Motherboards have to support the abilities of the CPU. AMD has announced three new motherboard chips sets to support the Zen CPU. I’m not into the deep geeky details. Suffice to say the chip sets and CPU are planned to make AMD more competitive in the gaming market. The change corrects a misjudgment made in earlier AMD CPU design.
AMD bet gaming would go with parallel computing, which multiple CORES handles better. While multiple cores have traditionally run slower than single cores, meaning slower clocks – 2.4GHz vs 3.5Ghz, they can do roughly 70± % more with each added core. But, it didn’t work out that way in the gaming world.
Note: Each core generates heat, uses power, and has to move data cross the motherboard to memory chips. Heat dissipation and the speed of memory and other IO channels limits how many cores can run at what speed. Think of 10 guys handing boxes to one guy putting them in a truck.
Intel bet gaming would make more use of fewer but faster cores. They won.
Said another way Intel bet if they made their 2 or 4 cores faster it would be better for gamers. AMD bet if they added 4 more cores and worried less about clock speed it would be better for gamers. So, they thought 8 cores at 2.4 would better than 4 at 3.5. (2.4 x 8 = 19.2 – 3.5 x 4 = 14… that’s a 27% advantage to AMD)
The problem is parallel processing is difficult to program. Game designers use fewer cores. We see that in many games. It is why Intel’s i5-6600K is winning so many votes for best CPU for the money in the gaming world. When you only use 2 of 4 or 8 cores the advantage rapidly shifts. 2.4 x 2 = 4.8 – 3.5 x 2 = 7 giving Intel a 32% advantage. That is way too big an advantage for a gamer, especially a competitive gamer, to give up.
It is only with the arrival of DirectX and Vulkan, the graphics processing code going into new games, that parallel processing is added. Parallel processing is being pushed into the graphics cards where parallelism is easy as the result is a composite image. Imagine lots of people working on painting a mural at the same time. Imagine 5 people trying to balance a single checkbook where the answer is a single number. My GTX 1060 has 1280 cores. My i5 has 4. Odd that they cost about the same.
Intel has a better grasp on reality and human nature. It paid off. AMD is waking up but, still heavily invested in parallel processing. Are they ahead of their time? Possibly.
AMD has designed for a 40% increase in the number of instructions they can process with each clock tick. If they achieve that, even running at 2.4GHz they will exceed Intel’s performance at 3.5GHz. That would give them an advantage on a per core basis. The area where Intel has excelled. They will be competitive.
AMD has not announced pricing. We know who they are competing against and what the competition’s prices are. We can guess that AMD is probably not going to exceed the speed of Intel’s i7-6700K 4 core. They may well match it on speed and deliver 8 hyper threaded cores for an effective 16 cores at the same price.
This is marketing. 16 effective cores has to be better than 8, doesn’t it?. At the same price many will buy based on just the marketing numbers. The more knowledgeable will wait for the hardware reviews.
Will a 16 core machine run Second Life better than a 4 core machine? I expect it will be a stop-watch difference. We will likely see it in the numbers. But, will we be able to perceive a difference as we use SL? Maybe, but I doubt it. That is likely true for all but the newest games and VR.
Unless a game is using DirectX12 or Vulkan, it can’t ‘easily’ take advantage of the added parallel processing. So, many gamers expecting 2 to 4 times the performance from 2 or 4 times more cores will be bummed to find only a small percentage of improved performance. An app has to use those additional cores for us to see an improvement.
More and more it is becoming a matter of which hardware is best for your application. In the gaming world the variety of approaches is diversifying. So, we are at a point where we pick hardware for the game we play most. Markets go through periods of innovation finding what works best, a free market at its best. These are followed by periods of consolidation as everyone moves toward what proves to be best. Then another phase of innovation starts. As the world speeds up we see the lines between those periods blur. It complicates our lives. But, we get really fun toys.
Is AMD going to be worth the wait? I don’t know. I think there is a good chance AMD will again be competitive in the gaming world. But, enough to be worth waiting? You’ll have to make your bet.