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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  • jardows2 - Friday, September 23, 2016 - link

    Really looking forward to some actual benchmarks. I really am itching to build a new office computer, and right now, the i3-6100 is the only realistic chip, since I won't be doing much gaming on the system. If the new A12 and A10 can even come close to matching the i3 in CPU tasks, I'd be more than happy to snag that up, as the graphics will be nice, and the upgradability to Zen later if that processor pans out.
  • Danvelopment - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    I'm writing an article on that at the moment (different site built around the economics of modern tech). Conclusion is unless you need specific Skylake tech on a desktop (m.2, DDR4, ECC, IGP, SGX, MPX or AVX2), get an Ivy Bridge i5/i7. Ex-lease Ivy machines are pretty much being sold for pennies these days (less than a new Pentium machine) and a quad Ivy i5/i7 will almost always demolish a Skylake i3 on the CPU side.

    Use the leftover cash for a couple SSDs and beer.
  • serendip - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    And so comes the end of the desktop computer, as people refurbish old computers and use them for years instead of buying new ones every year. That Ivy i5 system paired with lots of cheap RAM and a cheap SATA SSD would be more than fast enough for office tasks for years to come.

    Could be good for AMD though. They could make good-enough APUs for mainstream usage at a price point Intel can't touch. It's a race to the bottom and AMD could conceivably win.
  • LordanSS - Saturday, September 24, 2016 - link

    Still rocking my 3770k.

    Skylake wasn't a good enough performance bump for my use cases, considering platform price. Kaby Lake has no IPC boost, and who knows when Cannonlake will arrive.

    Waiting on Zen to arrive so I can take a look at benchmarks. Even if it's "slower" than Skylake, if the platform cost is right it would be a quite viable option.
  • Danvelopment - Sunday, September 25, 2016 - link

    Precisely, I just overclocked my 2500K to 4.5GHz the other day and it will definitely last me until Intel gets its act together and puts a focus on performance improvements again.

    If AMD were competitive, Intel would probably be pushing a lot more performance on successive generations. Instead they're cashing in by shrinking dies and moving more components on die, while only incrementally improving performance.

    So really it's a good thing, suddenly competing with the secondhand market will hopefully see a large performance boost in future generations.
  • patrickjp93 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    @Danvelopment Please take a look at Agner Fog's x86 instruction latency tables. Intel can't squeeze blood from a rock and make instructions take less than 1 cycle. No one can.
  • patrickjp93 - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    Continuing from the above, that's why SIMD and MIMD instructions were created.
  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    So you're saying we've hit the limit for processor performance and there's nothing new anyone can do?

    I find that hard to believe, especially as innovation is not required to increase performance, hell if they were desperate they could bring i3 to a quad minimum and flop four more cores into 5 and 7 and call it a day. It's not innovation but it's a significant increase in performance potential.

    Instead we've gone from a 216mm2 die to a 122mm2 die.

    If it were neck and neck, Intel wouldn't look at AMD and go, "whelp, nothing we can do".
  • Danvelopment - Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - link

    216 is Sandy Bridge and 122 is Skylake.
  • jardows2 - Monday, September 26, 2016 - link

    Where can I find these "pennies" for Ivy i5? Best I'm finding is on fleaBay for about $200 shipped. With 4GB RAM and too small of a hard drive. After I upgrade the hard drive and RAM to where I need, I have a used computer that costs only about $40 less than if I build a new i3 system. And demolish? I'm not so sure about that:

    Beat? Yes, but I wouldn't say demolish.

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