AMD's Zen chips coming first to high-end desktops at end of 2016

Servers will get the Zen chips next, in early 2017

AMD's highly anticipated Zen processor architecture will first come to high-end desktops like gaming PCs at the end of this year.

The chip maker is in conversations with PC makers to use Zen-based chips, code-named Summit Ridge, said Lisa Su, CEO of AMD, during an earnings call on Tuesday.

Early next year, Zen chips will be in servers. There's no word on when Zen would be introduced in laptops.

AMD has high expectations for its Zen processors. The company hopes to provide the best virtual reality and gaming experience by combining Zen with its GPUs based on the Polaris architecture, which will ship mid-year.

Looking into 2016 and beyond, Su was also confident that AMD would gain share in the PC processor market, which is dominated by Intel. AMD's Zen chips will likely square off against Intel's current Skylake or next-generation Kaby Lake chips.

AMD already offers  FX chips with up to eight cores for gamers, and Summit Ridge will likely be sold under that brand. The desktop chips will have a high-core count and support the latest DDR4 memory, AMD has said.

The gaming and home builder desktop market was once strong for AMD, but it has lost ground to Intel, whose Core chips that can be overclocked have been finding more buyers.

Su characterized the Summit Ridge chips as a "re-entry" into the high-performance desktop market. AMD has been inconsistent in recent years in its release of chips for gaming desktops.

A Zen-based CPU offers a performance uplift of 40 percent per cycle than Excavator CPU cores, which are in current chips code-named Carrizo, Su said.

The performance improvements are due to a number of new technologies. A high-bandwidth caching system improves internal throughput so memory, cache and CPUs can communicate faster. The chips will be made using the advanced 14-nanometer process, in which transistors will be stacked, which should also bring improvements in performance and power efficiency.

AMD's PC business has been performing poorly. Due to a decline in PC shipments, revenue for AMD's Computing and Graphics revenue -- which deals in PC and graphics chips -- declined to US$470 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 compared to $662 million in the same quarter a year ago.

AMD reported a net loss of $79 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a profit of $18 million in the same quarter a year ago. The company reported revenue of $958 million, declining from $1.24 billion.

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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