It's hard to believe that AMD released its very first Ryzen CPUs as recently as 2017. They were based on a new Zen architecture, built from the ground up in the five years prior to release. Looking back, this was a defining moment for AMD, and the future of laptop and desktop chips more widely. 

In the four years since, we've seen five generations of Ryzen chips and three subsequent Zen architectures. The latest of these is the Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000, which is proving to be more than a match for Intel.

But while Ryzen 6000 chips are expected before the end of the year, we may be waiting until 2022 for the next generation of Zen architecture. Here's everything we know so far. 

AMD Zen 4 release date

At the Zen 3 reveal in October 2020, AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster confirmed that Zen 4 was "on track, in design". His presentation was accompanied by the following timeline:

AMD Zen timeline
Image: AMD

Our next official update came in July 2021, when AMD CEO Lisa Su confirmed that Zen 4 was on track for a 2022 launch. That's roughly in line with AMD's usual update cycle for its CPU architecture:

  • Zen - March 2017
  • Zen 2 - August 2019
  • Zen 3 - November 2020

If the company were to follow this closely, Zen 4 would arrive sometime between February and April 2022.

However, Twitter leaker @Broly_X1 says it will arrive later in the year:

This suggests that the official Zen 4 announcement will take place between Sep-Oct of 2022, before it launches around a month later. Indeed, a subsequent video by 'Moore's Law is Dead' on YouTube suggests Zen 4 will debut in Q3 of 2022 - that's anytime between July and September.

Subsequent tweets from @Broly_X1 suggest that Zen 4 will launch alongside AMD's RDNA 3 GPU architecture in Q4 of 2022:

AMD Zen 4 devices

Of course, Zen 4's official release date is unlikely to be the day you'll get your hands on a device using the new architecture. We'll also need new chips that will be based on it.  Ryzen 6000 series desktop and laptop chips are both expected within the next 18 months, although the latter may arrive too soon for Zen 4.

PC users regularly turn to AMD chips to update their existing machines, with the main limitation being a compatible motherboard. Moving to the new 5nm process, as indicated in the official screenshot above, will likely mean motherboards using the existing AM4 socket wouldn't be supported. A new AM5 socket is expected, but that wouldn't work with the AMD's AMD's current A520 and X570 motherboards.

According to Twitter leaker Bits And Chips, the new AM5 socket will bring more cores to Zen 4 Ryzen CPUs:

The Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000 Series has a maximum of 16 cores, so this is a big upgrade. More cores doesn't always yield a performance gains though, so it remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have. The leaker in question does have history when it comes to component news, but there's still no guarantee we'll see a 24-core Zen 4 CPU.

Zen 4 will almost certainly make its way to laptop chips at some point, although we might have to wait until a potential Ryzen 7000 series to see them. Even then, these processors are designed to be integrated into devices, so will be dependent on interest from laptop manufacturers (or OEMs, as they're often known).

AMD Zen 4 spec news

Despite being so far ahead of its expected release, we already have a few concrete rumours on what to expect from Zen 4.

The first one isn't a rumour at all - AMD itself has confirmed that it will move to a 5nm process, down from the current 7nm you'll find on Zen 3. This could be a significant move, with the ability to provide the same amount of power within a smaller footprint. 

Indeed, a WikiChip article from March 2020 suggests the move to 5nm could enable TSMC to provide a density improvement of as much as 87% when compared the 7nm process. TSMC directly works with AMD to produce Ryzen CPUs, so these sorts of gains could make their way into Zen 4-based chips. Transistor density is vital to the performance of a processor, so this could lead to huge gains in performance. 

A subsequent post on tech blog Chips and Cheese suggests this could be as much as 40%, while IPC (instructions per clock) could increase by 25%. The article goes on to say that early samples of AMD's less EPYC processors show a 29% speed improvement over the current generation, despite having the same number of cores and clocks.

According to Wccftech, AMD's new AM5 socket will make its debut on Zen 4. The platform will require a new architecture, so this makes sense. Prolific Twitter leaker @ExecuFix has revealed some of AM5's key specs:

Subsequent tweets suggest that the existing 40x40 mm CPU socket will remain, but that PCIe 5.0 will be reserved for enterprise-level chips.

A major Zen 4 leak then arrived courtesy of YouTube channel 'Moore's Law is Dead':

Key new information includes Zen 4 chips improving IPC (instructions per clock) by around 25% over Zen 3. The architecture will potentially support a 24-core CPU at some point, but it's unlikely to be among the processors initially available - expect those to max out at 16 cores.

It now looks unlikely that there will be a 24-core CPU in the Ryzen 6000 Series, codenamed 'Raphael'. Another tweet from reliable leaker @ExecuFix appears to confirm that it will max out at 16 cores:

This is consolidated by another leaker in Patrick Schur, so you'll probably be waiting until at least the Ryzen 7000 Series for 24 cores.

The above video also consolidates some information that's already been revealed, suggesting Zen 4 chips will use a 5nm process designed by TSMC. DDR5 RAM support is expected, as well as increasing PCIe 4.0 lanes from 24 to 28.

That includes new high-end 'Genoa 7004' processors, detailed in a leaked roadmap unearthed by Videocardz. This will come with more than 64 cores and is expected to launch  in mid-2022, before '3004' chips with 32/64 cores debut in Q1 2023.

That was expected to be the top-spec Zen 4 chip you could buy, but a subsequent suggests it will be able to support many more than that. Prolific CPU leaker @Broly_X1 appears to confirm the news:

If true, this will mean Zen 4 supports twice as many cores as the current Zen 3. It's also expected to double the maximum core count (256 vs 128). This has the potential to deliver huge performance gains for Zen 4-based CPUs.

We'll update this article as soon as we know more about Zen 4. There's already news on its successor, too - check out our guide to the Zen 5 architecture. You may also be interested in learning more about Ryzen 6000 series CPUs, expected to be the last generation before AMD switches to Zen 4 with the Ryzen 7000 series.