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AMD will showcase Zen running Doom at E3’s PC Gaming Show

For months, gamers and enthusiasts alike have clamored for benchmark data or other information about AMD’s upcoming Zen microprocessor. AMD has been extremely quiet about the CPU, only revealing tidbits and general information. The chip, for example, doesn’t yet have a firm release date, though AMD has publicly stated that it will begin OEM sampling in Q3 2016.

Now, AMD is apparently planning to demo Zen at the PC Gaming Show this evening. This will be the first major outing for the microprocessor and it’ll be showcased in Bethesda’s Doom, a game we’ve covered several times at ExtremeTech. While we’re excited to see how the game looks on new silicon, there are two substantial caveats to be aware of. First, AMD is unlikely to give out much in the way of hard performance data at this early stage. Second, Doom doesn’t look to be a particularly difficult CPU test to start with.

This data comes courtesy of TechSpot, which put Doom through its paces on a bevy of CPUs from both AMD and Nvidia. Using a GTX 980 Ti at 1080p yielded the following results:

AMD’s FX-9590 is still slower than many Intel chips, but the gap is just 8% at the average and 7% at the minimum frame rate. The game runs extremely well on a variety of chips, up to and including AMD’s quad-core chips — even the FX-4320 turns in minimum frame rates well above the playable mark. Now, this is great news for AMD gamers as a whole, since it demonstrates that a AAA title that’s well worth playing runs perfectly well on older Piledriver silicon, but it also diminishes the chance that the Zen demo will intrinsically tell us anything about Zen’s overall performance.

AMD, meanwhile, remains mum on Zen beyond reiterating that 40% IPC improvement target over Excavator. The three factors that will drive Zen’s overall competitiveness against Intel will be whether or not it hits that target, yes, but also whether that target includes Simultaneous Multi-Threading or not, and what clock speeds the chip can reach. If one Zen CPU core with SMT disabled is 40% faster than Excavator, that implies a Zen core with SMT enabled should be 50-60% faster than one Excavator core. If the comparison is against one Excavator core versus one SMT-enabled Zen core, that 40% figure represents the top-end of performance. Similarly, if Zen is hitting equal or better clock speeds than Excavator, it suggests the chip will be much better suited to compete with Intel’s CPUs than if AMD had to take a clock hit to keep TDP.

Much of this depends on the characteristics of GlobalFoundries 14nm process and AMD’s overall design, and these are the details AMD is keeping under its hat for the time being. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy rumormongering, there’s no clear way to determine what the situation is right now. AMD could be playing its cards close to its chest to ensure it has an excellent debut, and the company has been known to do this in the past with chips like Phenom II or the original Athlon 64. Tonight’s demo should be interesting, but it probably won’t tell us much as far as overall CPU performance.

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