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AMD must give us more than one Socket AM4 CPU this year

Richard Swinburne is nonplussed by AMD’s CES 2022 announcements, with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D seemingly the only desktop Socket AM4 CPU planned for this year.

Angled view of the AMD Ryzen 6 5800X3D

I got in a real grump at AMD’s CES 2022 announcements last month. It released 20 new Ryzen 6000-series APUs for laptops, but for desktop users, the promise of new ‘3D V-Cache’ CPUs has been whittled down to a single chip: the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Now coming sometime in Spring, this 8-core chip is probably the last AM4 CPU we’ll see before AMD brings in its new Socket AM5 platform.

AMD even admitted that the claimed 15 percent performance gains were pretty much exclusive to gaming, and that most other workloads, such as productivity, won’t see similar benefits. It also didn’t announce the price, and it looks like there’s a reason for that.

Over the following days, AMD’s Chief Architect of Gaming Solutions & Marketing, Frank Azor, stated in an interview that ‘V-Cache is an expensive technology’, implying that the 5800X3D isn’t going to be cheap. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of this really leading-edge packaging technology, which mates silicon directly to silicon. It will undoubtedly have yield issues, and it will demand extra silicon while there’s a shortage. In that respect, it’s better to have lots of one-chip designs than very few of several.

However, I still feel sour because that one expensive chip is all us desktop AM4 users are now getting. A year and a half after launching Zen 3, there’s still no follow-up to the epic Ryzen 5 3600, and there are no Ryzen 3 options to challenge Intel’s new Core i3-12100. AMD has completely abandoned the affordable market whose users helped keep it going in hard times.

I also raised an eyebrow at AMD’s claim that AM5 will be a ‘long lived socket’, given that boards based on AM4 B350 and X370 chipsets are locked out from using Ryzen 5000-series CPUs. You can probably assume that Zen 3 Threadripper won’t be happening either.

AMD is now clearly focusing on its new AM5 platform, with its launch date seemingly moved forward from late 2022 to only the ‘second half’ of 2022. In addition, in another follow-up interview, David McAfee, Corporate VP and GM of AMD Client Channel Business, stated that AMD’s new ‘Rembrandt’ chip, which forms the backbone of its new Ryzen 6000-series APUs for laptops, will eventually come to desktops later this year in an AM5 package.

The interview also states that the introduction of AMD’s AM5 platform is dependent on the supply and price of DDR5 memory, which feels a bit up in the air for such an important launch. It relies on the expectation that the price and supply of DDR5 memory will have smoothed out by the middle of the year. However, the memory market is volatile and the shortage of essential power management chips required by each DDR5 DIMM is still ongoing.

Zen 4 does look exciting, but why would anyone buy an AMD CPU in the next six months? AMD currently only has a few expensive and now-uncompetitive CPUs with a redundant socket, compared with Intel’s fast and well-priced Alder Lake CPUs, and their motherboard ecosystem that supports both DDR4 and DDR5 memory, and will also support Intel’s 13th-gen CPUs.

AMD has had a year and a half to refresh its Ryzen desktop lineup, a feat that it’s achieved twice for its laptop CPUs in that period. After years of languishing, AMD’s revenue now puts it in the top 10 of fabless semiconductor companies, so it should have the resources to focus on both laptop and desktop products at once.

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