AMD Zen 4 — what we know so far

AMD Zen 4
(Image credit: AMD)

AMD Zen 4 is the long-rumored follow-up to AMD's popular Zen 3 architecture, which powers the remarkably performant Ryzen 5000 series of AMD CPUs. 

AMD's latest generation of Ryzen CPUs have proven powerful and efficient enough to go toe-to-toe with competitor Intel's 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs, in part because AMD and manufacturing partner TSMC have managed to move to a 7-nanometer process for Zen 3 chips. That lets them cram more cores onto each wafer, and it seems to have given AMD CPUs an edge over many CPUs from competitor Intel, which is still using a 10 nm process.

In fact, AMD's success with its Zen 3 chips has been so compelling that we awarded the company our Best Brand honor in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021. We applauded AMD for its success getting major laptop brands like Razer and HP to integrate Zen 3 CPUs into their flagship notebooks, and earmarked it as a company to watch heading into 2022. 

One of the big things we're watching for is the release of its Zen 4 chip architecture, which will underpin CPUs that are smaller and more powerful than anything AMD currently has on the market, including its upcoming "Dragon Range" line of "extreme" laptop gaming CPUs. Read on for our latest insights into AMD's Zen 4 chips.

AMD Zen 4 specs and leaked benchmarks

AMD has been pretty tight-lipped about Zen 4 tech specs so far, but a few details have leaked out from trustworthy sources. 

For starters, it's a pretty safe bet that the next generation of AMD Zen chips will be fabricated using a 5-nanometer process. Early in 2021 the chip industry enthusiasts at Chipsandcheese (opens in new tab) published a report claiming that AMD partner TSMC was moving to 5nm for Zen 4, and that an early engineering sample of a Zen 4 server chip was benchmarked as 29% faster than a comparable Zen 3 server chip with the same core config and clock speeds. 

If that proves true and applicable to AMD's desktop chips as well, Zen 4 CPUs should prove significantly beefier than AMD's current crop of Zen 3-powered Ryzen 5000 CPUs, in part because Zen 3 relies on 7-nanometer chips and thus can't pack as many cores onto the same chip as a 5nm Zen 4 CPU.

AMD Zen 4 - Razer Blade 14 laptop notably the first to include an AMD CPU

Razer's 2021 Blade 14 is the first Blade laptop with an AMD Ryzen CPU, a big win for AMD that reveals how competitive its Zen 3 CPUs have become. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Moving to a 5nm process would be a huge win for AMD, which is already seeing big success with its 7 nm Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series chips. They're widely seen as being more performant than competitor Intel's 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs, which are still fabricated using a 10nm process.

Also, we expect to see AMD chips getting a performance boost thanks to TSMC's new chiplet technology, which AMD talked up at its Computex 2021 keynote as a path to packing even more processing power into its chips. Put simply, integrating this new chiplet design lets AMD stack more components (like memory and logic units) vertically onto each chip, meaning AMD gets more power without increasing chip size.

AMD Zen 4 release date speculation

AMD has yet to confirm an official release date for its Zen 4 chips, but we can make a pretty informed prediction based on the company's track record and current leaks. AMD has debuted a new Zen architecture on a roughly annual basis, typically every 14 months or so, and since Zen 3 was unveiled in November of 2020 it's reasonable to expect we'll see Zen 4 chips released in 2022.

Of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing chip shortage have thrown multiple spanners into the works of most tech companies, so it's reasonable to expect AMD may deviate from its product release pattern a bit. 

Some well-known chip industry watchers and leakers have floated the idea that AMD may delay the release of its Zen 4 chips until the last quarter of 2022, which (if true) would give competitor Intel lots of time to catch by releasing its 12th Gen Alder Lake chips, which are expected to provide a big performance boost over the current Intel Tiger Lake 11th Gen CPUs. Intel may even have time to release its rumored 13th Gen Raptor Lake CPUs if AMD does in fact wait until the tail end of 2022 to release its Zen 4 CPUs. 

We've also seen some reasonably trustworthy leaks which suggest that AMD will release its Ryzen 7000 series of CPUs (built on Zen 4 architecture) in September 2022. Of course, we'll just have to wait and see if that pans out, since AMD isn't talking.

AMD Zen 4 price speculation

Unsurprisingly, AMD has provided zero details thus far about how it plans to price its Zen 4 processors. The question of how expensive they'll be is the trickiest to answer, since it depends heavily on when the company releases them and what state the global chip industry is in at that point. 

Based on previous AMD product releases, the low end (e.g. quad-core Ryzen 3 CPUs) of Zen 4 chips could go on sale for between $130-$170 in the U.S.. More powerful models could easily cost you hundreds of dollars, given that AMD currently sells its high-end Ryzen 9 5950X CPU for a starting price of $800.

AMD Zen 4 outlook

AMD has become much more dominant in the desktop and laptop CPU markets over the last year or so thanks to the remarkable performance and efficiency of its recent Ryzen chip releases. 

Much of that success can be laid at the feet of the company's 7nm Zen 3 architecture, so the prospect of new AMD chips built on 5nm Zen 4 architecture should give competitor Intel some cause for concern. While Intel may have an opportunity to claw back some market share with its upcoming 12th and 13th Gen CPUs if it ends up taking AMD until the end of 2022 to ship its Zen 4 chips, the potential power and efficiency gains we could see in Zen 4 Ryzen CPUs could cement AMD in place as the top dog of the CPU market. 

No matter how things play out between these two titans, 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for PC performance enthusiasts.

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.