AMD Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Number Of Chips In Bulldozer-based CPU

8 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AMD Gives Tough Competition to Intel, Once Again! Zen Processor Meets Internal Expectations!.

While it’s common for chipmakers to overstate how fast their processors can go, much like automakers often advertised inflated performance and mileage figures, this is quite an unusual – and hairy – situation for one of the leaders in the chip space.Chip-maker AMD has been struck by a class action lawsuit, after it was revealed that they falsely advertised the number of cores in their Bulldozer processor range.AMD is all set to release yet another major CPU architecture which is sure to provide a blow to intel’s high performing processors which are currently enjoying an elite position in the market.

A new class-action lawsuit against AMD is arguing that the company engaged in fraud and deceptive marketing when it claimed that its Bulldozer processors had eight cores. The troubled California giant is being sued in San Jose’s district court, accused of false advertising, fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.

In simpler terms, that means AMD’s Bulldozer-based chips cannot handle as many concurrent instructions as what would be expected from your typical eight-core chipset. This revelation is surely set to give sleepless nights to Intel as the new AMD Zen CPU is expected to give tough competition to the best performing CPUs from their stable. And that also means disappointment following the excitement some gamers may have felt, thinking that the AMD chips in their rigs would result in out-of-this-world PC gaming performance.

The suit supposedly alleges that because Bulldozer shares certain core resources, the cores can no longer work independently and the chip is no longer capable of performing eight instructions simultaneously. AMD has yet to provide official comment on the class action suit, but what’s interesting is how the company seems to be veering away from modular chip architecture like what consumers get from the Bulldozer processors. The chipmaker’s upcoming Zen architecture is more typical in nature, and it centers on simultaneous core threads per core, similar to rival Intel’s Hyperthreading technology. Within each module, alongside the two x86 cores, is a single branch prediction engine, a single instruction fetch and decode stage, a single floating-point math unit, a single cache controller, a single 64K L1 instruction cache, a single microcode ROM, and a single 2MB L2 cache.

The lawsuit goes against this, stating that the decrease in performance is deceiving less technically-knowledgeable consumers: In fact, the Bulldozer chips functionally have only four cores — not eight, as advertised. Four years ago, we published an investigation into how Bulldozer handled multi-threading scenarios and what kind of penalty the chip took when running two threads on the same module. Still, this could mean big trouble for AMD, as it could be chased for a large amount of money if the plaintiffs emerge victorious and the company is found guilty of willfully deceiving consumers.

Our investigations showed that Bulldozer took roughly a 20% performance hit when scaling up to eight cores compared to the scaling we’d expect to see from a conventionally designed processor. Other speculations are already ripe over the internet regarding compatibility with different hardware and we shall get into more details about all that when things are officially confirmed by the company.

If AMD hadn’t been forced to lower clock speeds to compensate for its 28nm manufacturing process, Kaveri would’ve outperformed Richland across the board. That suggests each module drops down to single-core performance when crunching floating-point values, although AMD insists its design allows two threads to access the FPU at the same time so the performance hit isn’t the end of the world. Now, it’s absolutely true that the Bulldozer family of products has had much lower single-thread performance than either previous AMD CPUs (in many cases) or Intel chips (in virtually all cases). But this lawsuit doesn’t appear to argue that AMD mismarketed its CPUs because single-threaded performance was weaker than expected, but because multi-threaded scaling was critically harmed by the decision to share various aspects of the underlying architecture. Weak single-threaded performance and high power consumption created a situation in which BD could neither hit its target clock frequencies nor its IPC targets.

Because AMD did not convey accurate specifications, tens of thousands of consumers have been misled into buying Bulldozer CPUs that do not conform to what AMD advertised, and cannot perform the way a true eight core CPU would (i.e., perform eight calculations simultaneously).” The legal challenge was launched by a chap called Tony Dickey, who lives in Alabama, US. In March this year, he bought two AMD FX-9590 chips for $299 online after seeing them advertised on AMD.com as eight-core processors, but later felt cheated when he learned of the CPU’s architecture. The Bulldozer designs are used in the two-module, four-core FX-4100, FX-4130, and FX-4170; the three-module, six-core FX-6100, FX-6120, and FX-6200; the four-module, eight-core FX-8100, FX-8120, and FX-8150; and the Opteron 4200 series (up to eight cores) and 6200 series (up to 16 cores). Dickey refers to Bulldozer as being unable to “perform eight calculations simultaneously,” but this is imprecise, inexact language that does not reflect the complexity of how a CPU executes code. Bulldozer is absolutely capable of executing eight threads simultaneously, and executing eight threads on an eight-core FX-8150 is faster than running that same chip in a four-thread, four-module mode.

Unless there’s an out-of-court settlement, a judge in the heart of Silicon Valley will have to define, legally, where a computer processor starts and ends. As annoying as it is to see vendors occasionally abuse core counts in the name of dubious marketing strategies, asking a courtroom to make declarations about relative performance between companies is a cure far worse than the disease. Of course, such a ruling will be avoided if AMD proves its eight-core Bulldozer processors do not drop to four-core performance in multithreaded FPU benchmark tests.

The argument might stand if AMD had marketed BD as having great floating-point performance, but the company’s disclosures and briefings all clearly stated that BD would have just four floating-point units. AMD has, in a very real sense, been thoroughly punished for the CPU it brought to market in 2011 — and this lawsuit makes claims that don’t hold up to technical scrutiny.

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