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AMD lays out its Ryzen and Radeon plans for 2018 and beyond at CES

Ravens and Vegas and Wraiths, oh my

Few companies in the world of computing were as busy as AMD was last year. The company refreshed its mainstream desktop processor lineup from top to bottom with Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 7 CPUs, bringing more competitive cores and threads to more affordable price points than ever. In high-end desktops, Ryzen Threadripper CPUs and the X399 platform offered competitive performance and better platform features than the Intel competition on the X299 platform. In the data center, AMD took the wraps off a full range of Epyc server CPUs that challenged Intel's Xeon Scalable Processor family on bang-for-the-buck. In notebooks, Ryzen Mobile APUs joined the battle with Intel's Kaby Lake Refresh chips. And in graphics, Radeon RX Vega graphics cards proved competitive with Nvidia's GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 at the high end of the market, even if they remain difficult to get ahold of today.

Even if AMD didn't win in every benchmark on every platform, the company can inarguably claim the most competitive product lineup it's enjoyed in years. The challenge for AMD now is to keep that momentum going as we enter 2018. Ahead of CES, the company laid out a case for how it intends to keep the pedal to the metal.

The most natural place to chart a path through AMD's 2018 starts with the desktop CPU, and enthusiasts will be happy to learn that AMD is bringing Raven Ridge APUs to the AM4 platform next month. That launch will be followed by second-generation Ryzen CPUs featuring the Zen+ architecture and built on GlobalFoundries' 12-nm LPP process technology. Those chips will launch in April alongside a new X470 chipset. In the second half of the year, AMD will release the second generation of Ryzen Threadripper CPUs and update its Ryzen Pro platform with the new chips.

Ever since the launch of Ryzen CPUs last year, desktop users have been clamoring for a desktop APU that integrates Zen CPU cores with Radeon graphics processors. Those folks can rejoice soon, because Raven Ridge is coming to the AM4 platform. AMD will offer two such APUs next month: the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G.

Ryzen 5 2400G 4/8 3.6 3.9 11 1250 4 MB 65 W
Ryzen 3 2200G 4/4 3.5 3.7 8 1100

The Ryzen 5 2400G marks AMD's first fully-enabled Raven Ridge product. This chip will offer four Zen CPU cores alongside 11 Radeon Vega compute units. Those CPU cores will run at up to 3.9 GHz boost speeds with a 3.6 GHz base clock, and the complete package will sell for $169. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3 2200G will drop back to four cores and four threads running at 3.7 GHz boost speeds and 3.5 GHz base speeds, and it'll offer eight Vega compute units on board. That part will go for an especially spicy $99 suggested price. Both chips fit into a 65 W TDP, they use soldered heat spreaders, and they'll be fully unlocked on both the CPU and graphics side of the die for overclockers to work their magic. AMD will launch them February 12.

Although we'd expect no less, AMD teased the performance of the Ryzen 5 2400G by putting it up against the integrated graphics processor of Intel's Core i5-8400. Unsurprisingly, AMD's testing reveals that the fully-enabled Vega 11 IGP walks all over the UHD Graphics 620 on board the i5-8400. More surprising, perhaps, is that AMD believes it'd take a GeForce GT 1030 to bring the i5-8400's gaming performance on par with that of the Ryzen 5 2400G. To be clear, I don't believe that it'd be necessary to pair a $200-ish processor like the Core i5-8400 with the GT 1030 to get comparable performance. One could easily get a Core i3-8100 for $130 and pair it with that same $70 or $80 graphics card and get competitive numbers to the effect of AMD's claims for the i5-8400 setup.

Even with that in mind, AMD's real advantage is that the platform cost of the Ryzen 5 2400G and a B350 motherboard would likely land around $250, and one could easily overclock the 2400G thereafter. The locked Core i3-8100 requires a relatively expensive Intel Z370 motherboard to run, as Intel's partners haven't released inexpensive H- and B-series motherboards in the 300-series generation yet. With such a motherboard, one might charitably need to spend $300 or more between the graphics card, CPU, and motherboard for an entry-level Core i3 gaming system. The bottom line is that the Ryzen 5 2400G looks like a sweet value for entry-level gamers and small-form-factor builders without room for a full- or even half-height graphics card.

Even for folks who don't game, the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G open up a wide swath of systems that were difficult for AMD to claim a foothold in with first-generation Ryzen CPUs. Since those chips lacked integrated graphics, folks with basic productivity needs had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for a basic discrete graphics card to light up their displays. That added expense ate into AMD's platform-cost advantage a bit, and the Ryzen G-series parts neatly iron out that wrinkle. For basic computing tasks, a Ryzen 3 2200G seems like an extremely competitive part for $100. We should have an opportunity to find out soon.