AMD must have stated a million times (slight exaggeration) that Zen 3 is on track to launch this year, but what it hasn't done up to this point is commit to an actual date. Well, it just happened. Sort of, anyway. In what promises to be an "exciting fall for gamers," AMD is planning two separate events in October, one to finally and formally introduce Zen 3, and the other to introduce its next-generation Radeon RX 6000 graphics lineup, based on RDNA 2.
The first event will take place on Thursday, October 8 at 12:00 pm ET (9:00 am PT). That is when AMD will unveil "the next wave of Ryzen desktop processors" (Ryzen 4000 series on desktop) based on Zen 3. Then on Wednesday, October 28, also at 12:00 pm ET, AMD will present its Radeon RX 6000 series and talk about its "deep collaboration with game developers and ecosystem partners."
It's going to be an exciting month, in other words. AMD has not exactly kept Zen 3 a secret, and had previously said it will deliver performance "right in line with what you might expect from an entirely new architecture." We're expecting a 10-15 percent IPC improvement over today's Zen 2 CPUs (Ryzen 3000 series on the desktop), but it will be interesting to see what exactly AMD has up its sleeves. More cores? Additional features? It's all on the table.
Ahead of the reveal, one thing we know about Zen 3 is that it will work in existing 400-series and 500-series motherboards. This was not initially the case—AMD had originally decided not to support its 400-series chipsets, but reversed course after hearing feedback from owners of prior generation motherboards.
As for RDNA 2, this is arguably of more interest, considering Nvidia just swung for the fences with its Ampere launch (GeForce RTX 3090, 3080, and 3070). It's going to feel like a long wait to the end of October to see AMD's response. Nvidia has seemingly set a high bar, claiming that even its $499 GeForce RTX 3070 will outperform last generation's GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, which debuted at $999.
AMD has some ground to make up if Nvidia's claims hold true. For the new GPUs, unofficially known as Big Navi, the hope is that AMD will bring performance parity at equally attractive prices.
RDNA 2 is the same graphics architecture that will underpin both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 when they come out in November. AMD has confirmed its next-gen GPUs will bring hardware support for real-time ray tracing, a feature Nvidia introduced with its Turing GPUs. So between keeping up with the competition in traditional rasterized rendering and ray-traced workloads, this is an important launch for AMD.