Intel may have retaken some of the high ground in its chip wars with Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia this week. The company released new “Coffee Lake” generation desktop processors aimed at gamers that garnered strong reviews versus AMD’s chips, while a rumored deal with Tesla to supply chips for infotainment systems could displace Nvidia.
Still, Nvidia and AMD posted some wins of their own. Nvidia struck deals to put more of its artificial intelligence-oriented graphics processors into servers at some of China’s biggest cloud and Internet companies. Meanwhile, AMD was rumored to be working with Tesla a custom chip to run the AI programs in future self-driving electric cars.
Investors tried to weigh the up and down news. Shares of Intel gained 1% over the past five days, while shares of Nvidia dropped 5% and AMD lost 8%. Still, for the entire year so far, Nvidia is way ahead of its rivals with a 65% jump. AMD is up 12% in 2017, matching the gain on the S&P 500 Index, while Intel has climbed just 4%.
The heightened competition among the chipmakers is certain to be good for consumers, who are seeing more rapid improvements and lower prices in some cases. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich appears to have sped up and expanded the company’s new product release schedule in the face of AMD’s revived line of chips for PCs and servers. Under AMD CEO Lisa Su, the also-ran PC chip player has focused on developing dramatically better performing chips instead of aiming for incremental improvements at low prices.
Intel’s newest desktop CPU chips, which go on sale starting October 5, have more processing cores than last year’s similar models. Previously known as part of Intel’s “Coffee Lake” eighth generation development effort, the new chips now carry standard Intel branding, like the top-of-the-line Core i7-8700K. The chip runs at a top speed of 4.7 GHz and is expected to cost $359.
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In early benchmark tests that have leaked on the Internet, the Intel chip, which is aimed at mainstream video game players, modestly outperformed earlier Intel products and similar chips from AMD.
Tesla doesn’t sell even 100,000 cars a year yet, but is in the lead in the electric car market, making it an important bellwether of future chip sales in that area. Intel will replace Nvidia in Tesla cars’ infotainment systems, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. And AMD is working with Tesla (TSLA) to develop the likely more critical AI chips needed to make self-driving cars a reality, CNBC said last week. Tesla’s head of Autopilot hardware and software, Jim Keller, worked at AMD for years and helped develop its current Ryzen chip architecture.
In the cloud server market, a much larger current sales target for AI chips, Nvidia announced deals to supply its Volta graphic processors used for such functions to Chinese Internet companies Alibaba (BABA), Baidu (BIDU), and Tencent (TCEHY)
AMD (AMD) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Intel (INTC) and Nvidia (NVDA) declined to comment.