If you have been a PC player for as long as we are, chances are that you will eventually be playing on a PC powered by one of the Intel processors. Intel has long been the king of gaming processors, and while AMD has recently fought a brilliant battle, as you can see from our list of the best processors of 2019, the latest Intel processors dominate the list.
With PC games becoming more and more graphics and processor-intensive and PC gamers demanding more and more from their gaming devices, companies like Intel had to face the challenge of continuing to produce hardware that met our needs.
We met with Steve Shakespeare, Intel's EMEA Enterprise Solutions Director, to talk about Intel's commitment to PC gaming and the challenges and rewards of building platforms for gamers and enthusiasts.
The war continues
One of the first things we wanted to talk about with Shakespeare was how, in the last 12 months, the processor wars between Intel and its rival AMD have been revived, with a revived AMD bringing with it many PC gamers and enthusiasts. The well-received Ryzen Processor family, which includes the brilliant 16 core thread ripper 1950X.
Not to be outdone, Intel battled back with some excellent processors, including the Intel Core i7-8700K and the stunning 18-core Intel Core i9-7980XE. Since then we have seen a steady stream of excellent processors from both camps. Intel's latest high-end processor, the Intel Core i9-9900K, is an octa-core monster and one of the best processors you can buy for PC gamers who are serious about building the ultimate gaming rig.
It's certainly an exciting time for processors, and according to Shakespeare, Intel shares that enthusiasm. "I think the excitement is back and there's just so much excitement going on in the PC category. I think we all saw double-digit growth in the category of gaming fans. From our point of view, we're excited, we're investing a lot to get behind the products, behind the entire CPU family, and it seems that this will allow the excitement we see on the market. "
The increased expectations of the performance gamers expect from their gaming PCs have also enlivened Intel.
"We see an increasing demand for premium processors as this gaming audience has an insatiable desire for computational power." I wonder what people want to do, right? Not only do you want to play a great game that is CPU intensive in and of itself, but also graphics intensive. You may also want to record that, they want to stream it on Twitch, they want to have a real-time conversation with people while watching other things. I'm just surprised. "
The gaming gold rush
While the situation in the desktop PC market is often very bleak, PC gamers seem to be responsible for an increase in desktop and laptop sales.
"We see gaming as a major growth driver in the desktop and notebook market. Gaming is growing in both areas. Interestingly, gaming on notebooks is growing faster, but on a smaller scale. "
With increasingly powerful mobile processors for laptops and thinner graphics cards that fit into thin and lightweight notebooks, gaming laptops are becoming more powerful. For example, take a look at our list of the best gaming laptops.
"There are some really great desktops that give you the flexibility some people desire, but you also see some really super-powerful notebooks," explains Shakespeare, and with Intel's Coffee Lake S-CPUs, this innovation seems to be improving for gamers and enthusiasts alike.
"Coffee Lake S, this is the 8th generation desktop part … has up to 40% higher performance, generation after generation. Compared to the seventh-generation CPU, which is already suitable for games, we have 40% of the game room here. We'll build up to six cores in the platform, and if you combine that with a high-performance graphics card, you'll get phenomenally powerful systems that can play games with extremely high settings and provide the truly stunning experience gamers want. "
Coffee Lake's 6-core processors, such as the Intel Core i7-8700K, not only enhance games, but also allow players to create live streams and edit in-game footage while playing.
This kind of high-level multitasking, according to Shakespeare, is at the forefront of Intel's activities, and it is this demand that drives high-end processors.
"As I mentioned earlier, the eighth-generation Coffee Lake desktop part, for example, has so many more cores running up to six cores, many parallel processes, and all high-performance cores … that will allow you many Things to do. You may have some of the cores that play the game, some of the cores that allow you to twitch streaming, some of the cores that may record, some of the cores that may perform other tasks for you to achieve this real performance. "
CPUs for all budgets
Of course, there are also the 16- and 18-core processors that Intel released last year, offering even more impressive multitasking performance. While these Core i9 beasts are aimed at enthusiasts who need the latest technology and performance, Intel pays attention to having powerful CPUs for gamers and content creators, regardless of their budget.
"What we have is a ladder, and you can work your way up," explains Shakespeare. "Well, whether you want a Core i3 or a Core i5 or a Core i7 or a Core i9, they're all there. (Obviously) we have the 8th generation … on desktops … (as well as the 8). Generation on the H-Series mobile parts, which gives you up to a 40 percent improvement when playing on laptops, then we also have i9 (on laptops). "
Intel has a wide range of state-of-the-art CPUs for all types of budgets, and as Shakespeare says, "we respond to the demands of the market, and you know that we are absolutely convinced to have the leadership technology at all levels".
Intel is also particularly proud of its Core i9 offerings. "This 18-core Core i9 product, which is our first Teraflop PC, can you imagine? Remember when teraflop computing was super-computing, occupying space, controlling a city in this way? Now you can download and run it on your desktop. I find that really fascinating. "
These high-end CPUs not only enable PC gamers to multitask, but also bring new experiences to virtual reality.
"We're really excited about virtual reality and how it enhances people's experience of playing," explains Shakespeare. "And what's really exciting about the sport is that we're starting to see virtual reality esports games, and the excitement is fantastic." One of the things we do with our processors is to make sure that we can also provide the best virtual reality gaming experience. "
How important is the virtual reality processor? For Shakespeare and Intel, it's an integral part of the puzzle.
"Many people say," Hey, virtual reality, is not it a graphics card thing? Do not you just need a good graphics card? "The answer is, you need both, you need a great graphics card and a great CPU, and here's why: to do well, virtual reality requires a lot of artificial intelligence and a lot of logic, to support the game, so the graphics card does the rendering, the CPU the AI, and the physics as well. "
That's the key to dipping. If you are in a world of virtual reality, you want it to be realistic. Shakespeare has an example.
Well, it will make a hole and some parts will fly somewhere in the air, right? So the CPU calculates mathematically what will happen and the graphics card shows on the screen, balancing that will give you the best experience for your platform. "
Take gaming seriously
One of the biggest drivers of the PC gaming renaissance has been the growing popularity of the sport, where players and teams play PC games on competitive terms for a large and growing audience. It's also something that Intel has been very busy with.
"So Esports has so many followers that there are about 385 million people around the world, and for Intel this is a really important undertaking. We work with the Electronic Sport League, the ESL, and we have the Intel Extreme Masters competition. So we invest a lot in the sport to make sure we understand what the audience needs and can offer them the best computer platforms for delivering these games. "
For Shakespeare it was the visit of the final of the Intel Extreme Masters in Poland, which opened his eyes to the excitement of the sport.
"I was in the final and 170,000 people showed up in a stadium for a weekend to see it. And you appreciate it suddenly. They say, "Wow, I understand." This is like a sporting event, like a football game or a rugby game. People are in the audience, they support their team, they cheer excitedly and I love that. "
Shakespeare also has a vision for the future of the sport, and it's an Intel stock. "I think the next level we're seeing right now is VR, and we want to help make that possible, because you not only have powerful hardware to play VR games with, and that's exactly what we do with ours Intel products, you also need to be able to broadcast it so the audience can see it, so you're in a stadium, but also online. "
So, if you think it's stressful enough for your hardware to play normal games while you play them at the same time, playing and transferring in virtual reality becomes even more challenging.
"I think IEM had 45 million streaming viewers in attendance. That's just monumental and a worldwide audience. But if you think about it to make it interesting for the audience, you need to be able to transfer what is happening. So if you're in a VR game, your PC needs to be able to capture that information at the same time, put it all together, and then stream it to Twitch. So again, you need a strong platform to do that. We try to support something like that. "
The future of PC gaming is promising
With a steady stream of great games, esports and virtual reality, being a PC player has never been so exciting, and Intel also seems to be thrilled to master the challenges of players getting more and more of their own Expect playground equipment.
"Innovation lives and lives, not just for game enthusiasts, but also in this whole new industry and in the all-new sports industry that brings the sport to life, and I love it when I see so many people excited about it. "
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