AMD's Barcelona: Why we haven't published benchmarks

A month ago we were able to present to you a rare look at AMD's forthcoming roadmap, detailing everything from new plans for the mobile space to giving a better idea of AMD's reasoning behind the ATI acquisition. We left that article with a positive and hopeful note for AMD:

"For a while we had lost confidence in AMD, like many of you had as well, and although AMD's position in the market hasn't changed we are more confident now that it can actually bounce back from this. Intel seemed to have the perfect roadmap with Conroe, Penryn and Nehalem all lined up back to back, and we saw little room for AMD to compete. Now, coming away from these meetings, we do believe that AMD may have a fighting chance. Over the coming months you'll begin to see why; it won't be an easy battle, but it will be one that will be fought with more than just price."

A strong roadmap alone does not make for a successful company; we need to see near term execution as well. For AMD, that means Barcelona has to be competitive. The interesting part of AMD's disclosures as of late is that as much information as AMD has given us about its roadmap for 2008, 2009 and beyond, we have little to no details about when we can expect Barcelona and how fast it will be.


When we headed out to Taiwan, a country of leaked processors and benchmarking opportunities, for Computex we surely expected to return with some Barcelona performance figures. We were hoping we'd come back with the very data that AMD hadn't allowed us to get ourselves when we visited the company over a month ago. And while there were some performance results reported from Taiwan, there was an eerie silence about AMD's updated micro-architecture.

We were determined not to leave the island without running at least one test on Barcelona. We worked long and hard, and we were finally able to spend some time alone with Barcelona in Taiwan. But the story doesn't end there; it's unfortunately not that simple.

Motherboard Problems

We know that Barcelona works and runs benchmarks, as we saw back at AMD in May. But the demos that AMD ran were on its own motherboards, not on motherboards from its partners. AMD's partners just recently received their first "production quality" Barcelona samples, and as expected, the current boards required some heavy BIOS work before the new chips would even work, much less perform up to the expectations set by AMD.

The motherboard we tested on had minimal HT functionality and wouldn't run at memory speeds faster than DDR2-667; most 3D video cards wouldn't even work in the motherboard. Memory performance was just atrocious on the system, but the motherboard manufacturers we worked with attributed this to BIOS tuning issues that should be fixed in the very near future.

In the end, performance was absolutely terrible. We're beginning to understand why AMD didn't let us test Barcelona last month. It's not that AMD is waiting to surprise Intel; it's that the platform just isn't ready for production yet.

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  • MrEMan - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    So, can someone explain to me what exactly AMD has gotten from its (paid) collaboration with IBM?

    It seems that once again IBM is unable to deliver on converting from lab design to actual production implementation.
    Reply
  • defter - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    quote:

    So, can someone explain to me what exactly AMD has gotten from its (paid) collaboration with IBM?


    I recall that AMD has licensed some process technology from IBM (including SOI).


    quote:

    It seems that once again IBM is unable to deliver on converting from lab design to actual production
    implementation.


    ??? Barcelona is AMD's design, it has nothing to do with IBM.
    Reply
  • MrEMan - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    Yes, Barcelona is strictly AMD's design, but are the problems being encountered due to the design, or the manufacturing of the new processors?

    It seems to me that it is more a manufacturing problem, because the current Athlons and Opterons haven't had any great performance enhancements/clock speed increases over the last few years.
    Reply
  • TA152H - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    Neither have Intel products. The fastest product they released was 3.8 GHz, and that was two or three years ago? Reply
  • Neosis - Tuesday, June 12, 2007 - link

    Are you comparing a netburst based CPU with these ones?

    Do you have any idea about Integer Pipelines and Cache Latency?
    Reply
  • defter - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    Sub 2GHz speeds and motherboard issues cannot have anything to do with manufacturing issues.

    Even though 65nm K8s have very low clockspeeds, they are capable of reaching 2.6GHz@65W TDP (2 cores), thus hypothetical K8 based quad core would reach at least 2.6GHz@130W TDP. Since Barcelonas clockspeed is currently limited to 1.6-1.8GHz there must be significant issues with the design itself.
    Reply
  • archcommus - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    Let's face it, AMD has no hopes until at least early-mid next year, and that's assuming things DO improve significantly. Maybe they can keep themselves afloat with mediocre video, notebook, and low-power chip sales until then. Who knows what they've been doing there for the past four years since the original A64 launch. I know they had a cancelled project, but that still doesn't explain this kind of delay/lack of progress over that much time.

    But in the end, you can't win them all. AMD was king a couple years back, and now they're losing. They won't go out of business, and maybe they'll be a completely different company with their first 45 nm/next gen products.

    In the meantime, I guess I'm betting on a cheap C2Q upgrade sometime in the next year.
    Reply
  • nicolasb - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    There are number of references to "RD600" in this article that should probably read "R600". Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    Sorry about that, corrected, it was a long flight home yesterday. ;-) Reply
  • clairvoyant129 - Monday, June 11, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Continuing on the worst case scenario track, some partners don't expect to see 2.3 - 2.4GHz until Q2 next year


    Not surprising, scaling is terrible... by the time AMD rolls out 2.6GHz, forget Penryn, Intel will have Nehalem out.
    Reply

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