15 May 2018: AMD has launched upgraded Ryzen Pro microprocessors boasting Ryzen cores integrated with Vega graphics - what AMD used to call accelerated processing units or APUs. The parts are intended for corporate laptops and desktops, with the launch coinciding with new mobile and desktop systems from Dell, HP and Lenovo bearing the new CPUs.
However, despite their naming nomenclature, the new parts are based on first-generation Ryzen cores rather than the Zen+ microarchitecture that went into AMDs recent Ryzen 2 releases. As such, the office-oriented parts will lack the improved cache and memory latency of Ryzen 2, as well as the slightly faster clock speeds from being optimised to 12-nanometer, as opposed to 14nm, process manufacturing.
The parts encompass four desktop and three mobile offerings, all with four cores, but with the Ryzen 5 Pro 2400G, 2400GE, 2500U and Ryzen Pro 2700U coming with eight threads.
The parts are pitched at a lower price than Intel equivalents - from $169 to $349 - and, while sporting AMD's latest Vega graphics technology, they have dialled down the performance, partly to cut costs, but also to ensure that laptops don't meltdown under modest usage.
What makes AMD's ‘Pro' line-up of Ryzen CPUs different from standard Ryzen CPUs and APUs are the management features aimed purely at organisations. These include GuardMI, which offers memory encryption capabilities (like AMD's Epyc server CPUs), a secure boot mechanism, a firmware Trusted Platform Module supporting TPM 2.0.
In terms of the new hardware from major vendors - whose support AMD will need in order to crack the armlock Intel has on the corporate PC market - Dell has been showing off new Latitude 5495 laptops with 14-inch displays, as well as very corporate-looking Optiplex 5055 MT/SFF desktops.
HP and Lenovo, meanwhile, have launched a much wider range of laptops and desktops. In among the fairly standard looking hard is, in particular, the HP Elite Desk 705 Mini G4, which promises to be a space saver. Lenovo, too, has both an ultra-small 12.5-inch laptop and a slimline desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715q Tiny, which both look particularly interesting.
However, full details and specs have yet to be released.
26 April 2018: AMD has posted first-quarter revenues up by 40 per cent, year on year, and by 23 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
Revenues reached $1.65 billion, while CEO Lisa Su forecast that revenues would weigh in around the same in the current quarter, too. Operating income weighed in at $120 million and net income at $81 million.
The company attributed the strong growth to the popularity of its first-generation Ryzen microprocessors, boosted by price cuts in advance of the release of the second generation Ryzen CPUs, based on the Zen+ architecture.
The first quarter was an outstanding start to 2018 with 40 per cent year-over-year revenue growth
AMD's computing and graphics business saw the biggest growth. It achieved revenue of $1.12 billion, up 95 per cent year-over-year and 23 per cent compared to the previous quarter.
AMD said the average selling price of its processors increased significantly over this period due to the success of the range of Ryzen products.
It also enjoyed strong sales of GPUs, but this was largely driven by cryptocurrency miners rather than PC buyers, who have been priced out of the graphics card market over the past six months as retail prices doubled.
AMD's gross margins were also up, by four percentage points to 36 per cent, year-over-year.
These numbers represent an impressive turnaround compared to the first quarter of 2017, just as AMD was rolling out its first-generation Ryzen, Epyc and Threadripper, when revenues weighed in at $984 million and net income came in at -$73 million.
Revenues in the enterprise, embedded and semi-custom division fell by 12 per cent year-over-year to $532 million
"The first quarter was an outstanding start to 2018 with 40 per cent year-over-year revenue growth," said AMD president and CEO Dr Lisa Su.
"PC, gaming and datacenter adoption of our new, high-performance products continues to accelerate. We are excited about our long-term roadmaps and focused on delivering sustained revenue growth and profitability."
Su was also keen to assert the importance of PC gaming and gamers to the company - especially with GPU sales to cryptocurrency miners grinding to a halt in April, and prices starting to return to normal.
However, revenues in the enterprise, embedded and semi-custom (EESC) division fell by 12 per cent year-over-year to $532 million, which the company attributed to a particularly large licensing deal in the same quarter in 2017.
23 April 2018: AMD is planning to augment its second-generation Ryzen CPUs with a Ryzen 7 2800X - but the part is unlikely to be released before the summer.
That's according to hints from Jim Anderson, senior vice president at AMD, which indicate that AMD has held off on releasing the more powerful part in order to wait and see what Intel does first.
In comments on Friday, Anderson suggested that the performance boosts provided by the current range of second-generation Ryzen CPUs, which only became available last week, more than covered the market.
According to early reviews, the second-generation AMD Ryzen CPUs surpass rival Intel microprocessors in terms of multi-threaded workloads, while the deficit in single-threaded workloads has been much reduced. Furthermore, while Intel retains an edge in terms of gaming benchmarks, the difference "is slim and gets even smaller as you climb the resolution ladder", according to TechPowerUp.
The Ryzen 7 2700X released last week, meanwhile, outguns the benchmark Intel Core i7-8700K in multi-threaded work. Hence, it has been conjectured that AMD is holding it back to see how Intel responds to the challenge posed by the second-generation Ryzen CPUs released so far.
More cynical online commentators, though, have suggested that AMD is simply having some production issues with Ryzen 2 or simply isn't confident enough of being able to maintain supplies at launch. Alternatively, it may be keeping back cores capable of clocking higher that it can release to counter Intel in the high-end desktop space, perhaps modifying pricing accordingly to remain competitive.
Before the end of June, AMD is scheduled to release Ryzen Pro mobile APUs and, in the second half of the year, it should also release its second-generation Threadripper CPUs and second-gen Ryzen Pro parts.
19 April 2018: Second-generation AMD Ryzen desktop CPUs have been released today, a week after AMD announced the new devices in a low-key launch.
At the same time, X470 motherboards have also become available, which will offer AMD's new StoreMI technology that effectively provides support for SSD- and in-memory-caching for conventional hard-disk drives.
All the CPUs come with various flavours of AMD Wraith coolers, with the Ryzen 7 2700X coming with the Wraith Prism, and the AMD Ryzen 7 2700 coming with the Wraith Spire - both offering LED lighting for people who like their PCs to light up like Christmas trees while they're doing spreadsheets.
The Ryzen 5 2600X and the Ryzen 5 2600 come with the Wraith Spire (non-LED) and Wraith Stealth coolers.
The CPUs, based on the Zen+ microarchitecture, offer a touch more clock speed than first generation Ryzen CPUs, having been shifted from 14-nanometre process technology to 12nm.
They are not the only benefits, according to AMD: "The Zen+ core increases IPC [instructions per clock cycle] and reduces both cache and memory latencies compared to first generation Ryzen processors.
"AMD's SenseMI technology is updated with Precision Boost 2, which enables second generation Ryzen processors to intelligently analyse the workload and computing environment and contributes in delivering the highest multiprocessing performance in their classes.
"Higher effective clock speeds on all second generation Ryzen processor cores can improve the performance of Ryzen processors in popular real-world applications like games, creativity and productivity applications," AMD claimed.
It added that gaming - which was widely believed to short just a little short on first generation Ryzen compared to Intel equivalents, ought to be "beautifully smooth" from 1080p Ultra to 4K. Content creation is up to 20 per cent faster on certain modecontent creation than the competition.
"With XFR 2 technology on all AM4 platforms with 2nd Gen Ryzen processors, enthusiast PC builders will enjoy even higher performance in the presence of premium cooling," AMD added.
16 April 2018: With the release this week of AMD's second generation Ryzen microprocessors, based on the Zen+ architecture and built on a 12nm process architecture compared to the first generation Ryzen's 14nm, AMD also introduced the X470 chipset that, it claimed, would make the most of the new chips' capabilities.
But what exactly does the X470 chipset provide over and above the current X370, B350 and A320 chipset? Is it worth paying the extra for an X470 motherboard and, if you're tempted to whip out your first generation Ryzen CPU, should you also replace the motherboard, too?
The differences between the B350 and X370 weren't great: the cheaper B350 supported overclocking, but restricted PCIe bandwidth, limiting storage options and multi-graphics-cards configurations. The X370 also offered more SATA slots - six to the B250's four.
First, X470 offers two PCIe 3.0 graphics card slots, so that enthusiastic (and deep pocketed) gamers can run two graphics side-by-side with minimal fuss. However, not many people do that given the number of games that can take advantage of such configurations, not to mention the cost.
More intriguing, perhaps, is what AMD is calling StoreMI storage acceleration technology. In essence, this is nothing new: it enables users to configure their machines so that a portion of an SSD can be used as a cache, intelligently pre-loading files from hard disk onto the SSD before they are required in order to speed up loading times.
StoreMI is based on Enmotus FuzeDrive software, more commonly used in high-end server storage than on PCs. It "intelligently and continuously analyzes your system, activating an ongoing process to make it as fast and responsive as possible," according to AMD marketing manager Don Woligroski.
That was back in January, when AMD revealed its deal with Enmotus.
He continued: "As you use your PC from day to day, FuzeDrive notices what applications you run and automatically prioritizes the applications and data you use the most, so it's accessed as quickly as possible from the fastest storage tier available. That means faster boot times, faster application and game load times, and a more responsive system."
AMD's twist on a well-established technology is that users can also throw some spare memory at it as well. "As you add more and faster drives to your PC, AMD StoreMI technology automatically pairs your most-used files with the fastest storage for peak performance. You can also use up to 2GB of RAM as a last-level cache for ultra-fast data," claims AMD.
FuzeDrive offers three options: the first, to cache Windows files stored on a conventional hard-disk drive; second, to add capacity if your Windows SSD is running out of space - FuzeDrive will shift little used drives to a secondary hard-disk drive; and, third, you can pair an ordinary SSD with a 3D Xpoint NVMe SSD to eke out even more performance.
Anyone who has used something like a SanDisk ReadyCache will know that while they provide a decent performance over conventional hard-disk drives, SSD caching is ultimately a bit of a disappointment. As a result, the £300+ spent on a Ryzen 2/motherboard would probably be better put towards a couple of 500GB SSDs, if faster storage is a primary concern.
But, alternatively, according to AMD, you can pay to upgrade your existing X370 or B350 with the Enmotus FuzeDrive software, so why go the whole hog if this particular feature is what will make your life complete?
AMD also claims that the X470 also offers improved clock-speed regulation and can handle faster memory speeds. But in practical terms and for everyday usage, it won't mean a great deal of difference for most, while the need to buy a new motherboard and memory on top of the Ryzen 2 CPU will almost certainly make it a much harder outlay to justify, just a year after buying-in to Ryzen in the first place.
If, on the other hand, you're buying new, motherboards bearing the X470 chipset will only cost a bit more than X370 AM4 motherboards, if at all - Ebuyer's cheapest X470 motherboard, the Gigabyte X470 Aorus Ultra Gaming ATX motherboard weighs in at £125. This makes it much more of an enticing, more future-proofed prospect.
13 April 2018: AMD has today announced the release of its second-generation Ryzen microprocessors, based on the Zen+ architecture, which will see the CPUs shift from a 14-nanometre to 12nm process architecture.
The parts being released are the Ryzen 5 2600 priced at $199, the Ryzen 5 2600X priced at $229, the Ryzen 7 2700 priced at $299, and the Ryzen 7 2700X priced at $329. All will be available on Thursday 19 April, AMD announced today. Pricing will likely be around the same in pounds sterling as dollars, including 20 per cent VAT.
As per the first generation of Ryzen CPUs (more or less), the Ryzen 5 parts will offer six cores with 12 threads, while the Ryzen 7 parts offer eight cores and 16 threads.
Partly thanks to the shift from 14nm to 12nm manufacturing, AMD has also been able to bump up the out-of-the-box clock speeds of the parts - to 3.4GHz for the Ryzen 5 2600 (compared to 3.2GHz for the Ryzen 5 1600), for example, all the way up to 3.7GHz for the Ryzen 7 2700X.
Full specs can be found in the table below.
All the CPUs will come with an AMD Wraith cooler inside retail boxes and, while the CPUs will run perfectly happily on existing socket AM4 motherboards, they'll be even happier on AM4 motherboards bearing the new AMD X470 chipset.
AMD claims that the X470 chipset will offer "new AMD StoreMI storage acceleration technology to combine the speed of your SSD with the capacity of your hard disk into a single, fast, easy-to-manage drive.
All the usual motherboard manufacturers - ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI - will be rushing out new X470 'boards to accompany the launch.
Pre-orders will open today.
11 April 2018: Engineers at reinvigorated AMD have confirmed that it is currently in the process of developing Zen 5, the microarchitecture that will power the Ryzen microprocessor several generations from now.
Speaking in a roundtable discussion video entitled "Ryzen Processors: One Year Later yesterday, several AMD executives admitted that they are already working on Zen 5, adding that they have to plan the technology several generations ahead.
AMD only released the first Ryzen microprocessors, starting with the high-end Ryzen 7, early last year. It followed that up with the mid-range Ryzen 5 and the lower-end Ryzen 3. Latterly, it has released devices with integrated graphics, in the form of the Ryzen 3 2200G and the Ryzen 5 2400G.
Zen+ Ryzen CPUs, which will reflect the company's shift from 14-nanometre process manufacturing to 12nm and will offer a soupçon of extra performance, are expected imminently.
Chief marketing officer John Taylor, product manager James Prior, corporate vice president of Radeon Technologies group Suzanne Plummer, senior fellow of design engineering Mike Clark and global campaigns director Christina Iron all took part in the talk.
With the video intended to tease people about AMD's upcoming releases, the executives explained that the company is always expanding its product roadmap and that the Zen 5 will be a massive release.
However, they admitted that improving the performance of new processors is not an easy task, but the Zen 5 should be worth it. Mike Clark called the developments "very exciting", adding: "As an architect, I am already working on Zen 5, actually."
Clark explained that because these processors take so long to design, he is constantly working on future generations to ensure that AMD always has a new product to put on the market, which he admitted was "kind of crazy".
AMD is working on a number of ambitious projects. By 2020, it hopes to have released the Zen 2 and Zen 3, before bringing Zen 5 products to market at some point in 2021. The devices will be manufactured on sub-7nm process technology.
The news comes as, a few days ago, clues that AMD is working on the Vega20 GPU were found in Linux driver code. It is expected to launch between the third and fourth quarter of 2018.
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