Everything you need to know

Intel released its 12th-generation CPU family, Alder Lake, in 2021, with its successor, the 13th-generation Raptor Lake, set to launch in October 2022. AMD released both its Ryzen 7 5800X3D and the all-new Ryzen 6000 laptop chips, but a real competitor came along later, in the form of the new Ryzen 7000 CPUs.

Here’s everything you need to know about AMD’s Zen 4 CPUs and whether they’re worth your money.

1. Zen 4 CPUs use the new AM5 socket

One of the biggest changes with Zen 4 is that the AM4 socket that has been in use since 2016 (yes, it has had an unusually long life) is disappearing. Instead, we have AM5, an all-new socket that represents the biggest change in AMD CPU designs ever.

There are two important things to know about AMD’s new AM5 socket.

The first is that AMD chips with AM5 are shifting from their familiar CPU pins to an LGA design similar to Intel CPUs. This means that the bottom pins are replaced by contact pads, while the pins are instead in the socket of the motherboard. The switch allows AMD to cram more contact points into the Zen 4 chips. So instead of AM4’s 1,331 contacts, AM5 rises to 1,718, all without really increasing the chip’s actual physical size.

This brings us to our second point. Since the chips are nearly identical, AMD says users should be able to reuse their old AM4 coolers on AM5 chips, as it also reuses the mounting system. In layman’s terms, this means that if you have a reliable air cooler or AIO to use on your PC, you can reuse it on your all-new Ryzen 7000 system.

New socket, new motherboards

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes. As AMD rolls out its new AM5 socket, you’ll need a new motherboard that supports it. AMD has all-new X670, X670E, B650 and B650E chipsets for its new Ryzen 7000 chips. AM5 is a radically different socket in design and capabilities, so you can’t fit an AM5 CPU into an AM4 motherboard, and you can’t fit an older AM4 chip into an AM5 motherboard.

We enjoyed great cross-generational compatibility with AM4, but at some point we have to move on.

2. DDR5 and PCIe Gen 5.0 are on board

The previous generation of Ryzen desktop chips, the 5000 series, supports DDR4 RAM and PCI Express Gen 4.0 connectivity. But that’s all yesterday’s news. Intel’s 12th-generation CPUs support DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 5.0, and that support continues in Raptor Lake, as you’d expect. Those technologies are still in their infancy, but the new Zen 4 CPUs fully support them.

In terms of memory, unlike Intel chips, Zen 4 AMD CPUs nothing but support for DDR5 memory. So if you want to buy a DDR4-compatible motherboard and RAM to save money, unfortunately that won’t be possible – you’ll have to go all in with DDR5.

As for PCI Express Gen 5.0, it is amply supported on Ryzen 7000 CPUs. However, whether you can use it or not depends on your motherboard choice. If you want full PCIe Gen 5.0 support, you should go for an X670E or B650E motherboard instead of a standard motherboard. It allows you to use Gen 5.0 speeds for your SSDs.

3. EXPO is AMD’s answer to XMP

AMD is also shooting back at Intel in other respects. While Intel XMP is the standard for memory overclocking, the fact that we now have DDR5 gives AMD a chance to bring its own technology to users. EXPO is the correct answer to XMP and comes with Zen 4 chips.

EXPO is supported by a wide range of DDR5 RAM sticks, including Corsair, ADATA, G.Skill and Kingston. You’d expect it to be about the same as XMP – it’s just memory overclocking, after all. The difference now is that instead of relying on third-party overclocking technology, we have an internal solution developed by AMD.

4. 3D V-Cache may be in tow, but not at launch

The potential of AMD’s 3D V-Cache technology was demonstrated with the release of AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D CPU. The technology, which allows the chip to have a whopping 96MB of L3 cache, delivers impressive results for gamers. The question then arises: do we have 3D V-Cache here? The answer is not yet, but that may change in the future.

Ryzen 7000 chips don’t have 3D V-Cache, but rumor has it that it may not be forever. According to Twitter source Greymon55, production lines are currently working on the 5800X3D, but we may get 3D flavors of Zen 4 chips in 2023.

3D V-Cache has impressive gaming performance benefits, with some people considering the Ryzen 7 5800X3D to be the best CPU money spent in terms of gaming, even with Zen 4 chips on store shelves. So the prospects of a 3D V-Cache equipped Ryzen 7000 CPU are very alluring. If you ask us, it’s only a matter of time before we see Ryzen 7000X3D CPUs on store shelves.

Zen 4 is a big step forward

We’ve been waiting two years for the next big AMD leap, and so far it looks like the nearly two-year wait will actually pay off. Ryzen 7000 and Zen 4 are great improvements over Zen 3, supporting newer technologies and showing that AMD isn’t afraid to do things differently as long as it means dethroning Intel again.

Zen 4 chips are now available on store shelves, from the mid-range, six-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 7600X to the flagship Ryzen 9 7950X. They are great additions to your next gaming PC build.

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