technologies bundled under the SenseMI umbrella term. These are technologies to make the processor more efficient and powerful.

Pure power is first. This uses monitors on the processor to work out the amount of energy required for any given task. In other words, the processor will run only as fast as it needs to, saving power when the system is relatively idle.

Precision Boost is AMD’s equivalent to Intel’s Turbo Boost, increasing clock speed on the fly to deliver maximum performance when you need it. The company is promising that its speed-boost tech is super-smart, providing 25MHz steps with no latency or queue drain.

Extended Frequency Range (EFR) is an automatic overclocking that kicks in if there’s enough thermal headroom. EFR needs no user intervention and licks in automatically, while the processor remains cool. For those users who like to set everything manually, Ryzen can still be overclocked in the usual way.

Neural Net Prediction is designed to speed up the CPU, by pre-loading instructions and choosing the best path through the CPU. With the right prediction, the CPU no longer has to wait for instructions to be loaded.

Smart Prefetch is the final tool, designed to work out where the code is, anticipating the location of future data. This data can then be stored in the cache, so that the CPU isn’t slowed down waiting for comparatively slow system memory.

What have you made of AMD Ryzen so far? Let us know on Twitter @TrustedReviews.

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