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The Second Gold Age of AMD design will blow you

On Wednesday, August 7, AMD released the 7nm refresh of its Epyc CPU family. These new cores don’t just one-up Intel in a particular category, they offer enormous enhancements in every category. AMD has cut its per-core pricing, increased IPC, and promises to deliver far more CPU cores than an equivalent Intel socket.

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There’s only been one prime moment that AMD came close to beating Intel so decisively, the introduction of dual-core Opteron and Athlon 64 X2 in 2005. Epyc’s release this week feels huge. In 2005, AMD’s dual cores matched Intel on core count, outperformed Intel clock-for-clock and core-for-core, and were quite costly. Now, AMD is going for the trifecta, with greater performance, more cores, and reduced per-core pricing. It’s the most serious assault on Intel’s high-end Xeon market that the corporate has ever released.

A pair of AMD’s Epyc 7742’s costs $13,900. A brace of 7502’s (32C/64T, 2.5GHz base, 3.35GHz boost, $2600) will cost $5200. The Intel Xeon Platinum 8260 is a $4700 CPU, however, there are four of them in the highest-scoring system, for a total cost of $18,800. $13,900 worth of AMD CPUs buys you ~1.19x more performance than $18,800 worth of Intel CPUs. The comparison gets worse as we drop down the stack. Four E7-8890v4’s would run nearly $30,000 at list price. A pair of Platinum 8280s costs $20,000. The 8676L is a $16,600 CPU at list price.

But it’s not just the cost or even cost/performance where AMD has an advantage. The corporate heavily fragments the product features and charges considerably more for them. Consider, for example, the price difference between the Xeon 8276, 8276M and Xeon Platinum 8276L. These three CPUs are similar, save for the maximum amount of RAM each support. The pricing, however, is anything but.

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In this case, “Maximum memory” includes Intel Optane. The 4.5TB RAM capability assumes 3TB of Optane installed alongside 1.5TB of RAM. For comparison, all 7nm Rome CPUs provide support for up to 4TB of RAM. It’s a standard, built-in feature on all CPUs, and it simplifies product purchases and future planning. AMD isn’t just offering chips at lower costs; it’s taking a bat to Intel’s entire market segmentation method. Good luck justifying an $8000 price increase for additional RAM support when AMD is willing to sell you 4TB worth of addressable capacity at base price.

James J

James has been writing about tech since 2009 after spending 25 years in a computer research lab studying and improving the future of computers. He watches Netflix sci-fi with his pet, enjoying spicy snacks.
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