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Chip Wars 2019: What Nvidia, AMD, Intel and Qualcomm Announced At CES (Updated)

January 8, 2019, 5:23 PM UTC

A year after the computer chip industry was hit with the twin hacking attacks of Spectre and Meltdown, manufacturers at this week’s CES technology trade show in Las Vegas unveiled new microprocessors designed to avoid the security weaknesses and, of course, improve performance. Although the chip industry’s real growth market these days is for servers used in cloud computing data centers, the CES announcements focused mainly on consumer products for smartphones, laptops, and PCs.


The leading maker of graphics chips had good news for hardcore video gamers. CEO Jensen Huang took the stage to announce that the company was finally bringing its latest Turing chip designs to the mainstream consumer gaming market.

The new GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card will cost $350 and provide 1.5 to 2 times the performance on popular personal computer games as Nvidia’s prior generation GTX 1060 chip. In addition to speeding up gaming, the new card will also be capable of editing 8K video footage, the most data-packed and high-resolution technology in use today. Huang also showed a higher-performance line of graphics chips for laptops called GeForce RTX.

Advanced Micro Devices

AMD (AMD) is getting ready to debut the second and third generation of its high-performance line of chips based on its Ryzen design.

(Update) CEO Lisa Su, who ordered the overhaul that led to Ryzen, took the main stage to give a keynote address on Wednesday. She announced a third generation of Ryzen chips for consumer PCs code-named Matisse, but with pricing and configurations coming later. The chips are expected to hit the market in the second or third quarter. A new graphics card called the Radeon VII arrives in February that AMD says is 36% faster than its current top model.

AMD had released some of its new products ahead of the speech. A second generation of chips for laptops will run at speeds up to 4 GHz and also incorporate AMD’s Vega graphics chips.

With the growing sales of cheap laptops based on Google’s Chrome operating system software, AMD also decided to add a new line of chips dubbed Excavator for that segment. New Chromebooks from HP and Acer will be the first using Excavator chips, which AMD claims will outperform Intel’s low cost rivals, the Celeron N3350 and Pentium N4200.


The still-dominant force in PC chips, Intel, was focused on debuting products for the ninth generation of its Core lineup of microprocessors. Intel has struggled to move from manufacturing chips at a scale of 14 nanometers down to 10 nanometers, or about 1/10,000 the width of a human hair. Although the nanometer-based standards are more of a shorthand than an exact measurement of chip features, smaller scale means less power consumption and higher performance in the same size chip.

But at CES 2019, Intel (INTC) was finally able to debut a number of 10-nanometer products. Dubbed Ice Lake, the new line works better for artificial intelligence tasks like deep learning and also incorporates faster Wi-Fi technology called Wi-Fi 6. Still, new products with Ice Lake chips aren’t expected to reach consumer devices on the market until late in the year.


The leading mobile chip maker showed off how new phones arriving later this year will use its Snapdragon 855 microprocessor and X50 cellular modem to connect to the upcoming super-fast 5G wireless networks. And Qualcomm also debuted a partnership with Ford (F) to use its chip set designed for cars that’s known as ‘Cellular-Vehicle to Everything,” or C-V2X for short.

But the company was also embarrassed on stage on Monday, when a demonstration involving Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa voice-controlled digital assistant went awry. As a demo video played for reporters touting Qualcomm (QCOM) products working in a car, an Alexa voice blurted out “No, that’s not true.”

(This story was updated on January 9 with additional information from AMD’s keynote.)