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After its CPUs spent years as ‘budget’ alternatives to Intel’s dominant chips, AMD is finally challenging Chipzilla with its Ryzen processors. In an interview with 'Joker' from Joker Productions, the company’s desktop CPU marketing manager, Don Woligroski, shared some interesting information about Ryzen, referring to it as a “worst case scenario.”
While Ryzen has proved extremely popular, it does have areas that could be improved. Woligroski said the fact it’s a brand new architecture on a brand new node is less than ideal, but it still turned out well. He added that future Zen 2 processors will come with better IPC (instructions per cycle), clock speeds, and overclocking.
Answering a fan question about improvements in AMD’s future CPUs at PAX West, Woligroski said: “I’ve said this before, and I think it holds true. Zen, Ryzen, was the worst case scenario. It was a brand new architecture on a brand new node. So the worst case scenario we could’ve possibly had, and it’s pretty good. You can get to over 4.GHz.”
It seems IPC rates and base frequencies are going to be two areas of focus in Zen 2. “We’ve got clock speed headroom to take advantage of and we’ve got tweaks to make sure performance for each clock is better,” claimed Woligroski, who said AMD has some “really good stuff coming. We’re not a one hit wonder; we’re keeping the pressure on for some time. It’ll be a great 2018. It was a great 2017, and we’ll see how things turn out.”
While Intel’s chips still have a very slight advantage over AMD when it comes to gaming performance (check out our comparison feature), the red team continues to work with game creators to optimize their titles.
“For games that are already released, our focus is making sure if they have a problem on Ryzen processors, which some do you’ll see a big performance delta, you’re like why? Ryzen is pretty fast and we’ll go and engage with the developer. We did it for Dota 2, Rise Of The Tomb raider and we just find out what was wrong.”
“For future looking stuff, it’s that chicken or egg scenario. When you have more threads and cores available the guys will start developing for it. We certainly have engineers that we hand out to guys who are developing games and our partners like Bethesda have been really great. They’re like how do we take advantage of this hardware? and we send guys in to say here’s how you do it. Here’s some ideas and it’s just a feedback loop. It just gets better and better. We finally have the APIs, now they’re going to learn how to use them. It’s not an instant ON. But then it’s inevitable.”
A lot of excitement about Ryzen was over AMD’s HEDT processor, Threadripper. Plenty has been written about the chip and its flagship model’s 16 cores and 32 threads, but what’s especially interesting are the revelations that it wasn’t originally part of AMD’s plans.
In a series of interviews by Forbes, AMD staff reveal that Threadripper was a passion project for the company’s engineers, who worked on the CPU during their spare time. It took around a year of tinkering before management made it official.
"It’s not really a story of roadmaps and long-term planning or huge R&D budgets—it’s a lot more personal than that and stemmed from a skunkworks project and a small group of AMD employees who had a vision of a processor they’d really want in terms of a high-performance PC," Sarah Youngbauer from AMD's communications team told Forbes.
Another member of AMD’s comms team, James Prior, said one of the company’s cardinal rules was not to go against the grain. But the turning point came when Jim Anderson joined from Intel. As a CPU enthusiast, he loved the idea of Threadripper, and soon gave it the green light.
“He [Anderson] believed in the idea, especially the way it leveraged existing technology we were using for Ryzen and EPYC, plus the fact as we were so excited about it that we’d already done a lot of the groundwork that would have been involved in the approval process anyway,” said Prior.
Earlier this week, a report from German retailer Mindfactory.de claimed AMD’s CPUs are outselling Intel’s offerings for the first time in a decade. It’ll be interesting to see how the battle between the companies’ future hardware plays out, and whether one firm will start to pull ahead. Whatever happens, renewed competition in a market once dominated by Intel can only be good news for the consumer.