Thursday, December 06, 2007

Impact of BIOS patch of TLB Errata 298 measured

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Scott Wasson, whom we have quoted before, wrote an article for TechReport whose conclusions state that the performance hit of the BIOS patch for the erratum 298 is as severe as 20% in average. Even while taking out of the benchmark mix the memory performance tests, the performance hit is still more than 13%. Then, it has been confirmed the initial assessment of 20% performance penalty and that AMD once again tried to misled the public into diminishing the importance of the bug.

The 'net is abundant on reports on how the Phenoms are slower than plain old K8s in certain workloads. Since most of the consumer applications are very low-threaded, Phenom doesn't really have many chances to out compete their K8 dual core brothers throwing more cores to the workloads, but now that the BIOS patch castrates them of their memory performance, they look truly horrible. In some of the very long comparison tables of Wasson's article, the Phenoms are last in performance, by large margins. The BIOS patch affects severely the only competitive edge that K10 has over Intel products, so, the comparison turned hopeless against Intel processors.

Who are the suckers who are buying these Phenoms?

I wish I could leave it at that. But I can't. It turns out that at the height of the crisis, AMD officially came out to say that they are shipping the hundred of thousands of K10 processors they guided the last quarterly report conference call [ Mark Hachman @ ExtremeTech reports that AMD personnel emailed statements with that information ]. On top of the desperate and unethical behavior I describe in "terrible news", I can't fathom how stupid this company may be:

We know that AMD is quite simply not selling all the K10 it was supposed to sell [ we know that they are performing "application screening" before actual shipment of Barcelonas, they never launched the expected 2.6 GHz Phenom, had to retire the 2.4 GHz, IBM never launched the systems to the public so it couldn't certify its benchmark ], so the statement of tracking in accordance to previous guidance must be an outright lie; but that is not the worst about this statement, AMD actually believes that people will interpret the information that they are selling hundreds of thousands of severely defective processors as good news...

Wasson says that since the performance of Phenom is so mediocre, its only redeeming quality may be the cheap price, so, some average consumers may be interested in it, but

I doubt whether the average sort of consumer is likely to purchase a system with a quad-core processor. One wonders where that leaves AMD and the PC makers currently shipping Phenom-based PCs. I'm not sure a recall is in order, but a discount certainly might be. And folks need to know what they're getting into when purchasing a Phenom 9500 or 9600-based computer".

[A] credible source indicated to us that at least some of the few high-volume customers who are still accepting Barcelona Opterons with the erratum are receiving "substantial" discounts for taking the chips [...] I doubt AMD would have shipped Phenom processors in this state were it not feeling intense financial pressure.

AMD's other major concern here should be for its reputation [ my emphasis ]. The company really pulled a no-no by representing Phenom performance to the press (and thus to consumers) without fully explaining the TLB erratum and its performance ramifications at the time of the product's introduction.
It is even worse, Wasson forgets something he mentioned that I already quoted: AMD also misled the public by telling early reviewers that since the external bus of Phenoms was going to be 2.0 GHz, they should set the external bus to that speed for their reviews, while in fact the external bus of the actually launched Phenoms are 1.8 GHz.

I think all of this deserves REPUDIATION.

For a slight touch of comic relief, follow this link.


Roborat, Ph.D said...

It turns out that at the height of the crisis, AMD officially came out to say that they are shipping the hundred of thousands of K10 processors they guided the last quarterly report conference call

shipping doesn't necessarily mean selling...