So many noteworthy things happened in 2018, from frustrating data breaches and hardware vulnerabilities to triumphant product launches. But, from the looks of it, 2019 could even more memorable with long-awaited new technologies such as 7nm chips hitting the market and prices dropping further on some key components like SSDs.
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Here are 19 quick predictions for 2019.
- Get ready for 64 Cores: AMD keeps upping the ante on cores with its Threadripper lineup. In 2018, the 2990WX came with 32 physical cores and 64 threads, a step up from the original Threadripper's 16 cores and 32 threads. The company has already announced "Rome" server chips with 64 cores and 128 threads so it only makes sense that a third-gen Threadripper would hit that core count.
- Intel shortages shape the industry: The leading PC chip-maker didn't have enough manufacturing capacity for 14nm chips in 2018 and those problems will likely continue through the first half of 2019. As a result, we'll see higher prices on budget CPUs like the Pentium Gold series and we definitely won't see any major price drops on 9th Gen Core. We may see availability issues as well.
- Keep waiting for 10nm: Last summer, Intel said not to expect its long-awaited, 10nm Ice Lake chips until 2020. If we see any 10nm Intel chips in 2019, they will be in limited supply and likely not in high-performance products. In summer 2018, the company sold a few 10nm Core i3 mobile CPUs to Lenovo which used them on budget PCs in China only. The company will keep tweaking its 14nm chips for incrementally better performance.
- AMD 7nm is on the way: AMD is on record saying that its next-gen chips, likely called the Ryzen 3000 series, will use a 7nm process. These chips seem likely to arrive by Q2 of 2019, delivering dramatically better performance than their predecessors.
- AMD takes share from Intel: With Intel's CPU shortages and AMD's likely release of new, 7nm chips for consumers, 2019 will be a big year for team red's processors. We anticipate more design wins for AMD, particularly in the laptop space where progress has been slow. As of Q2 2018, according to Mercury Research, AMD had 12.3 percent of the desktop PC market. Expect that to grow significantly by the end of 2019.
For a more detailed, reasoned set of predictions see Paul Alcorn's look at CPUs in 2019.
- AMD Takes the GPU Fight to Nvidia: AMD's mid-range and budget cards have a lot to offer, but on the high-end, team red has no answer for Nvidia's powerful RTX cards. In 2019, that could change dramatically. According to some leaks, the company will be releasing 7nm GPUs based on its upcoming Navi platform. The chips are purportedly called the Radeon RX 3080, 3070 and 3060, but no matter what they are called, they should give power users some compelling new choices.
- Nvidia releases new budget GPUs: 2018 saw the emergence of the high-end, GeForce RTX cards. In 2019, we'll get low and mid-range cards that replace the GTX 1030, 1050 and 1060 lines, but don't support ray-tracing. All of Nvidia's cards, including the RTX 2080 and 2070 should make the move to mobile.
Read Chris Angelini's 2019 GPU predictions article for more details on what we may expect on graphics in the coming year.
- Surface Pro Gets USB Type-C: After years of stubborn, pointless resistance to the new standard, Microsoft will finally add USB Type-C charging to its flagship tablet / 2-in-1. Many of my fellow journalists will write long think pieces thanking Microsoft, but I will grouse about it not being Thunderbolt 3.
- New Snapdragon laptops arrive, but is third time the charm?: The first two generations of Always-Connected PCs -- Windows 2-in-1s powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs and 4G modems -- were big disappointments due to their slow performance and relatively high prices. The chipmaker recently announced the Snapdragon 8cx, an upcoming chip that's expected to match the performance of a mobile Intel Core i5 processor.
- In 2019, OEMs such as Lenovo, HP and Samsung will likely come out with new ACPCs that use the 8cx chip, but their performance will depend more on Microsoft's ability to get developers building native ARM apps than on Qualcomm's processing prowess. As long as the laptops have to run the most important Windows apps using x86 emulation, performance will suffer.
- More dual-screened laptops appear: We'll see more experimentation in 2019, though this category will never be mainstream. Asus's Project Precog, a dual-screened 2-in-1 with built-in A.I. that the company showed at Computex 2018, is likely to come out and rumors indicate that Microsoft's long-awaited Andromeda project may come out as well.
See Andrew Freedman's look at Laptops in 2019 for a more in-depth look at where PCs are going.
- Standalone headsets take center stage: The biggest barrier to mass VR adoption is that the most compelling headsets, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, both require powerful PCs. In 2018, we saw a few standalone headsets like the Oculus Go hit the market, but none of them offered the highest-end experience for gamers. In 2019, the upcoming Oculus Quest could bring PC gaming quality VR titles to the masses for the affordable price of $399. Other vendors will respond.
Read Scharon Harding's VR Gaming in 2019 article for a lot more predictions and details.
- SSDs Get Cheaper: You'll soon be able to buy a name-brand 1TB SSD for $100. Prices for mainstream SSDs will drop below 10 cents per GB. SSDs keep getting less expensive because of technologies such as QLC (quad-level cell) and 96-layer 3D NAND, both of which cut manufacturing costs, and a production glut.
- Bye, bye Optane cache. We hardly knew ye: With drives so cheap, nobody will want 16 or 32GB of storage cache. This technology was never that popular anyway.
- SSDs Common in Budget Systems: By the time back-to-school season rolls around in 2019, 256 to 512GB SSDs will come standard on sub-$500 laptops and desktops like those in Dell's Inspiron and HP's Pavilion lines. Hard drives will still appear as secondary storage drives in gaming PCs or workstations that need more storage on the cheap. And external hard drives will remain an attractive option for backup.
To see more detailed storage predictions, see Matt Safford's dedicated article on storage in 2019.
- 5G hype outweighs reality: Mobile network vendors and chip-makers want you to believe that 5G will change your life in 2019, but you probably won't see the benefits of this emerging technology until 2020 or beyond. However, in 2019, we will see a ridiculous amount of advertising and unwarranted media attention for 5G.
- For example, we recently learned that AT&T plans to put a "5G E" indicator on new phones even though these devices will just be connecting to a faster LTE network that the carrier decided to call "5G Evolution." That reminds me of 2012 when T-Mobile decided to label HSPA+, a fancier version of 3G, as 4G. Very few devices or network locations will support true 5G in 2019, but we'll be sure to hear about every single one of them over and over again.
- More gaming phones hit the market, but games still lag: In 2018, both Razer and Asus released gaming phones that are designed specifically for mobile gamers as they promise faster performance and have screens with high refresh rates.
- In 2019, I expect to see refreshes from Asus and Razer and we may even see other players enter the space. But unlike AAA PC games which require beefy specs, Android games will still play just fine on non-gaming phones.
- PlayStation 5 arrives: Nobody knows for sure whether then next-gen PlayStation will come in 2019 or 2020, but considering that Sony said last May that the PS4 is at the end of its lifecycle, the company seems likely to unveil a successor sooner rather than later. My guess is that we'll see a public announcement, if not availability, by Q4.
A.I. / Smart Home
- Cortana death rattle continues: You knew things were over for Microsoft's digital assistant when the company decided to let Alexa into Windows. Today, you can have the socially and digitally awkward experience of asking Cortana on your PC if you can talk to Alexa. In the next major Windows 10 release, due in spring 2019, Cortana will be separated from the Windows search function, making it less important and prominent than before. We don't know how long it will be before Cortana goes away altogether, but in a voice assistant market dominated by Amazon and Google (with a little Apple thrown in), her future is in dark mode.
- We reach peak Alexa: Now that you can get an Alexa Big Mouth Billy Bass and an Alexa-powered toilet, there's nowhere left for digital assistants to go. We'll see more Alexa and Google Assistant skills in 2019, but there's not much more to do with additional device types or platforms that hasn't been done.