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E3 2019 | Socket AM4 will continue well past its prime, AMD feels there's no reason to buy an Intel processor now

Shot of one of the routing layers used to connect 7nm components to Socket AM4 pins. (Source: The Verge)
Shot of one of the routing layers used to connect 7nm components to Socket AM4 pins. (Source: The Verge)
Socket AM4 has proven to be hugely successful for AMD primarily due to the compatibility it offers with all Ryzen CPUs to date including the new Ryzen 3rd generation processors. AMD says that the AM4 socket will continue for the foreseeable future until there is a major inflection point in the platform.

A 12-core mainstream desktop CPU not withstanding, AMD also announced the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X at E3 2019. AMD's transition to 7nm and the use of an MCM design has enabled the company to offer more cores than the norm for mainstream users. Despite the increase in core count, AMD said that the 3950X is compatible with most existing Socket AM4 motherboards.

Of course, OEMs need to provide drop-in support for Ryzen 3000 processors to their existing X370, X470, B350, and B450 offerings. Most OEMs have already started issuing BIOS updates to allow for users to simply pop-in a Ryzen 3000 processor upon availability with the exception of A320 boards. A question arises here as to how AMD managed to still use the same pins to connect to shrunken chip components. 

Speaking to The Verge, AMD's Director of Client Product Management, Travis Kirsch said that the company painstakingly designed a 12-layer substrate to route the smaller circuits to the existing AM4 pins. So while the chip components have shrunk to 7nm, the positioning of the contact pins to the socket remains the same. 

And to most people's delight, the AM4 socket could outlast its expected timeframe of being the default socket till at least 2020. Senior Director of Product Management at AMD, David McAfee feels that a new socket is not needed until a radical architecture change happens, including significant changes to memory and PCI slots. He said,

It will really take a major inflection point in the platform technology for us to move off of socket AM4." 

On the other hand, Intel platforms require a new motherboard change for almost every CPU generation. Sure, newer AMD chipsets such as the X570 offer added features but the basic operation of the CPU is not affected even if you are on an older chipset iteration thereby making it a very cost-effective investment in the long run.

While Intel has just started to make peace with 10nm, adding salt to the wound is the fact that AMD is already on track for 7nm+ Zen 3 for 2020 that will supposedly pack 20% more transistors on the same space and offer power-consumption improvements. AMD confirmed that Zen 4 is in the design stage, but we do not yet know whether it will continue to be fabbed on 7nm or transition to TSMC's 5nm process.

Kirsch echoed what is likely to be the mood of most PC enthusiasts right now. He says, 

I don’t think there’s any reason people would buy an Intel processor after we do this"

A welcome development would be the increased use of Zen 2 in laptops — one area where Intel still is the de facto choice. It will be interesting to take the new Zen 2 chips for a test drive to quantify all the benefits of the new platform. 

AMD architecture roadmap. (Source: AMD)
AMD architecture roadmap. (Source: AMD)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 06 > Socket AM4 will continue well past its prime, AMD feels there's no reason to buy an Intel processor now
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2019-06-11 (Update: 2019-06-11)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - News Editor
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.