AMD usually doesn’t have tremendous amounts of consumer interest in their CPU products, but that’s only been an issue for the last few years, with waning interest due to Bulldozer’s poor performance. Their new architecture, Zen, has been running the hype train a little bit this year, though, and we’re also due for a treat with more desktop Carrizo parts. But that’s not the only thing to be excited about – we can also look forward to socket AM4, another unifying design for AMD that merges its consumer APU and high-end CPU brands together again,giving AMD a single socket design to use for the next few chip generations. Want to guess the pin count? Think of a number between 1000 and 2000 while hitting the jump.
If you thought of the number 1370, you nailed it! This is by far AMD’s largest consumer socket design. While the server LGA sockets have always had more pins and a larger socket to accommodate the pins for the memory controller, the consumer designs were smaller to save on cost because they only had dual-channel memory controllers.
Socket AM4 is a little different. Compared to socket AM3+, or socket FM2+, it’s huge, with 1370 pins compared to 940 and 906 pins respectively. This is partially because Zen is replacing three sockets simultaneously, which includes socket AM1 for low-cost computers. A lot of these pins, more than previous designs, will do literally nothing at all. AMD leaves some of them open for future expansion, further hinting at the fact that this socket is going to have a very long life.
While the pin counts tell us nothing crucial like the Zen die size, or any electrical characteristics, in the photo it is coupled to a dual-channel memory controller, which tells us that this is sitting on a motherboard more designed for Bristol Ridge than Zen, using a cheaper accompanying chipset as well. What’s also interesting, and something I’ve pointed out before at the first Zen reveal, is that the design still uses pins on the CPU, which is a very expensive design decision on AMD’s part. Intel shifted to a LGA socket for their CPUs to save on cost, shifting it back to the board vendor, but AMD seems willing to swallow this cost to put out a friendly design that may also lead to less RMA requests for broken pins in the socket.
AMD is expected to launch their new Zen chip family in Q1 2017, and will have several motherboard designs ready for showing off to consumers and press at CES 2017. In the meantime, Bristol Ridge will launch before the end of the year along with cheaper motherboards using the AM4 socket, and if you’re keen, you can pick up one of those this year, and upgrade it with a Zen CPU in 2017.