AMD’s AM4 – A Unified Socket

At CES 2016, AMD has talked a little bit more about its upcoming Zen architecture processors. Specifically, the company revealed the socket that will be used and announced the code names of the new CPUs and APUs. We posted a leak about these names and some specs here.

The current lineup of AMD CPUs and APUs spans across 3 different sockets: The FX line of CPUs drop into the AM3+ socket, the APU lineup uses socket FM2+, and the Athlon and Sempron SoC chips slot into socket AM1. These three sockets exist because each of the processor lines has very different underlying architecture.

FX CPUs still require a Southbridge and Northbridge on the motherboard (as did AM3 processors, which enabled an upgrade path with AM3+ motherboards), APUs have an integrated Northbridge with the Southbridge on the motherboard, and AM1 Athlons and Semprons are SoC (system on chip) APUs and CPUs with USB and SATA controllers integrated. With all the differences between processor architectures, AMD was not able to create a universal socket that works with all of them. That all changes with Zen.

AMD announced that the upcoming Zen architecture will be sharing a unified socket across both the CPU and APU lineups. Socket AM4 will succeed AM3+, FM2+ and AM1 to become the only socket needed for any AMD Zen processor. The company said that each of the Zen chips will be supported by all motherboards, which will make for very clear upgrade paths from entry level to top tier hardware. This is great news as it means we should finally get high end M-ITX motherboards for AMD processors – something sorely needed for AM3+, which lacked any products smaller than M-DTX!.

AMD also officially revealed the code names of both the CPU and APU that will be released later this year. The Zen CPU is known as Summit Ridge and the APU is called Bristol Ridge. These processors can use the same socket because they are both SoCs and they both support DDR4. We don’t yet know anything else about the forthcoming processors but AMD said we’ll hear more details as the launch of Zen approaches over the coming months.

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Also at CES, AMD previewed it’s new stock cooler. It appears the cooler uses the same (incredibly easy to use) clip mechanism, so you may be able to use one part from your current AMD rig when upgrading to Zen – the cooler. Amusingly, it looks like the only change to the cooler from the current generation of AMD stock coolers is a thicker fan, enabling it to run slower (a thicker fan is more efficient at moving air) and thus quieter.

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