From the ashes of Intel

November 25th, 2019

The PC community awoke with two announcements that day. Intel launched its most powerful consumer chip till date, its 18 core i9-10980XE and to combat the same, AMD’s benchmark shattering chip, the 32 core Threadripper 3970X launched, which in every possible way, wiped the floor for Intel.

At launch itself, Intel was trumped over by AMD.

This performance difference that the two chips had, brought the slowly building truth up. Intel’s reign of dominance for over 15 years is now over, with AMD’s Ryzen processors firmly in control on the desktop side of things, which is seen ever more with the launch of 64-core Threadripper 3990x in 2020.

March 30th, 2020

AMD used the same underlying Zen2 architecture to seize the crown with Ryzen 4000 Mobile. AMD’s Ryzen 9 4900HS dealt a crushing blow to Intel’s most powerful mobile chips, sparring laptops twice-thrice its weight. The Ryzen 4000 series turned out to be the most game-changing performance laptop chip in years.

Ryzen 4000 series laptop chips turned out to be a serious contender against Intel’s long lasting reign.

We should have seen it coming

AMD’s new look Ryzen chips shook away the concept of typical monolithic design and replaced the same with multiple conjoined dies. And with that, they shook up the entire status quo for Intel since the day it launched in 2017. “AMD is back” was the chant for every PC enthusiast that year.

By 2016, Intel was using its “monopoly” to such heights where it made the prices of its chips ballistic. In May 2016, Intel released its 10 core Broadwell i7-6950X for $1720, which was a straight price gouging considering its 8-core sibling was sold for $700 less.

The Ryzen launch in 2017 itself marked a huge change

Then Ryzen happened. Where Intel had just one 8-core ship for $1000, AMD just knocked it all out of the park. AMD offered its flagship Ryzen 7 1800X for $499, but it also had options like the 8-core Ryzen 7 1700 for $330, the 6-core Ryzen 5 1500 for $220, and where at that time, Intel’s budget chips (i3) were still dual core, AMD offered affordable Ryzen 3 chips which were quad core.

Ryzen’s budget lineup trumped over Intel’s with double the cores.

The AMD-Intel battle begins

Like any product that is in their first generation, the new architecture that Ryzen had was not perfect. While the Ryzen chips had the multicore performance outpacing that of Intel, they definitely faltered behind Intel chips when it came to single threaded performance. After all, Intel had fine-tuned their 14nm architecture for three years until then.

AMD then came up with the refined Zen+ architecture and released the second gen Ryzen processors. AMD made a mark in both price as well as performance again, with the flagship Ryzen 7 2700X for mere $330 (compared to Intel’s then flagship i9-8950HK for $590) and with the highly bang for the buck, 6-core Ryzen 5 2600 for $199 (which is the processor in my current setup, and handling everything thrown at it with ease). The gaming and single threaded performance still trailed Intel, but by a marginal amount, and AMD was clearly readying itself to fight neck and neck with Intel.

Intel’s struggles

At this time around, Intel’s was in the midst of its own struggle. The manufacturing side of Intel has not managed to move to 10nm manufacturing process yet, and ever since Broadwell in 2015, Intel (even now in 2020) still is just on refined versions of its 14nm architecture. At the same time, the hardware vulnerabilities in its chips (Spectre and Meltdown) led to the modifications that slowed down the processors further.

3rd Gen Ryzen– the battlefront

When Intel got stalled at 14nm for the 5th year continuously, in 2019, AMD released the third generation of Ryzen on its path defining 7nm process, culminating in a Ryzen 9 3950X, a 16-core, 32 thread processor that broke the shackles in every way possible.

Being loaded with cores, and damn fast, Ryzen finally got rid of the concerns regarding gaming and single threaded performance. The situation has got to such extents today, that valid reasons to buy Core i9 are so less, that for 9 out of 10 consumers thinking to buy a high-end CPU, R9 3900X is the best option for them out there.

Ryzen changed the game

The advent of Ryzen has been as path breaking as AMD’s K7 Athlon (which crossed the 1GhZ line on the consumer chips for the first time in 1999) or even the Athlon 64 (which brought along 64Bit computing on desktop PCs).

From past to future – AMD Athlon 64 X2 (pictured left) revolutionized through 64Bit computing and Ryzen (pictured right) revolutionized through 7nm architecture.

When, earlier, a specific reason was needed to go for AMD over Intel, by now, the tables have turned to such an extent that you need a specific reason to go Intel now. This is the David knocking off Goliath of our time.


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