AMD’s new Zen CPU may not bring the super-cheap motherboards we were looking for | PCGamesN

AMD’s new Zen CPU may not bring the super-cheap motherboards we were looking for

New AMD silicon

AMD’s Zen processor has re-energised the red vs. blue debate with the prospect of a new chip which could give Intel a run for their money.

Get the full lowdown on AMD's new processor in our in-depth guide to the AMD Zen CPU.

When AMD announced details of their new CPU architecture at Computex this year - jamming even more previously motherboard-based tech into its silicon heart - we kinda thought with less and less hardware actually on the motherboards themselves we could be onto a winner with super-cheap mobos.

A new report from Taiwan-based DigiTimes though suggests that may not necessarily be the case…

AMD have outsourced some of their chipset designs to ASMedia, and the DigiTimes report states the USB 3.1 controller integrated into the new Zen design is running into some operational issues that will either stall performance or increase costs by a significant amount.

The performance of the USB 3.1 chipset drops off as circuit distance across the motherboard increases - meaning even though the actual USB controller is based inside the Zen processor package it’s going to need extra board-based silicon to get it running at top speeds.

And any extra silicon you add to a board increases costs. According to industry sources that could boost production costs by between $2 and $5 per board.

That might not sound like a lot, but when you’re manufacturing millions of the suckers that’s going to push costs up considerably - and you can bet it’s going to be you and me paying the price at retail.

This is all good news for the motherboard manufacturers though, who must have been fearing for their margins when AMD starting releasing details about the Summit Ridge CPU which will form the vanguard of its Zen architecture.

With so much silicon being taken from the motherboard chipsets, and wedged into the CPU package itself, there would otherwise be very little left for the mobo-makers to differentiate their boards. Especially as AMD is looking for a one-socket-fits-all approach which will see both its straight performance FX CPUs and their more holistic, Bristol Ridge APUs sharing the same AM4 socket design.

AMD AM4 chip

Hopefully with their smaller board sizes mini-ITX mobos won’t need the extra silicon. With most of the board logic being pulled into the CPU itself it’s the potential of those svelte ITX boards we’re rather excited about.

The first of AMD’s Zen chips, code-named Summit Ridge, is likely to be a special guest at January’s CES show in Las Vegas next year. And if the hype is to be believed it could be a serious contender for the Core i5’s gaming crown.

Summit Ridge is an eight-core / sixteen-thread CPU, eschewing the slightly ropey pseudo-HyperThreaded design of their previous Bulldozer eight-core parts. 

Even with eight discrete cores Summit Ridge is unlikely to best Intel’s own eight-core chips, but with its touted 40% single-thread performance boost and DirectX 12’s penchant for higher core counts, it should make for an interesting comparison against Intel’s lower spec quad-core CPUs. 

And we reckon that’s where AMD is going to pitch this potentially Hail Mary processor design - we really don’t want Zen to be the last roll of the dice for AMD’s CPU division…


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Belimawr avatarCheeseCake87 avatarDave James avatarMatso avatar
Belimawr Avatar
1 Year ago

I just hope they can start pushing back against Intel, I always use to have AMD CPU's till the Core i chips came out, after that there just seemed like no reason to take an AMD chip for anything other than a budget build.

so it's really disappointing to go buy PC parts and know before time that I will be getting an Intel chip, so I really hope this can be the start of a resurgence for AMD and they can push against Intel bringing back the competition the market needs.

CheeseCake87 Avatar
1 Year ago

And you think the new cost of the motherboards will be more than paying the Intel tax? - although Intel tax may become a thing of the past soon enough, well after they close some fabrication plants.

Petty mentions of USB controller silicon raising pricing. We don't complain about paying for solid state caps for the extra money, but somehow this has made the news when there is an easy fix lol ... so petty

Dave James Avatar
1 Year ago

You're right, AM4 boards will likely still be cheaper than Z170 or the 200-series options, but it's not just about the USB controller silicon. It's also about the idea that moving components on-die may not necessarily mean we don't still need those chips on compatible boards.

And $2-$5 is still a lot of cash per board, and if there's other silicon needed it will keep pushing up prices. When Apple was charging $2 per board for Firewire connections that got the manufacturers and the wider industry to get together to go ahead and create USB 2.0 to avoid having to pay the Apple tax.

Matso Avatar
1 Year ago

A USB controller chip obviously costs a lot more.