Intel and AMD announce new CPUs: Whose won?

At Computex 2019, Intel and AMD presented new processors that will make their way into upcoming computers. Here's a look at the two announcements.

Intel and AMD announce new CPUs at Computex 2019 Intel and AMD presented new processors that will make their way into upcoming computers. Karen Roby and James Sanders discuss the next generation of CPUs.

AMD and Intel announced their respective new CPUs at Computex 2019 in Taiwan this week, to significant fanfare—AMD briefly showcased third-generation Ryzen (Zen 2) CPUs in January at CES, while previously leaked product roadmaps indicate a lack of 10nm Intel CPUs for desktops until 2022. Announcements at Computex paint a much clearer picture for technologies coming to desktops and laptops this year.

TechRepublic takes a comprehensive view of the two announcements and distills them into the key takeaways to assist you in deciding what's best for your product purchases.

AMD

AMD formally announced its widely-anticipated 7nm, third-generation Ryzen platform, bringing support for PCIe 4.0, providing double the speed of PCIe 3.0. In the introductory keynote at Computex, AMD CEO Lisa Su touted Zen 2 as doubling floating point performance and doubling the CPU cache compared to Zen 1, as well as delivering 15% more instructions per cycle (IPC).

AMD announced five SKUs powered by the Zen 2 architecture: the Ryzen 5 3600X and 3600, Ryzen 7 3800x and 3700X, and Ryzen 9 3900X—the new flagship model, and the first Ryzen 9-series CPU to be introduced. The 3900X clocks in at 3.8 GHz base / 4.6 GHz turbo, with 12 cores and 24 threads. It is also equipped with 6 MB L2 cache and 64 MB L3 cache, and 24 PCIe 4.0 lanes—four of which are reserved for the chipset. The 3900X has a TDP of 105W, and will retail for $499.

SEE: 16 top laptops for business users in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The 3700X is AMD's mainstream CPU, with an 8 core / 16 thread arrangement, clocking in at 3.6 GHz base / 4.4 GHz turbo, and 36 MB total cache. Notably, the 3700X has a TDP of 65W, while the previous-generation 2700X has a 105W TDP. However, AMD touts the 3700X as having 15% higher single-threaded performance, and 18% multi-threaded performance than the 2700X, while using less power.

While the performance improvements are enabled through architectural revision, the lower power is made possible through the use of a 7nm manufacturing process—by shrinking the manufacturing process, it is possible to run at the same clock speeds while using less power.

AMD Zen 2 CPUs will begin shipping on July 7, 2019, echoing their 7nm manufacturing process.

Intel

Intel's own transition to smaller manufacturing processes has comparatively been fraught with issues, as the Cannon Lake architecture—Intel's first 10nm design—has only been seen in the Core i3-8121U, found in China-exclusive variants of the Lenovo IdeaPad 330 as well as low-end versions of Intel's Next Unit of Computing small form factor (SFF) PCs. Cannon Lake, however, is only a die shrink of the existing Kaby Lake design.

Ice Lake—Intel's codename for the 10th generation Intel Core processors utilizing the Sunny Cove microarchitecture—was detailed further in presentations at Computex 2019. Intel has prioritized increasing single-thread performance in the Sunny Cove design, increasing the length of the re-order buffer to 352 entries, compared to 224 in Skylake.

Similarly, Intel touts an 18% IPC increase compared to Skylake, though noted that Skylake products began shipping in 2015, whereas first-generation Ryzen products began shipping in 2017. As a result, while both claims are presumably true—though TechRepublic has not independently verified them—Intel's 18% IPC improvement and AMD's 15% IPC improvement over previous-generation products are not equitable comparisons to each other.

While Intel has not tipped specific SKUs, the company is shipping mainstream and premium mobile processors first, with 9W, 15W, and 28W designs for laptops, ultraportables, and all-in-one PCs prioritized over desktop CPUs. Specifics are not yet available, though Intel does tout this as being "up to 4 core / 8 thread" with turbo frequencies "up to 4.1 GHz." Ice Lake integrates Thunderbolt 3 on-die, for further power savings, and reducing the number of chips required, and engineering complexity.

The verdict

Benchmarks claimed at keynotes tend to be a tad optimistic—AMD touts a 1% single-threaded performance increase between the Ryzen 7 3700X and the Intel Core i7-9700K, and a 28% performance increase for multi-threaded applications. As usual, seeing is believing—typically, waiting until parts are in sales channels for third-party benchmarks would be advisable.

From a cost perspective, AMD appears to have Intel beat, handily. The 3700X will retail for $329, while Intel sets pricing for the i7-9700K at $374-385, though enduring shortages have prompted price hikes, as that processor is presently $410 at Newegg. This is not the most dramatic difference, though AMD's flagship 3900X retails for $499, and the equivalent Intel Core i9-9920X is priced at $1199.

Upfront cost is not the only consideration, particularly as AMD's lower TDPs requires less power to operate over the life of the system.

Intel's release plans appear consistent with earlier leaks, prioritizing 10nm for mobile platforms over desktop releases. Dell has already announced 2-in-1 systems using Ice Lake processors, which are compelling. AMD's mobile focus is not as strong as Intel's, though mobile CPUs based on Zen 2 have not yet been announced. Seeing AMD's 7nm CPUs compete with Intel's 10nm CPUs on mobile will be an interesting match, though Intel has more aggressive power turning for battery use, historically, which might negate some of the raw manufacturing benefits that 7nm would bring.

Intel did announce that X-Series desktop CPUs are coming in the fall, though these are tweaked versions of previous architectures, not based on Ice Lake.

Based on these results, AMD appears to be the smart choice for desktops, while Intel still holds an edge on notebooks.

For more, check out "Windows 10 PCs or Chromebook battery life disappoints? This is how Intel plans to fix it," and "HP debuts convertible PCs made with authentic wood inlay" on ZDNet.

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Image: Intel