Sunday, March 16, 2008

AMD ARRIVES TO THE PARTY WITH TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Guys, you hurt me. I've been batting for the green team for years. The notebook I had before my current one was AMD. The desktop I had before my current one ran through two different AMD processors. If all things are equal, I buy AMD.

I said that the Turion 64 X2 had a real chance to get a foothold in the mobile market as the first 64-bit dual core notebook processor.

Now, I've read that AMD's shrewd purchase of ATI is going to mean ATI has to stop paper launching hardware and start putting it on the shelves when they say they're going to. That's wonderful. Who's going to hold AMD to that?

The Turion 64 X2 arrived so late to the party that the word "Merom" was already on everyone's lips by the time it made it to shelves. Worse still, the Turion 64 X2 frankly...sucks. Maybe that's too harsh, but performance wise it isn't measuring up to Intel's mobile offerings.

The 64 X2 is available in 1.6 GHz, 1.8 GHz, and 2 GHz flavors. The problem is that Intel's low end on Core Duo's release was 1.66 GHz, their high end was 2.16 GHz, and the Core Duo is generally a more efficient architecture than the 64 X2. Ouch.

Worse, reports surfaced that the pricing on the Turion 64 X2s wasn't even very competitive as a budget solution against the Core Duos, a market segment that AMD had traditionally excelled in tapping. It hearkens back to how frustrated I was when the Athlon 64s were released with price tags in the same brackets as Intel's Pentium 4s.

Note to AMD: there's no shame in grossly undercutting the competition on price. After all, Intel just did that to you with the desktop Core 2 Duo, forcing you to make massive cuts to the pricing of your desktop line as well as making you rely on Dell, the perennial supporter of the underpowered and overpriced. (Note how Dell was the only company to aggressively try to keep Pentium 4s afloat in their heyday.)

It isn't all bad news on AMD's front.

The purchase of ATI was an extremely odd one initially. Why not nVidia, the company that's been producing the finest AMD chipsets on the market for years now, while ATI and Intel had been cozying up? So glad you asked.

Purchasing ATI does two things for AMD: it gives them an experienced in-house chipset developer, something they haven't enjoyed for a while, and it hamstrings Intel, who had been relying on ATI to produce budget IGPs and boards (ironically better than their mainstream IGPs) for their platform. Intel and ATI had also been collectively pimping ATI's desktop Crossfire dual graphics platform.

If nothing else, AMD is learning, and they're working on a genuinely competitive PLATFORM. Not just a name for a chip, but a complete chip and chipset package to compete with Intel's market dominating Centrino initiative.

Would I buy AMD hardware? Ask me again in six months.

As a sidenote, this purchase may finally force nVidia's hand on SLI certification. If nVidia finally opens up the spec (says the guy with a P965 board with two graphics card slots), it wouldn't be very good for AMD/ATI, but it would be GREAT for the consumer and GREAT for nVidia. But for now, SLI remains limited to nVidia boards. At least, officially.

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