Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Shorts and Bears: Run to cover!

The bearish position game on AMD is over.

AMD has unveiled a new line of power efficient processors, the official news here. For instance, a Desktop Athlon 64 X2 can be made with a power envelope of mere 14 Watts!! that's about 25% of the power consumption of the promised Intel Merom mobile chip.

Why is this important?:

  • Fanless: Can use just a passive disipator: No noise, no mechanical parts that wear down and deteriorate
  • No overheating: Longer lasting circuits, better overclocking possibilities
  • Tighter packaging (same space, more processors), or alternatively: A smaller media center pc
  • Better accessibility: It is easier to work in a computer that doesn't have a turbine of a fan cooler
  • Longer lasting battery
  • At 14 watts, a pedal or a hand crank power device makes sense (although it is true I am kidding ;-)
  • Smaller electricity bill: Remember that heat in a computer requires air conditioning that is also expensive; it has been calculated (sorry about not having the link) that the electricity bill in supporting air conditioning is twice what the computer itself consumes.
  • Once the upcoming revolution of solid state storage (using Flash memories instead of harddrives) takes place, the brand with the best power envelope would be the natural choice for the designers of an entirely new generation of computing devices whoose batteries will last a lot more, like what happened when the world switched to digital mobile telephones compared to analog.
Why is AMD able to pull this trick off?: Silicon On Insulator. AMD does strained germanium doping silicon on insulator chips. Intel only does Strained Silicon. Today, the transistors are so small that they can't prevent current leakage --a problem that gets exponentially worse with shrinking dimensions-- thus, although the shrinkage to 65nm still gives power benefits due to smaller transistors, there is trade-off that explains why Intel's products at 65nm have been so rather dissapointing. In any case, SOI means that the transistors are floating in an insulator that helps a lot with the leakage. Intel insists in claiming that SOI is just a fanciful and expensive way to do chips without concrete benefits. Remember that in my previous articles, I have serious doubts at the possibility of Intel promised power envelopes to be true...

Another thing: A lot of people and investors were worried about AMD doing this worldwide advertising campaign with Intel announcing a giant progress in power consumption in their chips, for a while some people became worried at Intel promised products being actually superior in power consumption to AMD's; but no way, this was the trick AMD had up its sleeves.

Thus, from the point of view of an investor, Silicon On Insulator is becoming a huge strategical (long term) AMD advantage that is being reaped in Power Consumption and perhaps soon enough in Z-Ram gigantic caches and the techniques that IBM claims give huge switching speed increase. Intel announced that they are already moving towards 45nm, without Silicon On Insulator, thus all these benefits of SOI may evidentiate Intel's move to 45nm as rushed and worthless, another huge effort lost, if they have to go back to square zero to rethink their production lines to include SOI. (Perhaps something like that would occur with immersion anyway)

And remember that to be fair, the Front Side Bus should be counted in a comparison to AMD processors, or at least the power consumption of the integrated memory controller should be discounted, so, AMD numbers are actually even better!!



Anonymous said...

This may be the first (of many) reports recognising the unbelievable importance of this news.

AMD is claiming a 37% increase in power/performance, and that's just for starters. Intel also is a claiming 'thirtysome' if power/performance.

If effect, pretty much ALL the advantage Intel is claiming for their (cough) next generation CPUs has been completely neutralized - and THAT'S HAPPENING THIS MONTH -

We're still waiting on Intel's new stuff.

Anonymous said...

Please explain to me how SOI minimizes the amount of leakage between the gate in a transistor and the channel (which are spearated by a 12A gate oxide)? Hint - it doesn't.

Please explain to me how SOI prevents lekaage between the source and drain (which is separated by the Si channel)?. Hint - It doesn't

SOI does not have significant impact on leakage - the reason between Intel P4 and AMD K8 power is chip design and clock frequency! Hence, Conroe which has much lower clock frequency than the P4's has a much lower TDP on the same manufacturing technology.

The only leakage path SOI addresses is junction leakage which is a distant third to gate leakage and source-drain leakages.

Anonymous said...

Fanless: Can use just a passive disipator: No noise, no mechanical parts that wear down and deteriorate

Some questions:
1) what is the major source of noise in a computer?
2) what is the failure rate for a CPUY fan; based on your comment above this is an important factor?

Anonymous said...

"For instance, a Desktop Athlon 64 X2 can be made with a power envelope of mere 14 Watts!! that's about 25% of the power consumption of the promised Intel Merom mobile chip."

Read the link: "When running typical workloads, as reflected in the SYSmark® 2004 SE benchmark, end users could experience their energy efficient dual-core processor consuming 14 watts.+ "

Does power envelop = running typical workloads (I would think when designing a system for power envelop you would not design for only typical workloads - especially when there is no mention of whether this is 5%, 50% or 100% CPU load)

As there is no mention of CPU load in the link - 14 Watts is not TDP. Are you just completely guessing on what the CPU load is to calculate the "25% advantage" over Merom?