Analyst outfit IDC has just dropped a blinding thermonuclear glimpse of the blatantly obvious by predicting that 60% of PCs will have AI hardware by 2027.
The new IDC report forecasts that 167 million PCs containing hardware specifically designed to run generative AI will be sold in 2027, representing that 60% market share. Given that it’s expected pretty much all current-gen CPUs and APUs being sold by Intel and AMD at that point will contain some kind of NPU or Neural Processing Unit, the prediction isn’t much of a reach. Indeed it feels like kind of a low-ball figure if anything.
Of course, you could argue that any PC with a modern discrete GPU has AI hardware. Indeed, if you’re serious about running AI image generation locally on your PC, you’re going to want access to a powerful GPU rather than an NPU.
At least that’s true with current hardware. Eventually, NPUs in consumer PCs may be better for that kind of workload. But not for now.
Either way, IDC is limiting its definition of hardware-enabled AI PCs to those with an NPU, which at least makes it easier to track trends. GPUs in consumer PCs just happen to be useful for generative AI, they weren’t actually designed for that.
IDC further breaks down AI PCs into three categories. “Entry level” represents machines with NPUs offering less than 40 TOPS of AI processing. Next up are so-called “next-generation” AI PCs with 40 to 60TOPS. The top “advanced AI PC” category offer above 60TOPS.
Currently, the NPU in AMD’s latest Hawk Point APU for laptops offers up to 16TOPS. Intel says its new Meteor Lake chips crank out 34TOPS, though that’s when combining the CPU, GPU and NPU in the chip. AMD’s Hawk Point is claimed to be capable of 39TOPS by the same combined metric.
For the record, the NPU in Apple’s latest M3 silicon is good for 18TOPS. Intel is claiming its Lunar Lake CPUs, due later this year will triple the TOPS of Meteor Lake, though it’s unclear if that’s 3x the 34TOPS total or 3x whatever Meteor Lake’s NPU alone is capable of.
We suspect it’s the latter and indeed AMD has explicitly said that the NPU in its next-gen Strix Point APU for laptops, again due later this year, will offer “more than” three times the NPU performance of Hawk Point. Rumours have put Strix Point’s NPU in the 45 to 50TOPS range, which aligns with AMD’s statements.
All told, then, NPU performance will probably scale very rapidly over the next few years. Exactly how useful this will be beyond generating weird and slightly disturbing image mashups is anyone’s guess. But the AI PC hardware trend is real enough.