AMD Says Fastest Desktop Chip Arriving Soon for Under a Grand

Jul 13, 2017

Advanced Micro Devices is getting a double-jump on Intel with some of its newest and fastest chips aimed at video game junkies, photo editors and other PC performance chasers.

The chipmaker on Thursday said its high-end Ryzen Threadripper microprocessors would go sale in early August. At $800 and $1,000, the two new chips deeply undercut the price of similar, current chips from Intel and beat Intel's upcoming fastest Core X i9 chips to market by about two months. AMD had unveiled the Threadripper, which contains as many as 16 separate processor cores, back in May but without pricing or availability info.

In a video posted on YouTube, AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off what she called the "very, very first competitive demos," pitting the Threadripper chip against one of Intel's mid-range Core i9 chips. Using the 3D-scene rendering program Cinebench, Su said the lower-priced Threadripper chip with 12 cores posted a score of about 2,400 versus a 2,100 score for an i9 7900X Intel chip with 10 cores that is expected to sell for about $1,000. The 16-core top-end Threadripper posted a score of about 3,000, she said.

Intel has said some mid-range Core X i9 chips will go on sale next month, but its highest-end i9 "Extreme Edition" chips, which will cost up to $2,000, won't be available until October. The upcoming chips are "Intel’s most powerful, scalable and accessible desktop platform and will offer a range of processors from 4 to 18 cores with price points to match," a spokeswoman said.

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AMD's announcement comes as the company is trying to claw its way back to relevance in the PC microprocessor market. After a decade of falling behind, Su is overhauling AMD's product line with Ryzen and other newly-designed chips intended to compete more strongly against Intel (intc) and Nvidia (nvda). AMD's (amd) market share for PC chips slipped to less than 10% last year from around 25% 10 years ago, but early signs are positive for the new line of chips.

The announcement also comes two days after Intel announced its newest chips aimed at corporate servers and cloud data centers, another increasingly heated battleground between the two companies. Intel said its Xeon Scalable chip line were 65% faster on average than its prior generation of server chips and could outperform AMD's recently-unveiled Epyc chips by a substantial margin.

Still, even as competition heats up for high-performance desktop users, the Threadripper and high-end i9 chips aren't appropriate for all customers. The chips have many cores, meaning they are good at tasks that require lots of parallel actions, like photo effects rendering or playing video games while simultaneously recording the action. But for more ordinary tasks like surfing the web or writing a research paper, the additional cores wouldn't add much value over much less expensive chips.

So AMD is also attacking the low end. On Thursday, Su also said a couple of low-end versions of Ryzen, called Ryzen 3 chips, would also be available at the end of July. But she did not disclose pricing. The Ryzen 3 chips run at almost the same speed as the Threadripper chips, but have only four cores each.

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