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AMD Interview With Matt Davis


by Stuart Davidson - 8th Jan 2011
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Hi Matt, can you tell our users what your job title is within AMD and what a normal day involves for you?
Matt: AMD Product Marketing Manager for Desktop Solutions. One of the great things about my job is that from week to week my job takes on many different roles. One week I may spend each day pouring through market research and AMD business data; other weeks I'm spending hours in the labs and with our product engineers. In the end, my main focus is to understand the market needs and dynamics and marry our innovation to the usage and PC experiences that best address those needs. As a global company some of the greatest challenges I face involve the diverse needs of the many different regions and partners we service. As you move around the globe, the rate of technology adoption, usage, hardware requirements, etc. change drastically. As a result your marketing message and approach needs to be malleable.

One key initiative that AMD is focused on is VISION Technology. AMD is intentionally crafting a marketing message around the PC experience, not just the speeds and feeds. For many consumers, buying a PC can be overwhelming. For those users we want VISION to be a sign post for a great PC experience. For the tech-savvy guys out there - you know what you want, but VISION can help you address the 'what do I buy' questions you get from friends and family. If you're like me, you spend time every holiday season answering questions about computers and what to buy. Of course I tell them to look for VISION, that way you know you'll take home a PC that delivers a great, richly graphic PC experience - and who doesn't want that these days. VISION is designed to ease the buying process by helping you identify what you do with your PC; you don't need a decoder ring to sort through the tech speak, MHz, GHz, etc. If you know what you want to do, you can find the VISION tier that will best fit that need. In the end you spend less time trying to educate people on what all these numbers mean, and more time speaking their language - what do you do on your PC? I email, I chat, I watch movies, I make movies, I edit photos, etc. Big numbers, more speed don't always mean it's the right PC for you and your budget. AMD is trying to make VISION a helpful way to get users to the right PC, at the right price for an experience that exceeds expectations.
Your role is primarily based around AMD CPUs and you guys have been advancing multi-core technology for some time now. What would you say has been the biggest advance in the architecture since the original dual core models? (Maybe something as simple as the ability to add more cores, or maybe something deeper in the architecture which works better now or couldn't have been done back in the dual core Athlon X2 days)
Matt: Great question and it just so happens the entire industry is on the cusp of an impressive shift to more powerful, yet more efficient, computing. AMD is leading the way with innovative Fusion products. These products come to market as Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) and indicate the union of traditional x86 CPU cores and the SIMD Arrays that comprise modern discrete GPU cores. The components and performance that were once separated across a platform are now on a single 32nm processor die. Essentially AMD is catapulting graphics performance by nearly 400% while drastically reducing the size and power consumption requirements for PCs. Now, AMD partners are able to develop small and sleek PCs that deliver performance similar to that of dual-core AMD Athlon II X2 processors with discrete class graphics. This can be done at significantly lower power (reducing thermal design requirements) and at lower prices. With the new AMD C-Series and AMD E-Series APU products, we redefine the performance expectations for entry level and value-based PC solutions. Never before has there been a processor capable of delivering full HD, accelerated Web performance and productivity in a single, small, efficient and affordable solution. Research shows that for the majority of users, the greatest need for improved computing is on the graphics side. CPUs today are very capable of executing the majority of tasks that users need (basic productivity like MSFT Office, email, etc.) but with the proliferation of HD content (100s of millions of HD videos uploaded to YouTube, millions of HD TV shows and movies streamed online, etc.) means that graphics matter more than ever. AMD is uniquely positioned to address this need and take users to the next level by virtue of having both an industry leading CPU and GPU business under one roof. AMD solutions are designed to work better together and now, with the introduction of the APU, users get a PC experience unlike any before it.
Speaking of advances in technology, we have seen a number of key applications which are now multi-core/thread enabled that enhance performance on your processors. These can be something as simple as dBPoweramp which allows us to convert albums ultra-fast as it assigns one track per core or more advanced, for example Adobe Media Encoder which will max out all six cores on an X6. Despite these, one of the key applications out there, Photoshop, still lacks good multi-core support. Do AMD actively push developers such as Adobe to add improved multi-core support so that consumers get a better experience on the higher spec AMD CPUs?
Matt: Absolutely yes. We have a variety of valued partners in the software world that we work extremely closely with; we are constantly collaborating to ensure that developers get the absolute maximum performance from our hardware. While multi-core computing continues to be a heavy focus, we are also strongly pushing hardware acceleration through the GPU cores. In more and more instances, the parallel processing done on the GPU is more apt to handle intense workloads such as encoding, decoding, rendering, etc. In this capacity the GPU cores do more than just drive brilliant visuals to your face, they assist with general purpose computing. The example I like to use involves doctoral professors and children. Think of your CPU cores as doctoral processors. In a dual-core processor you have two professors and they can solve just about any problem you throw at them (complex computing). On the other had you have a room of hundreds of children that can handle a massive amount of much simpler tasks. As you are using your PC you're tackling a variety of tasks and for the most part, the professors are handling it; and as we know, more professors (more cores) can do more things simultaneously. What we've discovered is that in many cases, such as is with creation applications like Adobe, activities like rendering are much less complex, though much more massive. Going back to the analogy, let's compare this to a task like making 1000 paper airplanes. In this instance, the room full of children is equally capable of making paper airplanes as the pair of professors. So for this task it would make more sense to have 100s of children create massive amounts of paper airplanes in parallel. This gets your airplanes made faster and frees up your professors to tackle other, more complex tasks.

So back in the real world this means that the close work with our software partners helps their applications do jobs quickly and efficiently. Currently we have drivers that can accelerate applications such as Internet Explorer and Fire Fox for faster page-loads and quicker response to your clicks. Also, with acceleration for Adobe Flash Player we enable users to enjoy crisp, smooth online video playback in higher resolutions. For content creators we have a variety of partners that take advantage of our hardware acceleration to speed the time it takes to render out those home movies, or create slides shows, or sort through and organize your photos. The list of applications that take advantage of hardware acceleration is growing rapidly; and with our help and collaboration we hope that the future of software applications work faster and smarter to make the AMD computing experience better.
Is there an application you specifically use thanks to some great multi-core support?
Matt: Having more true cores (not threads) are extremely helpful for me when I'm editing HD video. I've used a variety of applications from the many versions of Adobe CS to the last few iterations of Sony Vegas. I also love the added scope it adds to my RTS games such as Civilizations.
One of the great aspects of the new X6 CPUs is Turbo Boost which gives end users enhanced performance when required. Your main competitor also has a similar approach to enhancing performance. Do you feel your implementation of the technology has advantages over the competition?
Matt: I can honestly say that we've worked very hard to deliver for the performance community and AMD Turbo CORE technology adds a nice twist. The massive headroom at your disposal with the AMD Phenom II family of processors extends the value of your dollar farther than just about anything else out there. AMD OverDrive Software has a variety of ways to help both advanced and novice users get the most from their AMD platforms. With Turbo CORE technology it makes that performance even more accessible by automatically adjusting frequency, core count and system efficiency dynamically based on your usage. When you need the performance of six-core processing - it's there; when you need the blazing speed for your favourite game - it's there for you too. In the end the advantage with AMD is that you are going to get more cores, more frequency and better system tuning - all for less money than the competition. We hope that things like Turbo CORE technology and AMD OverDrive Software help users get closer to the technology. When it's easy and you can see the difference, the value becomes apparent; mainstream users can convert to more savvy performance users.

Sidenote - overclocking voids CPU warranty and AMD is not responsible for any damage caused by overclocking, even when using AMD OverDrive Software Smile
AMD offer some great value processors in the Phenom 2 and Athlon 2 ranges. Part of this is down to the fact that your cores can be easily configured which results in the X3 type CPUs, a unique processor considering your main competitor goes from dual to quad core models. Do you see the same sort of configurations being available in future CPU families?
Matt: AMD introduced the triple-core processor based on extensive market research around PC usage. We found that 3 cores actually hit the sweet-spot for most users. In most instances dual-core computing was adequate for the majority of users and with an additional core to service the OS; one of the more significant bottlenecks was addressed. The functionality and utility certainly makes sense but for many users, an odd number of cores is... well... odd. Triple-core processors continue to address customer and consumer needs by delivering great performance at great prices. As long as the industry and market find value in these products and request them - AMD will address the need.
"The future is fusion"... a key marketing line which touches on the next range of processors from AMD. What do you think will be the biggest impact on the market from the Fusion processors? How will they shape future systems?
Matt: The innovation of Fusion is going to enable a new class of performance, efficiency and form factor. The greatest implications are in the notebook market where significantly improved battery life is made sweeter by the enormous leap on graphics capabilities. In the future, systems will continue to get smaller and sleeker, while simultaneously delivering more performance. What was the most advanced, highest performing PC a few years ago is now being outpaced by an 11 inch netbook. Certainly with the growth in the tablet space continuing, Fusion solutions are extremely well suited to deliver better performance, both from a compute and graphics standpoint.
One of the most popular market segments in 2010 has been Tablet PCs and it looks like this will continue to be the case in 2011. Currently the majority of devices use Andriod as their OS and the better specification models use ARM CPUs. Do you see AMD competing better in this marketplace in the future?
Matt: Acer will have a tablet based on AMD Fusion APU technology in March of 2011. Fusion technology is now, and will continue to be, a great way for PC makers to get big experiences in small form factors.
Our readers like to hear about what systems our interviewee's use. Are you a gamer or productivity user? What CPU powers your system at home and why did you go for that particular model?
Matt: While I certainly have a couple notebooks and netbooks kicking around (trappings of the job - gotta know your products) - I do lean the most on a couple desktop systems.

For gaming and productivity I have an Antec chassis modded with CoolIT Domino chilling a speedy AMD Phenom II X6 1090T six-core processor that I have running at 4GHz on 6 cores and 4.6GHz on three cores with Turbo CORE (need to upgrade to the latest X6 1100T, though). I have an AMD Radeon HD 6870 reference GPU driving a 3x1 AMD Eyefinity monitor setup - it has been more than enough. I'm running it all off an Asus 890FX Crosshair with 8G Corsair Dominator 1600 RAM. I have a RAID set up with a few terabits of storage. I chose this set up because it's badass. Period. There isn't anything this system can't do. It's quiet (enough) and doesn't get too hot.

The other system I spend a good bit of time on is an HTPC in a Silverstone chassis running and energy efficient AMD Phenom II X4 910e on a GIGABYTE 890GX board with the clock turned up on the ATI Radeon HD 4250 graphics that are onboard; then 4GBs of RAM and a meagre 250GB SSD - but it's all networked so I usually stream from the 'big dog' I mentioned above or just from the Web. I chose this set up because it was about as aggressive as I could get with nearly zero audible interference. It's quiet, feeds good sound and plays back unadulterated HD.
What would you say is the number one reason a consumer should choose an AMD based system when deciding to build a new machine?
Matt:I'm no fool, I understand that our competitor has some very good product in the market, but the one thing that always makes me bang my head against the wall is value. I don't care what you do with your PC, AMD has a solution that can do it and I'd venture a guess that 9 times out of 10 it's less money. And by less money, I mean enough left over for you to do something sweet like upgrade your peripherals, get headphones, maybe even a better/bigger/additional monitor. In today's economy everyone needs to be aware of what their money buys them; and if you're buying a PC or building your own there are new options that give you more for your money than AMD.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Matt: I'm glad you asked. I'd love to help dispel some ugly notions of AMD that get proliferated way too much...
  1. AMD systems do not run hot. We've done thermal analysis and our platforms don't create any more heat than other solutions in market. I don't care what the sales guys tells you, it's not the case.
  2. AMD systems do not run slow. You don't power 4 of the top 6 super computers in the world by being slow. If it's good enough to map the human genome, it should be good enough for your email, pictures, video and chat.
  3. On the notebook side, our battery life is as good as Intel's. There was a gap three years ago but it has been substantially closed for over a year and with the latest APU offerings, AMD delivers all-day battery life (12+ hours on the AMD C-Series APUs). So if battery life is a key factor for you, it shouldn't be an issue that pushes you away from AMD.
  4. Get the most for you money.
We'd like to thank Matt for his time on this interview, some hugely interesting thoughts and opinions we feel. Remember to check back soon for the next in a series of AMD interviews.
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