An Unusual Launch Cycle: OEMs now, Individual Units Later

The launch of Bristol Ridge APUs for desktop is taking a slightly different strategy to previous AMD launches. Typically we expect to see CPUs/APUs and OEM systems with that hardware launched on the day of the announcement, with stock of the hardware getting to shelves over the next few weeks. In order to do this, AMD needs to work with all the OEMs (HP, Lenovo, Dell) and platform partners (ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI, ASRock) and potentially the memory manufacturers (Crucial, Kingston, G.Skill, ADATA, etc) to synchronize a launch with expected hardware, platform control and settings.

This time around, AMD has focused on the OEMs first, with all-in-one PCs and desktop systems being their focus. Typically the big OEMs develop their own PCBs and manage the full gamut of support, as well as being mindful of firmware that can be a work in progress up until the launch date. This allows the launch to be focused on a few models of complete experience systems, rather than the comparative free-for-all with custom build machines. Typically one might argue that the standard motherboard designers take longer to design their product, as it becomes their brand on offer, whereas HP/Lenovo sells the system as a brand, so not every stage has to be promoted, advertised and polished in the same way.

Of course, from an enthusiast perspective, I would prefer everything to come out on day one, and a deep dissection into the platform. But because Bristol Ridge is sharing a platform with the upcoming new microarchitecture, Zen, AMD has to balance the wishes of OEMs along with product expectations. As a result, the base announcement from AMD was somewhat of a brief overview, and we delayed writing this piece until we were able to source certain nuggets of information which make sense when individual units (and motherboards) are on sale for DIY users, as well as some insights into what Zen might offer.

But by focusing on OEMs first, it makes it more difficult for us to source review units! Watch this space, we’re working on it.

The CPU Roadmap

A lot of the recent talk regarding AMD’s future in the desktop CPU space has revolved around its next-generation CPU architecture called Zen. In August, AMD opened up to a significant part of the underlying Zen microarchitecture, detailing a micro-op cache, a layered memory hierarchy, dual schedulers and other information. Nonetheless Zen is initially aiming for the high-end desktop (HEDT) market, and AMD has always stated that Zen will share the AM4 platform with new mainstream CPUs, under the Bristol Ridge and Stoney Ridge names, initially based on an updated Excavator microarchitecture.

AMD’s roadmap seems to be the following:

The latest AMD announcements are for that mainstream segment, but we can see that AMD is moving from a three-socket configuration of AM3, FM2+ and AM1 into a singular AM4 platform from top to bottom, with the budget element perhaps being more embedded focused. This has positives and negatives associated with it, which is part of the reason why AMD is staggering the release of Bristol Ridge and the 7th Generation APUs between OEMs and PIBs.

The positive from the unified problem is that AMD’s OEM customers can have a one size fits all solution that spans from the budget to the premium, which makes OEM designs easier to translate from a high powered platform to a budget system. The downside is variety and compatibility – if a vendor designs a platform purely for a budget system, and has fewer safeguards, then a user cannot simply put in the most powerful CPU/APU available. Luckily we are told that all AM4 systems should be dual channel, which migrates away from the Carrizo/Carrizo-L problem we had in notebooks late last year.

AMD 7th Gen Bristol Ridge and AM4: The CPUs, Overclocking The Integrated GPU
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  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    Your processor alone is almost $200. You can buy a motherboard, chassis, 80+ psu (what Dell uses in their optiplex's), (well exclude the aftermarket cooler, extra fans and optical for fun sake), and 4gb ram for $83 including ship(200-157+40)? I'm impressed. Care to spec that up?

    Plus the price of the parts you were going to add to the $200 machine.

    And your choice in bench appears to be severely lacking in benchmarks but I see there aren't many ivy i5s, can get ex lease ivy i7s for about $30 more.
  • jardows2 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    I had hoped for more numbers in Bench, but I guess the i3's don't get the same attention here. I didn't really want to link to "rival" review sites here in the comments. Main point was that the Skylake i3's are not that dramatically slower than Ivy i5's.

    i3-6100 is pricing around $120 USD, $110 on sale. Asus B150M-A/M.2 is about $80, but I live close to a MicroCenter, so their combo deal knocks $30 off that price. Crucial MX300 M.2 for $70, 8GB of DDR4 for $35, 1TB hard drive for raw storage at $45, Case/PS for $65. Use my own license for OS. That comes up to ~$415-$445 for a brand new computer.

    Main point, I can get a new computer for not much more than a used computer, once I bring the used computer up to my specification. Having a new computer over a used computer for me is more important than the performance difference of the i5.
  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    It's not really building a new machine if you're reusing old parts, if you're talking the general populace rather than you personally (my target) they won't have the option of moving their Windows license, and there's a clock drop on the i3-6100 relative to the benchmarks earlier.

    Also a chassis/PSU for $65 doesn't sound like a very good option. Going back to Dell (my old company was Dell heavy so I have a lot of experience with their enterprise lines, HP, Lenovo etc will probably be the same). The Optiplex chassis' were almost entirely toolless, well cooled and the 790 onwards looked decent, albeit not incredible (but a $65 chassis/PSU wouldn't). On top of that they used 80+ PSUs (the 3000/7000/9000 series used Gold, I can't remember if the older ones were the same), proven, quality units. i5/i7 builds also used Q series motherboards with Intel components (such as the NIC).

    If you're matching quality like for like then you'd be looking to spend more on the new machine. I'd much rather personally run a secondhand Ivy i5/i7 using quality components. Their consumer lines are garbage from my experience but ex-lease machines are all enterprise devices.

    Being able to do something doesn't make it a better option, especially if you drop the quality to do so. Ivy i5, even to the benchmarks above is more powerful, ex-lease component machines are higher quality and even with the above it's still cheaper. It just makes sense.
  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    I don't work there anymore but I liked the Dell enterprise machines so much that I actually bought an (ex-lease) E7240 after I left. i5-4200U, 4GB RAM (I added another 8 that I had lying around), 256GB OEM SSD for $200. I can flip the back off with two screws and access almost everything. And the screen front bezel just pulls off with fingernails, although you wouldn't know it til you tried. You don't have to unbolt the hinges like most laptops.

    Before I started there they bought Vostros (laptop and desktop) for some reason, rather than the enterprise machines and fark those things. They were the hardest farking things to work on, they literally went out of their way to make it hard. I phased the final ones out just before I left. It was the Vostro 3450 that was my most reviled computer ever. The hard drive was screwed onto the motherboard and you literally had to pull the whole thing apart, lift the motherboard then unscrew the HDD from it. If you took the back panel off, you could have done it from there but they put a small band of plastic on the bottom chassis to prevent it. It literally had no other purpose. If there was no warranty you could take a knife, cut that plastic off and do it directly.

    Look at this joke of a thing:
  • 4fifties - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    If DIY motherboards, which presumably would allow either Bristol Ridge or Summit Ridge, follow the pattern of this OEM board, aren't we consigning Zen to just eight lanes of PCIe 3.0 for discrete graphics? Not necessarily an extinction-level event, but neither is it something gaming enthusiasts will be happy with. Hopefully, motherboard manufacturers won't drop the ball with this.
  • prtskg - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    I think both Summit ridge and Raven ridge will have better chipset(enthusiast level).
  • KAlmquist - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    I take it you are thinking that the AM4 socket has more than 12 PCIe lanes, but that Bristol Ridge doesn't connect them all (sort of like the Intel i7-6800K has 28 PCIe lanes even though it uses a socket that has 40 lanes). That makes sense.

    My guess is that motherboard manufacturers expect AM4 motherboard sales to be driven primarily by Zen. In the DIY market, even the people who do buy a Bristol Ridge processor may be doing it with the intention of upgrading to a more powerful processor later. So I would expect most motherboard manufacturers would try to do a good job of supporting the Zen-based processors.
  • MrCommunistGen - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    It really looks like the connectivity onboard the APU is targeted at what a normal laptop would need. This should be a major design advantage for AMD compared to their previous mobile platforms in terms of power, design & material cost, and platform footprint.

    - This class of CPU doesn't warrant a x16 PEG Link
    - Due to space constraints most non-DTR laptops will have fewer than 4x USB ports - maybe 3+1 USB-based card reader. They can probably use an onboard hub for more if they really need them.
    - x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 is an option

    In fact, other than USB ports, this is probably enough connectivity for most non-enthusiast desktop users as well. This could help BOM and board design costs here as well. The optimistic part of me would love to see that reinvested elsewhere in the system. Realistically I see that split between a lower sticker price and an increase in margins for the system builder.
  • stardude82 - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    Almost certainly AMD is just reusing the Carrizo design as a cost cutting measure. There isn't a AMD CPU on the market which a x8 link would bottleneck first.
  • Samus - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    Nice to see AMD trumping Intel's Crystalwell GPU for half the cost...

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