Evidence continues to grow that AMD's (AMD) next CPU core microarchitecture -- and the PC and server CPUs set to rely on it -- will deliver sizable performance gains.
Recently, tech news site Red Gaming Tech stated (citing information from sources) that AMD's Zen 3 CPU core microarchitecture will on average deliver about a 17% improvement in terms of instructions processed per CPU clock cycle (IPC) relative to AMD's current Zen 2 microarchitecture. For comparison, AMD has asserted that Zen 2 delivers a 15% IPC gain on average relative to the preceding Zen microarchitecture.
Based on what has been shared to date, the first Zen 3-based CPUs appear set to arrive during the second half of 2020. They're expected to rely on a 7-nanometer (7nm) Taiwan Semiconductor (TSM) manufacturing process (known as N7+) that delivers some transistor density and power efficiency gains relative to the 7nm process used by Zen 2 CPUs.
Zen 3 IPC gains of about 10% to 12% were reported by Red Gaming Tech for integer operations (dominant within many mainstream applications), and gains "closer to 50 percent" were reported for applications requiring a lot of floating-point operations (for example, certain 3D gaming and high-performance computing applications).
The site also reported that initial engineering sample chips for AMD's third-gen Epyc server CPUs -- they're codenamed Milan and will rely on Zen 3 cores -- featured moderate 100Mhz to 200MHz increases in CPU clock speed.
Separately, when asked about AMD's expectations for IPC gains in an interview with AnandTech, CTO Mark Papermaster said that AMD's goal is to top the 7% annual growth the chip industry has been seeing in terms of single-threaded IPC performance "with every generation of our products." Papermaster also noted (in line with past remarks from company execs) that AMD wants to launch a new microarchitecture every 12 to 18 months.
All of this generally fits with comments made last month by AMD SVP Forrest Norrod during an interview with TheStreet. Then, Norrod said (without offering any specific numbers) Zen 3 would deliver IPC gains "right in line with what you would expect from an entirely new architecture," and that AMD is "confident [in] being able to drive significant IPC gains each generation."
To sum it up, a combo of double-digit IPC gains and modest clock speed increases would set the stage for Zen 3-based PC and server CPUs to comfortably outperform comparable Zen 2-based CPUs. And considering that the Zen 2-based products that AMD has launched to date -- specifically, its third-gen Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper desktop CPUs, and its second-gen Epyc server CPUs -- often fare quite well against comparably-priced Intel (INTC) CPUs in benchmarks, this bodes well for AMD's competitive positioning for the next 12-to-24 months.
From the looks of things, AMD's Milan Epyc CPUs will be launching around the same time that Intel rolls out its anticipated Ice Lake Xeon server CPU line, its first to rely on a 10-nanometer (10nm) manufacturing process node that's competitive with TSMC's 7nm node. AMD has suggested it developed its second-gen Epyc CPUs (codenamed Rome) with the expectation that they'd be squaring off against Ice Lake. But Intel now indicates Ice Lake won't enter production until some point in the second half of 2020.
And in the desktop CPU market, it still isn't clear when Intel plans to launch its first 10nm products. Recent slide leaks suggest a new line of 14nm desktop CPUs are on the way. Outside of two high-end chips that will feature two more cores (and larger thermal envelopes and chip die sizes) than their predecessors, performance gains appear to be moderate.In the notebook market, which accounts for a solid majority of PC shipments, Intel appears to be in better shape. The company has rolled out its first Ice Lake notebook processors in recent months, and recent leaks suggest a successor 10nm platform known as Tiger Lake (expected in the second half of 2020) will deliver decent performance gains. That said, the arrival of AMD's first Zen 2-based Ryzen Mobile notebook processors, which are expected to be unveiled in early January at the CES trade show, should make this battle more interesting.