AMD’s new Raven Ridge processors have been developed for the AM4 socket, and designed to be backwardly compatible with current 300 series motherboards, but due to the processors being an entirely new die, motherboards running older BIOS revisions may simply be unable to boot if you plonk in your brand new chip.
Some motherboards do support BIOS updates without needing to boot, but a great many do not and thus leaving you in a catch 22 situation. You need the machine booted to update the BIOS, but you need to update the BIOS to boot the machine. AMD have come up with an unquestionably great PR solution for this problem.
If you head over to their support page you can request a “Boot Kit” where AMD will send you out an ‘AMD A6-9500 Dual-core (2 Core) 3.50 GHz Processor’ which is a Bristol Ridge based APU. An excellent decision for AMD for not only the reason of being a great PR win (traditionally, builders would need to buy the cheapest compatible CPU they could buy then sell it on eBay or ask around their social circle hoping someone can loan them the processor), but also because they selected it to be an APU, users who’d built the Ryzen 2000 based system without a discrete GPU will not need to fret about stealing their friends Titan for a few hours.
It’s worth noting that AMD (unsurprisingly) want you to send the A6-9500 back to them after you’re done, but you get to keep the heatsink. This would appear to be in an effort to reduce shipping costs (and I also suspect that in some cases, users wouldn’t package the heatsink and APU correctly, thus risking damaging the A6-9500).
This isn’t likely to be a long term problem, as newer motherboards will likely ship with a BIOS revision compatible with the new Ryzen 2000 processors. Furthermore, when we see the 400-series boards introduced, it goes without saying these too will not need to be updated to boot by the user. Small side note though – we do always advise users to update their BIOS – its super simple now and requires not much more than a few spares minutes and a small USB drive.
For gamers looking to put together a system capable of playing games such as OverWatch, DOTA2, Counter Strike and even more demanding games and who’re either on a budget or wanting a nice small form factor, we highly recommend checking out the Ryzen 5 2400 processor (Amazon link). For the price, it puts out performance about on par with a Ryzen 3 based 1000 based CPU (slightly higher in some cases thanks to a more aggressive boost) and GPU performance on par with an AMD RX 550 or an Nvidia GeForce GT 1030.
It’s clear here that AMD are looking to come across as the ‘good guy’ between themselves and Intel. With this news an excellent way to reassure customers and particularly ingenious given the release of the new 12nm Ryzen CPUs which start rolling out in April. AMD have even gone on record (through Robert Hallock) to state that these Ryzen CPUs will feature solder instead of TIM (a common request amongst overclockers) as it improves heat dissipation and in general promotes better overclocking. While TIM is cheaper to produce, Intel haven’t used solder for their Coffee Lake range of processors, thus scoring another feather in AMD’s PR cap. Of course, how much overclockability these CPUs actually have… well we’ll need to wait and see!