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Nvidia rolls out new chips, claims leadership of AI PC race

Nvidia headquarters is shown in Santa Clara, Calif.  (Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg)
By Ian King Bloomberg

Nvidia Corp., whose chip technology dominates in data centers used to create artificial intelligence software, announced new products to help the personal computer industry lure consumers with “AI PCs.”

Nvidia unveiled three new desktop graphics chips with extra components that will let gamers, designers and other computer users make better use of AI on their personal machines without having to rely on remote services accessed over the internet. The chips, updated versions of existing offerings, will be offered at a “great new price,” the company said Monday in a presentation at the CES trade show.

Nvidia’s rivals Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. have touted what they say is a new era for the industry: AI PCs. The companies argue AI software is more secure and responsive when it’s run on the PCs themselves rather than the internet. Nvidia claims its graphics chips are the best engines to power the new types of laptops and desktops.

The GeForce RTX 4080 SUPER will get more processing cores and faster memory. It can run Stable Diffusion XL image generation software 1.7 times faster than the equivalent model from the previous generation of Nvidia technology, the company said. The chip will also power games with ray tracing – building an image by calculating the path of individual rays of light – at 4K resolution. The product is scheduled to go on sale Jan. 31 for $999. The company also unveiled an RTX 4070 Ti SUPER for $799 and a 4070 Super for $599, which will be available later this month.

Paired with new software and optimizations of AI models that Nvidia is also releasing, the products will offer an “order of magnitude” improvement over machines that are powered by Intel chips, according to Justin Walker, an Nvidia vice president.

Nvidia’s stock rose as much as 5% in New York trading Monday, taking it back above $500 a share to a record high. The stock more than tripled last year giving the company a market value of more than $1 trillion.

After a spike in sales during the pandemic, PC shipments have fallen steeply, leaving makers and component suppliers burdened with inventory and little growth. Nvidia has avoided the worst of the PC plunge by owning the market for accelerator chips used to create AI software in data centers. The explosion in demand for that more expensive type of chip has pushed Nvidia’s market value past $1 trillion, making it the most valuable company in the history of the semiconductor industry.

For computer chipmakers in general though, the majority of the volume they ship still goes into PCs. They’re searching for a way to persuade laptop owners and corporate buyers to upgrade their equipment and have begun touting AI capabilities as a reason for new purchases.

Nvidia said the chips will provide more realistic gaming with high-definition images enhanced by AI, which will also generate improved dialog by in-game characters. In another example, the products will provide more responsive tools for image-editing software from companies such as Adobe Inc. There are currently 500 applications that are tuned to work better with AI and Nvidia’s RTX technology, the company said.

Nvidia is the largest maker of graphics processors, or GPUs. Gamers are willing to pay thousands of dollars for cards that upgrade their experience, which make the company’s chips a premium addition to PCs. Nvidia’s main rival in that market is AMD. Intel and AMD also offer central processing units that have graphics capabilities.

Separately, Nvidia said the capabilities of its new products won’t trigger rules put in place by the U.S. government to limit the export of AI-related chips to China. The top-of-the line GTX 4090 already fell afoul of those restrictions, requiring Nvidia to produce a less-capable version for that market.