Cheap laptops are expected to cut into mobile GPU sales

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2014 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, nvidia, hp, dell, asus, acer, toshibe, mobile gpu

The growing market of low cost $200 to $400 10" to 15" laptops is expected to cut into the sales of AMD and NVIDIA's mobile GPUs as they are forced to focus more on higher end models.  That is a much smaller market and the margins generally favour the laptop vendor as opposed to the company providing the mobile GPU.  This will be felt more strongly by NVIDIA as AMD's APU lineup will appear in the smaller and less expensive notebooks but will still have an effect on AMD's bottom line over the coming quarters.  DigiTimes also mentioned that AMD's R9 390X is due out in the first half of 2015 and that both companies are currently reducing the price of their GPUs in the hopes of increasing their sales volumes on the desktop.

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"Notebook vendors including Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell, Lenovo, Asustek Computer, Acer and Toshiba, will launch low-cost models with CPUs with integrated graphics in the fourth quarter of 2014 and therefore AMD and Nvidia are expected to see demand for their discrete mobile GPUs decrease, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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September 24, 2014 | 02:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD could offer more GPU execution resources in their x86 based APUs, but this trend towards SOCs will not be good for discrete mobile GPUs, while Nvidia will have to rely more on its chromebook based K1s to keep the low cost laptop/chromebook market earning them revenues. If Nvidia could just get over their Android/chrome OS only offerings, and begin to partner with OEMs to create some full Linux OS based Laptop/tablet products, things may become a little different. Nvidia could very well make a Denver quad-core K1 based laptop variant with more graphics/GPU cores, and take on x86 in the low end.

The cheep laptop are being made with motherboards that have no resources for added discrete mobile GPUs, so the APUs/SOCs that offer the most CPU/GPU wise, at the lowest cost, will be the winner, and HSA(Not Just AMDs version of HSA) will paly a big part in future low cost systems, HSA being any hardware, or software APIs, that can use the GPU for general purpose workloads(OpenCL, is an example of HSA aware APIs, among many others). AMD's K12 custom ARM variants are still a ways off, but AMD has its x86 license and low power x86 SKUs, Nvidia's only choice is to beef up its Denver K1s into a laptop variant, and use its Maxwell microarchitecture, on a SOC, to best AMD in the SOC market, by utilizing its Maxwell's lower power draw, and its Denver ARMv8 RISC ISA in a quad core variant. If the Denver cores are anything like the Apple A8, 4 Denver cores will be able to run a laptop/chromebook and full Linux OS distros.

OS wise android and chrome do not offer the complete desktop style application ecosystem that windows, and OSX offer, so any ARM based devices that can run a both a full Linux distro, and android/Chrome VMs on top of the Linux kernel, will be popular, but laptops need to be able to run full desktop OSs. Intel will be hard to beat in the single threaded benchmarks, but with graphics, integrated and discrete, both AMD and Nvidia offer better results.

With the 20nm process node, there should be some interesting 4 or 6 core ARMv8 custom wide order designs beginning to appear in 2015, and these Custom variants will be the first to offer truly laptop capable SOCs, that run the ARMv8 ISA.

September 24, 2014 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

... and then there's the small matter of Broadwell cutting GPUs out entirely.

September 24, 2014 | 05:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What exactly are you saying? Did you mean Discrete GPUs, out entirely, or integrated GPUs?

If so, then Intel graphics 1) costs too much, and 2) is definitely not as good as Nvidia's or AMD's. Intel will not be offering Intel's "best" graphics on any low end SKUs. AMD will be the better buy, with better graphics, on low cost x86 platforms. Nvidia has the potential to take the ARM based chromebook market, with the Denver core based SOC, at least until 2016, when AMD gets its K12 custom ARMv8 based Custom APU to market. In low power usage Intel's, and AMD's, x86 based SOCs are going to have problems competing with the custom ARMv8 based designs. Intel, with its 14nm node, is still not there with competing in low power usage with 28nm Custom ARMv8 ISA based designs, and now there will be 20nm ARMv8 ISA based designs(Apple A8, and others).

For 2015 and beyond, expect ARMv8 ISA based custom SOCs to begin entering the marketplace, and the custom ARMv8 based, SOCs, more so, than the Narrower ARM reference designs that execute the ARMv8 ISA, the ARM reference designs are 3 IPC, while the Apple A7/A8(?) is 6 IPC, and Nvidia's Denver is 7 IPC.

(?) The exact figures are still out on the A8, as the exact number of execution ports on the A8 core is still unknown, Apple could have widened the already wide superscalar design of its Cyclone cores, or have made other tweaks to the microarchitecture, larger Caches, deeper pipelines, larger reorder buffer, etc.

See for the Cyclone(A7) info: Anand's article "Apple's Cyclone Microarchitecture Detailed", March 31, 2014. Anandtech.

September 24, 2014 | 09:20 PM - Posted by Zachary Strain (not verified)

In general, the low sales of gpus is probably caused by lower demand for higher performance than we have seen before. I JUST upgraded my 660ti, a mid tier gpu from 2012 which I was using to drive my 1440p monitor in games. As long as I reduced the settings, I could play even the most demanding titles at 60fps, and the only reason I upgraded was because the 970 is a steal of a deal in my book (more than double performance for 180$ after I sell 660ti). My go to laptop 2 years old now, but it's modified gt 640m LE is still plenty to run every modern game at it's native resolution. The need for the most powerful parts is falling away (though the want will always remain). Games are as hard to run as they were 3 years ago. If this trend continues (no advances in graphics quality settings in games), of course Nvidia and AMD can expect lower demand for discrete chips. The only people still buying computers are people like my grandmother, who just got a i7/ssd powered ultrabook to replace her aging desktop. She noted performance unlike anything she has ever seen before. The average person simply does not need the power a desktop offers.

September 24, 2014 | 09:36 PM - Posted by collie

Well to be fair, how much gpu horsepower do you need on a cheap netbook anyways? If it can handle flash, 1080p video and possibly mincraft level games, it's got enough power no?

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