Chip Wars 2019: What Nvidia, AMD, Intel, and Dell Announced at Computex
Most of the tech industry gathered in Taiwan this week at the annual Computex show to unveil new devices for everything from running machine learning programs to playing the most bandwidth-intensive video games. The biggest chipmakers—Nvidia, Advanced Micro Devices, and Intel—all showed off new microprocessors that they said would increase the speed of new laptop and desktop computers in the next few months. Meanwhile, Dell Technologies also showed off new devices that it had designed with upgraded processors.
Lisa Su, CEO of the No. 2 maker of PC computing chips and graphics processors, kicked off the show with by unveiling a series of new chips. “As exciting as the last 50 years were, the next 50 years for technology is much, much more exciting,” Su said. Faster processors will allow more accurate voice and gesture-controlled computing, more detailed virtual and augmented reality programs, and other “better experiences,” she explained.
For consumer PCs, Su revealed the third generation of AMD’s Zen-based chips that it first started developing more than five years ago. The top performer, the Ryzen 9 3900X, has a top speed of 4.6 GHz and includes 12 processing core that allow it to perform more simultaneous calculations. Su said the chip, which will cost $500 when available to consumers in July, could beat the performance of Intel chips that cost twice as much.
For video gamers, Su showed off AMD’s (AMD) upcoming Radeon RX 5700 line of graphics cards. Manufactured at a scale of just 7 nanometers, less than 1/10,000 the width of a strand of hair, the new cards will be based on AMD’s new Navi design and will be 25% faster and 50% more power efficient than the company’s previous Vega design.
For corporate servers, Su demonstrated the company’s upcoming Epyc 2 chip, which she said is two to four times as fast as previous AMD server chips. It arrives in the third quarter.
The Texas-based computer maker unveiled the latest versions of its popular XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop, which can fold into a tablet. The new models will include 10th-generation Intel Core processors (more on those below), though the faster chips will require the addition of two cooling fans, apparently because they run hotter than Intel’s prior chips. The 13-inch screens will sport a new screen ratio of 16 by 10, which is more business friendly than the cinematic 16 by 9 ratio on older models. Dell (DELL) has also finally moved the camera on the computer from the up-the-nose position near the keyboard to the more standard location above the display.
The top PC processor supplier has been struggling for the past five years to squeeze more transistors onto its chips. But Intel senior vice president Greg Bryant showed off some processors for mainstream computers that are manufactured at the 10-nanometer scale—just four times the width of a strand of DNA. Intel has been stuck at 14 nanometer scale since 2014. The ability to pack the transistors on each chip more closely together typically allows for faster chips that use less power.
Intel (INTC) will start the 10th generation of its Core line of processors, code-named Ice Lake, with a series of laptop-oriented chips. The new line also includes better graphic processing that is built in and faster Wi-Fi connections. The top of the line will be a Core i7 chip with four cores and a top speed of 4.1 GHz. Intel said the new chips would be 18% faster than its prior generation, but didn’t say when the chips would be available or how much they’d cost.
“No one wants to compromise,” Bryant said while unveiling the chips. “People want it all: battery life, performance, responsiveness, connectivity, and slick form factors.”
Intel also showed off a desktop chip called the Core i9-9900KS, which will have eight cores that can all run at a speed of 5 GHz simultaneously, the company said. Intel didn’t say how much the chip would cost or when it would go on sale.
The company showed off an upgraded line of chips for larger, more powerful laptops dubbed the Quadro RTX. The chips bring Nvidia’s Turing design to the bigger but still portable laptops used by video editors, architects, and others who run more complicated graphics software. Laptops with the new chips will ship in the second half of the year, Nvidia said.
For consumers, Nvidia announced that some new laptops would also include chips with its Turing design, under the brand name GeForce RTX. Aimed at video gamers, the laptops will feature 4K resolution screens with high refresh rates, Nvidia said.