PCs only matter in the high-end now.
It’s no secret that the PC market has gone stale.
Shipments have declined steadily over the past few years, mostly the result of increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets, and the slowing down of Moore’s Law.
As new processor generations deliver diminishing gains, mostly in the form of small speed bumps and better power efficiency, there are fewer incentives to upgrade, especially when mobile devices are perfectly capable of handling basic tasks.
However, PCs may be flagging, but they’re not quite done yet. The highend desktop market remains a bright spot, driven by gaming and the never-ending hype of virtual reality and 4K content. It isn’t a coincidence that AMD chose to release its high-performance desktop Ryzen chips before its Ryzen Mobile APUs, because the premium segment is the one that’s still thriving.
At Computex, Intel also announced its Core-X CPUs, including chips so monstrous that it had to coin a new brand name for it. The new Core i9 processors range from 12 to 18 cores, and are clearly intended to give AMD’s 16-core/32-thread Threadripper CPU a run for its money.
Are 18 cores and 36 threads overdoing it? Yes. But for video editors, Twitch streamers, and those who need to compile code, an 18-core CPU is a godsend. These are all heavily threaded workloads that will benefit from more cores.
For instance, a streaming PC would require dedicated threads for running a game, transcoding the video, and broadcasting it, and still need available threads for voice communications.
The common thread linking all these applications is that they still can’t be performed by a smartphone, tablet, or low-cost Chromebook.
This is the one area where there is good reason to buy a highperformance machine, and AMD and Intel are right to focus on it.
Few of us can afford a US$1,999 CPU. But the “entry-level” Core-X chips cost roughly the same as their current mainstream Core i5 and Core i7 counterparts, and are still based on the ultra-enthusiast Intel X299 chipset.
It has never been more affordable to get onboard Intel’s flagship platform. Eventually, these crazy chips with upward of 10 cores could become the new normal, which is good news for everyone from gamers to content creators.