AMD Tech Day 2008

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AMDís Death May Be Greatly ExaggeratedÖ

and Iím very glad to hear it!  Iíve liked AMD products for several years now.  After all, thatís the processor used in the HP tx2000 and it won The Tablet PCís Editorís Favorite Award.

Rumors have been rampant about the impending death of AMD.  If those rumors are at all true, then what I and 12 other representatives of top Web sites and blogs saw and heard today showed some of the best pre-burial arrangements imaginable.

The bus picked us up promptly at 8am and took us to AMDís new location in Austin. AMDís Lone Star campus  is not only very attractive, but is Green.  Buildings are set to enjoy the light and the views.  Materials used in construction are local to the area and had a minimum effect on the environment

With the recent announcement of ATIís Radeon HD 4870 and the numerous awards itís already won, the death knell for AMD should be silenced.  More about the new graphics cards in a bit.

We werenít offered the usual Power Point decks and canned presentations, but rather a round table experience where we were free to interrupt, ask questions, get off track and learn exactly what we wanted to know about AMD and its products.  Many of us had questions from our readers and our own experiences.  Many of those questions were answered before we could even ask them.  AMD knows the concerns of the computing world and wants to allay the fears.  The people there werenít cowering behind corporate speak and innuendo, but rather came across as honest, straightforward and wanting to continue to move in the right direction.

I wanted to share some of what we learned with you.  If you have any questions, go ahead and post in the forums and weíll get them to the right people at AMD for their responses. 

For years, computer enthusiasts have been choosing AMD for top performance, especially for gaming.  Chris Cloran, the CVP of Product Marketing told us that the recently announced Puma chipset has been an outstanding success. 

With the consumer support AMD has received, it will start focusing on small and medium businesses as well.  Eventually, this expansion will reach enterprise level.

David Rooney, a PM for Puma told us that notebook sales have surpassed desktop sales this year and will continue to grow substantially.  For those that havenít read about Puma, here are some of the highlights.

         Puma uses Turion X2, ATI Radeon Discrete (the HD3200 gives 3 times the 3-D graphics performance, so you can now get desktop performance on a notebook), 7 series chipset and is WiFi Certified

         Has 5 times the HD image quality

         With High Definition on Puma, you get longer battery life.  Supports H.264, mpeg2, VC1 and BluRay

         Wireless includes 802.11 a/b/g/n and 3g Ė outstanding range.  Itís engineered for power efficiency to extend battery life.  Transfers photos, videos and music in under 2/3 the time.

At home, at work and at play, the advantages include

         Hybrid power express, 3-D mark
        
Better lighting, higher precision, smooth and realistic textures in photos and games.  Incredible scalability in 3D graphics performance
         170%  boost in 3-D graphics performance over ATI Radeon HD 3200
         240%  increase in 3-D graphics performance or over 90 minutes of extra battery life (ATI Radeon HD3200 to ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650)

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After Davidís presentation, we had a surprise visit by Nigel Dessau.  Nigel is the senior vice president and chief marketing officer at AMD. 

Nigel thinks that simplicity is a good way to do things and it makes sense.  We should base our selection of a computer on what we need it to do, and how we need it done.

If offered a quality choice of good, better or best, and a choice of how the computer will be used - for home, work or play Ė selecting the right computer is a lot easier than when overwhelmed with dozens of machines that may or may not be as usable as expected.

Nigel summed his outlook on making a company a success in a succinct sentence - ďItís OK to look back, but itís not OK to stare.Ē To me, that meant, learn from your mistakes, but donít dwell on them to the degree that they stop forward movement.  Thatís the attitude that I think will keep AMD on the right track.

The next person we were able to talk with was Matt Mazzantini, Senior Product Manager, who explained the next integrated platform from AMD, codenamed Shrike.  Shrike will be the first line of fusion computing.  Few if any of us knew what that meant.  Matt told us that he believes that AMD will be the first to combine the CPU and the GPU on a single silicon chip.  The new term used for this will be APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). This isnít going to be available tomorrow, but expect to see it in the second half of 2009.   It will include DP, DVI, HDMI support and PCIe in and out.  Youíll see a wide range of products including thin and light computers, ultra-low voltage and low voltage.  We all want lighter laptops with exceptional battery life and this is certainly going to be a big step.

Hal Speed, AMD marketing architect, spoke about what we can expect in the future.  By future, we mean at least 4 years out.  Expect to see more than 1000% performance improvements and/or 200% power savings.

One of the most exciting events of the day was a visit by Charlie Boswell, Director of Advanced Marketing.  Charlie showed some videos that were done in real time using AMD Live by various artists, including Peter Frampton, Austin City Limits, and Dweezil Zappa among others. 

Charlie noted that the AMD-powered PCs have been used in many stunning videos and movies.  George Lucas used it in Star Wars, Episodes 2 and 3.  It was used in Transformers.  I was lucky enough to have been invited to San Francisco to Dreamworks Studios and saw a clip from Transformers on the absolutely most stunning screen and heard it in heart-pounding sound.  All I can say is that it was AWESOME!

Later in the afternoon we were able to head to Charlieís sound studio.  I think he really enjoys his job and it shows!

Ognjen Brkic talked about discrete graphics in notebooks and a new product thatís in the works that grabbed our attention.  He told us that these (code-named Lasso) wonít be marketed by AMD, but by their partners, so the final product may be seen with many variations. Being a mobile fan, I was very excited to see Lasso, which is an external box that can be used for a variety of things, depending on what the OEMs add.  The technology thatís impressive here is that due to the uniqueness of features Ė for example, this box can be used for external video cards among a myriad of other devices.  That means those of us who are committed to mobility will then be able to enjoy all the video power of any desktop.  This ATI XGP technology is proprietary to ATI until August of 2009, then available to all. Because removing a video card by accidentally unplugging it would crash the computers, the connection was well thought out and tested and the result is that itís solid and unique. 

Pat Moorhead then gave us a quick rundown with no fluff or frills about whatís happening at AMD.

Visual Computing Trends

  Film Industry

    Hybrid power express, 3-D mark
    Better lighting, higher precision, smooth and realistic textures in photos and games.  Incredible scalability in 3D graphics performance
    170%  boost in 3-D graphics performance over ATI Radeon HD 3200
    240%  increase in 3-D graphics performance or over 90 minutes of extra battery life (ATI Radeon HD3200 to ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650)

    Movies set in worlds created entirely inside computers
    Filmmakers and producers dabbling in the idea of the actor-less film
    Movies based on games and games based on movies

   Video Games

    Movie-like storylines plus rich 3D interactivity
    Gaming is mainstream.  The new GTA game outsold the blockbuster movie ďIron ManĒ 4 to 1 in opening weekend sales

   3-D Computing

    3-D Operating Systems
    3-D User Interfaces
    3-D Web Browsing
    3-D Video

   Turning Point in CPU Design

    Relative nascent performance-per-watt philosophy
    Reaching the point of diminishing returns. 
    Technologies such as CrossFireX and others bring promises of better multi-GPU scaling

   Future

    Is the future of computing holographic?  In what other direction can it be heading?

As I noted at the beginning of this article, ATI just released some new graphics cards.

With the processing needs of upcoming graphics, take a look at the HD 4800 Series. 

Designed to Perform Ė ATI Radeon Premium Graphics

The ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series offer major performance leap with the industries first TeraFLOPS GPU and 800 Stream Processors.  With the first GDDR5 graphics and AMDís second generation DirectX 10.1, ATI continues to offer the best performance at every price and says that we can expect the fastest card in the market.

The ATI Radeon HD 4850 claims to be the best gaming card available for under $200.  It will run highly demanding games in full HD and high settings.  For you gamers out there, here are some of the specs.

         Computer Power Ė 1.0 TFLOPS
        
Core Clock Speed Ė 625 MHz
         Single/Dual Slot Ė Single Slot
        
Memory Type Ė GDDR3 2Gbps
        
Frame Buffer Ė 512 MB
        
Max Board Power Ė 110W

With the new technology of the HD 4800 series, youíll be able to upscale to an HD monitor without losing quality.

The most impressive and amazing video of the day was that of ĎRuby.í  Youíll be able to see for yourself when this demo is officially posted to the Web.  Although experts said that it would be 2014 before we saw this quality in ĎCinematic Computing,í itís here now and youíll see it soon.  Just imagine being able to actually see dust motes on the sides of a terrarium along with crystal clarity throughout the video.

The ATI Radeon HD 4870 has received rave reviews.  Itís already won several awards, over 30 already and thatís just in EMEA.  The price is also pretty amazing - $299 and thatís the suggested retail.  Power Director (Cyberlink)  CPU load is above 5% and below 70%.  Cyberlink, Win DVD, WMP10 and 11 are supported.   Sonic, and Roxio support will be coming in a couple of months.

A few other tidbits from Pat Ė

   CPU is really good at serial.  GPU is really good at parallel. 

The new APU is going to stir things up.

   AMD was awarded Forbes Most Innovative Company-2007

Thatís something I hadnít been aware of, but that shows that one of industryís most respected news sources respects the way AMD is doing things.

         Phenom Ė doing very well
        
AMD Live Explorer shows off the technology to owners of newer AMD systems. Itís 3-D for consumers.  Itís available for download on machines that meet specifications
         Visual Computing Trends include the film industry, video games and 3D Computing

Mark Welker, AMDís Senior Performance Analyst, talked about Performance Benchmarks, both in the lab and real world.  Hearing about how some of the benchmarks were used was interesting, especially in what we usually donít see published.  For example, youíve probably all read about some things are touted as reducing the load on the CPU by using GPU power.  What we donít read is how the CPU load is rated.  If you have something thatís supposed to run on GPU power, take a look at your CPU monitor and see just how true it is. Just for fun, load up Disney or American Idolís site and watch the CPU monitor.  Was it what you expected to see?  These arenít the only sites or programs that can strain a CPU, but theyíre good examples.

Mark also told us something weíve been waiting to hear for some time.  This summer is when youíre going to see 64-bit computing take off.  We can only hope!  Iíve been seeing 64-bit computers coming from OEMs loaded with a 32-bit OS.  Itís only recently that Iíve seen 64-bit Windows Vista being standard on some 64-bit machines (thank you HP and AMD).

Rick Gayle is the Senior Product Manager for Platform Planning and gave a rundown of the Better By Design Program. Some of the highlights from his presentation are

WLAN
Partners are evaluated and selected based on several dimensions of their solution vs Intel Centrino and have to perform the competition

ē    Bit-rate throughput performance
ē    Power Consumption
ē    Quality / Stability of hardware and software
ē    Innovation
ē    Cost and overall value
        

Wi-Fi
        
Leading providers of Wi-Fi Certified WLAN solutions worldwide, holding more than 67% of the Wi-Fi chipset market as of 8-07
        
Found in over 100 devices leading to better compatibility, better throughout and faster upload or download, longer range and lower power that helps extend battery power         Innovation leaders in WLAN, they consistently lead in the release of new WLAN technology

The result of this is that AMDís Better By Design Program outperforms Intel considerably.

         AMD Better by Design 2 transmitters x 3 receivers vs Intel 4965 2 transmitters x 3 receivers @2.4GHz -
   +100% (2x) higher Transmit throughput and 29% higher Receive throughput
         AMD Better by Design 2 transmitters x 3 receivers vs Intel 4965 2 transmitters x 3 receivers @2.4GHz (Far Range [100 feet]) -
   +141% higher Transmit and +11% Higher Receive throughput
         AMD Better by Design 2 transmitters x 3 receivers vs Intel 4965 2 transmitters x 3 receivers @ 5GHz (close range [40 feet]) -
   +32% higher Transmit and +19% Receive throughput
         AMD Better by Design 2 transmitters x 3 receivers vs Intel 4965 2 transmitters x 3 receivers @ 5GHz (Far Range [100 feet]) -
   +100% higher Transmit and +339% higher Receive throughput

Wireless USB (W-USB)

         W-USB is new.  The first products were released on notebooks in 1007.  Early first generation products had poor performance ~55Mbps, were costly and consumed a lot of power
        
2nd generation W-USB will be higher performers that match wired USB performance
        
AMD is evaluating solutions for 2009 with possible inclusion in Better By Design for next year and beyond

A real treat was getting to see a lot of preproduction machines.  HPís Puma-based tx2500 was there.  I was anxious to test it out.  Looking at it, you wonít see any difference in the form factor from the tx2000, but performance should be better.  Weíll be testing this unit soon and will let you know as soon as we can.

For dinner, we traveled to a legendary local restaurant, the Salt Lick, where we feasted on Texas barbecue in true Texas style.  Platters and bowls were filled to overflowing, and they just kept coming.  Ribs, brisket, chicken, turkey, coleslaw, beans, potato salad and bread made round after round.  And to top it all off, there was peach or blueberry cobbler and Texas pecan pie.  I didnít hear one complaint about the food!

To AMD - thanks for a great event!  We appreciate your being straightforward.  Weíre glad youíre talking to the communities and listening in return. Weíre glad you invited us and weíre anxious to see more. 

 
 

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