AMD Zen 2 launching with a 16-core CPU would be dumb

AMD Zen 2

The latest AMD Zen 2 rumours suggest that the red team will potentially be squeezing twice the number of cores into the next generation of processors when they launch next year. Which would at once be madness, utter folly, and stinking of hubris.

Thankfully the rumour has come direct from private conversations with typically un-named sources close to WCCFTech. If that phrase doesn’t automatically spike the sodium levels in your bloodstream then you probably haven’t been reading tech news from the last few years.

We know the next generation of AMD processors is going to drop next year, but the company hasn’t yet said what it’s going to be doing in terms of spec beyond dropping the production process to 7nm.

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The claims from WCCFTech are that AMD is going to raise the ceiling for its AM4 processor core-count from the current eight-core max to somewhere between 12 and 16 cores for the next-gen AMD Zen 2 chips. That means the top-end of that range would somehow manage to jam twice the cores into essentially the same space.

Quite aside from the massive technological achievement that would require, it would also be a remarkably unnecessary and unfeasibly stupid thing for the red team to do.

The AMD Zen 2 7nm processors are going to be sampling before the end of this year, making the 2019 spring launch pretty much nailed on. But if AMD did choose to throw 16 core CPUs into the mix for the AM4 platform, with the range potentially likely to launch around April next year, that’s only going to have the effect of seriously angering anyone dropping money on the second-gen Threadripper chips that are still to launch.

AMD CPU process roadmap

The Threadripper 2 processors are expected to land in August this year, and will surely have the same core-configuration as the previous generation of monster chips. That ranges from eight cores and 16 threads in the 1900X, through the 12-core, 24-thread 1920X, up to the 16-core, 32-thread 1950X behemoth.

That top 16-core Threadripper is around $900, while the Threadripper 2 version, potentially the 2950X, will be around the same price. I can’t see anyone picking that chip for the heart of their high-performance PC being happy at the thought that it would be superceded just a little over six months later by a new, cheaper, more mainstream processor on the AM4 platform.

AMD Threadripper specs

Sure, you’d only be getting dual-channel memory with a 16-core Zen 2 CPU – AMD is unlikely to add quad-channel RAM to the AM4 platform even if there’s a new X570 chipset introduced alongside the Zen 2 processors – but would that be enough to dampen down the ire of a Threadripper 2 owner?

To be fair to WCCFTech, it does suggest the top core-count for a Zen 2 CPU may well be closer to 12 rather than 16. That’s a bit more of a likely config, though seems bizarrely high for what would still be a mainstream range of processors. But if Intel does release a Core i9 CPU at the tail end of this year, with eight cores and 16 threads, then AMD might want to make sure it has a clearly defined edge for its most advanced processor range.

Because of that I could certainly see AMD wanting to give its new generation of Zen CPUs a bit of a core boost – that’s been the touchstone of all its latest processors – but that extreme number of cores would require some serious rejigging of the CPU complex (CCX) that’s been at the heart of the Ryzen designs.

AMD Ryzen Core Complex

We know that AMD are going to be utilising the 7nm node for the new Zen 2 chips, but that doesn’t mean all the technical wizardry inside the CPU will be half the size of the current 14nm or 12nm designs. If it was going for 12 cores that would either require each CCX to be redesigned as a svelte six-core setup – as opposed to the current quad-core layout – or AMD would have to squeeze three Zen 2 CCX into the same space that two Zen 1 versions occupy at the moment.

And if the red team were going for a 16 core maximum that would mean it would have to somehow double the number of cores fitting in that same space. The AM4 CPU socket isn’t going to change, and has to be pin-compatible with the new processors, so the Zen 2 silicon will still have to fit in the exact same overall package as the current Ryzen CPUs.

Then you’ve got to consider just how long the team has been working on Zen 2. I understand AMD is using leap-frogging design teams, so the Zen 2 gang would have been hard at work as Ryzen was hitting the shelves. But still, in such a short turnaround for a 2019 release to be able to double the core-count in the same space seems like some serious technical voodoo.

If AMD does manage it I’ll hold my hands up and congratulate it on its CPU magic. And sit tight to see what ludicrous number of cores it then jams into the third-gen Threadripper designs, and how the marketing team mollifies the poor folk who spent good money on the previous gen HEDT chips.

Then I’ll try and figure out what benefit a 12 to 16-core processor is going to be for my games. Not a lot, I’ll wager.

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