AMD’s Eventual Redemption

By Frederick Chu

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For the most part, hardware firm AMD has maintained an unreputable position in the PC market; most of its GPUs are outclassed entirely by competition from Intel and Nvidia, the latter of which significantly improved its processor microstructure a few years ago and now has presence in most gaming laptops; AMD’s value, in this sense, comes only from its presence in the Xbox and Playstation console industry.

However, Nvidia’s market has had dramatic fluctuation, thanks in part to influence from aspiring cryptocurrency miners: notoriety that came in the form of mass graphics card sellouts; GPU prices skyrocketed, most of Nvidia’s popular GPUs doubling or nearly tripling in price to match the supply shortage. NVIDIA spokesperson Boris Böhles has even made an official statement regarding the price bubbles, making recommendations for retail partners to put priority on gamers.

These changes have had a significant effect on all PC builders, of course. By tradition (and practicality) all decent gaming computers contain separate graphics processors for better performance.

AMD’s self coined Accelerated Processing Units challenge this tradition; first introduced early last year, the AMD Ryzen processor line has slowly risen to significance, now incorporating an eight core CPU with Radeon RX Vega graphics. To reiterate, APUs are AMD’s line of CPUs with integrated graphics, meaning that they don’t require a separate GPU to operate. And because of the graphics card shortages described above, this is a big deal in the industry. Prices aside, it is remarkable to consider the effects on consumer availability. Budget systems can now be greatly optimized in price, with the need for a GPU eliminated; tests show that systems running the fps game Overwatch at low settings, 1080p could maintain an average of 66 fps with the Ryzen 5 processor, while the Intel Iris 630 could only hold around 33 fps.

The Ryzen line’s speed comes in part from its advantage in brute computing power; compared to Intel’s i7-7700K, which has just four cores capable of running eight threads, Ryzen’s eight core products can handle twice as many simultaneous processes, which is important to editors or designers that often render large files. According to Intel reports, the Ryzen processors are similar in performance to the Intel i7-6900K, which is available now in retail for $1000, while the Ryzen 1800X costs only about half of that amount.

As producers begin ramping up GPU production and lower prices, it will be interesting to consider the applications AMD’s APUs could hold when paired with more affordable graphics units.

 

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