In the months following AMD’s highly anticipated Ryzen micro-architecture launch, enthusiasts and overclockers have adopted the new AMD Ryzen processors and propelled AMD back to 2013 activity levels. AMD’s processors stand at a 24.75% share, up from 9.05% in January 2017. Intel’s dropped from 90.84% to 75.17% in the past six months. However during the first half of 2017, Intel’s enthusiast eco-system has shown to be strong enough to withstand the recent surge from AMD as their enthusiast base grew 20% and 16% in 1Q17 and 2Q17 respectively.
The information is based on data provided by HWBOT, an enthusiast and overclocking-oriented organization which tracks benchmark world records and organizes overclocking activities. The data is based on self-reporting enthusiasts sharing their overclocking achievements. It excludes data from applications not compatible with AMD hardware. The data shows a significant uptake in AMD activity from January to June highlighted by a peak jump around 2Q17 time-frame when the AMD Ryzen 7 processors launched globally. It follows similar reports from Passmark AMD vs Intel Market Share charts and LinusTechTips’ 2Q17 Viewer’s Choice PC data.
Despite the positive news, AMD still has a lot of work to do if they want to pose a real threat to Intel’s dominance in the enthusiast space as since 2007, it has not been able to catch 30% of the market.
Enthusiast Base Growth Perspective: Intel Up 16% in 2Q17
To put the activity share figures in perspective, we considered the enthusiast user base growth performance of both companies. The enthusiast user base is measured by HWBOT as active overclockers using a specific processor brand during a quarter. Comparing the performance of each company on a year-over-year basis helps us better understand the impact of AMD Ryzen on the enthusiast market.
The difference between the two companies is significant. Apart from 2Q16, Intel’s enthusiast user base has been growing with double digits for the past two years. AMD on the other hand has seen quite the opposite with 5 quarters of user base decline between 3Q15 and 1Q17. The AMD Ryzen processors launched in March 2017 with supply constraints on the motherboard side, though the user base still grew almost 10%. In 2Q17 is where we see the true impact of Ryzen on AMD’s enthusiast user base growth with an impressive 70%. Intel launched their 7th Generation Intel Core Processors codenamed Kaby Lake in 1Q17 and saw its enthusiast user base grow by over 20%
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Eco-system, Partners, and End-Users
Over the past couple of years Intel has been able to build an eco-system around overclocking and performance enthusiasts which centers around their unlocked K and X CPUs, Z and X chipsets, and the Intel® XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) high-speed memory program. Since 2013 the eco-system includes an extension of the Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU) which features a benchmark which allows end-users to engage directly with the online overclocking community at HWBOT.org. There’s even an official Performance Tuning Protection Plan which allows overclockers to insure their processor against overclocking damage.
Intel has also adopted a particular launch strategy which is focused on enabling their closest ODM partners to show off record-breaking performance in the most common benchmark applications. This strategy helps emphasize the readiness of a new platform and its products to the market, an item that’s recently been under heavy internet scrutiny after the recent X299 platform difficulties.
AMD is not completely unfamiliar with this type of launch strategy as we’ve seen from the AMD Ryzen launch in March. They claimed record-breaking performance in three benchmarks (though the correct terminology would be Global First Place, according to HWBOT.org). It will be interesting to see how the upcoming Threadripper is portrayed in terms of benchmark performance.
In other aspects, the company is lacking. The AMD Memory Profile (AMP) program for high-speed memory was not carried over to the AMD Ryzen platform. In fact, we see motherboard ODM partners leverage Intel’s XMP validation program on AMD products. The Ryzen Master Utility exposes plenty of overclocking settings to the end-user – certainly more than enough for any novice – but lacks any integration with the AMD fan base. A benchmark feature was included in its predecessor tool AMD OverDrive, was not carried over to Ryzen.
In terms of communication, the AMD team has done very well compared to their Big Blue competitors. Adding positive spin to the noise surrounding AMD Ryzen’s poor memory overclocking capabilities, the AMD team expanded on the topic in Community Update blog posts in which they detailed improvements in this particular area. Even though it’s unlikely such minor patches yield direct sales return, it undoubtedly helps strengthening the relationship with their diehard fan base and sends the message that the company has a continued focus on building the highest quality products for their customers.
AMD Ryzen Motherboards and Processors
From an enthusiast perspective, AMD Ryzen has been a rollercoaster. The hype in the months preceding the Q1 launch had some hope the new architecture would push AMD to the lead of the X86 desktop space. The launch activity featuring pre-order sales, a shortage of motherboards and less than mature BIOSes made the first couple of weeks post-launch one which resembles chaos more than order. For example, the ROG Crosshair VI overclocking thread at popular enthusiast forum Overclock.net, curated by ASUS representatives, has garnished over 1.6 million views with 24 thousand posts. This is the most popular topic on the AMD motherboard discussion board, eclipsing a thread for the AMD Crosshair IV motherboard from 2010.
The efforts from ODM partners to reach out directly to their end-users has an undoubted positive impact on the appreciation of and the confidence in the Ryzen platform. The Crosshair VI Hero is the most popular AM4 motherboard for enthusiasts by a long shot enticing close to half of the HWBOT Ryzen overclocking community.
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For many enthusiasts AMD deserves enormous credit for opening the overclocking platform to all price segments. Every single AMD Ryzen processor SKU comes with an unlocked CPU ratio, unlocked memory ratio and is able to overclock the reference frequency. For Intel, the overclocking enthusiasm is restricted to the HEDT platforms and select SKUs on the mainstream platform. Restricting the OC feature to specific products forces the end-user to pay a premium for the highest performance levels. We discussed this topic in a previous opinion piece.
AMD’s strategy may win the hearts of the performance enthusiasts, but has certain ramifications in the market. For Intel’s mainstream line the Intel® Core™ i7-7700K and previous generation counter-parts dominate the charts with often up to 60 or 70% share in the enthusiast space. For AMD’s Ryzen 7 product series, the enthusiast choice is split three-ways between the entry Ryzen™ 7 1700 (USD $300), its higher clocked brother the Ryzen™ 7 1700X (USD $330) and the most expensive Ryzen™ 7 1800X (USD $420).
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AMD has without a doubt successfully re-established itself as a strong competitor in the x86 enthusiast desktop space. With performance-competitive products at an interesting price point it created a hype prior to the product launch. End-users are treated with care thanks to community focused updates from the AMD team as well as direct efforts from partners to address the platform issues that most certainly existed at launch. The result is a strong surge in enthusiast activity from AMD users which is showing in the data presented here.
However, there is still a long way ahead for AMD if they wish to fully enable the enthusiast market. The eco-system is far weaker than that of its competitor and industry partners need support to leverage the AMD Ryzen brand by establishing enthusiast oriented programs.
The upcoming AMD Ryzen Threadripper launch which features the first 16-core unlocked desktop processor, it will be interesting to see how AMD addresses the enthusiast space. This is the second desktop platform launch for AMD this year and hopefully they show lessons learned from the one in March. If they did, then there’s no reason for the Ryzen hype-train to lose any traction and for AMD to reach new heights in the enthusiast space.
About the Author
Pieter-Jan Plaisier has more than a decade of experience working in the PC hardware enthusiast market segment. Employed as General Director at HWBOT in Taipei, Taiwan, Pieter travels the world to meet with equally passionate hardware enthusiasts.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HWinsights or affiliates. Furthermore, the author holds no investments or stake holdings in the companies referred to in this article.