AMD details Ryzen chipsets, promises no multiplier locks
January 9, 2017 // 10:38 a.m.
AMD has promised that every single one of its Ryzen processors will feature an unlocked multiplier for overclocking purposes, but quietly admitted that only selected motherboard chipsets will actually support the feature.
As part of its Ryzen unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show, processor underdog AMD impressed the crowds by promising that its upcoming Ryzen chips - the name given to the first family of processors built around the new Zen microarchitecture - will feature blanket support for multiplier-based overclocking. The company's inference was clear: buy any AMD chip and get free performance boosts, while rival Intel will charge you extra for the same functionality in its enthusiast family.
The announcement was followed by a list of chipset models that will be available for Ryzen motherboards, and it's here that the story gets murky: AMD is keeping the functionality away from its entry-level parts. As a result, the two 'Essential' chipset models - A320 for budget mainstream PCs and A300 for budget small form factor builds - won't include the ability to overclock Ryzen processors.
Those looking to actually make use of Ryzen's unlocked multipliers, then, will need to look further up-market: the functionality begins with the B350 chipset, described as for 'mainstream' systems, while the 'enthusiast' X370 and 'enthusiast SFF' X300 both include overclocking. Interestingly, all full-size motherboard chipsets include native USB 3.1 Gen 2 support but neither the 'essential' nor 'enthusiast' small form factor chipsets include the feature.
Support for AMD CrossFire and Nvidia SLI multi-GPU setups, meanwhile, is unsurprisingly limited to the top-end X370 chipset, where it will take the form of a pair of eight-lane PCI Express 3.0 slots. Naturally, pricing and formal availability for all motherboard types has yet to be confirmed.
During the same presentation, AMD chief technical officer Mark Papermaster also pledged that Ryzen will be a four-year technology with no plans to launch chips based on a new semiconductor process node until at least 2020. Instead, the company is following Intel in keeping the same process node and concentrating instead on incremental improvements to the underlying microarchitecture - though this doesn't necessarily guarantee that the Ryzen chips launched in 2020 will work with Ryzen motherboards from 2017.
AMD is still keeping quiet regarding Ryzen's official launch date, which is due to take place some time in the first quarter of this year.