PC Hardware Year In Review: 2017 Edition

Usman Pirzada

2017 has officially wound to a close, and we thought this was a good time to do a community special: PC Hardware Year In Review, for 2017. This year has been absolutely phenomenal for the PC Hardware industry and will probably go down as one of the most iconic years for this side of the wider technology industry. This is by no means, an exhaustive list, but as the festivities go on around the world, ushering in the new year, we thought we would go through some of our favorite events for this year that include the techno trinity.

AMD made an incredible comeback to the x86 segment with Zen and pushed the boundaries of HEDT computing further than ever before

Amidst status quo shattering applause, AMD’s Ryzen processors entered the arena this year. The much cheaper Ryzen processors went toe to toe with Intel’s (then) $1000 chip which meant that the premium they were charging for as a monopoly tax was bound to be removed. There were initial concerns that AMD would not be able to handle supply but these were quickly brushed aside as AMD not only went on to release Ryzen but the HEDT Threadripper platform.

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For consumers which were used to 4 cores on the mainstream desktop segment, the option had been expanded to 8 with Ryzen, and for consumers on the high end desktop side of things, the core count had been expanded by a full 12 cores. And the absolutely ridiculous thing was that these were still cheaper than the ones in the market at the time. Look hard boys and girls, this is what disruption looks like.

AMD not only managed to make a comeback in the x86 segment, which would have just been as successful had they rolled out a sandy bridge equivalent 4-core competitor but they absolutely exceeded any expectations the public might have had. And supply issues? Apart from the expected early launch hiccups, it has been a mostly seamless ride. Unless I am very much mistaken, AMD has successfully expanded the TAM of the PC market by red shifting the consumer segments.

Intel was energized to release the Coffee Lake and HEDT Skylake series and expanded into the GPU side of things

Intel might have been waiting around for AMD to catch up, but when it did, it responded with the world's most powerful processor right now: the 7980XE. While AMD tops out at 16 cores, Intel managed to clock in at a full 18 cores. While this is almost certainly what any game can utilize, this shows how high up the market spectrum  has come since 2007. Ryzen's massive performance per dollar figures also prompted Intel to reply in kind, with the Coffee Lake S lineup, whose base model is one of the most critically acclaimed processors for gaming right now.

But all of that pales in comparison, to the excitement surrounding RTG's very own Raja Koduri jumping ship to Intel and the company announcing that it will be working on GPUs soon after. While it is unlikely that they will be rolling out a graphics processor any time soon, it does mean that the company has diversified into the one segment it had been lacking severely before: GPGPU. It remains to be seen what Raja's role at Intel is eventually going to be but we are sure its going to be exciting.

NVIDIA unleashed high end Pascal as well as Volta (TITAN V), firmly establishing itself as the undisputed graphics king for the year

NVIDIA has been very reliably delivering performance increases and this year was no different. With the introduction of the high end GTX 1080 Ti, the company rolled out its highest end consumer card for the Pascal architecture as well as the 1070 Ti to tackle the Vega 56 near the end. The 1080 Ti is what can be considered the first card capable of 4K Gaming (and even then, just barely) since it can handle roughly 60 fps on most titles maxed out at 4k res.

The company releases its Star Wars collectors edition for the older variant of the TITAN and the TITAN V, which is the first consumer card with Volta architecture. It costs an arm and a leg, but if insane performance is what you are after then this is what you want. Unfortunately however, its gaming performance hasn't been completely tuned yet since its not a card that was designed with gamers in mind and will probably be some time before it happens.

AMD took the mining throne with Vega 64 and 56 graphics cards leading to miners picking them up and leaving little for gamers

Meanwhile, AMD released the anticipated Vega 64 and 56 graphics card and quickly ran into an unforeseen problem: the GPUs were exceptional at mining and quickly started falling prey to miners who would pick them up in the hundreds. To give you an idea, a single $800 Vega 64 can give you roughly 50% more mining performance than a TITAN V - that is a $3000 graphics card. With ROI times just as insane at under 4 months, it is no wonder that the card quickly got gobbled up by Cryptonight centric miners, leaving very little for the gamers.

With initial supply already tight in the weeks after launch, this became a massive issue as units dried up leading to hugely inflated prices. In fact, we only saw the cards hit MSRP a few times this year and even right now they are floating a few 100 bucks over the official MSRP. This might not seem like such a happy event, but it was a significant event for the PC Hardware industry and one which will probably dictate supply economics if mining continues to remain a trend. NVIDIA has sought to counter this by introducing mining only GPUs but we have yet to see how AMD handles this unique problem.

What the future holds in 2018

2018 is going to be pretty exciting for the PC Hardware segment with several big products on the way from our favorite trio, but as far as status quo shattering precedent goes, 2017 will be a very tough year to beat. Apart from the usual product launches and roadmap that are bound to happen, we are expecting a few surprises this year as well. We will be doing a write up on what to expect in 2018 soon so stay tuned!

What are some of your favorite things for the year 2017 in the PC & Hardware segment?

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