Intel in 2017: still the leader, but for how long?

At the starting of 2017, Intel was the undisputed king when it got here to desktop and laptop processors, but now, at the finish of the 12 months, whereas it still retains its management of the market, its place isn’t fairly as unassailable because it was.

In this text, we’ll consider how Intel carried out in 2017, and this report card will cowl all the highs and lows that this previous 12 months has introduced for the CPU goliath.

We’ll additionally take a look at how the occasions of 2017 may decide Intel’s success in 2018 and past…

Intel’s Eighth-generation Core processors landed in 2017

Sitting fairly

The starting of 2017 noticed Intel in an extremely robust place, posting a primary quarter income of $14.Eight billion – up from $13.7 billion it managed throughout the first monetary quarter of 2016.

Intel’s market dominance was additionally extraordinarily spectacular, with Passmark releasing information about the break up between Intel and AMD processors utilized by individuals operating Passmark’s vary of benchmarks that confirmed Intel having 79.three% of the market in comparison with AMD’s 20.6%.

While these outcomes had been confined to Windows machines that ran the benchmarks, it was still convincing proof of Intel’s energy.

So, income was up and market share was still sky excessive – not many corporations entered 2017 in such a robust place. Things may solely get higher for Intel, proper? Well…

AMD vs Intel got hotter than ever in 2017

AMD vs Intel bought hotter than ever in 2017

2017: when the processor wars bought fascinating

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 to date behind in market share, that many individuals accused Intel of resting on its laurels. Why take dangers whenever you’re doing so effectively?

This meant a superb few years the place new processors (from both camp) noticed moderately conservative enhancements over the ones that got here earlier than. So, individuals with older processors didn’t really feel like they wanted to improve. People had been getting board. Restless.

Then, in March AMD upped the ante by releasing its Ryzen 7 sequence of processors, which attracted essential 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 pace and prime speeds of as much as 4GHz) at very reasonably priced costs.

The launch of Ryzen 7, together with the subsequent releases of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen three CPUs, thrust AMD again into the limelight. Customers responded to AMD’s new choices, whereas Intel, with its excessive costs and mainstream processors that still maxed out at 4 cores, was starting to look out-dated and out of contact.

AMD continued to achieve constructive headlines and opinions when it launched its enthusiast-class Threadripper processors that introduced extremely excessive core-counts and captured the imaginations of avid gamers who wished the absolute best .

AMD had introduced the processor struggle again to Intel, so how would the dominant firm reply?

With the Intel Core i9 X-series, that's how

With the Intel Core i9 X-series, that is how

Hardcore core counts

The strain was on for Intel to reply, and in May at Computex 2017 it did simply that by announcing its Intel Core X series of processors, which included the world’s first client desktop processor with 18 cores and 36 threads – the Intel Core i9-7980XE.

The remainder of the Core X sequence 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 first 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 sequence of CPUs its most "scalable, accessible and powerful desktop platform ever."

These new processors actually confirmed that Intel was able to match AMD when it got here to excessive core counts, they usually additionally introduced a number of benefits over the earlier era, with a 30% efficiency enchancment over Intel’s seventh era CPUs, 10% sooner for multi-thread efficiency, and as much as 15% sooner for single-thread efficiency.

So, Intel had no difficulty with preventing again towards a resurgent AMD with regards to cores and energy, but wouldn’t it additionally compete with AMD when it got here to cost, historically AMD’s strongest space?

Price versus efficiency

The quick reply is not any. Intel has lengthy had a status for releasing CPUs which might be a good quantity costlier than AMD, and in 2017 Intel didn’t problem this notion – it bolstered it.

The top-of-the-range Intel Core i9-7980XE, for instance, comes 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).

Intel's processors remained as pricey as ever in 2017

Intel’s processors remained as expensive as ever in 2017

Meanwhile, AMD’s Threadripper 1950X prices $999 (£999, AU$1,440), whereas going just about toe-to-toe with the i9-7960X in phrases of efficiency. In phrases of worth versus efficiency, AMD continued to carry the higher hand in 2017.

AMD will get much more aggressive in the worth division with the Ryzen three, 5 and seven processors, and matched with the constructive essential reception of these CPUs, strain started to mount on Intel.

Enter the age of Coffee Lake

Enter the age of Coffee Lake

Coffee Lake break

Throughout 2017, Intel continued to launch processors, together with the Eighth era Kaby Lake Refresh for laptops in addition to the Eighth-generation desktop chips, codenamed Coffee Lake, which got here out in October.

While these new processors meant upgraders additionally needed to make investments in a brand new motherboard, Intel boasted they’d deliver 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 Coffee 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 actually didn’t appear to take AMD’s problem mendacity down, but all through 2017’s struggle of the processors there was not less than one clear winner: customers. Lower costs, extra cores and a renewed drive for innovation from each side made 2017 a classic 12 months for processors.

Intel’s Management Engine courts controversy

Intel additionally suffered some moderately 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 in the hidden Management Engine, which may permit malicious customers of gaining distant management of the AMT options, doubtlessly offering a backdoor to tens of millions of PCs round the world.

After the exploit was uncovered by Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy, Moscow-based safety specialists who work for Positive Technologies Research, Intel admitted that some 10 vulnerabilities exist in the Intel Management Engine, Trusted Execution Engine and Server Platform Services.

This adopted considerations that had been raised when the Management Engine was discovered to run a model of Minix – a ‘mini-Unix’ OS initially created by Andrew Tanenbaum for academic functions, but apparently tailored by Intel for its processors.

Much of the controversy was over the undeniable fact 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 operating on of the affected processors.

An Intel chip inside a pre-Z97 motherboard

An Intel chip inside a pre-Z97 motherboard

A altering panorama

So, at the finish of 2017, the place does this depart Intel? Due to some wonderful product releases, and a brand new vary of Core X processors that takes client desktop CPUs to even larger heights, Intel stays the market chief.

However, even with a still spectacular lead, the panorama has modified and, in 2017, AMD was in a position to chip away at Intel’s dominance. As we reported in September, German retailer, 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. 

However, 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 truly overtook Intel – 56.1% to 43.9%. Although this was solely gross sales outcomes from one (admittedly very giant) retailer, there was comparable proof from numerous retailers that AMD was clawing again market share.

This 12 months 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 various laptops from Asus, HP and Lenovo will run Windows 10 on the Snapdragon 835 platform, and the first of those ‘at all times linked’ PCs will characteristic significantly spectacular 20-hour battery life.

With Qualcomm and Microsoft working collectively, and a reinvigorated AMD, Intel discovered that, regardless of its successes this 12 months, 2017 marks the finish of its close to dominance of the CPU market.

What does 2018 have in retailer for Intel?

So, what can we count on from Intel in 2018? After such an eventful 2017 for processors, there’s a worry that we might be in for a bit extra of a boring 12 months for the firm, nonetheless there are some rumors swirling about what Intel has in retailer.

First of all, Intel’s upcoming Cascade Lake-X household ought to make an look, and rumors recommend it should 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 sequence lastly releasing. Cannon Lake is anticipated 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 at the moment are and have been since its first Core M chips in 2014.

Intel’s low-power Atom CPUs also needs to transfer from Apollo Lake structure to Gemini Lake, although it’s unlikely there can be a course of shrink.

Meanwhile we count on AMD to proceed placing strain on Intel with its new vary of Ryzen CPUs, whereas Qualcomm and Microsoft’s partnership will proceed to deliver new gadgets operating Snapdragon 835, and possibly even 845, chips.

So, 2017 has been a giant 12 months for Intel particularly and the processor market in normal, and we’ll proceed to see the repercussions all through 2018 and past.

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