The world’s fastest x86 CPU won’t be coming to your next laptop - not yet, anyway

Threadripper Pro
(Image credit: AMD)

AMD has had, by any metrics, quite a good period of late, with the tech company, once referred to as Chipzilla, surpass its archrival Intel in terms of market capitalization. 

At the time of writing, AMD is worth about a third more than its nemesis at just over $133 billion, and that’s despite a lukewarm, post-COVID hangover that saw other many hardware-first tech companies suffer from a perfect storm.

The cost of living crisis, disruption in global supply chains, rising tensions between China and the US and of course, the war between Russia and Ukraine means that fewer people are buying laptops and desktops and hyperscalers are increasingly lengthening the average lifecycle of their server parks. All this has a knock off effect on spending and revenue for AMD and Intel.

With that backdrop in mind, I spoke to Matthew Unangst, senior director for the company's commercial client PC and workstation business unit to find out more about AMD’s plans for 2023 and beyond. 

(Note that the interview was carried out at the end of January 2023 and things may have changed in the meantime.)

1. Matt, let’s start by finding out what's your outlook for 2023 in terms of opportunities and headwinds?

Over the next several years we see one of our largest growth opportunities in AI, which is in the early stage of transforming virtually every industry, service and product. We expect AI adoption will accelerate significantly over the coming year and are incredibly excited about leveraging our broad portfolio of CPUs, GPUs, and adaptive accelerators, in combination with our software expertise, to deliver differentiated solution that can address the full spectrum of AI needs in training and inference across cloud, edge, and client. Our new Ryzen 7040 mobile processors represent the first integration of our AI technology into processors, and we are working with the entire ecosystem to enable and deliver new, exciting experiences! 

2. Post-COVID, has AMD seen a resurgence of the business desktop PC market, or are business laptops the way to go in a hybrid world?

We have more than 250 ultrathin, gaming and commercial notebook design wins spanning our full family of Ryzen 7000 series processors on-track to launch this year, an increase of 25 percent year-over-year, with the first notebooks planned to go on-sale in February (ed: they’re already here). Specific to desktops, while we did see a dip in the overall desktop business during COVID, there continues to be strong demand for business desktops, and we expect that to continue into the future. As far as how the hybrid world shapes our computing needs, we certainly see that business laptops are the ideal solution for many.  But we expect desktops to continue to be a valuable tool, depending on the specific use case or preference of the user.

3. Let's talk about Threadripper, shall we? Your competitor lumps its workstation SKU with its server CPU family. Why did AMD choose to do the opposite (i.e. shouldn’t it be called EPYC Threadripper).

The Ryzen Threadripper PRO processors are optimized for professional workstation workloads, while AMD EPYC processors are optimized for server workloads. Whilst they share similar features, there are differences in things like clock speeds, TDP, and socket types.  Ultimately, our Threadripper PRO processor products deliver a leading set of capabilities, and we work closely with our customers to deliver the right solutions for their needs, across our entire Ryzen, Ryzen Threadripper, and EPYC processor portfolio.

4. Many analysts have claimed that 2023 will be the worst year for global PC shipments for a decade. What trends impacting the commercial PC (desktop/laptop) and workstation market can you foresee from your vantage point?

As we have addressed in our earnings calls, the industry is working through an inventory correction within the PC industry.  But as we look forward, the new demands for AI integration into applications will drive new demand for PC products, and we expect a strong continued demand in areas around High Performance Computing, and continued investments in products that improve the productivity of companies' workforces.  Our Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper PRO processor products are well positioned to take advantage of those trends.

5. Why is it taking so long for Threadripper to come to the world of mobile workstations? I know it is about TDP but surely it would make sense to have a rival to Intel’s Xeon?

We launched our latest generation Ryzen 7000 series notebook processors earlier in January, which includes our 16-core, 32-threads Ryzen 9 7945HX mobile processor (ed: Remember that this processor supports ECC RAM, albeit only expensive DDR5 models). This processor offers up to 22% faster single-threaded performance and up to an incredible 123% faster multithreaded performance over the Ryzen 6900HX CPU to deliver a huge leap in what’s possible for mobile creators. For now, the Ryzen Threadripper PRO processor is only offered in Professional Pedestal workstations (ed: So no underclocked version of the Threadripper PRO 5995WX for now, unless you want a transportable laptop).

6. There's exactly two Threadripper Pro products available from the top three workstation vendors globally. HP has yet to release one despite a clear performance advantage. What is AMD doing to convince its biggest partners to launch more TRP products beyond the lone halo product.

AMD has always been watching the ever-evolving desktop & workstation processor market and will continue to do so. We expect to have more partners introduce AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 5000WX processor-based platforms.

7. Peering into your crystal ball, how do you see tech in (a) commercial/enterprise computing (b) workstation evolve (e.g. heterogeneity, unified memory, ubiquitous GPU etc)

As we look at the market, we expect AI to become pervasive, and increasingly become a part of the everyday computing experience, whether in the cloud, at the edge, or on the endpoint device.  We believe we are just at the beginning of delivering the experiences and enabling increases in productivity with this technology, and will continue to evolve and expand our capabilities in AI.  This is true in both the Commercial PC space, as well as workstation, and even Server.  While the specific use cases and workloads will differ depending on the specific product, the utilization of AI acceleration will be seen across the board.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.