Understanding AMD Processor Names

Introduction

As you probably know if you read my blog or follow me on Twitter, I am a pretty big fan of AMD processors. AMD now has modern, competitive processors in every single market segment. Unfortunately, understanding AMD processor names is more difficult than it should be. This post is meant to reduce this confusion.

The History of Zen

AMD announced their Zen microarchitecture on August 17, 2016. The first actual Zen-based processors were released in March of 2017. So far, there have been three generations of the Zen microarchitecture. The fourth generation (Zen 3) will be released before the end of 2020.

Unfortunately, AMD started this confusion with the names of the successive Zen generations. The actual names are Zen, Zen+, Zen 2 and Zen 3. They could have used Zen 1, Zen 2, Zen 3, and Zen 4. Another choice would have been Zen, Zen 2, Zen 3, and Zen 4.

Here are the generations, their names and when they were first released.

  • First Generation: 14nm Zen released in March of 2017
  • Second Generation: 12nm Zen+ released in April of 2018
  • Third Generation: 7nm Zen 2 released in July of 2019
  • Fourth Generation: 7nm Zen 3 to be released during 2020

This reminds me of when Microsoft had their ill-fated penchant for using R2 in their product names, such as SQL Server 2008 R2. That decision caused an untold amount of needless confusion over they years! AMD probably used Zen+ because 12nm Zen+ was a relatively minor update to the original 14nm Zen microarchitecture. This was similar to a Tick in the old Intel Tick-Tock release cycle.

Understanding AMD Processor Names
AMD CPU Roadmap

AMD Mainstream Desktop CPUs

For AMD mainstream desktop CPUs, the SKU naming goes like this:

  • First Generation Zen: Ryzen 1000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 1800X
  • Second Generation Zen+: Ryzen 2000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 2700X
  • Third Generation Zen 2: Ryzen 3000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 3700X
  • Fourth Generation Zen 3: Ryzen 4000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 4700X (this is just a guess)

Here is a list of 3rd Generation, Zen 2 mainstream desktop processors.

Understanding AMD Processor Names
AMD Mainstream Desktop Zen 2 Processors

AMD High-End Desktop (HEDT) CPUs

To their credit, AMD stayed pretty consistent with the naming scheme between mainstream desktop and HEDT CPUs.

For AMD HEDT CPUs, the SKU naming goes like this:

  • First Generation Zen: Ryzen Threadripper 1000 series
    • Example: Ryzen Threadripper 1950X
  • Second Generation Zen+: Ryzen Threadripper 2000 series
    • Example: Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
  • Third Generation Zen 2: Ryzen Threadripper 3000 series
    • Example: Ryzen Threadripper 3990X
  • Fourth Generation Zen 3: Ryzen Threadripper 4000 series
    • Example: Ryzen Threadripper 4990X (this is just a guess)

What is an APU?

Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) is AMD’s marketing term for CPUs that have both a conventional CPU and a GPU on a single die. This is just a CPU with integrated graphics. AMD further confused their naming by using a different numbering scheme for their APU SKUs. These APUs use higher series numbers for their product name compared to the same generation non-APU desktop SKUs. These desktop APUs will have a G or GE suffix. The “GE” suffix means a lower TDP, which reduces electrical usage and cooling needs.

For example: A Zen 2 desktop CPU is the Ryzen 3000 series, while a Zen 2 desktop APU is the Ryzen 4000 series. The official category name for these Ryzen APUs is “AMD Ryzen Desktop Processors with Radeon Graphics.”

For AMD mainstream desktop APUs, the SKU naming goes like this:

  • First Generation Zen: Ryzen 2000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 5 2400G
  • Second Generation Zen+: Ryzen 3000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 5 3400G
  • Third Generation Zen 2: Ryzen 4000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 4700G
  • Fourth Generation Zen 3: Ryzen 5000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 5700G (this is just a guess)

What about Mobile Processors?

To maintain the confusion, AMD also uses a staggered SKU naming convention for their mobile processors (which are actually APUs). It lines up with their desktop APU naming. These APUs will also have an H, HS or U suffix. The “U” SKUs are low TDP versions for better battery life and reduced cooling needs.

For AMD mainstream mobile APUs, the SKU naming goes like this:

  • First Generation Zen: Ryzen 2000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 2800H
  • Second Generation Zen+: Ryzen 3000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 3750H
  • Third Generation Zen 2: Ryzen 4000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 4800H
  • Fourth Generation Zen 3: Ryzen 5000 series
    • Example: Ryzen 7 5800H (this is just a guess)

Understanding AMD Ryzen Processor Names

This is an older (2017-vintage) explanation of how to decode an AMD Ryzen model numbers from AMD.

Socket AM4 Model Number Architecture
Socket AM4 Model Number Architecture

Here are a few examples of newer AMD Ryzen processor names, with some explanation of each one.

  • Ryzen 7 2700X – This is a Zen+, mainstream desktop processor. The X means that it has slightly higher base and boost clock speeds compared to a non-X SKU. The Ryzen 7 series is an upper mid-range product family
  • Ryzen 5 3600 – This is a Zen 2, mainstream desktop processor. The Ryzen 5 series is a mid-range product family
  • Ryzen 5 3600XT – This is a Zen 2, mainstream desktop processor. The XT at the end means that it is a “Matisse Refresh” SKU that has a 100 MHz higher boost clock than an X SKU. I talked more about XT SKUs here
  • Ryzen 9 4900H – This is a Zen 2, mobile APU. The H at the end means that it has a higher TDP. Ryzen 9 is the high-end product family.
  • Ryzen Threadripper 1950X – This is a Zen, HEDT CPU. Most Ryzen Threadripper processors have an X suffix, but a few had a WX suffix.

Are We Done Yet?

Actually, no. AMD also has Ryzen PRO and Threadripper PRO processors that are meant for business usage. They have added security features such as AMD Memory Guard, AMD Secure Processor, and AMD Secure Boot.

I am not going to discuss these here, except to note that the latest Ryzen PRO are APUs, which follow the mainstream desktop APU naming standards. An example, is the Ryzen 7 PRO 4750G. They are also a mish-mash of Zen 2 desktop and Zen 2 mobile. They have a monolithic architecture instead of CCXs, and they don’t have PCIe 4.0 support.

Final Words

The resurgence of AMD over the past three years with their Zen architecture has had a huge impact on the CPU market. They have put competitive pressure on Intel in every single CPU market segment. This has forced Intel to respond with higher core counts and price reductions. This is great for the market and for customers.

AMD has hurt themselves some with their inconsistent processor SKU naming. I am sure many people have older Zen+ APUs (such as a Ryzen 7 3750H) that think it is a Zen 2 processor. There are a growing number of people who have Zen 2 APUs, (such as the Ryzen 7 4800H) who probably think it is a Zen 3 processor. There was no reason for this inconsistency.

I can figure this out, but I have to think about it for a bit to do so. This is needlessly confusing for non-hardware nerds.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!

Categories AMD, PC HardwareTags ,

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