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Editor's take: My, what a difference a year can make. For the past several years, the Taiwan-based Computex trade show had arguably slid into obscurity, as the traditionally PC-focused conference didn’t generate a lot of news that people outside of extremely dedicated computer industry watchers cared much about. But the new explosive growth in PCs, and more importantly, the influence that major PC suppliers now have, interest in Computex-related announcements has never been higher.
Even in virtual form, the barrage of announcements coming out of this year’s Computex from major PC chip suppliers AMD, Intel, and Nvidia did not disappoint. Not only did they highlight important advancements in PCs in conjunction with their PC OEM customers, in several instances they also demonstrated the widening range of product categories and technologies they are now impacting.
Intel kicked things off with its Computex presentation highlighting a range of new 11th-gen Intel Core mobile CPUs for ultrathin designs, including the first models that can reach speeds of up to 5.0 GHz. The company said it expects systems based on these new chips to first appear later this summer from numerous vendors, including Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and MSI with many more shipping by the 2021 holiday season.
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Intel also refocused attention on a number of connectivity-related enhancements for future PCs. As the pandemic has made clear, fast, high-quality, reliable connections are absolutely essential for PCs.
At Computex, Intel emphasized this with the release of enhanced WiFi 6E-enabled chipsets -- allowing people in the US and several other regions around the world to take full advantage of the 1.2 GHz of bandwidth for 6 GHz WiFi -- and with the official debut of its previously announced 5G solution, the Intel 5G Solution 5000, built in conjunction with MediaTek and Fibocom.
The new 5G offering comes in the form of a globally certified M.2 format add-in card that makes it very easy for PC OEMs to add 5G support to a wide variety of new systems -- and officially compete with the similar format 5G modem M.2 card recently announced by Qualcomm.
Nvidia came next with important announcements related to gaming GPUs, Nvidia-certified servers for data center applications, and several AI software tools-focused announcements, clearly emphasizing the now very broad range of the company’s offerings.
On the gaming front, the company unveiled the Ampere-based RTX 3080 Ti (priced at $1,199), along with the more affordable RTX 3070 Ti (priced at $599), which Nvidia claims offers 1.5x the gaming performance of its popular 2070 Super board from about 2 years back.
For mobile gaming, Nvidia highlighted its ongoing work on the 3rd generation Max-Q design framework. The technology behind Max-Q is powering new gaming notebooks from several vendors including Dell, which announced a new line of Alienware X-Series gaming laptops using the GeForce RTX 3080 GPU (and Intel’s latest 11th Gen Core CPUs) that are the thinnest Alienware notebooks the company has ever produced.
On the data center front, Nvidia said that there are now more than 50 Nvidia-certified servers, thanks in large part to the fact that the program now includes support for servers with DPUs (data processing unit) that the company acquired through its acquisition of Mellanox Technologies in 2020.
These systems are all certified to run Nvidia’s AI Enterprise Software, a suite of tools designed to make the often-challenging process of building AI-enabled software easier for more organizations. In addition, the company announced support for Arm-based servers as part of the program, emphasizing the intriguing idea of having most of the computation for certain AI workloads being done by GPUs and DPUs, with an Arm-based CPU serving as more of an orchestrator of tasks around these other computing elements. While it is still early days for this concept, it’s definitely going to be an interesting one to watch.
AMD was the last of the big three to present on the virtual Computex stage, and CEO Dr. Lisa Su arguably had the largest quantity of and most impactful news of the event.
Packed into her roughly 40-minute keynote was news on the company’s third-generation Epyc server performance, Ryzen 5000 CPUs for commercial desktops, updates on next generation Radeon 6000 GPU technology, the launch of the AMD Advantage design framework for mobile gaming PCs, the unveiling of a partnership with Tesla on the company’s auto infotainment systems, more details on the company’s previously announced partnership with Samsung for mobile devices, and even some 3D chiplet packaging technology with foundry partner TSMC.
The last item was one of the most surprising of the event. Though few people tend to dig into the details of chip architectures, AMD’s work with TSMC on 3D chiplet packaging technology (initially for L3 cache memory on Ryzen CPUs) highlights the rapid pace of advancements that AMD is making in this critical area.
According to the company, its technology is both denser and faster than the conceptually similar Foveros chip-stacking technology that Intel debuted with its Lakefield processor last year. We won’t know for sure, of course, until real chips with the technology are officially released—expected later this year—but it’s an impressive announcement from the company, especially because they expect to extend its usage to multiple other chips by the end of the year.
AMD also spent a great deal of time discussing its new Advantage design framework. AMD Advantage is intended to create notebooks that are optimized to leverage the full capabilities of both AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series mobile CPUs and its Radeon RX 6000M, and in the process, deliver premium gaming experiences.
The company is working with a number of OEM partners to create these systems. Speaking of PC partners, HP is leveraging AMD’s new Ryzen 5000 series commercial parts in its latest EliteDesk 805 G8 Series and ProDesk 405 G8 Series desktop PCs.
"It is clear that the rejuvenated PC market is driving both stronger competition and creating new opportunities for the industry’s most important suppliers."
Finally, the last bit of surprising news from AMD came in the form of expanded partnerships with other companies using its CPU and/or GPU technologies. Though it had been previously discussed, the link with Samsung to use AMD’s RDNA graphics technologies, including ray tracing, in the next Exynos mobile chipset likely caught many off guard. Unfortunately, most of the Samsung Exynos-powered smartphones are sold outside the US, but the deal still highlights the company’s growing influence outside the world of PCs and servers.
Similarly, the Tesla infotainment system partnership, which uses embedded Ryzen APUs and Radeon graphics technology in the latest Model S and Model X cars, also shows the broader impact the company is starting to have.
All told, it is clear that the rejuvenated PC market is driving both stronger competition and creating new opportunities for the industry’s most important suppliers. That’s a good sign for a healthy future for all.
Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech.