Intel in 2017: still the leader, but for how long?

AMD vs Intel got hotter than ever in 2017

2017: when the processor wars got interesting

Many people would argue that Intel’s dominance of the desktop and laptop processor market brought with it a lack of ambition and innovation. AMD, Intel’s closest rival, was lagging so far behind in market share, that many people accused Intel of resting on its laurels. Why take risks when you’re doing so well?

This meant a good few years where new processors (from either camp) saw rather conservative improvements over the ones that came before. So, people with older processors didn’t feel like they needed to upgrade. People were getting board. Restless.

Then, in March AMD upped the ante by releasing its Ryzen 7 series of processors, which attracted critical acclaim by bringing high core counts (the flagship AMD Ryzen 7 1800X features 8-cores and 16-threads, as well as a 3.6GHz base speed and top speeds of up to 4GHz) at very affordable prices.

The release of Ryzen 7, along with the subsequent releases of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 CPUs, thrust AMD back into the limelight. Customers responded to AMD’s new offerings, while Intel, with its high prices and mainstream processors that still maxed out at four cores, was beginning to look out-dated and out of touch.

AMD continued to gain positive headlines and reviews when it launched its enthusiast-class Threadripper processors that brought incredibly high core-counts and captured the imaginations of gamers who wanted the very best hardware.

AMD had brought the processor war back to Intel, so how would the dominant company respond?

Intel’s processors remained as pricey as ever in 2017

Meanwhile, AMD’s Threadripper 1950X costs $999 (£999, AU$1,440), while going pretty much toe-to-toe with the i9-7960X in terms of performance. In terms of price versus performance, AMD continued to hold the upper hand in 2017.

AMD gets even more competitive in the price department with the Ryzen 3, 5 and 7 processors, and coupled with the positive critical reception of those CPUs, pressure began to mount on Intel.

An Intel chip inside a pre-Z97 motherboard

A changing landscape

So, at the end of 2017, where does this leave Intel? Due to some excellent product releases, and a new range of Core X processors that takes consumer desktop CPUs to even greater heights, Intel remains the market leader.

However, even with a still impressive lead, the landscape has changed and, in 2017, AMD was able to chip away at Intel’s dominance. As we reported in September, German retailer, released its CPU sales data (which were then picked up on Reddit) for the period between March and August 2017, which showed that in March AMD CPUs accounted for just 27.6% of the retailer’s CPU sales, compared to 72.4% for Intel. 

However, in April after the Ryzen 7 1800X, 1700X and 1700 had launched, and which saw the introduction of the mid-range Ryzen 5 chips, AMD’s share rose to 36.5% while Intel’s dropped to 63.5%.

Most worrying of all for Intel was that, in August 2017, AMD actually overtook Intel – 56.1% to 43.9%. Although this was only sales results from one (admittedly very large) retailer, there was similar evidence from various retailers that AMD was clawing back market share.

This year also saw Qualcomm, the processor manufacturer that’s usually associated with smartphone chips, make more strident moves into the laptop processor market, putting even more pressure on Intel’s position.

At Computex 2017, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced that a number of laptops from Asus, HP and Lenovo will run Windows 10 on the Snapdragon 835 platform, and the first of these ‘always connected’ PCs will feature seriously impressive 20-hour battery life.

With Qualcomm and Microsoft working together, and a reinvigorated AMD, Intel found that, despite its successes this year, 2017 marks the end of its near dominance of the CPU market.