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AMD Ryzen's x86 core is 10pc more compact than Intel's

by Mark Tyson on 8 February 2017, 10:01


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A white paper from AMD, presented at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), contained details about the Zen x86 core and the design techniques behind it. Two impressive facts came to light during the session attended by engineers from various chip making firms. Firstly, AMD's 14nm Zen x86 cores fit into a 10 per cent smaller die than Intel's second generation 14nm processor cores. Secondly AMD's chip construction techniques enabled a reduction in switching capacitance by 15 per cent compared to its existing chips.

A report from the ISSCC by the EETimes says that "analysts and even Intel engineers in the session said the Zen core is clearly competitive." Whether AMD can save money on manufacturing, thanks to its more compact die requirements, remains to be seen and can be impacted by many further variables.

Looking at the table above you can see that the 14nm Zen x86 quad-core cluster takes up 44mm2, compared to an Intel Skylake quad-core at 49mm2. AMD has previously worked very hard and enjoyed excellent results from design-level enhancements. For example it managed to implement a 30 per cent reduction in layout area by using a high density cell library template for the Steamroller chip design, resulting in both area and power reductions.

Switching capacitance with Zen has been reduced by 15 per cent. The white paper notes that AMD moved to metal-insulator-metal capacitors in its latest designs which has "helped lower operating voltages and provide greater per-core voltage and frequency control". The EETimes reports that AMD engineers worked for over a year on reducing switching capacitance.

HEXUS Forums :: 14 Comments

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While most of this is too technical for me to fully grasp, it seems that AMDs engineers have done a bang-up job with the design of the Ryzen core. I'm well and truly impressed. As long as performance lives up to expectations (i.e. comparable IPC to BDW-E), I'll probably end up getting at least one Ryzen CPU. Even if final shipping clocks are lower than KBL, an unlocked 6-core for quad core i5-i7 money sounds very good to me.
Interesting that AMD have the smaller core despite their “14nm” fab process having larger feature sizes than Intel's 14nm process. I wonder if this density has costs associated with it (e.g. lower frequencies, more prone to electromigration) or if Intel were simply lazy during the design phase - either because of their lead in the market or because the tick-tock strategy emphasises pushing new chips out the door quickly.
Reliability is yet to be tested! :geek:
Isn't this because Intel insisted on shipping on-chip graphics with all its chips these days? Which accounts for half the die size if I remember correctly?
Isn't this because Intel insisted on shipping on-chip graphics with all its chips these days? Which accounts for half the die size if I remember correctly?

The comparisons are of the CPU cores and cache sizes only - not the entire chip.