February 24, 2017
By Bob O'Donnell
Semiconductor stalwart AMD took the wraps off their hotly anticipated new desktop CPU chips, the Ryzen 7 at an event in San Francisco this week. After having unveiled the completely redesigned Zen core architecture at the heart of Ryzen back in 2015, then the new Ryzen branding of the finished chips in December of 2016, there’s been a huge degree of build-up and curiosity among tech enthusiasts and PC OEMs about the new parts. Though a complete range of benchmark tests won’t be available until the chip line’s official on sale date of March 2, early indications are that the anticipation was well-warranted. To put it succinctly, after about a decade of completely ceding CPU performance to rival Intel, AMD is back in the game.
AMD’s new design goal for the Zen core was to deliver a 40% improvement in instructions per clock—a key indicator of CPU performance—versus the company’s previous design. In fact, they exceeded that goal and claimed 52% improvements. More importantly, in a few competitive benchmarks against roughly comparable, but more expensive, alternatives from Intel, AMD claimed to beat the long-time CPU leader—something they haven’t been able to do in a very long time. Admittedly, the choice of benchmarks can be controversial and no doubt there will be some who question the results. Regardless of what the final specific numbers turn out to be, however, what these early results clearly suggest is that the performance battle is back on.
For the PC industry, overall, this revived competition can be nothing but good. Intel will undoubtedly react in some way to these announcements, either with price cuts or other new parts of their own. As a result, PC vendors will be able to offer a wider range of systems, with better price/performance ratios than we’ve seen in a while, and that, in turn, should inspire some respectable consumer PC sales.
Of course, this first release of Ryzen is only for desktop PCs (mobile parts for notebooks and server-focused parts are expected later this year) and consumer desktops have suffered fairly steep declines over the past few years. But, within the struggling desktop PC market there are some rays of hope: PC gaming is enjoyed renewed growth, driven in part by the enormous interest in eSports, and VR-capable PCs are essential for the growing market in virtual reality headsets. In addition, for the small, but very influential group of hard core PC performance enthusiasts, a renewed battle between AMD and Intel will likely drive a robust refresh cycle.
The launch of a single line of CPUs can’t reverse the PC industry’s fortunes on its own, but the renewed vigor and excitement that the Ryzen launch brings with it should help all its varied participants.
Here's a link to the column: https://techpinions.com/unpacking-the-weeks-news-friday-february-24-2017/48967
Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.
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