Our mission to improve business is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.
Intel, Advanced micro-systems, Nvidia, and Qualcomm debuted with its latest chips at the CES 2021 tech show this week. As is the case in most years, the new chips are faster, more fuel-efficient versions of existing technology, helping laptop manufacturers create smaller, thinner devices that last for up to longer battery. Some of the new chips, which have been in development for years, will be used in computers that go on sale in the coming months, while others will have a longer lead time.
Here’s what the chipmakers announced at CES:
AMD CEO Lisa Su was a keynote speaker at CES for the second year in a row, matching the company’s leadership position in the area of computer processors. Su was joined for parts of her speech by CEOs of major PC makers HP and Lenovo as well as senior executives from Microsoft and Lucasfilms.
After the PC industry recorded its highest sales in six years last year, thanks to legions of homeworkers and students, Su predicted continued strong sales in 2021. “We expect that demand (for PCs) will be even higher in 2021, ”she said.
For new products, Su first launched a line of laptop processor chips that will be based on the third generation of AMD’s Zen design, dubbed the Zen3. The new Ryzen 5000 series operates at speeds of up to 4.8 GHz, faster than last year’s maximum speed of 4.2 GHz. The chips are up to 16% faster than AMD’s previous laptop offerings, according to the company. AMD said 150 new laptops will hit the market in 2021 with the new chips, including models arriving in February from Asus, HP and Lenovo.
For desktops, AMD has introduced new high-end chip versions with the Zen3 design aimed at consumers, including the AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 3995WX, which operates at speeds up to 4.2 GHz. AMD has not disclosed how much the chip will cost.
Su also showed the first live demonstration of the company’s next chip for cloud servers and data centers, named Milan. A system powered by the new chip outperformed an Intel-equipped system by 68% in creating complex weather forecasts. But AMD has yet to say when the Milan chips will go on sale.
Intel struggled in 2020 because it suffered setback in chip making with the latest technology for a second consecutive year. But unlike in 2020, the issues didn’t stop Intel from unveiling new processors at CES 2021.
CEO Bob Swan did not lead Intel’s presentation because he did it in 2020. Instead, Executive Vice President Greg Bryant acted as emcee on Monday.
Among the highlights, Intel extended the 11th generation of its “Core” processor chip architecture from last year’s chips for thin notebooks by adding new chips for laptops and desktops of more powerful (and larger) game.
The new S-series Core chips for desktop computers are 14% faster than Intel’s best gaming chips, the company said.
The company’s new H-series versions for powerful laptops, codenamed “Tiger Lake,” can be paired with Nvidia’s mobile graphics chips. The chips are also compatible with the latest Wi-Fi standard known as Wi-Fi 6E which uses new air wave bands made available by federal regulators. Intel showed a laptop with one of its new chips slightly outperforming AMD’s latest laptop gaming chip while running Deep Silver Metro Exodus Game.
In a presentation that included an appearance by Chance the Rapper, Intel also unveiled chips for low-cost Chromebooks and other school devices. The segment has exploded under COVID, with children forced to study from laptops at home. Intel said PC sales to schools jumped 37% last year. The company said the latest version of its low-cost Pentium Silver and Celeron processors deliver clearer video for Zoom conferences and include recent upgrades to Wi-Fi known as Wi-Fi6 for faster connectivity.
Finally, Intel showed a “preview” of its next-generation processor, called Alder Lake. Designed more like processors Apple and Qualcomm, based on ARM technology, the Alder Lake chip will combine high-performance processing cores with low-power cores that save power. It will be available in the second half of 2021, Intel said.
Processors are expected to be the first to enter the market supervised by chip design star Jim Keller, who worked for the company for two years before leaving in June.
Leading smartphone mobile chip maker has already revealed its latest processor designs these last weeks.
But at CES, the company still had one new product to announce: an updated under-glass fingerprint sensor that can unlock a phone when the user simply taps a finger on the glass screen. The second-generation 3D sonic sensor is 50% faster to unlock than original Qualcomm technology from 2019, the company said. It’s expected to be available on phones soon, although Qualcomm hasn’t given specific details on upcoming devices.
Last year, Nvidia unveiled high and mid-priced desktop graphics cards for gamers using its new Ampere design. At CES 2021, the chipmaker focused on low-cost cards and laptop chips.
But first, senior vice president Jeff Fisher kind of had an apology for the widespread shortages of new cards. “Ampere was our fastest selling architecture ever, selling almost twice as much as our previous generation,” he said. “We know these products have been hard to find. I want to thank you for your patience as we continue to work hard to catch up. “
On the desktop, Nvidia’s latest lineup is priced at $ 400 to $ 1,500. So the company unveiled a new desktop card, called the RTX 3060, costing $ 330. For performance in games featuring bright lights and reflections, a computer operation known as ray tracing, the new cards will be 10 times faster than the cheapest cards from Nvidia’s previous generation. Nvidia’s old Amp-powered cards sold out quickly. The RTX 3060 will go on sale in late February, the company says.
The company is also bringing its Ampere design to laptop graphics chips with its new RTX 30 series. Nvidia said the new chips are twice as efficient as its previous generation of mobile chips and still deliver improved performance. The chips will be present in more than 70 laptop models that will begin to hit the market at the end of this month.
More to read absolutely technological coverage of Fortune:
- Who is Cristiano Amon, The new CEO of Qualcomm?
- Comment: The Facebook antitrust action is a major assault on entrepreneurs
- Vaccinating the world against COVID is getting off to a slow start. These companies think AI and blockchain could help
- Coup attempt on Capitol Hill presents key cyberattack opportunity, warn experts
- 5G will improve this year, promises the executive of Verizon