Looking back at 2017 and the PC industry
2017 PC hardware roundup
2017 has been a big year for the personal computer, with AMD’s Ryzen and Intel’s 7th and 8th generation CPUs and the launch of Vega and the 1070 Ti. So before we start to speculate about 2018 let’s look back at what this year has given us.
Let’s start with Intel’s 7th generation CPUs that were a clear overclocked re-batch of the previous 6th generation CPUs, adding a 5 to 10% performance boost at the cost of thermal performance. The gaming potential of these chips was better but it wasn’t worth the upgrade if you had any recent Intel CPU (i5-2500k and up) as these were still good gaming chips that, with the right GPU, could deliver a smooth 60fps in almost any game. I didn’t see much in this launch except a quick cash grab from the Intel fanboys.
Not much later AMD Ryzen was released. AMD’s new Zen architecture shook the world when the R7 line-up was revealed with the first 8 core CPU on a consumer platform in 5 years (bulldozer was the last time this happened). Productivity performance was through the roof with similarly priced Intel parts only getting half their score and the 7th generation was completely wiped out when it came to video rendering, encoding (live streaming) and multi-tasking. But not all was good and upon release the platform still suffered from a couple of bugs ranging from failing overclocks to incompatibility with certain RAM kits. Most of those problem were however resolved relatively fast with the platform being stable when the R5 line-up rolled out.
The X299 chipset was not ready when it launched. It was the result of Intel’s panic when presented with Threadripper. The VRMs overheated, the CPUs were even better stoves than the 7700k and for some reason the platform meant for high end enthusiasts needed 2 quad core CPUs in the form of a ported 7600k and 7700k. The press wasn’t kind to it and neither was I when I wrote about it previously.
But from then improvements were made. They didn’t fix all of its flaws, like the heat output that, for overclocking, needed a complete custom water loop. However the performance is there and it is hard to argue with when looking at the 16 and 18 core models.
That brings us on to the most surprising launch of the year: AMD Threadripper. When it launched, Threadripper brought unseen performance to the $1000 price point. With its 16 core 1950x it was able to match up to the same priced Core i9 7900x. The best thing about Threadripper for people that spend that amount of money was the inclusion of 64 PCI-E lanes, easily being able to use up to 4 Quadro GPUs to their full potential. They are unquestionable workhorses in the CPU space.
And so August came around and it gave us the final part of the Ryzen line-up, the R3 series of CPUs. The two quad core parts 1200 and 1300x were to be placed in direct competition with Intel’s i3 models and they did so beautifully, beating their counterparts in almost everything with even the 1200 being overclockable. These two chips finally brought death to the dual core and I hope to see these parts back with the Ryzen+ launch at the beginning of 2018.
This brings us to the last launch of the year, Intel’s Coffee Lake 8th generation CPUs. Continuing with Intel’s tradition of more heat these chips do get hot but not as hot as I expected. As usual the i7 8700k smashed everything when it came to gaming with its high core clock and proven, but sadly again reused, architecture. It finally broke away from the quad core mold the i7 had fallen into with Intel finally giving out 6 cores to the mainstream. But it shouldn’t have launched until 2018 as supply is non-existent and the cheaper b and h series motherboards aren’t available yet. The launch was too soon as Intel desperately wanted to have a CPU crown off 2017, and we saw prices spike to $800 per chip.
Now for the GPU side of 2017. This year brought us RX 500, Vega and the GTX 1070 Ti.
The RX 500 launch was a bit disappointing with it only being a refresh of the previous 400 series. It did however sell like crazy as cryptocurrency miners bought them out by the dozen. This created a world wide shortage of these cheap AMD cards which caused many to blame the miners, but it is the consumer that was to blame as they had gotten used to these cheap cards being there.
I wouldn’t call the Vega a disappointment, but it didn’t manage to dethrone the GTX 1080 Ti as some had hoped. It did however stomp over NVIDIA in productivity with its HBM2 VRAM and the massive throughput it brings to the table. Deep learning and rendering 3D scenes were no problem for this card, it just isn’t a gaming card.
Now to the last and most useless launch of 2017: the GTX 1070 Ti. A card that confused me even more than the X299 launch, as the card is so close the the GTX 1080 that the average consumer would be better off saving the 50 bucks needed and getting a way better GPU.
This was 2017 as I saw it, a lot has happened and it was overall the best year for PC in the last 6 as competition is finally back in the CPU market and I wish for it to stay that way for a long time to come. As for GPUs it was a bit disappointing to be honest, but 2018 still has to come.