After a lot of early 2018 speculation AMD have now officially announced their refreshed 2nd generation Ryzen 2 processors will be launched in April this year. The new Ryzen 2000 series Pinnacle Ridge chips will feature the new Zen+ architecture and use the 12nm production process, and they’re already sampling out to manufacturers.
With a quality CPU you’re going to need a great GPU too, so here’s our pick of the best graphics cards you can buy today.
With the new production process we’re expecting higher clockspeeds, greater efficiency, and better performance. The 12nm design alone is expected to deliver more than 10% greater performance than the 14nm process, so even if there were to be no shift in frequencies the Ryzen 2000 series CPUs would still be quicker.
Don’t expect any extra cores being squeezed into the new Ryzen 2 family, however. The 12nm design isn’t going to allow for any extra space inside the chip as it’s more about power than extra transistor density. James Prior, one of AMD’s desktop gurus, told us that “it’s not an area statement, it’s a power efficiency statement. The area is not going to change much, but the ability for us to manipulate the frequency voltage curve has improved.”
And in terms of core counts for the new chips he explained they weren’t ready to talk about that yet, “but don’t expect any wild surprises because this is an evolutionary design.”
But AMD are also promising extra features to optimise the performance per Watt capabilities of their new Zen+ processors. The new Precision Boost 2 and Extended Frequency Range (XFR) 2 features have changed the CPU goalposts for boosted clockspeeds. In the previous design Precision Boost would only kick in when there were just two cores being used, but now it’s going to be enabled even when all CPU cores are engaged.
That’s going to allow the boost frequencies to be used for more real world applications, such as gaming. A lot of games are still designed to primarily use a single core or thread, but they will often also spill small workloads off onto other threads. With the previous version of Precision Boost, even if these other threads were barely ticking over, it would be enough to nix the auto-overclocking and would immediately drop the 1000-series Ryzen chips down to their base clockspeeds.
With this second generation version on the Ryzen 2000-series processors it’s much more opportunistic and will aim for the highest possible frequency, with increased granularity, by constantly checking against CPU temperature, load, and current. That means there’s no longer a step change in frequency and more of a gradual move up and down the curve.
In short, it ought to give us higher boosted clockspeeds in-game. Bonus.
As well as in the upcoming Pinnacle Ridge Ryzen 2 CPUs, Precision Boost 2 is already in action in the current Ryzen Mobile - even the super low-power new Ryzen 3 mobile chips - and will also be in the Raven Ridge desktop APUs which AMD have announced are coming on February 12 this year.
The new desktop APUs are set to directly replace the Ryzen 5 1400 and Ryzen 3 1200, and offer higher performance even without the extra graphics power. They're still unlocked and we saw a quick demo of the Vega graphics overclocking on the top-end Raven Ridge desktop chip. With some industrious GPU, memory, and memory timing tweaks AMD's resident overclocker, Sami Makinen, was able to deliver a 39% improvement on the 3DMark FireStrike score. And all using a Wraith air cooler too.
Along with the new Ryzen 2000-series chips will come a fresh 400-series chipset. Don’t panic just yet if you’re rocking an existing 300-series AM4 board as it will still be compatible with the new Pinnacle Ridge CPUs, you’ll just need a BIOS update.
All the manufacturers of the 120-odd AM4 boards on the market have promised to have BIOS updates available for their 300-series boards to allow this cross-compatibility, but you won’t have to wait ‘til April for that as they’re going to be released in time for the Raven Ridge desktop APUs.
Because these new desktop APUs use a lot of the new features of the Pinnacle Ridge chips they require a new BIOS to work too. So, if you’re looking to pick up any 2000-series processor, be it Pinnacle or Raven Ridge, then you need to make sure your board’s updated first. AMD will be putting an ‘AMD Ryzen Desktop 2000 Ready’ sticker on all updated boards, so if it ain’t got a sticker it needs updating before your new chip will work.
But what exactly are the 400-series board going to offer?
“The new 400-series chipset is an evolution of the 300-series,” explains Prior. “We’re going to improve a couple of capabilities, like when you plug in a USB hub to our root complex you get better throughput from multiple USB connections at the same time, we’re improving power consumption. We’re also taking in a bunch of the feedback from the launch of the 300-series motherboard and pushing those into the design of the 400-series motherboards. So the new high-end boards are going to have improved memory layout, memory overclocking, VRMs, power delivery, as well as a change in the chipset.”
That means you might get some improved overclocking, but aside from the I/O performance the old 300-series boards aren’t going to be too far off the pace of the new chipset when it comes to getting those new 12nm chips rocking.
And because of all the new Ryzen desktop chips on their way in 2018 - what with Pinnacle Ridge in April and Raven Ridge in February - AMD are aso changing their pricing structure for the entire existing range.