With technology evolving at an alarming rate 2016 looks like it holds some exciting new improvements and new developments in the CPU world with Intel and AMD set to release some impressive new multiprocessors. With only slight performance increases from Intel at an average of 5% per generation, it’s refreshing to see such a big new project emerging from the shadows.
If the chinese technology website Benchlife is to be believed, Intel has an incredible line up in store with its new Broadwell-E series of CPUs and the mighty 10 core hyperthreaded i7-6950X. AMD on the other hand has been working on its new Zen series which aims to be more like Intel CPUs using SMT instead of CMT and could deliver as much as 40% improvement from its predecessors. With neither company confirming or denying these rumors we will have to wait and see but one thing is for sure, 2016 is going to be an interesting year for computing.
AMD has long been the underdog competing with the likes of Intel in the CPU market and NVIDIA in the GPU market. Don’t get me wrong, AMD is still incredibly successful, however Intel and NVIDIA still come out on top when it comes to raw power, but AMD really makes gaming accessible by offering affordable high performance hardware. AMD has a strong following and show incredible promise for the new year and I can not wait to see how the new Zen series performs.
AMD Plans for 2016
AMD is a company every gameris very aware of whether they are fans or not. Founded in 1969, Advanced Micro Devices released its first semiconductor that year with the Am9300 which was a basic shift register. AMD have come a long way since then and with its acquisition of ATI in 2006 AMD began competing in the GPU market too. Where AMD has always been successful is offering affordable hardware which, while not as powerful pound-for-pound as its main rivals Intel and NVIDIA, delivers respectable performance while not costing a small fortune. Over the years AMD has grown significantly and finally they believe in 2016 their new Zen X86 CPU will finally give Intel a run for their money. AMD began the planning phase of the Zen microarchitecture shortly after re-hiring Jim Keller in early 2012.
Rumored to be releasing in Q4 of 2016, the Zen is said to be focused on improving per-core performance instead of the amount of cores or multi-threading as well as delivering a high-bandwidth, low latency cache system. AMD has hinted that the Zen will move away from the Clustered Multi-thread microarchitecture and head toward the Simultaneous Multi-threading microarchitecture that Intel has been using for some time now. While AMD CPUs and APUs have traditionally been using 32nm and 28nm processors, the Zen will aim for 14nm. The new architecture will be making use of the new AM4 socket which will support DDR4 memory. AMD is hoping this will translate into a huge 40% increase of instructions per clock which would significantly improve performance. In November 2015, a source inside of AMD reportedly said that the Zen microprocessors had been extensively tested and met all expectations while experiencing no significant bottlenecks.
In the graphics department, AMD Radeon is developing a new technology called Polaris(Formerly known as Arctic Islands) which promises significantly better performance per watt and incredibly small form factors making use of the fourth generation of its Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. Polaris based graphics cards will support HDMI 2a, DisplayPort 1.3 and encoding/decoding of 4K H.265 media. The polaris will be using 14nm architecture with a technology called FinFET which allows manufacturers to create CPUs and GPUs that are smaller, faster, and more energy efficient. Intel started releasing FinFET technology in 2012 with the Ivy Bridge series of 22nm processors. Thinner, faster and more energy efficient? What’s not to be excited about? While we are a few months from release AMD is fairly confident that the new Polaris technology will have a major impact on how future GPUs will be manufactured.
Intel Plans for 2016
Intel has been around far longer than AMD. Founded in 1968 Intel mainly produced RAM chips up until 1981. Intel did create the world’s first commercial microprocessor in 1971 but it only became Intel’s main business when the personal computer really gained traction in the market. During the 1990’s, Intel drove innovation and helped grow the personal computing industry, however, they were often accused of aggressive and even illegal tactics in an attempt to stay atop of their throne. AMD particularly bore the brunt of Intel’s aggression on several occasions but somehow managed to stay in the game. Hugely responsible for the massive surge in Macintosh computer sales, Intel partnered with Apple in 2005 effectively relaunching the brand into the huge success it is today. Intel has been busy in secret as of late and a new leaked roadmap from the chinese site benchlife shows their new monster 10 core CPU planned for a 2016 release.
The Intel Core i7-6950X will be the flagship processor of the new Broadwell-E lineup featuring an insane 10 cores which support hyperthreading for a crazy total of 20 threads supposedly running with a clock speed of 3.0GHz and an insane 25M of total cache. The new chip will support DDR4 RAM with speeds of 2133MHz or 2400MHz which is an improvement from the 1866MHz and 2133MHz from the Haswell-E series. The Broadwell-E will use the same LGA2011-v3 socket as the previous generation Haswell-E range. While both major CPU manufacturers have released high-core count processors in the server area none of them have come close to the 10 core 20 thread count in the desktop department. The high end flagship i7-6950X is rumored to launch at price of $999. Running off the X99 chipset and 14nm process the CPU will not only be incredibly powerful but also incredibly efficient even with a TDP of 140W compared the the 85W of the current i7 range.
Intel is also releasing two mobile platform CPUs with their Apollo Lake and Kaby Lake-U range and they are set to replace their Braswell series with new Apollo Lake CPUs. The Apollo Lake family will be based on 14nm architecture and feature Gen9 graphics. Intel said that the Apollo Lake range will be available in dual and quad core models and will be configured in 6W to 10W SOCs. The Apollo Lake series should launch in mobile platforms and the Intel NUC range of PCs by quarter 2 of 2016. The Kirby Lake-U chips will sport the GT2 GPU and HDCP 2.2 support as well as greatly increased Instructions per cycle compared to the older Bulldozer core. The Kirby Lake-U and Kirby Lake-Y will be low power Dual Core CPUs geared toward the mobile device market with the Kirby Lake-H being the only Quad-Core mobile offering. The Kirby Lake-S series will come in Dual and Quad Core models and is designed for the desktop market.
What About Gaming Performance?
While it’s true that extra cores and higher clock speeds do translate into better gaming performance and higher resolutions with faster frame rates, developers will need time with the new technology to ensure games make full use of these new platforms. The new CPUs and architecture will definitely be more power efficient and help to alleviate bottlenecks caused by the CPU. DDR4 memory, while in use and readily available, still isn’t the standard but the new memory controllers supporting DDR4 at higher frequencies should be the catalyst for change and 2016 could be the year DDR4 becomes the staple for desktops and laptops alike. We will still need to see what NVIDIA has in store for this year in the GPU department, but without a doubt they have a few tricks up their sleeves to rival AMD Radeon’s new Polaris technology and increase the power of their integrated graphics performance especially important for budget gaming machines.
With both major semiconductor companies set to be releasing new technologies we are definitely in for an interesting year ahead. It may be the year that AMD finally gives Intel a run for it’s money in both the CPU and GPU markets, although it will be incredibly tough to compete with Intel’s new 10 core beast. With stiffer competition and newer technology being developed prices should also come down on older hardware that will still stay relevant for a few years to come. One thing is for sure, we are definitely going to see smaller and lighter devices coming to market with far better performance especially in the graphical department. With more power efficient CPU and GPU technology, we should also see a dramatic increase in battery life. I for one will be curious to see which tablet manufacturers make use of AMD’s new Polaris GPU technology as this could be the boost mobile gaming has been desperate for in the past few years.
Could 2016 finally be the year AMD steps up and forces the much needed innovation we have been lacking in the past few years? Are you an AMD or Intel fan? Are you excited for the new technologies being released this year? Why not let us know in the comments below?