It’s hard to believe that AMD released its very first Ryzen CPUs as recently as 2017. They were based on a new Zen architecture, built from the ground up in the five years prior to release. Looking back, this was a defining moment for AMD, and the future of laptop and desktop chips more widely.
In the four years since, we’ve seen five generations of Ryzen chips and three subsequent Zen architectures. The latest of these is the Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000, which is proving to be more than a match for Intel.
But while Ryzen 6000 chips are expected before the end of the year, we may be waiting until 2022 for the next generation of Zen architecture. Here’s everything we know so far.
AMD Zen 4 release date
At the Zen 3 reveal in October 2020, AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster confirmed that Zen 4 was “on track, in design”. His presentation was accompanied by the following timeline:
The company didn’t confirm exactly when Zen 4 will be released, but sometime in 2022 looks the most likely. That would follow AMD’s usual update cycle for its CPU architecture:
- Zen – March 2017
- Zen 2 – August 2019
- Zen 3 – November 2020
If AMD were to follow this sort of schedule, Zen 4 would arrive sometime between February and April 2022. That’s just speculation at this stage, though – there’s been no concrete rumours to back up a more specific release date.
AMD Zen 4 devices
Of course, Zen 4’s official release date is unlikely to be the day you’ll get your hands on a device using the new architecture. We’ll also need new chips that will be based on it. Ryzen 6000 series desktop and laptop chips are both expected within the next 18 months, although the latter may arrive too soon for Zen 4.
PC users regularly turn to AMD chips to update their existing machines, with the main limitation being a compatible motherboard. Moving to the new 5nm process, as indicated in the official screenshot above, will likely mean motherboards using the existing AM4 socket wouldn’t be supported. A new AM5 socket is expected, but that wouldn’t work with the AMD’s AMD’s current A520 and X570 motherboards.
Zen 4 will almost certainly make its way to laptop chips at some point, although we might have to wait until a potential Ryzen 7000 series to see them. Even then, these processors are designed to be integrated into devices, so will be dependent on interest from laptop manufacturers (or OEMs, as they’re often known).
AMD Zen 4 spec news
Despite being so far ahead of its expected release, we already have a few concrete rumours on what to expect from Zen 4.
The first one isn’t a rumour at all – AMD itself has confirmed that it will move to a 5nm process, down from the current 7nm you’ll find on Zen 3. This could be a significant move, with the ability to provide the same amount of power within a smaller footprint.
Indeed, a WikiChip article from March 2020 suggests the move to 5nm could enable TSMC to provide a density improvement of as much as 87% when compared the 7nm process. TSMC directly works with AMD to produce Ryzen CPUs, so these sorts of gains could make their way into Zen 4-based chips. Transistor density is vital to the performance of a processor, so this could lead to huge gains in performance.
A subsequent post on tech blog Chips and Cheese suggests this could be as much as 40%, while IPC (instructions per clock) could increase by 25%. The article goes on to say that early samples of AMD’s less EPYC processors show a 29% speed improvement over the current generation, despite having the same number of cores and clocks.
We’ll update this article as soon as we know more about Zen 4. In the meantime, check out our guide to the upcoming Ryzen 6000 series CPUs.