Everyone loves an underdog victory story, and the world of consumer electronics is no exception to that unwritten rule. When Advanced Micro Devices, otherwise known as AMD, the age-old ‘loser’ of the microchip industry, managed to make a nigh-miraculous comeback in the market with a series of breakthroughs, it inevitably led to the thorough trouncing of its main rival, semiconductor titan Intel, which had reigned unchallenged as the market leader for over a decade prior to this sudden turning of the tables – a development which was further compounded by a series of bizarre decisions on the part of Intel, among which their decision to stick with the aged 14nm process of building processors. Conversely, AMD and numerous major chip manufacturers have moved to the substantially more advanced 7nm fabrication process, which allows major leaps in terms of processing power and efficiency by way of the virtues of miniaturization.
AMD’s last major release of their Ryzen processors, powered by the Zen 2 microarchitecture, has not only managed to match Intel’s offerings blow by blow, but has also managed to knock many of their benchmarks out of the park, while being noticeably more affordable and energy- efficient, and also pumping out a lot less heat than the competition. While a processor’s thermal output may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, lower heat output can not only extend a processor (or pretty much any electronic device)’s longevity by preventing damage to its sensitive internals, but it can also have a significantly positive effect on its stability and its ability to perform at its best. Intel has responded to AMD’s barrages with their own releases, and while they have indeed made considerable progress on their fronts, their offerings are still considerably more expensive, built upon older technological foundations, and inefficient both in terms of power consumption and thermal output.
This month, it appears that AMD is continuing its success-fueled rampage while Intel continues to flounder in its own backwash. The Zen 2 architecture of the previous generation has undergone another major update, emerging as Zen 3, the new technology at the heart of the latest generation of AMD processors, the Ryzen 5000 series. Zen 3 promises an IPC (instructions per clock) growth over 19% over the previous generation and leaked benchmarks have all but confirmed that Team Red is out for blood once again, instead of going for a minor incremental update. The IPC improvements are directly translating into better response times, gaming performance and productivity performance across the entire lineup of Ryzen 5000 processors. Tests have shown performance gains of over 25% in most applications over AMD’s own offerings from the last generation, which is nothing less than flabbergasting.
The first four chips of the series, have already been announced, namely the Ryzen 5 5600X (6 cores, 12 threads), the Ryzen 7 5800X (8 cores, 16 threads), the Ryzen 9 5900X (12 cores, 24 threads) and the Ryzen 9 5950X (16 cores, 32 threads). While their core and thread counts have remained unchanged since their last-generation counterparts, the vastly improved performance is sufficient to make upgrades worthwhile. As per a recent live stream from AMD, the Ryzen 5000 processors are due to make landfall on November 5, 2020. In order to successfully address the massive worldwide demand for Zen 3 CPUs, AMD is making massive changes to its global supply chain and operation lines in line with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the new CPUs are slightly pricier than the ones from the previous generation, they are still very much reasonably priced compared to the offerings from Intel, which has been made possible by some radically clever design changes in the hearts of the chips, which has helped to significantly bring down manufacturing costs. AMD has wisely decided to use this opportunity to keep things affordable for its customers instead of taking the path to soulless profiteering.
Alongside their CPU lineup, AMD is also working on a new lineup of RDNA 2 GPUs, namely the much-awaited RX 6000 series. These GPUs are also due to show up in late 2020 to face off against Nvidia’s new RTX 3000 series lineup. Despite the devotion of its relatively smaller but fierce group of ardent followers, AMD ‘s GPU division has always played second fiddle to Nvidia in the GPU wars in terms of performance and features, so it remains to be seen how it fares this year.
It should be noted, though, that despite all its flailings and failings in recent years, Intel continues to remain an extremely formidable presence in the microprocessor industry by the sheer size of its market share. While AMD’s repeated successes have allowed it to regain a solid foothold in the general consumer market, Intel is still going strong when it comes to corporate customers, where the bulk of its sales comes from. While AMD is steadily gaining recognition and acceptance among users worldwide, its corporate adoption rates are still a good climb away from reaching the vast numbers posed by Intel.
In order to topple Intel’s crown, AMD still has a long way to go, which it can only do if it continues to maintain its course of breaking new grounds. However, it can also be hoped that Intel would pose more of a challenge to its rival, because a lack of competition is what eventually leads to mediocre product lines, and the consumer is stuck with a hopeless monopoly. After reigning supreme in the microprocessor industry for a decade, Intel got too complacent with their product line, and stopped innovating, only releasing minor updates and rehashes to its existing lineup every year. This complacency on Intel’s part is what allowed AMD to seriously step up its game by going the extra mile that Intel had never bothered to go. Complacency is something that AMD cannot afford at any cost, because Intel is still paying dearly for its later years of development stagnation.