Think of how old your desktop PC is and ask if it is in need of an upgrade. If your computer uses an Intel chip from 2010 and you have an i5-2500K, then you need not upgrade. Intel’s Kaby Lake chip release looks impressive on paper but given the performance, price, and current need, consumers may get away with skipping this upgrade. Businesses get more choice: 40 CPU types, to be exact.

Kaby Lake shows very little improvement over the Sky Lake series. The chip, manufactured on the 14nm process, gives little improvements. Performance is up 12 per cent over the last generation. Intel hardly made an attempt in disguising the minimal benefits by stating the chip is 50 per cent faster than Intel chips of 2010. Consumers know by now that the CPU only matters for specific tasks. Computational tasks using excel or math modeling programs, video editing, and photo editing benefit from a faster CPU. The more cores a chip has, the better.

Intel’s refresh may spur IT departments to upgrade work PCs to new format desktops. Just as Microsoft encouraged the adaption of portable tablet computers that dock when needed, Kaby Lake’s chips support 2-in-1 computers.

AMD catching up

AMD is likely known as being several steps behind Intel when it comes to low power consumption, high performance, and low heat output. This reputation may end, when AMD reveals RyZen and launches it this quarter. The first phase of the release will target the PC desktop market. This is followed by a release to the notebook (laptop) market, then the server market by the middle of this year. In its press release, AMD said that Ryzen’s image and rendering benchmark tests beat Intel’s i7 6900K processor. At the time of writing, the i7-6900K retails for CAD $1,430.00

If AMD’s RyZen retails for substantially less, Intel is in big trouble. Kaby Lake and Sky Lake will not only get a price cut, but consumers may choose AMD’s chip instead. Historically, AMD did not price its APU competitively enough nor did it make the chip widely available. This allowed Intel to charge whatever it wanted to its customer.

Everybody wins

Assuming competitive pricing from AMD’s RyZen, a price war between AMD and Intel is about to erupt. Intel’s strategic response will need a price cut across the board for Sky Lake. Since Sky Lake performs comparably to Kaby Lake, demand for the former will go up. This will hurt demand for Kaby Lake, but Intel will stop manufacturing Sky Lake. AMD, given its small size, may not produce RyZen in big enough volumes. Higher demand will encourage AMD to boost output.

In the graphics space, AMD is set to release Vega, a high-end GPU built on the Polaris architecture. While the card will compete with Nvidia’s high-end GTX cards. When that happens, power users may decide to pair the GPU with RyZen, putting more pressure on Intel.

2017 a good year for CPU market

Heated competition between AMD and Intel will benefit consumers and businesses alike. It will lead to lower chip prices. Just remember one thing: upgrade to Windows 10 and replace the mechanical hard disk with an SSD (solid state drive). Those updates alone will matter more than a CPU upgrade.



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