Analysis

AMD goes big on 7nm at CES

From gamers to genomicists, AMD is lining up a 7nm solution for everyone

AMD has announced a range of new products and chips based on its 7nm manufacturing process, in stark contrast to Intel which is still ramping up to releasing its 10nm chips.

While Intel spent the majority of its CES press conference trying to convince the audience that its 10nm process was on track, AMD proceeded to build on its manufacturing process advantage, essentially announcing a full suite of 7nm solutions.

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AMD President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Su delivered an enthusiastic presentation that focused squarely on high performance computing in every environment. From gaming, to scientific research, to content creation, to cloud server platforms, AMD is focused on making things run faster and more efficiently.

At the heart of that high-performance vision is its 7nm manufacturing process. The company first showcased this a couple of months ago when it launched the high performance compute-based Instinct GPUs, and officially announced the second generation EPYC server chip, based on the Zen 2 architecture.

A quick performance demo showed a single 64-core EPYC Rome chip up against two Intel Xeon 8180 28-core chips running the NAMD benchmark, with the single EPYC chip beating the twin Intel chips. AMD will start shipping EPYC Rome 7nm server chips in mid-2019.

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Su wasn't just there to talk about products that had already been announced, and the really big news came in the form of the next generation graphics solution for gamers, the Radeon VII. Just like the Instinct GPUs announced last year, the Radeon VII is based on AMD's 7nm process, making it the world's first 7nm gaming GPU. With 60 compute units running at up to 1.8GHz, the Radeon VII can deliver a 25% performance increase over its predecessor while drawing the same level of power.

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To demonstrate the power of Radeon VII, AMD fired up Capcom's forthcoming Devil May Cry 5 at 4K resolution running smoothly at over 60fps. Su announced that the Radeon VII will start shipping 07 February at $699 (546), putting 7nm GPUs into the mainstream market in a matter of weeks and only a few months after its HPC-focused 7nm GPUs started shipping.

But Su had another big reveal up her sleeve, giving the audience a preview of AMD's third-generation Ryzen high performance desktop PC chip, based on the 7nm Zen 2 platform. As well as being the first 7nm desktop processor, this third-generation Ryzen is also the first desktop chip to support the new PCIE 4.0 standard.

AMD pitted this pre-production eight-core Ryzen chip against a similarly specced eight-core Intel Core i9 processor running the Cinebench multithreaded benchmark. The result of the head-to-head was surprisingly close, with the new Ryzen chip only narrowly beating the Intel opposition. Far more significant was the fact that the third-gen Ryzen chip performed the benchmark while using considerably less power, highlighting the power advantage that the 7nm process can deliver.

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According to Su, we'll see third gen Ryzen chips hitting the market around the middle of 2019, essentially the same timeframe as the 7nm EPYC chips. If AMD hits its targets, it will have a full complement of 7nm solutions on the market months before Intel has pushed a 10nm chip out the door.

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