Initially of 2017, Intel was the undisputed king when it got here to desktop and laptop processors, however now, on the finish of the yr, whereas it nonetheless retains its management of the market, its place isn’t fairly as unassailable because it was.
On this article, we’ll consider how Intel carried out in 2017, and this report card will cowl all of the highs and lows that this previous yr has introduced for the CPU goliath.
We’ll additionally have a look at how the occasions of 2017 might decide Intel’s success in 2018 and past…
The start of 2017 noticed Intel in an extremely sturdy place, posting a primary quarter income of $14.Eight billion – up from $13.7 billion it managed through the first monetary quarter of 2016.
Intel’s market dominance was additionally extraordinarily spectacular, with Passmark releasing information in regards to the break up between Intel and AMD processors utilized by folks working Passmark’s vary of benchmarks that confirmed Intel having 79.three% of the market in comparison with AMD’s 20.6%.
Whereas these outcomes had been confined to Home windows machines that ran the benchmarks, it was nonetheless convincing proof of Intel’s power.
So, income was up and market share was nonetheless sky excessive – not many firms entered 2017 in such a powerful place. Issues might solely get higher for Intel, proper? Nicely…
2017: when the processor wars bought attention-grabbing
Many individuals would argue that Intel’s dominance of the desktop and laptop computer processor market introduced with it an absence of ambition and innovation. AMD, Intel’s closest rival, was lagging up to now behind in market share, that many individuals accused Intel of resting on its laurels. Why take dangers whenever you’re doing so properly?
This meant a great few years the place new processors (from both camp) noticed reasonably conservative enhancements over those that got here earlier than. So, folks with older processors didn’t really feel like they wanted to improve. Individuals had been getting board. Stressed.
Then, in March AMD upped the ante by releasing its Ryzen 7 collection of processors, which attracted vital acclaim by bringing excessive core counts (the flagship AMD Ryzen 7 1800X options Eight-cores and 16-threads, in addition to a three.6GHz base velocity and high speeds of as much as 4GHz) at very reasonably priced costs.
The discharge of Ryzen 7, together with the next releases of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen three CPUs, thrust AMD again into the limelight. Prospects responded to AMD’s new choices, whereas Intel, with its excessive costs and mainstream processors that also maxed out at 4 cores, was starting to look out-dated and out of contact.
AMD continued to achieve optimistic headlines and critiques when it launched its enthusiast-class Threadripper processors that introduced extremely excessive core-counts and captured the imaginations of avid gamers who wished the easiest .
AMD had introduced the processor struggle again to Intel, so how would the dominant firm reply?
Hardcore core counts
The strain was on for Intel to reply, and in Might at Computex 2017 it did simply that by announcing its Intel Core X series of processors, which included the world’s first shopper desktop processor with 18 cores and 36 threads – the Intel Core i9-7980XE.
The remainder of the Core X collection had been no slouches both, with the Intel Core i9-7960X matching the Threadripper’s 16-cores and 32 threads, together with the 14-core i9-7940X, 12-core i9-7920X and 10-core i9-7900X.
These high-core CPUs had been accompanied by the i7-7820X and i7-7800X, which include Eight-cores and 6-cores respectively, the primary time i7 CPUs had gone above quad core (which was left to the i7 7740X and i5 7640X). Intel went so far as to name this new collection of CPUs its most “scalable, accessible and highly effective desktop platform ever.”
These new processors definitely confirmed that Intel was able to match AMD when it got here to excessive core counts, and so they additionally introduced a number of benefits over the earlier technology, with a 30% efficiency enchancment over Intel’s seventh technology CPUs, 10% sooner for multi-thread efficiency, and as much as 15% sooner for single-thread efficiency.
So, Intel had no situation with preventing again in opposition to a resurgent AMD in the case of cores and energy, however wouldn’t it additionally compete with AMD when it got here to cost, historically AMD’s strongest space?
Worth versus efficiency
The brief reply is not any. Intel has lengthy had a repute for releasing CPUs which are a good quantity costlier than AMD, and in 2017 Intel didn’t problem this notion – it bolstered it.
The highest-of-the-range Intel Core i9-7980XE, for instance, is available in at an eye-watering $1,999 (about £1,480, AU$2,510), whereas the 16-core Intel Core i9-7960X prices $1,699 (£1,700, round AU$2,150).
In the meantime, AMD’s Threadripper 1950X prices $999 (£999, AU$1,440), whereas going just about toe-to-toe with the i9-7960X when it comes to efficiency. By way of worth versus efficiency, AMD continued to carry the higher hand in 2017.
AMD will get much more aggressive within the worth division with the Ryzen three, 5 and seven processors, and matched with the optimistic vital reception of these CPUs, strain started to mount on Intel.
Espresso Lake break
All through 2017, Intel continued to launch processors, together with the Eighth technology Kaby Lake Refresh for laptops in addition to the Eighth-generation desktop chips, codenamed Espresso Lake, which got here out in October.
Whereas these new processors meant upgraders additionally needed to spend money on a brand new motherboard, Intel boasted they’d convey an enormous 45% efficiency enhance over its Kaby Lake predecessors.
As we noticed in our evaluate of the Intel Core i7-8700K, the six-core, 12 thread Espresso Lake-S processor outpaced AMD’s Ryzen chips, was a beast at overclocking, and at $359 (about £270, AU$460) it was priced to compete with AMD’s Ryzen 7 chips.
Intel definitely didn’t appear to take AMD’s problem mendacity down, however all through 2017’s struggle of the processors there was a minimum of one clear winner: shoppers. Decrease costs, extra cores and a renewed drive for innovation from either side made 2017 a classic yr for processors.
Intel’s Administration Engine courts controversy
Intel additionally suffered some reasonably damaging headlines throughout 2017. The largest controversy got here when it was revealed that, since 2010, tens of millions of Intel chips have been bought with a safety flaw within the hidden Administration Engine, which might permit malicious customers of gaining distant management of the AMT options, probably offering a backdoor to tens of millions of PCs world wide.
After the exploit was uncovered by Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy, Moscow-based safety specialists who work for Constructive Applied sciences Analysis, Intel admitted that some 10 vulnerabilities exist within the Intel Administration Engine, Trusted Execution Engine and Server Platform Companies.
This adopted issues that had been raised when the Administration Engine was discovered to run a model of Minix – a ‘mini-Unix’ OS initially created by Andrew Tanenbaum for instructional functions, however apparently tailored by Intel for its processors.
A lot of the controversy was over the truth that the consumer has no entry to this Minix OS, but it has full entry to the host PC, and with these safety flaws it made uncomfortable studying for each Intel and anybody working on of the affected processors.
A altering panorama
So, on the finish of 2017, the place does this depart Intel? Because of some wonderful product releases, and a brand new vary of Core X processors that takes shopper desktop CPUs to even higher heights, Intel stays the market chief.
Nevertheless, even with a nonetheless spectacular lead, the panorama has modified and, in 2017, AMD was capable of chip away at Intel’s dominance. As we reported in September, German retailer Mindfactory.de, launched its CPU gross sales knowledge (which had been then picked up on Reddit) for the interval between March and August 2017, which confirmed that in March AMD CPUs accounted for simply 27.6% of the retailer’s CPU gross sales, in comparison with 72.four% for Intel.
Nevertheless, in April after the Ryzen 7 1800X, 1700X and 1700 had launched, and which noticed the introduction of the mid-range Ryzen 5 chips, AMD’s share rose to 36.5% whereas Intel’s dropped to 63.5%.
Most worrying of all for Intel was that, in August 2017, AMD really overtook Intel – 56.1% to 43.9%. Though this was solely gross sales outcomes from one (admittedly very massive) retailer, there was related proof from varied retailers that AMD was clawing again market share.
This yr additionally noticed Qualcomm, the processor producer that’s normally related to smartphone chips, make extra strident strikes into the laptop computer processor market, placing much more strain on Intel’s place.
At Computex 2017, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced that quite a few laptops from Asus, HP and Lenovo will run Windows 10 on the Snapdragon 835 platform, and the primary of those ‘at all times related’ PCs will function severely spectacular 20-hour battery life.
With Qualcomm and Microsoft working collectively, and a reinvigorated AMD, Intel discovered that, regardless of its successes this yr, 2017 marks the tip of its close to dominance of the CPU market.
What does 2018 have in retailer for Intel?
So, what can we anticipate from Intel in 2018? After such an eventful 2017 for processors, there’s a worry that we could possibly be in for a bit extra of a boring yr for the corporate, nonetheless there are some rumors swirling about what Intel has in retailer.
To start with, Intel’s upcoming Cascade Lake-X household ought to make an look, and rumors recommend it is going to use Intel’s 14mm++ structure, which brings improved speeds and higher temperatures.
Intel’s delayed 10nm structure should also make an appearance with the Cannon Lake collection lastly releasing. Cannon Lake is predicted to see appreciable positive factors in efficiency (25%) and reductions in energy consumption (45%), because of shrinking the transistor dimension from 14nm – the place Intel’s processors are actually and have been since its first Core M chips in 2014.
Intel’s low-power Atom CPUs must also transfer from Apollo Lake structure to Gemini Lake, although it’s unlikely there shall be a course of shrink.
In the meantime we anticipate AMD to proceed placing strain on Intel with its new vary of Ryzen CPUs, whereas Qualcomm and Microsoft’s partnership will proceed to convey new units working Snapdragon 835, and possibly even 845, chips.
So, 2017 has been an enormous yr for Intel particularly and the processor market typically, and we’ll proceed to see the repercussions all through 2018 and past.