It looks like AMD is aiming for the top spot once more. The chip manufacturer recently announced that they are developing a new high-performance x86 core, essentially replacing the current generation Steamroller, Piledriver and Bulldozer lineup.
Called Zen, the new 14nm x86 micro-architecture is expected to launch in 2016–2017. It will also do away with the existing architecture design and opt for what they call an SMT or Simultaneous Multi-Threading design. This is a technology similar to how hyper-threading works. Previously, AMD had their own version of a rival for Intel’s SMT called the CMT or Clustered Multi-Threading. Sadly, when released it was seen as an impractical idea by critics.
There’s no concrete details on the numbers or performance we can expect but at least we know that they haven’t abandoned the high-performance enthusiasts (yet). We can however, assume that the Zen architecture will be the equivalent of what the Phenom lineup was back in the day which means powerful energy-efficient processing.
Delving into the technical side a bit more, the Zen architecture is built on a GlobalFoundries 14 nanometer FinFET node fabrication. Supported processors can run both DR3 and DDR4 RAM. AMD claims that the new lineup will be true quad-core CPUs meaning that the four units are not clusters or modules with two cores per module but rather 4 cores that share no hardware components with each other, aside from the L3 cache. Each core gets a dedicated L2 cache of 512 KB and a shared L3 cache of 8MB L3 pool.
However, there’s still a lot of work to be done and the architecture still far from being perfect. With a launch date set for 2016-2017, the interesting question is whether or not a quad core is enough to compete with Intel, especially now that they launched their Haswell-E Octa-core (8 cores) design.