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AMD still thinks more cores are better cores, plans up to 32 in Zen processors

While there are still more unanswered questions about AMD’s upcoming Zen architecture than there are answers, information is slowly making its way out into the world. Now, it appears a speaker at a CERN event has confirmed the new architecture could support as many as 32 physical cores and eight channels of DDR4 RAM, as noted by TechReport.

The slide is particularly telling about the possible functionality of the Zen architecture. It will be based on a 14nm FinFET process, the same size as the current Skylake chips. On top of that, the chips will support PCIe 3.0, DDR4 support for up to eight channels.

The speaker explained that the 32 core chips would be in two separate 16-core processors with an on-die connection. Intel only offers chips with up to 18 cores, and those are all very expensive Xeon CPUs. Intel has 22 core processors on the way too, the Broadwell-EP v4 chips, but they missed the initial late 2015 release window.

If the slide is correct, the Zen architecture will also bring a claimed “40 percent improvement for Instructions Per Clock compared to current generation AMD processors.” That’s an important improvement, as AMD chips often fall behind Intel chips at the same clock speed.

There’s also mention of “Symmetrical Multi-Threading,” an addition that sounds suspiciously like a Hyper-Threading equivalent. It’s just one of a number of areas where Intel’s chips have an advantage over the AMD option, and our tests usually show a notable difference between chips that do and don’t have the feature.

Granted, the chance of 32-core chips making it into consumer systems is far-fetched at best, as this sort of multi-tasking monster is likely meant for servers and data centers. That doesn’t mean they won’t roll out the same dual-package construction in order to boost cores in personal computers, and features tend to trickle down from the top anyway.

Now that we know the top end of the Zen architecture, we’re starting to get an idea of how the whole collection is shaping up. AMD has confirmed the Zen launch for late 2016, and it’s the first complete chip redesign since 2011. The last few years have been rough for the small company, and the new chips are likely to make or break the red team.