Cores, clocks and memory: a Ryzen 3000-series rumor roundup

How was your weekend, gerbils? I spent a huge portion of mine without internet access after spending the majority of Friday without power thanks to hurricane-force storms on Thursday. Today I'm back in business though, so let's talk about some hardware. Specifically, let's talk about AMD's upcoming third-generation Ryzen processors.

AMD CEO Lisa Su previewed the still-upcoming Ryzen 3000 CPUs at CES.

For those who don't know, the extant Ryzen CPUs are all based on fundamentally the same microarchitecture. The Zen and Zen+ cores used in Ryzen 1000- and 2000-series chips aren't identical, but we understand the incoming Zen 2 design to be radically different from its predecessors. Rather than having all of the CPU's parts on one big die, Zen 2 will be fabricated using separate dice for the CPU cores and for what Intel would call the "uncore"—comprising the high-speed I/O connections, the memory controller, and so on.

It's perhaps a bit ironic that the company which originally introduced the integrated memory controller in desktop CPUs would be de-integrating it in this way. Make no mistake, though—it's still part of the CPU, just a separate chip. Splitting things out into "chiplets" this way should allow AMD greater flexibility in terms of core configuration and product segmentation. It also helps alleviate overstressed 7nm foundries.

All of that was known, though. What you may not have known is that reknowned Thai leaker APISAK apparently got his hands on a Zen 2-based engineering sample with 16 cores. Rumors have swirled for some time now that AMD's next-generation desktop chips would stuff 16 cores into the same AM4 socket used on existing motherboards, but this would seem to be the most solid confirmation of such a thing that we've seen.

The leaker's tweet goes on to indicate that the chip has a base clock of 3.3 GHz and a boost clock of up to 4.2 GHz. Neither of those numbers set our hearts alight, but recall that engineering samples of the original Ryzen clocked some 800 MHz slower than the finally-released top-end chip. It's possible these engineering samples could be a lot slower than the final third-generation Ryzen CPUs.

The different dies on the Ryzen 3000 chips are all but assuredly still connected using Infinity Fabric (IF). That's the same interconnect that AMD uses currently to connect the "core complexes" (CCXes) on existing Ryzen processors, as well as the different processor dies on Threadripper and EPYC CPUs. Ryzen's memory controller and IF links share a clock domain. That's the main reason that Ryzen struggles to hit high memory clocks in comparison to the competition, and if TechPowerUp's Yuri "1usmus" Bubliy is to be believed, that's going to continue to be the case on Ryzen 3000-series CPUs.

If anyone would know, it's the guy who wrote Ryzen Timing Checker—oh, that's 1usmus.

The site goes on to say that Zen 2-based processors installed in motherboards with 500-series chipsets will support a divider mode that runs the on-package IF links at just one-half the rate of the memory clock. In other words, taking your RAM all the way up to 5000 MT/s will apparently only require running the IF link at 1.25 GHz, rather than 2.5 GHz. If that's correct, it should be much easier to reach stratospheric memory clocks on the next-generation Ryzen CPUs. We'll be interested to see what such a setting does to multi-processor performance.

Finally, on the topic of 500-series chipsets and the motherboards they go on: just today, Biostar posted up the latest version of its product catalog (PDF). In said catalog, the company lists a very interesting motherboard: the Racing X570GT8. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this motherboard is apparently based on the as-yet-unreleased X570 chipset from AMD.

Overall, the specifications on the board aren't too different from the previous-generation Racing X470GT8 listed right alongside, but a few things stick out. Biostar says the new board will take its memory up to 4000 MT/s, which is not bad at all. The board will also have three M.2 sockets—a real rarity on Ryzen boards—and apparently, they'll be wired up with four lanes of PCI Express 4.0. That could be a typo, but it's been expected for some time that Ryzen 3000 chips would have PCIe 4.0 connectivity. It's not impossible that the new chipset does as well.

Further reinforcing that idea is that the picture of the Racing X570GT8 appears to have a rather large heatsink with a fan over the motherboard chipset. All three of the board's M.2 sockets are visible, so that fan is just for the chipset. Now, we haven't seen active cooling on a motherboard chipset in quite some time, and we're not too keen on the idea. However, if the AMD-designed chipset's TDP is high enough to warrant active cooling, it may indeed support PCIe 4.0 as well. The relatively weak high-speed I/O on offer from AMD's X370 and X470 chispets was a sore point for some users, so it's pretty exciting to think that X570 could leapfrog ahead in this way. Thanks to Videocardz for pointing out Biostar's gaffe.

Ryzen's launch made CPUs exciting again after totally stagnating for most of the early part of this decade, and Zen 2 looks to take things up another notch. While we are—as ever—keenly interested to see how AMD's Zen 2 processors fare in single-threaded workloads compared to their predecessors, it's hard not to get excited about the idea of having sixteen CPU cores handling 32 threads at once without plunking down for an expensive HEDT motherboard. We expect AMD to announce the third-generation Ryzen CPUs at Computex starting on May 28, and hopefully products will actually launch by the time of E3 on June 11.

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