AMD’s 5nm Zen 4 CPUs could arrive in 2021, really turning the heat up on Intel

(Image credit: Future)

AMD could launch its Zen 4 processors – which don’t represent its next-gen CPUs, but rather the generation after – as soon as 2021, according to a new rumor.

This is the case according to a report from China Times (spotted by Wccftech), which claims that TSMC’s 5nm process is progressing nicely, and that mass production should fire up around July 2020.

The first three customers for 5nm have also reportedly been locked in by TSMC, and they include AMD (as well as Apple and HiSilicon – the latter is on-board for its next-gen Kirin chips).

So the report claims that with mass production of 5nm starting in the summer of next year, we can expect to see Zen 4 processors from AMD launch in 2021. As ever with these kind of rumors though, we have to be very cautious, and the report sounds far from certain (we should also consider the possibility that something may have been lost in translation here).

This purported launch timeframe is more than a bit of a surprise, as we’ve previously heard that Zen 4 – which is being shaped and implemented alongside Zen 5, with two separate ‘leapfrogging’ design teams – is due to arrive in 2022.

So making it 2021 would appear to be pushing things going by what AMD has previously indicated, hence the need for plenty of condiments here.

Impressive yields

China Times, however, insists that TSMC is making good progress on 5nm – in fact such good progress that yields have already overtaken 7nm (reaching 50%).

Monthly production is already ramping up considerably at TSMC with yields outpacing expectations, and what this means is mass production is on track to happen sooner. Hence AMD’s Zen 4 processors – which will presumably be the Ryzen 5000 series – could also happen earlier than expected, at least in theory. Of course it would give AMD the added advantage of pressuring Intel even more with this pace of development.

If all this makes you feel like hanging on for Ryzen 5000, if it is indeed nearer than expected, there’s one other interesting thing to note here. Going by what we’ve heard about Zen 4 Epyc server-targeted processors, the chips may use a new socket, and thus require a new motherboard for upgraders. And while this doesn’t necessarily mean that consumer Zen 4 will do the same, it seems likely.

We’ve also heard the mention of Zen 4 using a new type of memory, which could indicate a jump to DDR5 RAM, and again that would all fit with a switch to a new motherboard. All this remains speculation, naturally.

As for the other big firms who are apparently the first to sign up to 5nm with TSMC, Apple is on board for its A14, the report notes, which is allegedly the 5nm chip to power next year’s iPhone 12. And as already mentioned HiSilicon has signed up for its next-gen Kirin processors which will be 5nm (the Kirin 1000 is rumored to be destined for the Huawei Mate 40 range next year).

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).