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AMD: 7nm Ryzen's CES Debut Just The Start Of New Fight Against Intel

‘We're already competitive with Intel's best mainstream desktop processor. That's a very clear signal to the market, to the enthusiasts, to the buyers [that] we've got something good,’ a senior product manager at AMD tells CRN.

An AMD representative said the company's CES debut of the 7-nanometer, third-generation Ryzen CPU and its benchmark victory against Intel's top gaming processor is just the beginning of AMD's new offensive against its large semiconductor rival.

During her keynote at CES 2019 earlier this month, AMD CEO Lisa Su demonstrated a benchmark test showing that the company's new 7nm Ryzen CPU, which is due out mid-2019, performed faster than Intel's flagship ninth-generation Core i9-9900K while using 30 percent less power. When 7nm Ryzen launches, it will arrive several months ahead of Intel's 10nm client CPU, which is due by the holidays.

[Related: AMD CTO: We Now Have A 'Razor's Edge' To Fight Against Intel]

In an interview with CRN, James Prior, a senior product manager for AMD, said the demonstration is meant to serve as a foundation for what AMD customers can expect moving forward.

"We're already competitive with Intel's best mainstream desktop processor," Prior said. "That's a very clear signal to the market, to the enthusiasts, to the buyers [that] we've got something good. That our innovation, that our investment in research and development, that our engineers are pointing the right way and they focus on the things that they care about."

Those use cases are gaming, streaming and content creation — "the three main things that people are buying for these days," according to Prior.

Wallace Santos, CEO of Maingear, a Kenilworth, N.J.-based boutique PC builder, said AMD's plan to release a CPU with a next-generation manufacturing process sooner than Intel "boggles [his] mind," especially given that AMD is now fabless after the company divested its manufacturing arm in 2009.

"Most people laughed at their strategy when they spun off their fabs. Now they're proving that it's a smart idea," he said, adding that it allows AMD and its foundry partners to narrow their focus. "The factories are basically focusing on process technology, and they're focusing on product design."

Prior said AMD's 7nm, third-generation Ryzen processors will be compatible with existing chipsets, which means a "much simpler enablement story for every system builder on the planet."

"The existing ecosystem is going to stay the same," Prior said. "We're not going to drive a forced upgrade of motherboards and coolers and power supplies […] It means there's no validation cycle for these new processors with all those other components."

Another benefit Prior said AMD is bringing channel partners is the way it will issue graphics drivers updates starting this quarter. The company announced that any Ryzen CPU with integrated Radeon graphics will start receiving regular driver updates in a single driver package for improved optimization.

Prior said this is important for channel partners managing fleets of PCs and laptops because it allows them to use the same system image to deploy updates.

"For our stack, it makes it so simple and easy, so we can scale vertically," he said.

Beyond the 7nm Ryzen's power-efficient performance, the product is set to become the first CPU to support PCIe 4.0 connectivity. Prior said AMD has a "lot of ecosystem work to do" to help OEMs, PC builders and motherboard makers support the new feature.

Santos said PCIe 4.0 support means more bandwidth for components such as graphics cards but added that "it's up to silicon manufacturers to decide what to do with all that bandwidth now."

Maingear has seen AMD-based systems gain significant traction since AMD started selling its Ryzen processors to challenge Intel's Core client CPUs in 2017, according to Santos. As a custom PC system builder, most of Maingear's business comes from customers who choose which components they want, including processors, with AMD and Intel receiving equal footing in desktop builds.

Santos said the main appeal of AMD's Ryzen CPUs is the value they provide on a per-core basis when compared to Intel's Core processors.

"You get more cores for the dollar, and it's good enough and in some cases it's better for the dollar," he said. "I think Intel has no choice but to adjust their pricing to reflect what AMD is doing."

Velocity Micro, a boutique PC builder in Richmond, Va., has seen AMD grow to more than 25 percent of overall business, according to its CEO, Randy Copeland. He said that's significant because AMD's Ryzen processors were only at 1 percent for Velocity a couple of years ago.

" I think it's the combination of a solid value and performance offering, renewed buzz and media excitement, engaged AMD marketing support and good availability that have combined to make this market growth possible," Copeland said.

The success of 7nm, third-generation Ryzen depends on whether AMD's CES benchmark demonstration can be replicated by third parties and how the new CPU performs in other kinds of tests, according to Santos and Copeland.

"I expect Intel will have an answer by the second half [of the year]," Copeland said. "The real story is that there is actually a race."

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