Intel vs. AMD at CES 2021: Who Won?

The rivalry between Intel and AMD continued this week at CES as the two companies vie for silicon supremacy. These two incumbents will not only be in competition, but this year they are both trying to fend off threats from Apple, Qualcomm and even Microsoft’s ARM-based silicon.

This means that both companies are putting their resources where they know competitors cannot reach, at least not for the foreseeable future. Intel and AMD have made big bets in games and high-performance computing, with both companies devoting a large portion of their presentations to mobile chipsets. Which company had the most impressive performance at CES? Let’s break it down through the biggest ads.

Ryzen 5000 mobile vs. 11th Gen Intel Tiger Lake

AMD’s presentation was mainly dedicated to bringing its core Zen 3 architecture to laptops, and the company showcased its new Ryzen 5000 mobile processors based on the 7nm process. AMD said we can expect to see 150 new laptop models this year from its partners – like Asus, Acer, HP and Lenovo – which will be powered by the Ryzen 5000, a 50% jump from the 100 models that were powered by the old one. Generation Ryzen 4000 mobile CPU. That alone is a huge win for AMD, especially when it comes to high-end gaming laptops with more powerful graphics.

In the company presentation, AMD focused on how Ryzen 5000 outperforms compared to 11th generation Intel mobile processors. The Ryzen 7 5800U, according to AMD’s own benchmarks, beat the Intel Core i7-1185G7 by 44%. The Ryzen chip was 7% faster for office applications and 18% faster for digital content creation, AMD CES Lisa Su said.

In addition to performance, AMD noted the energy efficiency of the processor – we’re looking at up to 17.5 hours of battery life for general use or up to 21 hours for movie playback. If AMD’s numbers are correct, it compares favorably to the M1-powered MacBook Air, which Apple claims can last up to 18 hours.

AMD also announced a new series of unlocked processors for performance gaming that can be overclocked as part of its Ryzen 5000 series. AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX and Ryzen 9 5980HX processors complement each other with an eight-core, 16-thread design. Compared to the 10th Generation Intel Core i9 mobile processor, the Ryzen 9 5900HX leads up to 35% in overall processor performance and outperforms Intel’s offering in single-thread performance and physical performance of game, according to Su.

Unlike AMD, which has restricted itself to the thin and light gaming and laptop market, Intel is launching a much larger network with its new processors. In addition to launching Tiger Lake late last year, Intel is now expanding its reach to enterprises with new 11th generation vPro processors for business laptops, as well as 11th generation vPro Evo laptops for business. C suite, new Pentium Silver and Celeron-built 10nm processors for Chromebooks and the education market, and the new 35-watt Tiger Lake-H series for gamers.

The problem? The 45-watt Intel Tiger Lake-H gaming chips were not shown. Sure, Intel gave us a preview and said they’ll be coming soon, but Intel will have missed the window on all of those new gaming laptops being updated.

These gaming chips will ultimately deliver 5GHz boost speeds across multiple cores, eight cores, and PCIe 4 with 20 lanes to the processor, giving it “more bandwidth than any other laptop outside of our own.” 10th generation core family, ”said Intel.

But again, the chips themselves aren’t there yet, and that has given AMD an open opportunity to step in with its Ryzen 5000 HX series. To fill the void, many major laptop manufacturers such as Lenovo and Asus have moved the majority of their laptop lines to AMD. This includes high-end gaming laptops like the Asus ROG Zephyrus laptops, which include graphics up to an RTX 3080.

RDNA 2 mobile vs. Intel Xe

Graphics were not an integral part of the presentation of the two companies. AMD briefly said that its RDNA 2 graphics architecture – which powers Radeon RX 6000 desktop graphics cards as well as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 – will arrive on mobile later this year. Laptops with RDNA 2 graphics will appear in the first half of 2021, Su said.

While Intel has gained ground over rivals with its own Intel Xe integrated graphics architecture in recent months, AMD’s discrete graphics solution will give it an edge over its rival’s emerging discrete GPU, which has been primarily targeted at mid-range laptops. Gamers and creatives will likely choose Radeon or GeForce RTX for their discrete GPU on the Intel Xe.

This will add to the number of Ryzen and Intel 11e-Gen powered laptops that ship with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3000 mobile GPUs. Nvidia said its graphics cards will be featured in more than 70 gaming laptops and Studio RTX for professionals that will appear from January 26.

Desktop updates

While AMD didn’t give many details about its Threadripper Pro processor during the company’s presentation, the high-end desktop part gives it a huge performance advantage over Intel. Quietly announced in a press release, the new Threadripper Pro is now available direct to consumers, with up to 64 cores, 8 memory channels and a whopping 128 PCIe Gen 4 lanes.

AMD has also quietly announced weaker TDP alternatives to its Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X desktop processors that will come on prebuilt systems. “Powered by the new Zen 3 core architecture and with a lower TDP of 65W, the Ryzen 9 5900 desktop processor and the AMD Ryzen 7 5800 will provide better performance to more users,” the company said in a statement. media advisory.

On the desktop side, Intel quietly unveiled a new S-class desktop processor, named Rocket Lake 11th generation. These chips are still built on the old 14nm node, but Intel has backported 10nm functionality to keep it competitive. Rocket Lake will support AI capabilities, 20 lanes of PCIe 4, and Intel Xe graphics. Unfortunately, the trade-off is that they’ll now be limited to just eight cores, putting them at a disadvantage in multithreaded performance compared to AMD.

Pile up against Apple and ARM

Intel and AMD’s strategy diverges dramatically when it comes to dealing with future threats. With the arrival of Apple in the PC processor sector with its M1 silicon for Mac, AMD and Intel are addressing new competitors in different ways.

At CES, Intel previewed its Alder Lake processor, which will be the company’s 12th generation silicon for laptops and desktops. Intel executives noted that unlike previous processors, Alder Lake will take a heterogeneous core approach, combining high-performance and high-performance cores in the same silicon.

If this sounds familiar to you, this is what cell phones have been doing for some time now with the big.LITTLE approach. And that’s also what Apple is doing with its processors for iPhone, iPad and now Mac.

Intel’s move has prompted a number of tech sites to postulate that it is in fact emulating Apple in order to compete with the Mac maker. For its part, Intel has never mentioned Apple or silicon M1 in its presentation at CES 2021; the company only used benchmarks to show how its newly announced mobile processors outperform those of rival AMD.

Radeon graphics card

On the other hand, AMD takes a more holistic approach to Apple’s new competition. Although Mac products equipped with M1 rely on Apple’s proprietary integrated graphics architecture – a break from the use of AMD’s Radeon technology on Macs with discrete graphics – Lisa Su, CEO of AMD , still seemed optimistic about continuing a working relationship with the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant. .

“M1 is more about how much processing and innovation there is in the market,” Su said at a press briefing after her company’s CES opening address, which she titled . “This is an opportunity to innovate more – both in hardware and software – and it goes beyond [instruction set architecture]. “

She later added that there were still opportunities to work with Apple.

“From our perspective, there is still innovation in the PC space,” she continued. “We expect to see more specialization over the next few years, and this allows for more differentiation. But Apple continues to work with us as a graphics partner. And we work with them.

By switching to the ARM-based M1 processor, Apple had actually re-established its working relationship with rival AMD Nvidia – it was Nvidia that last year bought the ARM business from Softbank.

And while AMD is best known for its discrete Radeon GPUs in the discrete graphics space, the company seems more open to licensing intellectual property. Prior to CES, there were rumors that Samsung might launch new high-end processors based on Exynos ARM for certain models of its Galaxy smartphone company which uses AMD’s integrated graphics architecture.

Potentially, AMD could also look to Apple to license its Radeon architecture as part of a future M-series silicon, further strengthening the two companies’ GPU partnership.

AMD takes more momentum

Although traditionally considered the underdog of silicon, AMD’s recent architectural advancements in processing and graphics technology make it an attractive choice among gamers and PC enthusiasts. But more than that, it’s increasingly becoming a must-have option on basic laptops for work and gaming.

Intel’s response this year is a move to an Alder Lake 10nm processor that will launch later this year with an improved SuperFin process that combines faster transistors and improved capacitors, the company said. It made good sense for the company to focus on the more exciting developments to come, but it certainly gave AMD an opportunity to take hold and further capture the laptop market.

While AMD’s announcements have been much less explosive than they were last year, they position the company well to move into the rest of 2021 with even more momentum. With Intel announcing a change in leadership and considering factory outsourcing, the ball is in Intel’s court. He’s got to make the rest of his 10nm transition a smash hit, or he’s in trouble.

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