Semiconductor designer Advanced Micro Devices (AMD 0.43%) just announced the next generation of its central processing unit (CPU) chips. The Ryzen 7000 series reportedly boosts various performance metrics by double-digit percentages, compared to the current Ryzen 5000 line of desktop CPUs.
So the tick-tock rhythm of the CPU market continues. AMD just presented a promising product line, and it's up to Intel (INTC 1.30%) to come up with an answer. Will the AMD Ryzen 7000 lineup put Intel on the defensive, or does Chipzilla have a strong answer up its sleeve?
Let's have a look.
AMD's new chips
The Ryzen 7000 series is scheduled to hit store shelves on Sept. 27, comfortably ahead of the holiday shopping season. Launch prices will range from $299 for the 6-core Ryzen 5 7600X to $699 for the 16-core Ryzen 9 7950X. In addition, clock rates have been bumped up by approximately 30% compared to similar products from the Ryzen 5000 range.
According to AMD's press materials, the entry-level Ryzen 5 7600X outperforms Intels' flagship gaming processor, the Core i9-12900K, in a handful of "select" gaming titles. Furthermore, in stress tests with ray-tracing graphics programs, the best Ryzen 7000 chip beats the same Intel crown jewel by 57% in content creation performance.
Of course, these preliminary benchmarks come with limited information about the test conditions and the specific performance metrics under AMD's lens, but that's just par for the course. Independent reviewers will put the Ryzen 7000 CPU series through the test gauntlet in late September, giving us a fairer and less cherry-picked view of the performance upgrades.
As the first wave of a new processor architecture, the new Ryzen CPUs also usher in a new motherboard platform called socket AM5. This system supports more and faster memory, and it relies on the next generation of PCI Express connectivity. High-end versions of the new platforms will be available at launch, followed by toned-down mainstream alternatives in October.
Business as usual
It's good to see progress in the CPU market, but this particular launch isn't unusual. Every new generation of processors ups the ante in terms of higher performance, better performance per watt of power used, and cost efficiency. Intel's upcoming Raptor Lake processors will almost certainly be wrapped in similar claims, comparing that product line to the current Alder Lake platform and to AMD's latest and greatest products. The processor performance picture is complicated enough that both Intel and AMD are able to handpick test results that make their newest products look good.
Furthermore, Intel's Core chips come in a wide range of ultra-specific flavors, ranging from low-power mobile chips with modest performance to number-crunching, power-hungry beasts. Intel's suggested price range also stretches a bit farther, starting at $97 for a low-end Core i3 12100F and ending with the top-shelf Core i9 12900KS for $739. As such, users with highly specific computing requirements may be more likely to find exactly what they need in Intel's sprawling product portfolio.
The Raptor Lake chips are a relatively minor update, plugging into the same LGA 1700 sockets as the current generation of Intel chips. So if you just need a faster processor, the 13th-generation of Intel Core chips can be drop-in replacements for your 12th-generation Alder Lake processors. Intel's update is slated for the second half of 2022, most likely in the next few weeks. Intel has to keep those holiday shoppers happy, you know.
No alarms and no surprises
And of course, everybody knew that AMD would introduce a new range of high-performance chips someday soon. Investors shrugged off this release, letting both AMD and Intel shares fall by approximately 2% on the day of the announcement.
I'm more interested to see how AMD's manufacturing pipeline ramps up for these new products. Chipbuilding partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM 1.07%) is running its production lines at nearly full capacity, struggling to keep up with incoming order volumes. Taiwan Semi and Intel are expanding and upgrading their manufacturing lines as we speak, but that effort runs into shortages of chips used in the chipmaking machinery. It's a chicken-or-egg problem with no easy solutions. I don't expect either AMD or Intel to deliver game-changing production volumes, even if the new products are fantastic.
So it's just another turn of the wheel in the semiconductor industry. AMD and Intel investors should keep a closer eye on the manufacturing volumes than on the technical details of the new chips.