AMD Zen 4 delivers 13 per cent IPC uplift over Zen 3 at the same frequency

Zen 4 is a refined version of Zen 3. You didn't expect 25 per cent IPC, did you?

AMD Ryzen 7000 De-lidded

Providing more meat on the bones as we inch closer to the September 27 launch date for Ryzen 7000 Series based on Zen 4 technology, AMD provided further in-house numbers which show the new architecture to offer a geomean 13 per cent IPC improvement over predecessor Zen 3.

Now, 13 per cent may not sound like a whole lot, especially when considered against the backdrop of Zen 4 arriving almost two years after Zen 3’s desktop bow with Ryzen 50000 series, but the numbers begin to make sense when you consider the fourth generation of Zen is a refinement of the architecture, rather than a clean-sheet overhaul.

Locking Zen 3 and Zen 4 CPUs at 4GHz and evaluating results on eight-core, 16-thread chips from each generation, AMD reckons anyone investing in the new platform ought to see double-digit gains in many popular applications.

Breaking down key drivers, you’ll notice tweaks to the front-end and load/store units account for 60 per cent of that improvement, or around eight per cent IPC. Knowing that Zen 4 cores double the L2 cache compared to Zen 3, it’s actually eye-opening to see how little benefit derives from this change. Looking at the bigger picture, having a more muscular L2 will work better in the server environment – Zen 4 will span multiple markets and is to be the heartbeat of Genoa-based Epyc chips later on this year.

But it’s the combination of IPC and frequency that really gives Ryzen 7000 Series its pop.

IPC uplift may not be great, but considered with frequency, the actual performance gain is acceptable.

Comparing the 16C32T Ryzen 9 7950X directly against the also-16C32T Ryzen 9 5950X you’ll be familiar with, AMD contends the new desktop chief is appreciably faster in gaming and around 40 per cent nippier for multi-threaded workloads. That’s a pretty decent return without changing the core-and-thread floorplan.

AMD’s move to a 5nm manufacturing process from TSMC is what gives Zen 4 the frequency muscle to extend comfortably past 5GHz on a few threads and, we conjecture, close to that seminal figure when all threads are utilised.

Whether or not AMD will retain enough horsepower to fend off upcoming Intel Core i9-13900K – rumoured to have 24 cores and 32 threads – is another matter which will be answered in a month or so’s time. What is clear in the interim is that innovating outside of cores and threads is very much alive.

Those left disappointed with the AMD-posted figures will take solace in the fact that Zen 5, due in 2024, will be a clean-sheet design likely packing more cores and threads into the bargain.