Due in 2016, the Zen CPU will utilize Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) — similar to Intel's Hyperthreading — which will allow for a performance increase of 40% Instruction Per Clock (IPC) throughput. Zen is also being labeled as having a "high-bandwidth, low latency cache system," which might refer to the company's efforts to bring high bandwidth memory to technologies other than GPUs. Zen CPUs and APUs will run on a new AM4 socket that supports DDR4 memory.
Zen and AMD's new graphics cards represent a renewed focus on high-performance desktop parts, where the company has lost ground to Nvidia and Intel over the past several years. As you can see from the image below, Zen's IPC improvements will be a huge step up over its CPU development since 2012.
Of course, that's just a line on a chart. How that line will translate into everyday performance and competition versus Intel's Core series won't be quite so simple. We don't know, for example, what kinds of clock speeds Zen will be able to hit.
Zen processors will begin shipping in 2016. The first one out the door will be a high-end desktop CPU. APUs and lower-end CPUs will then follow. This CPU will use a new AMD platform known as AM4, which will also support DDR4.