It was predicted that 2022 would be the year that hardware would become more readily available again. That seems to have been partly successful, but at a price: literally, because many products have become and remain much more expensive one way or another. Video cards are, fortunately, after the enormously high prices, a bit of an exception. That does not alter the fact that the new generations of hardware are still quite expensive. We’ve seen video cards over two thousand euros, motherboards, especially those for new generations, have become extremely expensive and the mainstream seems a bit of a neglected child with the new generations of processors, video cards, and motherboards. However, availability has improved over the course of the year. Container prices finally fell at the end of this year, but not before they drove up or hindered the prices and availability of especially larger products such as housing.
2022 is also the year of a ditch of new introductions. For example, both AMD and Intel released a new generation of processors, with the former even introducing a completely new platform, the AM5 platform. Intel also came up with new motherboards and ditto chipsets, but based on an existing socket. Both platforms support DDR5 memory, which is still on the pricey side compared to DDR4 but is now more readily available than in 2021. Both platforms also support PCIe Gen5 SSDs, but availability was delayed in 2022. The coming year should also change that.
We also saw the necessary introductions in the field of video cards, with the big two releasing new generations. Nvidia builds on its monolithic, expensive GPUs and came up with the energy-guzzling 4000 cards. AMD also came out with its new cards that are a bit more modest in terms of power consumption, but also can’t beat the Nvidia offering. AMD did innovate with its chiplets in the GPU, similar to what it previously did with its processors. And we mentioned the big two, but this year a third player has entered the video card market: Intel introduced its first discrete video cards.
On the following pages we look at a number of product groups in more detail. Tomas gives an overview of what has happened in the field of processors and Reinoud sheds light on the video card market. Finally, SSDs are reviewed, with Willem discussing the lagging behind of Gen5 SSDs. On to 2023, with even more hardware, lower prices and even better availability.
Processors: a late start
For the most part, it was quiet in processor land in 2022. AMD and Intel both introduced some new budget models in the spring. In the beginning we still hoped for newHEDTprocessors to become available, only those announcements failed to materialize andHEDT seems to die a quiet death, but the rumor mill refuses to give up hope . AMD gift AM4 owners a nice final credit with the availability of theRyzen 7 5800X3D, but it wasn’t until the fall that the real fireworks came.
To start with from AMD, which started with the Ryzen 7000 processors on a completely new AM5 platform. Exceptional, because AM4 has been in use for no less than five years. The new Ryzens were also a big step in other areas, for example, the switch to an lga socket, the new Zen 4 core, the integration of a Radeon igpu in all processors, and, unfortunately, the power consumption. The fast models certainly followed Intel with considerably increased TDPs and the high operating temperatures also did not do the image of the chips any good. Although the prices of the processors were not even that crazy, the AM5 motherboards are extremely expensive, so the lower-positioned models certainly remained unattractive. AMD was therefore soon forced to implement price reductions.
A little later, Intel came out with the thirteenth generation of Core processors. Undeniably, that was a smaller step than AMD’s, but at least the lead Intel had built with Alder Lake managed to maintain it in games. In other applications it is often a matter of tension. The platform is somewhat less future-proof, with fewer PCIe 5.0 lanes than AM5, for example, but is more attractive in terms of price, partly due to the option to continue using DDR4 memory.
Many introductions in the first half of 2023
2023 will initially provide us with many more processors of the mentioned generations. For the desktop, we expect all non-overclockable variants of Intel’s thirteenth generation and versions of certain Ryzen 7000 models as early as January. AMD will also announce the theRyzen 7000X3D processors with 3D V-Cache, but we will probably have to wait until a little later in the first quarter for availability. Intel meanwhile tops off its lineup with the extremely high clocked Core i9 13900KS.
All this new hardware will of course also be available for laptops. Both AMD and Intel will announce their new generations of notebook chips at CES in early January. With the Ryzen 6000 series, we saw that availability was very disappointing in practice. AMD seems to be solving that in a not-too-consumer-friendly way; thenew naming convention for Ryzen laptop processors allows processors with older architectures to get a spot in the Ryzen 7000 lineup. We will probably write enough about that, but it may soon happen that your brand new Ryzen 7000 laptop secretly still contains outdated Zen 3 or even Zen 2 cores.
Meteor Lake and Zen 5 probably not before 2024
We should probably not expect completely new generations in 2023. While AMD took the bigger step in 2022, Intel’s planning for 2023 included a technically extremely challenging product: Meteor Lake. This is not only the first processor to use an Intel 4 process and two updated architectures for both the P and E cores, but also the first mainstream chip consisting of different tiles – AMD would call them chiplets. Based on a leaked roadmap, Meteor Lake appears to have been postponed to 2024 in favor of a ‘Raptor Lake Refresh’. Because the existing Z790 chipset is mentioned, it seems to be a relatively limited refresh, perhaps a bit comparable to Kaby Lake, the seventh generation of Core CPUs.
Zen 5 is also on the roadmap for 2024. According to AMD, this core will be completely redesigned, which should make the ipc improvement a lot more substantial than we saw with Zen 4. 3nm and 4nm manufacturing processes will be used for these processors, and we already know that variants with 3D V-Cache and compact Zen 5c cores will also appear again. The compact version of Zen 4 is also available, but for the time being it is only used in certain server CPUs, and the different types of cores are not combined in one processor, as Intel does.
Video cards: price fluctuations and expensive next-gen
In terms of video cards, 2022 started with the same distorted situation that the market suffered in 2021. The demand for GPUs was high, the supply was low. Rising transport costs added to this, with the result that prices skyrocketed. Nevertheless, 2022 would eventually also be the year of significant price drops, but that obviously did not happen overnight.
Relatively expensive loafers
The Radeon RX 6500 XT kicked off the year 2022 in January, with unimpressive specifications and features. In practice, performance was even more disappointing than expected due to a too-narrow memory bus, especially on older PCs with PCIe 3.0. A week later, Nvidia’s answer came in the form of the GeForce RTX 3050. Apart from the much better feature set, the performance was 25 percent higher, although unfortunately that also applied to the suggested retail price. Aside from the higher efficiency, it still made more sense for PC gamers on a budget to pick up a pre-owned, older-generation graphics card.
Nvidia’s Ampere stretched to the max, AMD’s minor refresh
At the other end of the price spectrum, the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti appeared in late March. Quite late in the life cycle of the RTX 30 series, Nvidia decided to say goodbye to the Ampere architecture in the form of this graphics monster. Although the RTX 3090 Ti is based on the same GA102 chip as the RTX 3090, all registers have been pulled out to squeeze more performance out of this GPU. That mission turned out to be successful, but at the expense of every gram of efficiency that you could still attribute to the RTX 3090.
In May, AMD also reused its chips for a refresh, using faster GDDR6 memory in addition to the slightly higher clock speeds of the GPU. The manufacturer released three models: the Radeon RX 6950 XT, RX 6750 XT and RX 6650 XT . A new level of performance was not reached, but the slightly higher frame rates were accompanied by higher energy consumption.
New generation: battle flares up
It wasn’t until October this year that it was finally time for a new generation of video cards. Nvidia gave the go-ahead and came right along with its GeForce RTX 4090 flagship based on the Ada Lovelace architecture. Consumers were already somewhat prepared for high energy consumption thanks to the RTX 3090 Ti, and the RTX 4090 stood out positively in comparison with that card due to its higher efficiency. Of the new features that Nvidia unpacked, DLSS 3most attention. On paper, generating additional frames based on advanced interpolation sounded good. The manufacturer had to work hard to make the feature available in a number of games in time before the reviews of the RTX 4090 came online. And in practice DLSS 3 turned out to do well for the numbers in benchmarks, visually something sometimes went wrong with these generated frames.
The arrival of Nvidia’s RTX 40 series was also accompanied by negative reports surrounding the 12Vhpwr connector , which was presented as the successor to the PEG connector. A bad connection can cause connectors to burn or melt, with Nvidia stating that poorly plugged plugs are the cause.
Barely a month later, Nvidia came out with its GeForce RTX 4080. Originally intended as a pair with different specifications under the same name, the manufacturer later abandoned the cheaper 12GB model. The RTX 4080 that was released with 16GB of memory was well ahead of the RTX 4090 in terms of performance but finished comfortably above everything from the previous generation in the benchmarks. The RTX 4080 also received support for the same features as its bigger brother, and unfortunately also a corresponding price tag. A flagship video card with an astronomical price is not new, but the fact that the ‘cheaper’ brother below it already costs 1500 euros in this generation is something to swallow.
In mid-December, rival AMD released its new Radeons. The RX 7900 XT and RX 7900 XTX based on the RDNA3 architecture finally launched the battle of next-generation graphics cards. With performance claims open to different interpretations, expectations turned out to be high. The RX 7900 XTX could compete with the RTX 4080 at launch, but matching Nvidia’s flagship was a bridge too far. Although AMD’s RDNA3 brought the necessary improvements, more attention was paid to the innovative construction of the GPU with chiplets. As with the Ryzen processors, several small chips are combined. This ensures lower production costs, more flexibility in the composition, and reduces restrictions on the maximum chip area.
Team red, team green, and the team … blue?
Spread over the second half of the year, video cards from a third player have also been released that try to break through the duopoly of AMD and Nvidia. Intel took on this extraordinarily arduous task with its Arc series, of which the Arc A380 became the entry-level model and the Arc A770 the top model. The processor manufacturer aimed for midrange performance with this generation from the start and has indicatedto gradually improve the drivers for this. The years of optimizations of the experienced driver teams at Nvidia and AMD were visible in the first reviews of the Arc video cards, with the paper-slower GeForces and Radeons well outperforming their new blue competitor. Whether Intel can optimize its drivers for both newly released games and the older games to the level of the competition remains to be seen, because the battle is also fiercely fought in the field of driver features these days. However, Intel’s presence in this market in itself is already good news for consumers if competition can increase further.
What will happen in 2023?
The year 2023 will probably not be as turbulent as 2022, now that the world is out of the mining hype and the energy crisis is leaving its mark in more and more places. The introduction of Nvidia’s RTX 40 series and AMD RX 7000 series had an unfortunate timing in that regard, as more and more users prioritize high efficiency and, above all, low consumption. Cheaper, more economical and therefore lower positioned cards are what the market is currently asking for. Because these were also introduced later with the previous generation, AMD and Nvidia will not be in much of a hurry with their successors here either. The new production processes are also expensive, which makes it less attractive to release cheaper cards because their margins are lower compared to top models.
The canceled 12GB version of the RTX 4080 has been rebranded as the GeForce RTX 4070 Ti , and is expected to be released as early as early January. Whether this model will be the direct counterpart of the RX 7900 XT, or whether AMD will have to replace it with a new card, remains to be seen.
Lower-positioned models such as an RTX 4070, RTX 4060, RX 7800 XT, RX 7700 XT, and RX 7600 XT are expected to be released in 2023. When exactly that happens remains to be seen. The same applies to the answer to the question of whether Intel will release more new video cards in 2023. The further stocks of the RTX 30 Series and RX 6000 Series graphics cards dwindle and the lower the rates of TSMC’s 4nm process, the more likely it is that the lower end of Nvidia’s and AMD’s portfolio will get an update.
2022: not the year of Gen5 SSDs after all
There’s nothing more daunting than peering into a crystal ball and trying to predict the future, and few pursuits can be more embarrassing than attempting to do so. To illustrate: in January of this year I (Willem) predicted that2022 would be the year of the Gen5 SSD. AMD’s AM5 platform and Intel’s Socket V, or LGA1700, would provide platforms with PCIe Gen5 lanes, which SSD manufacturers would eagerly capitalize on with SSDs that would be twice as fast as the then-generation. To quote a nice English proverb: that aged like milk , because the platforms with Gen5 lanes for SSDs were delayed until well into the fall and manufacturers turned out to be much more eager to release Gen4 drives, sometimes in faster revisions, than to venture into the new generation.
Just as the new year is a time to look forward, the end of the year is a time to look back. Because what went wrong with that wave of new, fast SSDs with bandwidth to dream of? Where are our super-fast SSDs?
First, Alder Lake, Intel’s first-generation processors for the LGA1700 socket, turned out to be barely suitable for Gen5 SSDs. Of the 231 motherboards for Alder Lake and Raptor Lake, only 24 motherboards feature M.2 slots with PCIe Gen5 support. Eight of those are Z690 boardsthat came out during Alter Lake’s time, in late 2021.Sixteen are Z790 boards that appeared with Raptor Lake. With the arrival of AMD’s AM5 platform at the end of September this year, some more motherboards came with Gen5 support for the M.2 slots. We now count about 61 of these in the Pricewatch. This brings the total number of motherboards with support for Gen5 SSDs to 85: not a lot of money yet, but things are slowly moving in the right direction.
That’s one side of the story that explains the lack of Gen5 SSDs. A second reason may be that manufacturers prefer to play it safe and watch the cat out of the tree. Making an SSD is obviously not free and that applies twice over for brand-new products. Figuring out how to optimize the controllers and NAND for the high speeds, devising solutions to cope with the increasing heat development, and devising a way to convince consumers why they should buy much more expensive SSDs, while the practical effect of that extra speed has not yet leg achieved. it has been proven, it all costs more money than keeping your existing products nice and safe on the market.
The latter is therefore what manufacturers have largely done. With a few component upgrades here and there, hardly any new, fast Gen4 drives have come out, perhaps with the exception of Samsung’s 990 ProSSDs and, to a lesser extent, WD’s SN770. Of course, many more SSDs will be released in 2022, about eight hundred in all, but fast Gen4 drives?
WD released a faster version of its 2020 SN850, theSN850X. It has a tweaked controller, faster BiCs5 nand with more layers, and a faster cache. Corsair also performed that trick, but with theMP600 Pro (XT)and Micron-NAND.
A welcome downside to that relative lack of new, high-end SSDs is the price development. With manufacturers mainly following the safe, trusted route and releasing SSDs or sticking to technology that is already well-developed, prices were able to come down nicely. At a time when we pay the blue for hardware that is becoming more and more expensive for all kinds of reasons, the prices of SSDs are falling. Not all of them, of course, but the number of SSD offers this year, and not just during Black Friday, is almost impossible to keep up with. While not so long ago it was quite remarkable to buy a decent 1TB SSD for less than a hundred euros, it is now a piece of cake. In fact, we saw a 2 TB SSD for 99.95 euros not so long ago for sale. That was Kingston’s NV2: not exactly a speed monster, but it was available for an unprecedentedly low price.
Let’s see how 2023 develops in terms of prices of existing SSDs: will this trend of increasingly cheaper drives continue and will the high-end Gen4 SSDs of today also be sold for less than ten cents per gigabyte? And the big question is of course: will those promised Gen5 SSDs arrive in 2023? To take the risk of peering into the crystal ball again: surely it is. But what will they cost, and what’s the use of that extra performance? Will you notice that in practice? And: are you going to buy them?