AMD Zen 3: Everything we know so far

Can extreme ultraviolet lithography make Zen 3 much better than Zen 2?

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

AMD turned the CPU market on its head when it released its first-generation Ryzen processors built on a first-generation Zen core in 2017. In 2019, it did so once again with Zen 2-powered Ryzen 3000 processors and already we’re looking to what comes next: Zen 3. More like AMD’s Zen+ debut in 2018 than a brand new generational release, Zen 3 will be a refinement of Zen 2.

But it will be better. It will be faster. Here’s everything we know about Zen 3 so far.

Pricing and availability

amd zen 3 news rumors release date architecture zen3roadmap01

AMD has been on track with its CPU releases over the past few years, planning to release the first three generations of its Zen architecture in quick succession. Zen 3 was always planned for a 2020 debut and as far as we know, that’s still on track. AMD announced in early August 2019 that the design phase for Zen 3 was now complete and that its hardware developers were moving on to the design challenges faced by Zen 4.

With Zen 3, AMD can now move on to testing and prototyping chips. How successful that process is will determine whether we’ll see Zen 3-based CPUs show up in summer 2020, or more towards the holiday season. Either way, we expect Zen 3 to show up in 2020 as part of a full, commercial line up of CPUs.

The full range of processors has a trio of codenames. Milan will be for high-end servers, a replacement for the Epyc Rome CPUs. Vermeer will be for high-end desktops and enthusiasts, possibly Threadripper CPUs, while Renoir will be for mainstream desktop CPUs and mobile APUs.

The mainstream chips will face off with Intel’s Tiger Lake CPUs on the desktop.

Performance

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Zen 2 CPUs were a major advancement over the first-generation Zen and enhanced Zen+ designs. It offered double-digit instructions per clock improvements, boosted clock speeds, and additional cores for improved multithreading capabilities. Since Zen 3 will be more of an evolution than a revolution, we don’t expect the same major enhancements, but there should be some notable improvements all the same.

Due to the new manufacturing methods used in the creation of Zen 3, we expect to see improvements in clock speed and energy efficiency. That could help AMD’s Ryzen processors crest 5GHz for the first time right out of the box. There’s also the possibility of new instruction sets, which could enhance the entire range’s performance in particular workloads.

Architecture

Zen 3 is based on a 7nm+ process node. While technically the distance between transistors shouldn’t change, the new manufacturing technique known as extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) enables a far denser packing of transistors (up to 20 percent) than Zen 2’s deep ultraviolot (DUV) methodology. That extra density should improve energy efficiency, which AMD can in turn leverage to enhance clock speed or other facets of the processors’ performance.

In an interview with TechPowerUp in April 2019, AMD’s CTO Mark Papermaster suggested that Zen 3 would prioritize energy efficiency, but that we would still see some modest instructions per clock improvements over Zen 2 as well. That should lead to greater single threaded and multithreaded performance. When combined with additional clock speed, these CPUs should be even better in gaming than the already excellent Ryzen 3900X.

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