AMD’s Big Year

Even if someone is not interested in computers or doesn’t purchase any AMD products, they are affected by how well AMD is doing. The reason is simple: AMD is the only competitor for Intel in the consumer CPU segment and the only competitor for NVIDIA in the consumer graphics segment. Without the efforts of AMD, there would be little to no innovation in these markets. This year, AMD has released several important products, including their new CPU lines “Ryzen” and “Threadripper” and their new graphics line “Vega.”

Ryzen has been a huge success for many reasons. In 2006, AMD and Intel had close to 50/50 market share in the CPU market. They were in very close competition at this point, constantly trying to outdo each other and driving innovation. By 2008, AMD had fallen to 30% market share, and fell below 20% by 2016. Several poor CPU releases left consumers only purchasing budget AMD CPUs. Intel saw AMD as no threat, and their last 3 years of CPU releases have had extremely marginal improvements. Intel also has turned to several anti-consumer practices, such as not allowing new CPUs to work with slightly older motherboards for no good reason other than to profit.

Thankfully, in early 2017 AMD released a great product to shake up Intel’s dominance. When Ryzen came out, it held the top charts on Amazon.com for weeks over Intel CPUs. In one quarter, AMD’s market share jumped 10%. The best part, however, is that Intel is making real improvements to their next CPUs, called Coffee Lake. They will include more cores than Intel has ever included in their consumer level chips. This is a direct response to Ryzen and a perfect example of why competition is important.

Threadripper is the pro-level version of Ryzen. It was designed to be a competitor with Intel’s “i7 Extreme” chips. AMD has also provided some competition for Intel in this space. Although Threadripper is not the fastest chip available, it undercuts Intel’s equivalent offerings by hundreds of dollars. Again, this provides another avenue to pressure Intel into doing something with their large profit margins.

Vega, unfortunately, seems to be a different story. The launch of Vega has been plagued with problems. A later than expected release combined with strange pricing issues that AMD refuses to give a straight answer about gives a bad look. Furthermore, the performance of Vega is not what was to be expected for such a long wait. The more expensive model, called Vega 64, competes with the NVIDIA GTX 1080. It was supposed to retail for the same price of $499, but it seems to only be selling for $599 and above. It is very similar the 1080 in performance, as they trade blows in different benchmarks. The worst part is that the Vega 64 uses a lot more power and generates more heat as a result. This leaves the Vega 64 as a very poor choice for anyone not using it to mine Ethereum, which AMD still has the advantage in. This also leaves the NVIDIA 1080 Ti with no suitable competitor, as it is more powerful than the 1080 and Vega 64. Although the lower end card (Vega 56) fares better, it too is outmatched by the NVIDIA equivalent.

Overall, despite the Vega misstep, AMD had an incredible year. They gained significant market share for the first time in over 10 years and produced a CPU that can push Intel to compete with them. When Intel releases their new CPUs this fall, everyone looking to purchase a laptop or desktop will appreciate the improvements that AMD helped bring them, whether they purchase a Ryzen CPU or an Intel one.