Could AMD’s Ryzen Pro give Intel sleepless nights?

© AMD
© AMD

Chipmaker AMD is finally giving Intel some much-needed competition in the commercial hardware space

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AMD has taken massive strides into both the commercial and consumer hardware market over the past year. Its three new lines of microprocessors, Ryzen, EPYC, and Radeon Vega have made some impressive headway against the industry giant of Intel, providing some badly needed competition against its 8th generation Coffee Lake chips.

AMD hosted a press briefing at its brand new headquarters in California last week, right in the heart of San Jose's Silicon Valley. Coincidentally, Intel's headquarters are right across the street, with only 20 feet of sun-drenched tarmac separating the two campuses.

In a year when AMD saw a 40 percent increase in market share directly at the expense of Intel, you'd struggle to find a more direct metaphor for AMD's future intent as they quite literally move in on Intel's territory.

AMD's new Ryzen Pro series was the focus of the event, as the vendor looks to build on its recent success with a new range of processors based on the Zen architecture, with built in Radeon Vega graphics.

Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of the computing and graphics business group was keen to stress that "high performance computing is at the core of what AMD do".

Ryzen Pro 2018 specs and features

We've seen AMD surpass Intel with raw core count in previous generations. This time it's combining some impressive core speeds with reasonable power draw, and outstanding onboard graphics.

AMD is conscious that security comes at the top of the list when it comes to enterprise solutions for your hardware. With the inclusion of GuardMI Technology, AMD has a number of security features that come as standard across its range to help keep your data safe.

One of the standout security features is the Secure Boot Process, which ensures that the BIOS is secure from the moment the system powers on. This comes from a separate sub processor that runs independently from the platform's primary core, which runs in an isolated environment where sensitive processes can run without being affected by any software (or malware) on the main system.

Following the Meltdown and Spectre chip flaws, Anderson was keen to reiterate AMD's unwavering focus on security, saying: "Events over the last year have shown that security has to be at the top of the list when it comes to priorities, we are conscious of that and we are listening."

On the performance front, AMD was also keen to demonstrate its focus on practical tests, taking a selection of applications used by the average worker and comparing their performance to Intel.

For example, when faced with programs in the Office 2016 Suite, file compression and some light Photoshop workloads both AMD and Intel came across roughly on par.

The differences started to emerge when the systems were put under the strain of heavier computational workloads such as 3D Rendering, 3D CAD and more intensive Photoshop use.

Ryzen processors have traditionally done better when using applications that take advantage of more available cores, due to their higher core counts. However this generation of Ryzen Pro APUs hold the same amount of cores as their Intel counterparts and so the processing capacity can be more easily compared.

The massive benefit seen by these accelerated processing units (APU) is the inclusion of the Radeon Vega graphics with the central processing unit (CPU) chip. AMD is leagues ahead of Intel in this area, as you'll need to get a dedicated graphics unit along with your Intel CPU to come anywhere close to this level of graphical performance.

AMD Ryzen Pro OEM Partners

The range of OEM partners in attendance last week was also impressive with Microsoft, Dell, HP and Lenovo all sharing the stage to show off the largest portfolio of AMD-powered commercial offerings in several years.

Laptops were very much at their heart of the event as the majority of presentations focused on portability, collaboration and security.

Smaller, faster, lighter, prettier was the theme of the day. While desktop workstations will always have their place for the tasks that require the highest computing power, we're certainly moving in a mobile direction for the day to day tasks of the modern worker.

On this note, there was a lot of focus on the millennial worker and the evolution of work/life balance. The consensus was that working hours are no longer strictly 9 to 5 or even in the office. Work is now done almost anywhere at almost any time, and having hardware that is portable enough to keep up with this demand but powerful enough to use the required applications is becoming essential.

This is one area where AMD is pulling far ahead of Intel, as its APU solutions combine the CPU and GPU into a single chip, making it an ideal fit in a market where portability and power must go hand in hand.

Along with the idea of a more flexible working style, it was theorised that millennials will want to use a single device for both work and recreation and would be looking to their employer to supply this. Something that can only handle emails and Microsoft Office won't cut it anymore as photo/video editing becomes more common, and high-end gaming becomes more mainstream.

AMD is firmly throwing down the gauntlet for Intel here. It will be very interesting to see how Intel responds, as many suspect they've been coasting over the past few years due to the lack of serious competition. The next six months should be very telling.

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