AMD really stuck it to Intel in 2017 with the launch of the Ryzen family of CPUs. The company has been struggling to retain processor market share with the older FX series of processors, allowing Intel to hold back on innovation by releasing incremental upgrades across its Core line of CPUs. Times changed when Ryzen was released, forcing Intel to wake up from its slumber now that a competitor had risen against the blue side.
But who will come out tops in 2018?
AMD Ryzen from the ashes
AMD already has capable mainstream desktop processors available, including the ridiculously powerful Ryzen 9 series of CPUs. For 2018, the company will work hard at tackling an area that has been the Achilles heel for AMD — portable Windows 10 PCs. Laptops, 2-in-1 notebooks, and other devices all run Intel processors and is an area AMD will want to tap into. The new Ryzen Mobile CPU line comes packing Vega graphics processing and we'll likely see more portable computers rocking these new CPUs.
The company even went as far as to launch the AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and the Ryzen 5 2500U, both with a thermal design power (TDP) of just 15W. This opens the doors to ultrabooks and other form factors and not just bulky black slabs for AMD. What's more is AMD says these processors can outperform an Intel Core i5-7600K desktop processor, all whilst being six times more power efficient. That's huge for AMD and the mobile computing space. It's down to OEM partners to throw AMD's mobile processors into laptops.
Vega graphics aren't just being packed into mobile Ryzen processors either. AMD has already announced the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G desktop processors with a discrete Vega GPU. The former is about as capable as an Intel Core i5-8400 paired with an NVIDIA GTX 1030, but costs around $100 less. That's massive news (and stellar timing on AMD's part) for those who are looking to build a PC and don't wish to pay out ridiculous amounts of money on a GPU, due to the high demand created by cryptocurrency mining.
Finally, we have Ryzen 2 (codenamed Pinnacle Ridge) that is expected to hit the stage sometime in April with some faster and more efficient processors, rocking the new Zen+ architecture and using a new 12nm production process. While there's expected to be a new chipset to go with the new CPUs, the same AM4 socket will be used — which is also shared by the Vega-touting CPU/APU combo processors.
Intel is having a tough time, caused by AMD forcing the company to react to the launch of Ryzen. A "tick-tock" release schedule was in place for processors released by Intel over recent years, but this was switched out for "process technology" that saw Intel optimize its line of desktop CPUs, resulting in Coffee Lake. Intel is also having some trouble with its 10nm production process, and the next Canon Lake family of processors is looking more likely to be dead on arrival.
Zen 2 is also looking to pack a serious blow. Set to launch later in 2018 using Global Foundries' 7nm production process, there is rumored to be a new EPYC server CPU with 64 cores, 256 MB of L3 cache, and support for DDR4-3200. If Intel is unable to get its act together with 10nm, team red could really hammer in the nail and start absorbing market share at a faster rate, at least in the server sector.
Canon Lake is already out with production set to ramp up as we move further into 2018. Ice Lake will follow late this year or 2019. Both of these architectures are based on Intel's 10nm production process.
Even if AMD and Global Foundries manage to leapfrog Intel with the release of Zen 2 using 7nm, the blue processor giant will not be knocked out cold — especially with Ice Lake in the pipeline. What this will do is signify a change in the industry. AMD has played the long game, bet on the right color and is now slowly revealing all the tricks it has packed into its sleeves.
Whatever happens in 2018, it's going to be solid news for CPUs. Unfortunately for those watching the GPU segment closely, we'll likely not see much innovation at all since NVIDIA is simply too far ahead of AMD right now with its current GTX 10 series. Still, things can change, and upsets occur. We'll have to see what the big tech giants bring consumers as the year progresses.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.