Lab Notes

That was the year that was—the past 12 months in pro­ces­sors


2017 IS THE YEAR OF THE CPU— I can’t re­call a year when new prod­uct launches were so fre­quent. And these aren’t mean­ing­less 100MHz bumps in per­for­mance ei­ther, as both AMD and In­tel have been on a roll.

To re­cap, In­tel kicked off 2017 with the ini­tial Kaby Lake desk­top launch in Jan­uary. AMD fol­lowed with its first ma­jor ar­chi­tec­tural over­haul in more than five years, with a stag­gered roll­out of its Ryzen 7, 5, and 3 pro­ces­sors, and fi­nally the beastly Thread­rip­per. In­tel also re­leased its Sky­lake-X 6–10-core mod­els and Kaby Lake-X pro­ces­sors, and later the 12–18-core parts, top­ping out with the Core i9-7980XE. And wrap­ping things up, In­tel’s Cof­fee Lake brings 6 cores/12 threads to its main­stream plat­form with new 300-se­ries chipsets.

That’s at least five ma­jor launches, com­plete with new chipsets, in 2017. By com­par­i­son, in 2016, In­tel’s Broad­well-E was the only fully new line of pro­ces­sors, and In­tel was again the pri­mary name in the pro­ces­sor space in 2015, with the launch of Sky­lake and LGA1151. AMD’s Go­davari re­fresh was un­for­tu­nately still slower than the FX-se­ries Piledriver chips it launched in 2012.

If your pri­mary in­ter­est is PC gam­ing, many older CPUs re­main per­fectly ac­cept­able so­lu­tions, but if you’re run­ning CPU-in­ten­sive work­loads, the del­uge of new pro­ces­sors breathes new life into what has been a stag­nat­ing mar­ket. In­tel claims top brag­ging rights in the con­sumer CPU rank­ings with the i9-7980XE and the i97960X, but at half the price, Thread­rip­per is im­pres­sive in its own right.

In short, right now, it’s a fan­tas­tic time to be a PC en­thu­si­ast. Ev­ery­one from the bar­gain hunters to the well-funded en­thu­si­asts has some­thing to con­sider. And if you’re al­ready rock­ing a per­fectly ca­pa­ble pro­ces­sor in your ma­chine, there are still plenty of other ways in which you can up­grade your sys­tem. Let’s just hope that 2018 can keep up the pace!

So, who won in 2017, In­tel or AMD? We sus­pect we did, the end users.

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