The past few CPU generations have seen impressive consistency from AMD’s releases. It launched new mobile processors in January, followed by desktop chips in the latter half of the year. That is expected to continue in 2020 with the launch of the first Ryzen 4000 series processors. They will most likely be mobile chips based on the Zen 2 design at the heart of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 desktop processors. They will be followed later in the year by Zen 3 desktop chips, fleshing out the rest of the Ryzen 4000 range.
Those desktop processors have a lot of exciting potential. Early reports suggest they are well on track to outpace Zen 2 processors, with as much as a 200MHz clock speed increase across the board, and as much as an 8% improvement in instructions per clock (IPC). There’s even talk of a second-generation of simultaneous multi-threading introducing four threads per physical core.
Those processors will use a new 7nm+ TSMC process node taped out using its extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) process, which has the potential to cut manufacturing costs. If AMD used that to make its chips even more cost competitive, that could give Intel’s planned 14nm Comet Lake desktop chips a lot of problems in 2020.
But as exciting as Zen 3 desktop chips are, we’re arguably more intrigued by AMD finally bringing its excellent Zen 2 architecture to mobile. The latest Ryzen 3000 mobile APUs aren’t as impressive as we’d have liked, and compared to Intel’s strong 10nm mobile lineup with Ice Lake, they just aren’t that exciting.
Ryzen 4000 mobile processors built on the Zen 2 architecture, however, have some serious potential. With the 15% improvement in instructions per clock over the Zen + design of Ryzen 3000 mobile chips, boosts to clock speed, and a doubling of onboard cache, they could offer serious competition to Intel’s best. That could finally give AMD the chance to become a major player in the laptop processor space, for both mainstream working laptops and gaming machines.
That could be especially true if the new APUs have onboard Navi graphics instead of Vega. While the latter architecture has been successful for AMD in many ways, Navi is a new beast entirely and has powered capable mainstream graphics cards like the RX 5700 and 5700 XT. It’s also expected in the upcoming RXS 5500s, which should challenge Nvidia’s entry-level GTX 16-series cards.
We won’t have long to wait for confirmation either. AMD will likely debut laptops sporting the new Zen 2 Ryzen 4000 mobile chips at CES 2019 in January, with a launch shortly after. Production for Zen 3 processors won’t start until 2020, so we’d expect a late-summer debut for them, followed by a next-generation Epyc server release (known as Milan) shortly afterward, potentially sometime in the third calendar quarter of the year.
If all goes to plan, 2020 could be AMD’s most momentous year yet, with new high-end CPU lines launching in mobile and on desktop; new GPUs on APUs and in discrete cards with a potential “Big Navi” high-end solution, and two brand-new consoles sporting AMD hardware throughout their designs.
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