AMD Archive

Security researchers publish Ryzen flaws

Through the advent of Meltdown and Spectre, there is a heightened element of nervousness around potential security flaws in modern high-performance processors, especially those that deal with the core and critical components of company business and international infrastructure. Today, CTS-Labs, a security company based in Israel, has published a whitepaper identifying four classes of potential vulnerabilities of the Ryzen, EPYC, Ryzen Pro, and Ryzen Mobile processor lines. AMD is in the process of responding to the claims, but was only given 24 hours of notice rather than the typical 90 days for standard vulnerability disclosure. No official reason was given for the shortened time.

Nothing in technology is safe. As always, my advice is to treat any data on a phone or computer as potentially compromisable.

AMD pushing out open-source Vulkan driver

Ahead of the Vulkan 1.0 debut nearly two years ago, we heard that for AMD's Vulkan Linux driver it was initially going to be closed-source and would then be open-sourced once ready. At the time it sounded like something that would be opened up six months or so, but finally that milestone is being reached! Ahead of Christmas, AMD is publishing the source code to their official Vulkan Linux driver.

There's some minor caveats noted in the linked article, but this is looking like great news.

AMD’s Ryzen CPU with Vega graphics threatens Kaby Lake

AMD's Ryzen and Threadripper processors re-established AMD's chips as competitive with Intel's. While the AMD parts gave up a bit of performance to their Intel rivals, especially in single-threaded tasks - a result of the combination of slightly lower clock speeds and slightly inferior instructions-per-cycle (IPC) - they shine in multithreaded tasks, with AMD often offering many more cores and threads than Intel for the same or less money.

In the mainstream desktop space, Intel's Coffee Lake chips have reasserted that company's dominance; Skylake-X does the same in the high-end desktop space, too, albeit at a high price.

But things are looking like they're going to be different in the mobile space. That's because the two new chips, the Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U, show signs of being faster in both processor and graphics tasks than Intel's latest comparable chips.

These chips also bode well for supposed upcoming AMD APUs, which I'm looking forward to as a way to build a relatively cheap but still powerful secondary machine.

Retesting AMD Ryzen Threadripper’s game mode

In this mini-test, we compared AMD's Game Mode as originally envisioned by AMD. Game Mode sits as an extra option in the AMD Ryzen Master software, compared to Creator Mode which is enabled by default. Game Mode does two things: firstly, it adjusts the memory configuration. Rather than seeing the DRAM as one uniform block of memory with an ‘average’ latency, the system splits the memory into near memory closest to the active CPU, and far memory for DRAM connected via the other silicon die. The second thing that Game Mode does is disable the cores on one of the silicon dies, but retains the PCIe lanes, IO, and DRAM support. This disables cross-die thread migration, offers faster memory for applications that need it, and aims to lower the latency of the cores used for gaming by simplifying the layout. The downside of Game Mode is raw performance when peak CPU is needed: by disabling half the cores, any throughput limited task is going to be cut by losing half of the throughput resources. The argument here is that Game mode is designed for games, which rarely use above 8 cores, while optimizing the memory latency and PCIe connectivity.

I like how AnandTech calls this a "mini" test.

In any event - even though Threadripper is probably way out of the league of us regular people, I'm really loving how AMD's recent products have lit a fire under the processor market specifically and the self-built desktop market in general. Ever since Ryzen hit the market, now joined by Vega and Threadripper, we're back to comparing numbers and arguing over which numbers are better. We're back to the early 2000s, and it feels comforting and innocent - because everyone is right and everyone is wrong, all at the same time, because everything 100% depends on your personal budget and your personal use cases and no amount of benchmarks or number crunching is going to change your budget or personal use case.

I'm loving every second of this.

The AMD Radeon RX Vega 64, RX Vega 56 review

AMD isn't only getting back in the game on processors - they also just finally truly unveiled Vega, the new line of Radeon graphics cards. AnandTech benchmarked the two cards, and concludes:

Unfortunately for AMD, their GTX 1080-like performance doesn't come cheap from a power perspective. The Vega 64 has a board power rating of 295W, and it lives up to that rating. Relative to the GeForce GTX 1080, we've seen power measurements at the wall anywhere between 110W and 150W higher than the GeForce GTX 1080, all for the same performance. Thankfully for AMD, buyers are focused on price and performance first and foremost (and in that order), so if all you’re looking for is a fast AMD card at a reasonable price, the Vega 64 delivers where it needs to: it is a solid AMD counterpart to the GeForce GTX 1080. However if you care about the power consumption and the heat generated by your GPU, the Vega 64 is in a very rough spot.

On the other hand, the Radeon RX Vega 56 looks better for AMD, so it's easy to see why in recent days they have shifted their promotional efforts to the cheaper member of the RX Vega family. Though a step down from the RX Vega 64, the Vega 56 delivers around 90% of Vega 64’s performance for 80% of the price. Furthermore, when compared head-to-head with the GeForce GTX 1070, its closest competition, the Vega 56 enjoys a small but none the less significant 8% performance advantage over its NVIDIA counterpart. Whereas the Vega 64 could only draw to a tie, the Vega 56 can win in its market segment.

Vega 56's power consumption also looks better than Vega 64's, thanks to binning and its lower clockspeeds. Its power consumption is still notably worse than the GTX 1070's by anywhere between 45W and 75W at the wall, but on both a relative basis and an absolute basis, it's at least closer. Consequently, just how well the Vega 56 fares depends on your views on power consumption. It's faster than the GTX 1070, and even if retail prices are just similar to the GTX 1070 rather than cheaper, then for some buyers looking to maximize performance for their dollar, that will be enough. But it's certainly not a very well rounded card if power consumption and noise are factored in.

So, equal performance to Nvidia's competing cards at slightly lower prices (we hope), but at a big cost: far higher power consumption (and thus, I assume, heat?). For gaming, Nvidia is probably still the best choice on virtually every metric, but the interesting thing about Vega is that there's every indication it will do better on other, non-gaming tasks.

It's still early days for Vega.

AMD Threadripper reviews and benchmarks

In this review we've covered several important topics surrounding CPUs with large numbers of cores: power, frequency, and the need to feed the beast. Running a CPU is like the inverse of a diet - you need to put all the data in to get any data out. The more pi that can be fed in, the better the utilization of what you have under the hood.

AMD and Intel take different approaches to this. We have a multi-die solution compared to a monolithic solution. We have core complexes and Infinity Fabric compared to a MoDe-X based mesh. We have unified memory access compared to non-uniform memory access. Both are going hard against frequency and both are battling against power consumption. AMD supports ECC and more PCIe lanes, while Intel provides a more complete chipset and specialist AVX-512 instructions. Both are competing in the high-end prosumer and workstation markets, promoting high-throughput multi-tasking scenarios as the key to unlocking the potential of their processors.

As always, AnandTech's the only review you'll need, but there's also the Ars review and the Tom's Hardware review.

I really want to build a Threadripper machine, even though I just built a very expensive (custom watercooling is pricey) new machine a few months ago, and honestly, I have no need for a processor like this - but the little kid in me loves the idea of two dies molten together, providing all this power. Let's hope this renewed emphasis on high core and thread counts pushes operating system engineers and application developers to make more and better use of all the threads they're given.

AMD Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200 CPU review: Zen on a budget

So far all the products launched with Zen have aimed at the upper echelons of the PC market, covering mainstream, enthusiasts and enterprise customers - areas with high average selling prices to which a significant number of column inches are written. But the volume segment, key for metrics such as market share, are in the entry level products. So far the AMD Zen core, and the octo-core Zeppelin silicon design, has been battling on the high-end. With Ryzen 3, it comes to play in the budget market.

AnandTech's review and benchmarks of the new low-end Ryzen 3 processors.

AMD details Threadripper 1920X and 1950X CPUs

Last night out of the blue, we received an email from AMD, sharing some of the specifications for the forthcoming Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to be announced today. Up until this point, we knew a few things - Threadripper would consist of two Zeppelin dies featuring AMD's latest Zen core and microarchitecture, and would essentially double up on the HEDT Ryzen launch. Double dies means double pretty much everything: Threadripper would support up to 16 cores, up to 32 MB of L3 cache, quad-channel memory support, and would require a new socket/motherboard platform called X399, sporting a massive socket with 4094-pins (and also marking an LGA socket for AMD). By virtue of being sixteen cores, AMD is seemingly carving a new consumer category above HEDT/High-End Desktop, which we’ve coined the 'Super High-End Desktop', or SHED for short.

AMD is listing the top of the line Threadripper 1950X for 999 dollars, which gives you 16 cores and 32 threads, with a base frequency of 3.4Ghz (and a turbo frequency of 4.0Ghz) at a TDP of 180W (nothing to sneeze at). These are two quite amazing processors, and later next year, the pricing should definitely come down a bit so it's a bit more affordable for regular computer use as well.

Well done, AMD. Sure, we need to await the benchmarks for more information, but this is looking real good. I'm hoping this will finally start forcing developers - specifically of games - to start making more and better use of multicore.

AMD reportedly takes 10% market share from Intel

AMD has reportedly gained 10.4 percentage points of CPU market share in the second quarter of 2017. This makes it the largest x86 CPU market share gain in the history of the Sunnyvale, California based chip maker against its much larger rival Intel.

The data is courtesy of PassMark's quarterly market share report, which is based on the thousands of submissions that go through the database in any given quarter. It's important to note that because PassMark's market share data is based on benchmark submissions it counts actual systems in use, rather than systems sold. It also does not include consoles or any computer systems running operating systems other than Windows.

With AMD's Ryzen processors being the new hotness right now, I'd indeed expect benchmarking sites to get more Ryzen submissions, even if it's not a 10% market share swing in favour of AMD. That being said, it's clear that AMD is having an impact right now, and as consumers, we should welcome this.

I do dislike the fact that the chart only has two lines to show. We'd be better off with more than just two x86 chip makers, but alas.

AMD introduces Ryzen PRO processors

This morning AMD is introducing their Ryzen PRO processors for business and commercial desktop PCs. The new lineup of CPUs includes the Ryzen 3 PRO, Ryzen 5 PRO and Ryzen 7 PRO families with four, six, or eight cores running at various frequencies. A superset to the standard Ryzen chips, the PRO chips have the same feature set as other Ryzen devices, but also offer enhanced security, 24 months availability, a longer warranty and promise to feature better chip quality.

I guess it makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I'm not a fan of segmentation like this - it just makes an already complicated market even more complicated.

AMD’s future in servers: new 7000-Series CPUs launched

The big news out of AMD was the launch of Zen, the new high-performance core that is designed to underpin the product roadmap for the next few generations of products. To much fanfare, AMD launched consumer level parts based on Zen, called Ryzen, earlier this year. There was a lot of discussion in the consumer space about these parts and the competitiveness, and despite the column inches dedicated to it, Ryzen wasn't designed to be the big story this year. That was left to their server generation of products, which are designed to take a sizeable market share and reinvigorate AMD's bottom line on the finance sheet. A few weeks ago AMD announced the naming of the new line of enterprise-class processors, called EPYC, and today marks the official launch with configurations up to 32 cores and 64 threads per processor. We also got an insight into several features of the design, including the AMD Infinity Fabric.

For the past few years, the processor market was boring and dominated by Intel.

This is the year everything changes.

AMD details ThreadRipper, Epyc processors

At today's press conference, AMD has confirmed that the 16 core processor will for most purposes be half of an Epyc processor. This means that the two die MCM chip will feature 4 DDR4 channels and a whopping 64 lanes of PCIe, with all 64 lanes being enabled for all ThreadRipper SKUs. This will be broken up into 60+4: 60 lanes directly from the CPU for feeding PCIe and M.2 slots, and then another 4 lanes going to the chipset (with an undisclosed number of lanes then coming off of it) to drive basic I/O, USB, and other features. AMD seems to be particularly relishing the point on PCIe lanes in light of the yesterday's Intel HEDT announcement, which maxes out at 44 lanes and no chip below $1000 actually has all of them enabled.

All this competition.

AMD unveils the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition

So for today's AMD Financial Analyst Day, AMD has released a little bit more information as part of the next step of their campaign. The first Vega product to be released has a name, it has a design, and it has performance figures. Critically, it even has a release date. I hesitate to call this a full announcement in the typical sense - AMD is still holding some information back until closer to the launch - but we now finally have a clear picture of where the Vega generation kicks off for AMD.

Say hello to the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition.

First Ryzen, now Vega, with Ryzen 9 on the way. AMD is on a roll, and Intel is scrambling. Competition!

Intel still beats Ryzen at games, but how much does it matter?

Realistically, nobody should have expected Ryzen to be king of the hill when it comes to gaming. We know that Broadwell isn't, after all; Intel's Skylake and Kaby Lake parts both beat Broadwell in a wide range of games. This is the case even though Skylake and Kaby Lake are limited to four cores and eight threads; for many or most games, high IPC and high clock speeds are the key to top performance, and that's precisely what Kaby Lake delivers.

In spite of this, reading the various reviews around the Web - and comment threads, tweets, and reddit posts - one gets the feeling that many were hoping or expecting Ryzen to somehow beat Intel across the board, and there's a prevailing narrative that Ryzen is in some sense a bad gaming chip. But this argument is often paired with the claim that some kind of non-specific "optimization" is going to salvage the processor's performance, that AMD fans just need to keep the faith for a few months, and that soon Ryzen's full power will be revealed.

Both parts of this reaction are more than a little flawed.

I'm just glad there's finally competition in the desktop processor space again. Intel started to charge some outrageous prices these past few years, but if you wanted the best performance, you really didn't have much of a choice.

With Ryzen, AMD is showing the world it's back on track. It might not be there yet in every aspect, but it's an amazingly promising start.

AMD Zen and Ryzen reviews and benchmarks

The AMD Zen/Ryzen reviews and benchmarks are hitting the web (Ars has a review and a look at the Zen architecture, Tom's Hardware has a review, and there's bound to be more), but as always, the one you want is AnandTech's (they also have an interview with AMD's CEO):

For over two years the collective AMD vs Intel personal computer battle has been sitting on the edge of its seat. Back in 2014 when AMD first announced it was pursuing an all-new microarchitecture, old hands recalled the days when the battle between AMD and Intel was fun to be a part of, and users were happy that the competition led to innovation: not soon after, the Core microarchitecture became the dominant force in modern personal computing today. Through the various press release cycles from AMD stemming from that original Zen announcement, the industry is in a whipped frenzy waiting to see if AMD, through rehiring guru Jim Killer and laying the foundations of a wide and deep processor team for the next decade, can hold the incumbent to account. With AMD’s first use of a 14nm FinFET node on CPUs, today is the day Zen hits the shelves and benchmark results can be published: Game On!

Gaming performance seems to lag behind Intel, while for workstation tasks, it has them beat. For me, an upgrade to Ryzen from my i5-4440 would amount to a total sum of about €900 (processor, motherboard, RAM, and cooling), so I'm going to wait it out for now - especially since gaming is what my processor is most used for. That being said - give it a year, and Ryzen will be up there on all fronts with Intel's best, but at a lower price point.

AMD is definitely back, and I'm very excited to see what competition will bring to the market.

AMD launches Ryzen

AMD's benchmarks showed that the top Ryzen 7 1800X, compared to the 8-core Intel Core i7-6900K, both at out-of-the-box frequencies, gives an identical score on the single threaded test and a +9% in the multi-threaded test. AMD put this down to the way their multi-threading works over the Intel design. Also, the fact that the 1800X is half of the price of the i7-6900K.

If these promises and benchmarks hold up, Intel will be facing some incredibly tough competition on the desktop/laptop side for the first time in a long, long time.

AMD’s Jaguar microarchitecture

AMD claims that the microarchitectural improvements in Jaguar will yield 15% higher IPC and 10% higher clock frequency, versus the previous generation Bobcat. Given the comprehensive changes to the microarchitecture, shown in Figure 7, and the additional pipeline stages, this is a plausible claim. Jaguar is a much better fit than Bobcat for SoCs, given the shift to AVX compatibility, wider data paths, and the inclusive L2 cache, which simplifies system architecture considerably.

Some impressive in-depth reporting on the architecture which powers, among other things, the current generation of game consoles.