STH attended the AMD Computex 2017 press event today in Taipei, Taiwan. The company showed off three main strategic prongs: an update on EPYC the company’s server platform, continued consumer footprint expansion with Ryzen, and a release date for Vega its GPU.
AMD EPYC Gets a Launch Date
We will be covering the AMD launch but the company formally announced the launch date for its new chips, June 20, 2017.
That is right, we are only about three weeks away from launch. While we cannot share the platforms we saw, we did see a few production ready server platforms from various vendors. One of AMD’s slides also showed off a single processor EPYC system motherboard:
While we have seen several standard form factors from AMD and partners in the past (including their EPYC brand announcement), the standard ATX and EATX form factors really struggle with the 8-16 DIMMs per CPU and massive PCIe I/O of the Naples platform.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper and Ryzen Mobile
Perhaps the two worst kept secrets of today’s announcements were AMD Ryzen Threadripper and Ryzen Mobile. Threadripper is the high-end desktop platform that will compete with the Intel Core X and Core i9 series launched yesterday. Ryzen Mobile is AMD Ryzen CPU cores plus Vega graphics.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper
the AMD Ryzen Threadripper summary is this. Up to 16 cores/ 32 threads. 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes, quad channel DDR4 memory and the platform is called the X399, or a 100 increment over Intel’s X299 platform.
If you read our Core X series coverage, we were less than impressed with the PCIe culling Intel is using. Kudos to AMD for sticking with 64 PCIe lanes.
We were secretly hoping that AMD enabled the 10GbE NIC on its platform. Our informed opinion is that this should have 10GbE networking like EPYC. Perhaps that will come in a future update. For all those building high-end desktop PC’s, you will still need to save some PCIe lanes for a decent 10/25/40GbE NIC.
AMD showed off Ryzen Mobile in thin designs without sharing battery life. The company also showed off Ryzen in an ASUS gaming notebook with RX580 graphics. Here is the key slide:
Our takeaway is that this may end up being a competitive APU but we are going to wait to see AMD’s delivery here. AMD is showing essentially a 3x CPU performance per watt gain.
AMD Vega Launching in Q2 Without Launching in Q2
When you have committed to launching your next generation GPU architecture in Q2 2017, but you are having HBM2 issues, what can you do? One option is to launch a high-end part that will be a lower volume part with only a few days left in the quarter. That is what AMD is doing with the AMD Radeon Vega Frontier Edition launching on June 27, 2017.
For those looking for a NVIDIA GTX competitor, the AMD Radeon RX Vega series will launch at Siggraph which runs from July 30 to August 3, 2017.
Note that these dates are launch dates and not availability dates.
AMD has products which are truly differentiated. It is selling a message that is decentralizing the CPU’s importance and is instead showing the CPU as a quarterback to the rest of the system. For example, in the high-end desktop space, buy one CPU and four GPUs with 64x PCIe lanes. In the server space get more memory and more PCIe with EPYC for storage and GPU compute. That message is clearly different to Intel’s position that people are buying systems for CPUs.
While AMD has an interesting lineup, it needs to execute. Intel had a much stronger Core i9 launch timing than AMD Ryzen Threadripper. EPYC is coming soon, but what we can say from Computex is that we saw fewer EPYC systems than the further off Intel Scalable Processor family systems (to be expected since Skylake-SP has been shipping for many months to early access customers.) Vega is going to start life behind. NVIDIA is essentially on its second generation 1080 product with the 1080 Ti and has been shipping big Pascal for many quarters. By the time AMD ships RX Vega, the Volta hype cycle will begin and it is likely NVIDIA can match with GTX price cuts or clock speed bumps. The Vega Frontier edition shipping in Q2 (basically Q3) is going to run into Volta essentially starting to ship to high-value customers in Q3 as well (the kind that pay $15K/ GPU.)
AMD has a narrow window to start gaining market share and has a chance, but it needs to execute if it wants to succeed this year.