The Ryze of AMD - interview with AMD's Neil Spicer

The firm's EMEA component channel sales director on the new processor range and how AMD is shaking things up
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AMD's Ryzen processors have been a major disruptor since they were announced. PCR caught up with Neil Spicer, EMEA component channel sales director at AMD to find out what the firm has done to have competitors sweating and the importance of gaming.

AMD Ryzen, according to AMD, has seen a 52 per cent IPC increase of its previous “Excavator” core. With beefier benchmarking, how have you managed to make Ryzen significantly cheaper than the 7th gen Intel chips?

Ryzen processors mark a complete departure from previous generation architectures and are entirely different than previous generation hardware. This product offers outstanding energy efficiency and enhanced performance over our last generation. Our view is that PC gaming is a great way to reach millions of people. There’s a direct relationship between how many people can buy processors vs the price and so we put out a great product at a great price, and we’re really excited to bring up to 8-cores and 16 threads of performance to so many more people.

How many OEMs do you have on board, and do you expect many to start incorporating AMD Ryzen going forward? Is this step what it will take for vendors to move away from Intel?

I can’t say much about our strategic partnerships with OEMs but we have engagements with many OEMs now on the high-performance space. Already we are seeing many major UK system builders such as PC Specialist, Storm Force and Overclockers UK using AMD Ryzen processors in their designs ranging from exotic, custom watercooled systems to more refined, practical solutions.

How much of a factor was VR in the development of AMD Ryzen?
The “Zen” architecture was in development before Virtual Reality had gained a lot of attention, but the great news is that the AMD Ryzen 7 processor is ideal for this application organically. VR is primarily dependent on processor IPC, which happens to be the primary focus of the Zen architecture. Our testing has shown that VR performance also relies on a high-performance CPU cache and the number of cores available, which are also some of the main strengths of Zen, so it turns out that the AMD Ryzen processor is great for VR. AMD’s VR and AR story is fantastic now, and it will only get better. 

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How important is it that multi-threading is supported by AMD Ryzen chips?

Multi-threading is one of the AMD Ryzen processor’s fundamental features. One of the ways AMD chose to disrupt the market with the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor is by offering 16-thread multi-processing ability that the competition restricted to very expensive $1000+ CPUs, and bringing that incredible performance down to the $499 USD SEP segment. With AMD Ryzen 5, we’ve announced our plans to make up to 12-thread processing available between $219-to-$249 USD SEP, and 8-thread processing available between $169-to-$189 USD SEP. This fundamentally changes the kind of CPU ability that a wide range of users can afford, which means that developers can amp up their applications for a wider range of users. So while people who buy an AMD Ryzen-based PC can expect excellent multi-threaded performance today, we’re especially excited about the ways that developers will take advantage of the extra performance in the future. We expect to see PC games developed with more detail and better AI, and more applications become highly optimized to take advantage of the extra CPU resources. It’s very exciting to change the PC landscape and have a direct effect on the quality of experience that people can expect to get from their PC.

In terms of the UK channel how many distributors are you working with, and what are you doing to ensure that retailers will have plenty of stock?

We believe strongly in an end-to-end channel structure, working with key technology partners in each market. Our UK distribution is managed by 3 master distributors: Ingram Micro, VIP Computers and Technology Solutions, formerly a division of Avnet and now part of Tech Data. We work with them closely on product range to ensure we have the right products for the UK market in stock. 

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How accessible will AMD Ryzen be to system builders?

The system builder market has always held a very strong focus from AMD and will continue to do so. The UK still has a healthy local system builder market, more focused now on differentiation by producing gaming PC’s. This gaming focus fits perfectly into the AMD product stack, where gaming is in our DNA. Our AMD Ryzen processors and its features like Extended Frequency Range (XFR), Pure Power, Neural Net Prediction, combined with our Radeon graphics leadership, add up to great solutions for any system builder. We’re also very excited that our new AM4 platform will provide a simple and scalable infrastructure supporting our new AMD Ryzen CPU products as well as our existing 7th Generation AMD A-Series APUs. This approach will help provide the longevity and upgradeability that our customers have asked for.

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