Intel launched its 13th generation Core CPU portfolio with high-end unlocked K-series desktops for gamers, overclockers and enthusiasts. While models for laptops and more mainstream PCs will follow, it’s interesting that the current focus is on those who want the absolute best performance. With the effects of the pandemic and global supply chain shortages fading, gamers now find themselves with options, do they have the appetite to upgrade? TechnologyShout caught up with Akshay Kamath, Director of PC Customer Sales (India), Intel, during the 13th Gen launch event in India, to discuss the current state of PC gaming, the hardware ecosystem, and what the company is doing to motivate you to upgrade.

TechnologyShout: What’s it like post-pandemic? We saw a period of unexpected demand, and then prices got out of control and supply chains were thrown into disarray. What are the near term forecasts?

Akshay Kamaz: Overall, for Intel, we have an IDM 2.0 strategy for Intel foundry services. We are investing in the fab capacity of the semiconductors of the future and you have heard our CEO’s statement which clearly articulates our vision for the next 3-4 years. We are ready to move in this direction. As far as the trends we’re seeing in India, obviously in the last 2-3 years of the pandemic there’s been a surge in people learning and working from home, and I think that’s being rationalized this year with schools and offices opening up. This was to be expected; however, we still see great potential for continued PC momentum in India. The reason I’m saying that is we see long-term potential in some of the trends. One of them is gaming, you know the growth trajectory of gaming has been pretty good for the last 5-6 years or more. We see new players entering the funnel. Over the past two years, we’ve seen mobile gamers branching out into PC gaming. Good healthy growth in gaming led to good growth in desktop this year.

Another factor, I think, is the increased awareness of the relevance of PCs in India. Therefore, people have always considered India to be more of a low-end market. I think we can say that is no longer the case. During the pandemic with all the ecosystem constraints the prices have gone up we’ve really seen people opting to buy a lot of machines and not willing to compromise when buying a machine just because they realize it’s for their kids’ education or their own For personal work, it is important to have a powerful PC.

So we’re seeing a more balanced mix of premium systems and thin and light systems. Laptops on sale today are thinner and lighter than ever. Another thing we’re seeing is the way people interact with PCs. They are more invested and more focused on how they interact with their PCs, and they complete more tasks and activities on their PCs. That means they found more correlations among them.

Also, I think we’ve seen that the refresh cycle in India is shortening. A whole bunch of laptops and PCs bought in the past three years will be updated in the next few years. Newer systems, better technology, and better form factors have the potential to keep the PC going.

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TechnologyShout: Has there been a change in terms of segmented demand, whether people are buying at home, or buying in bulk at the office? What has changed, what is emerging?

Akshay Kamaz: In the last 2-3 years of the pandemic, it’s clear that laptops are the winners. A lot of people are buying laptops because they have to work from home, this year we’ve seen a resurgence of desktops. I’d say laptops are getting thinner and lighter these days, so it’s here to stay. India has also noticed a trend toward premiumization. People are starting to realize what performance they’re getting at what price point when they’re buying a laptop or desktop. I think people are becoming more and more aware of tradeoffs or compromises. Obviously, I would say that gaming is still one of the growing segments in India and will drive the growth of gaming laptops.

TechnologyShout: For example, what’s the breakdown of demand between unlocked K-series CPUs, regular desktop and laptop models, and even previous Celerons and Pentiums?

Akshay Kamaz: We don’t have an answer in terms of breaking down what the PC demand in India looks like in various segments, I can say that we’re seeing good demand from the gaming side. For example, when we launched Gen 12, we probably saw the fastest K SKU growth in the world, and by the end of 2021, we had shipped 1 million K SKUs. I think with Gen 13 we’re on track to go beyond that. So we do see K CPUs on a healthy track. We obviously have a lot of partners that are launching motherboards based on 700 series chipsets. We do expect demand momentum for our 13th Gen K CPUs in India to be pretty good as well.

TechnologyShout: How is Intel reaching out to India’s enthusiast, gaming and overclocking communities? They’re still a niche market here compared to other countries, with only a handful of boutique gaming PC vendors and small groups online. Even those who want a gaming desktop may not have the confidence to assemble or buy parts. Is there a gap in approaching them and is Intel doing anything to grow this market in India?

Akshay Kamaz: Overall, awareness of PC gaming in India is definitely on the rise. I think the reason you’re seeing it taking longer compared to the rest of the world is we’re a huge smartphone gaming market. The vast majority of gamers in India today are still mobile gamers; that’s where they started. as those folks mature and start moving to a better experience, they’re sure to consider a PC, whether it’s an entry-level gaming laptop or building their own desktop. We are doing our part to facilitate this. Obviously, we also have extensive industry relationships, so a lot of games like Call of Duty, etc. have benefited from the performance enhancements that we’ve done on 13th gen.

Take social media, for example. Are there more content creators and YouTubers posting content? Esports is also growing. There is a lot of focus on esports in India today, and that’s where the growth in PC gaming is coming from. I’d say it’s getting there. It’s definitely heading in the right direction, it will take some time to mature.

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I think we have a healthy DIY community in India; it’s just that it’s fragmented. Unlike some other markets, we don’t have big name boutiques in India, we see a very healthy and strong DIY community and channel community. We work with distributors and sub-distributors in terms of selling our CPUs, so we’ve had a lot of engagement with them, and we’ll continue to work with 13th Gen as well.

We do a lot of marketing and have been at events all over the country. We’ve done an AMA. We are committed to talking and showing our products. You can also expect more from us in these areas. We want to involve the community in everything we’re doing and bringing to the 13th generation and beyond. I think awareness is building, obviously it will take time, India is on the right track in terms of PC gaming awareness.

13th Gen Intel Overclocking

TechnologyShout: Are there plans to emphasize the Intel Arc GPU combined with the Core CPU? Can DIY retail buyers take advantage of the combination of parts?

Akshay Kamaz: This [Intel Arc] The products we launch are available on both desktop and mobile devices. We’ve shown some advantages, and Intel CPUs and all GPUs work really well together. Some technologies, such as Intel Adaptix [tuning tools for OEMs] And intelligent power between the CPU and GPU, which we’ve brought to the table to make sure our Arc GPUs play well with the Intel platform. However, here’s what we’ve revealed so far. As for future plans, that’s all.

TechnologyShout: What do you think is really driving people to upgrade now? What shortens the upgrade cycle and makes people buy new PCs faster than before?

We have great new features; new technologies that have started to emerge. In the 12th generation last year, we had a performance hybrid architecture, which brought a revolutionary leap in performance. So if you were a gamer at the time and you saw that gen 12 really helped me improve my game and increase the frames per second which is critical in esports then that’s a compelling reason. The same is true for our introduction of DDR5, PCIe Gen 5 and so on. We’ve significantly improved our overclocking tools. We’ve been improving Extreme Tuning Utility for a long time; it’s free. Anyone can download it and use it on their system. Gen 13 gets even better with a per-core tuning interface and a one-click speed optimizer. So if you’re new to overclocking and want to overclock are scared, guess what? You buy a 12th or 13th generation PC, you can easily do so. Therefore, these technical characteristics also help in making the decision to upgrade your PC.

Laptops, on the other hand, are getting more powerful—not just for gaming, even for your thin and light notebooks. So last year we introduced the 12th generation of the P-Series platform. We launched the Evo platform, and it’s not just about CPU performance, but we’re working with all these ecosystem partners, whether it’s a display vendor, an OEM, an ISV, whatever, to deliver the overall experience to the end user. I would say, Evo is revolutionary. You’ve seen a lot of sleek designs, and that’s really important to a lot of mobile device enthusiasts; these young professionals want their systems to look cool. It’s light and fast. It rises when the lid is opened. It’s instantaneous; they don’t want to wait for anything.

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Overall, I’d say the ecosystem has really caught up as well. Most laptops you see are thinner, lighter, and sleeker than they were five years ago. The usage of PCs and laptops has increased dramatically over the past few years. A lot of people are now engaged in content creation as well, so a lot of individual or amateur content creators are editing their own videos. Now, if you want to do this, you need performance.

Use cases are evolving, engagement is rising, and most importantly, the technology available in the ecosystem now gives them a reason to buy and upgrade.

TechnologyShout: AI and machine learning are envisioned as the next buzzwords and growth drivers, but now people use features that don’t necessarily know they’re built around AI, such as image amplification or background noise cancellation. Considering the removal of AVX512 from 12th generation, are these features attractive? Has Intel’s approach to AI changed?

Akshay Kamaz: AI is now baked into many technologies; platforms and applications. So much so that it is barely visible to the end user. For Evo, we used AI for Dynamic Noise Reduction, which was originally introduced as a feature of the 3rd edition specification. This is a feature for end users.they may not look for [specifically AI-powered features]. The target audience is looking for a simple solution to the use case. How do you make a conference call in a noisy coffee shop without sacrificing battery life so the caller on the other end can have a good video conference?they found [a particular laptop] Give them dynamic noise cancellation, so they’re finding a significant use case.

That’s using the AI ​​built into the Evo specification in the processor. We have been delivering AI instructions since Gen 10 (Ice Lake). For Gen 12 and Gen 13, we decided to focus more on the data center aspect. The 12th and 13th generation E cores don’t support AVX512, but if you look at client workloads, AVX2 and VNNI are more than adequate. For really high-end use cases, AVX512 is required, and we still offer it in our data center products.

So I would say AI is everywhere now. This is part of the use cases we serve and part of the 13th generation improvements. We used ML techniques for caching and Thread Director improvements, and we implemented a new dynamic prefetching algorithm for the L2 cache during normal operation using ML techniques and real-time telemetry. End users care about use cases. We’re using the artificial intelligence we’ve built into the system to do that.

Some replies have been condensed and slightly edited for clarity.

Disclosure: Intel sponsored the flight of journalists to New Delhi for the event.