January 2017 Technology Updates

Two of the more compelling developments in January revolve around the impending releases of AMD’s Ryzen processors and related platforms, along with the official release date and details for the Nintendo Switch.  In October, the sizzle reel for the Nintendo Switch generated positive excitement for a new paradigm in “console gaming” that would appeal to multiple target audiences.  While concessions would certainly need to be made to offer up acceptable experiences using the custom nVidia Tegra SoC, the costs associated with this platform have been revealed.  At $299 for the base console, the long term potential for continue sales and a large enough install base to maintain third party support is somewhat questionable.  Adding insult to injury, the cost of the additional accessories required for a multi-player experience will quickly move the solution out of the impulse buy range.   Once the further cost of an additional subscription service (ala XBox Live or PlayStation Network) is factored in, the Switch becomes far more of a luxury item than a portable gaming solution for the masses.  Bundles such as the ones being offered by Gamestop reinforce what the initial system and starter library will set you back.  Pairing the system with one game and the necessary baseline accessories for multiplayer still puts the solution over the $399 price point we had theoretically used in October.

Ryzen, on the other hand, has shown more promise from the value proposition perspective.  The initial leaked benchmarks, which will still be taken with a grain of salt until official reviews of shipping products have been tested, demonstrate that AMD has produced a competitive and modern processor.  The sum of core counts, improvements to compute capability, and support for modern interfaces (internally and externally) may finally end the pain of Intel’s pricing tactics and minimal performance improvements between generations.   Initial evidence supporting this comes courtesy of Intel’s decision to enable hyper threading on Kaby Lake Pentium processors.  Even in an oligopoly, competition is good!  As long as the quad core variant costs less than the i7-x700 processors and the supporting motherboards don’t hit the price point of the high end Zx70/X99 Intel solutions, AMD’s outing may help reverse the continued downward spiral for PC sales.

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