My Next PC May Not Run on Intel

Last week, AMD partially unveiled its upcoming Ryzen processor, aka Summit Ridge. AMD only demonstrated the high-end model running at an estimated base clock frequency of 3.4GHz. AMD CEO Lisa Su compared its high-end Ryzen to Intel’s Core-i7 6900K. It’s clear from the demos that Ryzen isn’t quite fully baked yet. The company hasn’t enabled boost clocks, hasn’t fully settled on the 3.4GHz base clock, and didn’t disclose pricing. AMD’s new progeny runs on the existing socket AM4 platform, although it’s expected that new motherboards sporting modern features such as NVMe M.2 SSD support, USB 3.0/3.1, and full PCI Express 3.0 will arrive.

I’m thinking maybe, just maybe, I’ll build my next production PC using Ryzen. However, I do have a few niggling doubts. Let’s talk about those a bit.

  • AMD compares it’s latest CPU to Intel’s last generation. That’s because Intel’s Extreme Edition CPUs lag a generation behind the company’s latest architectures. To be fair, Broadwell-E offers great bandwidth, but I’m guessing the relatively low clock frequencies is partly Broadwell’s fault, since that architecture was Intel’s first try at 14nm. On the other hand, the rumor mill has been strangely silent about any flavor of Skylake Extreme.
  • AMD promises a minimum clock frequency of 3.4GHz. That’s pretty much my minimum; I’m currently running a Core i7-6700K, running at a 4GHz base clock. T Higher clocks with four cores tends to make a bit more difference than lower clocks with more cores with PC games.
  • Beyond just having more CPU cores, memory bandwidth becomes a key reason to consider an Intel Extreme Edition. AMD has yet to reveal many details regarding the Ryzen’s memory controller. We know the new processor supports DDR4, but we don’t know supported base DDR4 clock frequencies or the number of memory channels. If the 3.4GHz, 8-core Ryzen offers quad-memory channel support, I’m probably in.
  • Cost. AMD has yet to reveal pricing. AMD has been aggressive about pricing in the past, but that was partly because AMD’s only weapon was pricing. Now that they can offer reasonably good performance without turning your PC into a space heater makes Ryzen more attractive. AMD has two strategies: price Ryzen at just below the 6900K — say, $899 to $1,099 — or shoot for more aggressive pricing at, say, $599, which would make the new processor extremely attractive. (See what I did there?)

Ryzen offers impressive new tech for a PC processor. While I’m leaning towards building a new Ryzen rig when AMD finally ships, I need some questions answered. Still, it’s good to see AMD apparently reaching parity once again with Intel, after a long trip through the wilderness of underperforming, power-hungry processors.

 

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