AMD rumored to launch Zen CPU architecture in Q4 2016

But can the company hold out that long?


It's no secret that AMD has a hot new microarchitecture called Zen in the works, being designed by CPU design whiz Jim Keller. Keller was the brains behind the 64-bit Athlon processor and HyperTransport interface, so he knows his transistors.

The question has been when Zen would come to market, as AMD's current lineup of chips is nowhere near competitive with Intel, and the gap is only widening with the release of the Skylake generation of chips.

AMD has only said 2016 was the target year for Zen, but not precisely when. DigiTimes, a news outlet in Taiwan with a real hit and miss record, now puts that release date in the fourth quarter of 2016, and the problem doesn't appear to be on AMD's end of things.

A few months back there were reports AMD taped out two FinFET products, a Zen CPU and an Arctic Islands-based GPU. Taping out means they have made a usable version of the final product and it usually means product is coming soon. But the problem is poor yield and R&D issues over at Globalfoundries, the foundry that makes AMD's chips.

AMD has been stuck at 28m designs for some time because Globalfoundries has struggled to get to smaller process nodes while Intel is at 14nm, and that alone was a struggle. Global is now trying to get to FinFET 14nm node but is way behind its own roadmap. So the problem isn't in the design it's in the manufacturing.

DigiTimes notes many Asian OEMs and ODMs – many of whom are in Taiwan as well – are concerned because the PC market is already shrinking and AMD's noncompetitive position is already bad and will get worse with a five quarter wait. In its most recent quarter, AMD CPU sales fell to below that of the SoCs used in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. If it wasn't for those two consoles, AMD might be bankrupt.

Zen has tremendous potential to make AMD competitive again on the desktop and server. The question now is whether it will last that long.

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