If you look ahead at the roadmap to 2024, there are some impressive parts coming from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm all targeting your PCs that will dramatically change how these machines operate.
This period is when hardware tries to catch up to the generative AI trend, and our PCs, tablets and smartphones get smarter. But the real battle will be over PC CPUs that will get faster GPU and NPU capability — or VPU if we’re talking about Intel — and should get a huge bump in performance and battery life as a result.
Given that all of these products will be relatively new, their real benefits may not appear until 2025 as software evolves to take advantage of the latest hardware features. Let me lay out the battlefield for you and show that this battle will also open the door for new competitors like Nvidia who will step in to shift the market.
We’ll end with our Product of the Week, a new workstation from HP that’s one of the quietest I’ve ever tested.
Intel has a market to lose
Intel is the established vendor when it comes to mobile parts, so this battle is on Intel’s traditional battlefield.
The product to watch is named Lunar Lake, arguably the most significant advancement Intel has ever made for the PC platform. On paper, this product should be more than good enough if it weren’t for the fact that Intel has reduced both layoffs and wage adjustments where employees earn less. These two events are generally very damaging to morale and productivity and may call into question the timely release of this product in 2024.
Furthermore, the revolutionary nature of this product will require a much stronger campaign than Intel has executed recently. It continues to struggle to retain a chief marketing officer at a time when it will need a Dennis Carter-level exec. Intel hasn’t adequately supported CMOs since the beginning of this century, which adds to concerns about the company’s ability to perfectly execute this launch.
Fortunately for Intel, it’s a vendor entrenched in mobile parts. However, AMD has been making inroads, so failure to execute here could give AMD and Qualcomm a huge boost in their efforts to dethrone Intel.
Lately, AMD has been firing on all cylinders. When it says it’s going to do something, it does.
AMD expects to have a product similar to Intel’s Lunar Lake to market in 2024 and has indicated it will increasingly pivot to generative AI tools to make it happen.
The use of AI in this context is doubly important and may indicate some risk as AI remains a driving force, and vendors actively using the technology should have better insight on how to optimize hardware for it . Additionally, we expect AI to be a significant sales driver for this entire PC hardware segment.
Again, though, as with Intel, exposure for AMD is marketing. Never a marketing powerhouse, AMD is like most engineering-driven companies in that it downplays marketing, which means it can’t get the credit for its advancements it otherwise would.
With the right marketing campaign and an Intel miss (as mentioned above, it’s the last possibility), AMD could take over a dominant laptop share. But this potential cannot be fulfilled without the interest or ability to fund and run such a campaign. Should Intel miss its deadline, AMD is likely to have the most to gain, given that it will already be on the market with a similar option.
Qualcomm is in a unique position because of its dominance in the smartphone space. It is developing a brand new PC processor design co-developed with Nuvia, which Qualcomm acquired in 2021 for $1.4 billion. Interest in integrating smartphones with PCs is growing, and no one should be able to do this better than a vendor working aggressively to improve both platforms.
However, to make this work, Qualcomm’s marketing requirements are much higher than those of Intel or AMD due to its negligible presence in the PC market. Qualcomm recently lost one of its early design wins, the HP Folio, to Intel, even though the resulting product only offered a third the battery life of earlier Snapdragon-based alternatives.
Qualcomm’s high marketing requirement is because it is different from most. Intel and AMD are both x86-based, while Qualcomm is distinctly ARM-based. ARM is not happy with Qualcomm or its effort as it feels that Qualcomm should pay more for PC platform license. The litigation between ARM and Qualcomm has the potential to significantly damage the initiative, and Qualcomm is already in the weakest position of the three vendors mentioned so far.
This brings us…
Nvidia’s plan to buy ARM fell through, leaving the company high and dry on the CPU side but continuing to execute well with its GPU products. Nvidia also licenses from ARM, but, unlike Qualcomm, because of its much smaller commitment to that company, it may have switched to RISC-V, an equivalent product to ARM that survived the failed acquisition due to ARM’s financial troubles. appears to be lacking.
Nvidia is a wild card here, but has a greater AI presence than all three vendors combined, so whatever they do next will have a significant impact on the market. Its latest RTX 4060 card is an impressive display of the level of performance a vendor can bring to market for little money.
With the right combination of CPU, GPU and NPU (Neural Processing Unit), Nvidia can enter and steal this market from other players. We don’t know what Nvidia will replace ARM as it gets closer to becoming a solution vendor.
2025 will be the year of the massive laptop chip wars with Intel but weak, AMD doing well but underwhelming marketing, and Qualcomm not yet on the market with its next-gen PC parts and its Appearing to reduce marketing.
If any of these vendors can go ahead and meet their timeline objectives and find a way to finance the demand generation marketing for the new parts, they can adapt or take over this market.
While I listed Nvidia as a wildcard, RISC-V is also a wildcard and could be used by Qualcomm, Nvidia, or some up-and-coming vendor to pivot the market to a more forward-looking AI-focused alternative to x86. can be done.
The good news for all of us is that in 2024, at least by the end of it, we should see laptops with 20+ hours of battery life without sacrificing performance. I hope we also see some new designs that better embrace sustainability and reduce electronic waste.
HP Z8 Fury G5 Tower Workstation
Workstations are an interesting product category because it’s usually the engineers using it that specify their configuration, rather than the IT department. These tools are directly linked to the productivity of the engineer, graphics artist, researcher, architect, or other creative professional.
Workstations come with industrial processors, usually from AMD, or in this case, Intel Xeon, and a professional GPU from Nvidia or AMD. This HP Z8 Fury G5 has an Nvidia T400 card. They are also equipped with error correcting code (ECC) memory, which is rarely used in mainstream PCs, to reduce errors in the coding done on them.
Priced starting at $5,320, the HP Z8 Fury G5 is a fine mid-range workstation with solid performance and some of the quietest usage experiences I’ve ever heard. This thing redefines cool. My main PC is a water-cooled unit, and even it makes more noise than this HP box.
The HP Z8 Fury G5 Tower Workstation packs quiet performance into a lightweight design. (Image credit: HP)
Another differentiator for this HP workstation is that it uses Wolf Security for its security, which is arguably the best of the OEM-based security programs.
Finally, this workstation is surprisingly light, 10 or 20 pounds lighter than my gaming rig, which is unusual for workstations as they’ve traditionally been a handful. But this one was surprisingly lightweight, which makes it very useful for some remote implementations, especially when office space is fluid and frequent PC movement is required.
The HP Z8 Fury G5 Workstation is an impressive product—from its low error rate performance to its noiseless fan and relatively light weight—making it ideal for my product of the week.