AMD’s new Zen 4 desktop processor lineup is the first since supply chains have started to brighten, but now it’s breaking free amid massive inflation. That hasn’t stopped Lisa Su from coming up with what, on paper, looks like the world’s fastest new set of gaming chips. At least until rivals like Intel unveil their own next-gen lineup.
To be fair, AMD’s initial lineup for its Ryzen 7000 desktop processors is a bit of an open secret since the company accidentally leak in July, but Monday night’s event officially unveiled the first four of the company’s new desktop processors, provided pricing details, and confirmed that there won’t be a strictly in-between option at launch.
What’s new in Zen 4?
AMD’s Ryzen 7000 line (which you can use interchangeably with Zen 4) of desktop processors will be the first desktop PC Any company’s processors based on a 5nm process, and they will be the first AMD processors to have clocks boosted to over 5GHz. Neither of these necessarily translates directly to more power, but the former indicates higher transistor loading, and the latter indicates faster data analysis, as well as hard-copy numbers more comparable to Intel’s. AMD is using this to call these new gaming chips the world’s fastest. Yes, that seems true at the moment, but remember that AMD announces its new chips first.
That doesn’t mean the Zen 4 chips aren’t impressive, though. AMD has announced four processors, each of which will use the all-new AM5 socket. That means you’ll need to upgrade your motherboard for these chips, but you’ll also have access to PCIe 5 and DDR5. As for the processors themselves, they include:
Ryzen 7 7700X
Ryzen 9 7900X
Ryzen 9 7950X
What do the Zen 4 specs mean?
For the CPU geeks among you, this list has likely generated a lot of excitement and at least a red flag, whether it’s the lack of a 7800X option or the price closely matching Zen 3’s CPUs at launch. You can skip this section to read about it.
For everyone else, it was probably quite confusing. The key takeaway here is that 5nm process, which means this generation of chips will have smaller and therefore more transistors than in 2020’s Ryzen 5000 series chips. This allows a chip to perform more calculations while generating less heat, which generally translates into more power for the end user. Still, having a smaller nm process isn’t the only thing that matters, as competitors like Intel show (more on that later).
Of course, there are also disadvantages to more power, in that more electricity is required. You’ll notice that TDP, which technically measures heat generation but is more often used to determine how much power your chip will use, is much higher here than it was in Zen 3. Zen 3 chips capped at 105W, which is where Zen 4 starts. Choose your PC power supply accordingly.
These chips are all made with a 5nm process, so how do you know which is better, other than looking at which models have higher prices? GHz seems like the most obvious speed indicator, as it tells you how often a CPU can handle data. But you’ll notice that even in the list above, some of the more expensive CPUs have lower base clocks (which you’re guaranteed to get without additional power and cooling) than their slower counterparts. Indeed, GHz is only one factor contributing to speed. As it is commonly measured today, GHz only refers to how fast a processor can work with the data it already has, not how fast it can communicate with system memory. So part of your speed is also related to your RAM.
But perhaps a bigger indicator of speed is the number of cores. More CPU cores means your CPU can handle more tasks at once, so a CPU with a lower GHz but a higher core count could still beat a CPU with the opposite, as it will perform more concurrently.
How you use your hearts also matters. Intel is AMD’s main competitor in the desktop processor space and its latest generation of desktop processors makes waves dividing its number of cores between efficiency cores and power cores. This freed up some cores to handle only mundane tasks and freed up other cores to focus on more difficult calculations. The overall speed has increased significantly despite these chips having a 10nm process, which goes to show that a CPU’s specs should be taken holistically rather than analyzed in isolation.
Finally, there’s caching, which is simple compared to the above. It’s a smaller, faster memory closer to the CPU cores, giving your CPU more immediate access to commonly used data. A larger cache means you can store more of it, which means your processor has to rely on your RAM less often.
What is special about Zen 4?
Now that CPU 101 is out of the way, let’s talk about what makes this announcement worthy of attention. Aside from being AMD’s next-generation chip and boasting impressive specs on paper, the standout points here are the price and the lack of a 7800X option available at launch.
The 800X model of each new generation of AMD processors is generally considered the benchmark, taking on the midrange mantle to handle games and tasks well without sacrificing as much as budget options, and without costing as much in upfront price and in TDP as advanced user options. On a personal note, this is what I recommend to most people.
Not having it at launch is therefore a bit confusing. But perhaps he is a victim of his own popularity. AMD may hold the 7800X so that it can include its next generation of V-Cache technology from the start. A V-cache is denser than a normal cache because it places memory vertically on the chip as well as horizontally, and is especially useful for gamers. It’s a feature unique to AMD, increasing efficiency in a way that rivals Intel’s split-core strategy. It’s not unthinkable that AMD would want its most popular chip to pack it so much that it wouldn’t release a version without V-cache. Intel’s next generation of chips will likely be released towards the end of the year, so taking the 7The 800X back would give AMD a competitive hot item for this quarter.
In this case, one would expect that the 7800X will hit the market closer to the end of the year, based on the V-cache development timelines of AMD Computex 2022 Overview.
As far as prices are concerned, the news here is what we expected, but still indicates a worrying trend. The Zen 4 is very similarly priced to AMD’s latest line of desktop processors, so we can at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing that AMD isn’t falling prey to the inflation that is hitting the consumer tech giants like Meta and sony lately. At the same time, Zen 3’s chips were more expensive than what we’re used to seeing from AMD. Zen 4 is slightly cheaper on two of its models, but not enough to counter Zen 3’s pricing issues.
AMD has a dedicated fanbase, to the point where people make pixel art gif of its laser-eyed CEO. Much of this goodwill is due to its products being more competitively priced compared to Intel’s chips, but that situation has now been reversed. Intel’s budget i5-12400 processor currently has an MSRP of $192, which is $108 less than the starting Ryzen 7000 chip. Granted, we haven’t yet seen what Intel’s 13th Gen chips will cost, but if Team Blue decides to hold its prices as well, AMD fans will have to focus on Team Red’s other strengths.
Have we seen Zen 4 in action?
During AMD’s Computex presentation earlier this year, we got to see a pre-production version of the Ryzen 9 7950X playing Ghostwire Tokyo while running at 5.5GHz. If you read our spec breakdown for these chips, you’ll know that GHz isn’t everything, but this boast from AMD shows that the company wants to match Intel’s numbers more openly. The 12th Gen Intel chip can reach speeds of 5.2 GHz, while the top Zen 3 chip hits 4.9 GHz.
During today’s presentation, we saw some benchmark graphics for the 7950X, with the most impressive claiming “62% more performance” and “47% more power efficiency” than the Core i9-12900K. from Intel. However, these kinds of PR references should always be taken with a grain of salt, and we’ll have to test for ourselves to be sure.
As for the actual gaming footage, there was a brief demo of the budget Ryzen 5 7600X chip versus the high-end Core i9-12900K chip. The game of choice was F1 2022, and Dr Su claimed that this budget chip beat Intel’s flagship by “up to 11%”. Again, another impressive claim that we’ll have to test ourselves.
AMD also briefly showed images of a next-gen Radeon RDNA3 graphics card playing the unreleased game. Lies of Pbut details were lacking.
When can I buy Zen 4?
AMD has said that the Ryzen 7000 series will hit markets on September 27. We’ll have to test all of the company’s performance ourselves when we get units in hand, but overall the Ryzen 7000 seems to be ideal for power users. Pricing is an issue for budget builders, but it’s also possible that even the cheaper Zen 4 chips will give you more bang for your buck.