Another week, another HW News. While not as busy as last week, we’ve still got some interesting stories. For instance, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, as well as the main Linux kernel developer, has moved to AMD CPUs for his personal machine -- after 15 some years of Intel-based machines. There’s also a new development in the ongoing SMR saga: Class action lawsuits are being brought against WD in both the US and Canada.
We also have news of changes to the numbering of AMD’s AGESA microcode updates, updated ARM IP, Intel finally overhauling its stock coolers, and a terrible Nintendo Switch clone that’s begging to be sued.
On the GN side of things, we’ve been busy analysing Intel’s newest 10th-gen (Comet Lake-S) K-SKU CPUs and their respective Z490 platform. Most recently, we looked at the extreme auto voltage settings on Z490, including Vcore, power limit, and MCE. We also looked at the i5-10400 and i7-10700K. Spoiler alert: they’re both hard to justify.
Article and video embed follow below, as usual.
In this content, we’re going to be breaking-down the AMD B550 vs. X570, B450, X470, X370, and A320 chipset specifications number-by-number. Our goal is to look at this purely from a facts-based angle of what the differences are, and those differences will include both numerical specification differences (number and type of lanes afforded) and forward or backwards compatibility differences. This includes the intent of the 500-series chipsets to support Zen 3 architecture (reminder: that’s not the same as Ryzen 4000 mobile, nor is it the same as Ryzen 3000 desktop), while the existing B450 and X470 boards are left to cap-out at Ryzen 3000 series (Zen 2) parts.
We have some additional discussion of the basics of naming, including CPU naming distinctions, in our video component that accompanies this article. You may get more information on the differences between AMD Zen generations and Ryzen generations in that content.
AMD’s X570 chipset marks the arrival of some technology that was first deployed on Epyc, although that was done through the CPU as there isn’t a traditional chipset. With the shift to PCIe 4, X570 motherboards have grown more complex than X370 and X470, furthered by difficulties cooling the higher power consumption of X570. All of these changes mean that it’s time to compare the differences between X370, X470, and X570 motherboard chipsets, hopefully helping newcomers to Ryzen understand the changes.
The persistence of AMD’s AM4 socket, still slated for life through 2020, means that new CPUs are compatible with older chipsets (provided the motherboard makers update BIOS for detection). It also means that older CPUs (like the reduced price R5 2600X) are compatible with new motherboards, if you for some reason ended up with that combination. The only real downside, aside from potential cost of the latter option, is that new CPUs on old motherboards will mean no PCIe Gen4 support. AMD is disabling it in AGESA at launch, and unless a motherboard manufacturers finds the binary switch to flip in AGESA, it’ll be off for good. Realistically, this isn’t all that relevant: Most users will never touch the bandwidth of Gen4 for this round of products (in the future, maybe), and so the loss of running a new CPU on an old motherboard may be outweighed by the cost savings of keeping an already known-good board, provided the VRM is sufficient.
CES posed the unique opportunity to speak with engineers at various board manufacturers and system integrators, allowing us to get first-hand information as to AMD’s plans for the X570 chipset launch. We already spoke of the basics of X570 in our initial AMD CES news coverage, primarily talking about the launch timing challenges and PCIe 4.0 considerations, but can now expand on our coverage with new information about the upcoming Ryzen 3000-series chipset for Zen2 architecture desktop CPUs.
Thus far, the information we have obtained regarding Ryzen 3000 points toward a likely June launch month, probably right around Computex, with multiple manufacturers confirming the target. AMD is officially stating “mid-year” launch, allowing some leniency for changes in scheduling, but either way, Ryzen 3000 will launch in about 5 months.
The biggest point of consideration for launch has been whether AMD wants to align its new CPUs with an X570 release, which is presently the bigger hold-up of the two. It seems likely that AMD would want to launch both X570 motherboards and Ryzen 3000 CPUs simultaneously, despite the fact that the new CPUs will work with existing motherboards provided they’ve received a BIOS update.
With B350, B360, Z370, Z390, X370, and Z490, we think it’s time to revisit an old topic answering what a chipset is. This is primarily to establish a point of why we need clarity on what each of these provides – there are a lot of chipsets with similar names, different socket types, and similar features. We’re here to define a chipset today in TLDR fashion, with a later piece to explain the actual chipset differences.
As for what a chipset actually is, this calls back to a GN article from 2012 – though we can do a better job now. The modern chipset is a glorified I/O controller, and can be thought of as the spinal cord of the computer, while the CPU is the disembodied brain. Intel calls its chipset a PCH, or Platform Controller Hub, while AMD just goes with the generic and appropriate term “chipset.” The chipset is the center of I/O for the rest of the motherboard, assigning I/O lanes to devices like SATA, gigabit ethernet, and USB ports.
DDR5 may achieve mass switch-over adoption by 2022, based on new estimates out of memory makers. A new Micron demonstration had DDR5 memory functional, operating on a Cadence IMC and custom chip, with 4400MHz and CL42 timings. It's a start. Micron hopes to tighten timings over time, and aims to increase frequency toward 6400MHz as DDR5 matures. It's more of a capacity solution, too, with targeted densities at 16Gb and 32Gb for the future.
In addition to the week's DDR5 news, detailed in more depth below, we also have roadmap leaks from AMD and Intel that indicate Z490 and Z390 chipsets shipping this year. We're not yet sure what Z490's purpose is, but we know that it's an AMD product -- and the first of the new chipsets to take a Z prefix, just like Intel's performance series.
Our show notes below cover all the stories, or just check the video:
As we remarked back when we reviewed the i5-8400, launched on its lonesome and without low-end motherboard support, the Intel i5-8400 makes most sense when paired with B360 or H370 motherboards. Intel launched the i5-8400 and other non-K CPUs without that low-end chipset support, though, leaving only the Z370 enthusiast board on the frontlines with the locked CPUs.
When it comes to Intel chipset differences, the main point of comparison between B, H, and Z chipsets would be HSIO lanes – or high-speed I/O lanes. HSIO lanes are Intel-assigned per chipset, with each chipset receiving a different count of HSIO lanes. High-speed IO lanes can be assigned somewhat freely by the motherboard manufacturer, and are isolated from the graphics PCIe lanes that each CPU independently possesses. The HSIO lanes are as detailed below for the new 8th Generation Coffee Lake chipsets:
This week's hardware news recap covers an Intel document leaked to GN, detailing H370, B360, & other launches, alongside coverage of the Zen+ & Zen 2 launches, AIB partner Vega cards, and memory kit releases. The last bit of coverage shows the new 4500 & 4600MHz memory kits that have primarily emerged from Corsair, though other vendors are following suit with new memory kit launches. GSkill, for instance, is pushing more "Ryzen-ready" memory kits in the RGB line, focusing mostly on the 3200MHz speeds that were largely shipped to reviewers. GeIL is working on RGB memory kits that synchronize with ASUS Aura RGB lighting effects for motherboards and video cards.
As for video card news, we confirmed with MSI that the company presently has limited or no plans for Vega partner model cards. Gigabyte plans to make cards, but the launch date is tenuous -- as is ASUS' launch date, at this point, as both vendors are working out final issues in manufacturing. We'd wager that it's primarily to do with supply availability, though VBIOS + driver challenges also exist.
AMD’s Ryzen platform is on its march to the launch window – likely February of 2017 – and will be pushing non-stop information until its time of delivery. For today, we’re looking at the CPU and chipset architectures in greater depth, following-up on yesterday’s motherboard reveal.
First, let’s clear-up nomenclature confusion: “Zen” is still the AMD next generation CPU architecture name. “Ryzen” is the family of CPUs, comparable to Intel’s “Core” family in some loose ways. Each Ryzen CPU will exist on the Zen architecture, and each Ryzen CPU will have its own individual alphanumeric identifier (just like always).
It’s not yet time to pen a full, in-depth comparison between Intel’s forthcoming Kaby Lake chipsets, including Z270, H270, and whatever may become of the lower-end H- and B- lines. There’s still data we’re waiting on, and won’t have access to for a little while yet. Still, some preliminary Z270 & H270 chipset specs have been reported by Benchlife, including information on PCI-e lane count and HSIO lanes. This coverage follows the same format as our Z170 vs. H170, H110, B150, & Q150 differences article.
If the early information is to be believed, the Kaby Lake-ready platform primarily focuses its efforts on largely minor improvements, like additional HSIO lanes to support a burgeoning PCI-e-enabled SSD market. Z270 will move from Z170’s 26 HSIO (High-Speed I/O) lanes to 30 HSIO lanes, providing an additional 4 lanes for M.2 and PCI-e AICs (add-in cards). H270, meanwhile, will move from H170’s 22 lanes up to parity with the Z-series platform, also hosting 30 HSIO lanes. The additional lanes fall into the category of “general purpose” PCI-e lanes, resulting in the following configuration:
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