Lessons from the difficult birth of the Spider platform

We try not to get too much into behind-the-scenes drama here at TR, "inside baseball" stuff like how we deal with public relations types, because we think the focus should be on the products, test results, and reader concerns. I think that’s generally the right thing to do, but today I’m going to make an exception to talk a little bit about some recent happenings.

As you might imagine, both Geoff and I have spent a tremendous portion of the past month-plus focusing on new products from AMD, including the Radeon HD 3800 series, the 790FX chipset, and the Phenom processor. There’s been much to cover, and we’re generally quite happy to see intriguing new products come our way. But this three-for-one launch has been a less-than-pleasant experience for reasons that both inconvenience us professionally and, to some extent, affect our readers as consumers, too.

I should begin by saying that we have close working relationships with companies like AMD, Intel, and Nvidia—a necessity given our tightly focused coverage of the core of the PC. That sometimes leads us to get information about upcoming products months in advance, so we can plan our editorial schedules and prepare for product reviews in advance. Such was the case with the three elements of AMD’s "Spider" platform. I visted AMD’s Toronto offices back in late September for an early briefing on these products, and Geoff followed up by attending a larger press event in New York in early November. We had prepared well ahead of time review these three products when they arrived.

To give you some idea, in my case, making those preparations involved weeks of work, believe it or not. I revamped our entire CPU test suite in preparation for the Phenom. The first fruits of this effort were seen in our Core 2 Extreme QX6850 review, which included brand-new everything: software revisions for a large proportion of our test suite, a new P35-based mobo for Intel CPUs with DDR3 memory, an upgrade to 4GB of RAM for all test systems, all new WD Caviar SE16 hard drives, new BIOS and driver revisions all around, and a number of new applications and games for testing. We acquired this stuff, rebuilt our test systems from scratch, and began accumulating results for what became ten different competing CPU speed grades for comparison to the Phenom.

I made similar preparations for the Radeon HD 3800 series, including the addition of new power supplies, new Caviar SE16 drives, a new X38-based CrossFire test platform, and a from-the-ground-up software rebuild involving the very latest new games. Likewise, Geoff spent substantial time reworking his chipset test setup in anticipation of the 790FX.

We attended these briefings and did this prep work in anticipation of something we’d come to expect from long experience in working with AMD on reviews over the years, something we’d been promised by AMD: samples of the actual products to test and review. That is, of course, the heart and soul of our enterprise, to tell you how these things measure up in enough detail that you’re well-informed about the products. We prepare ahead of time as much as possible, because experience has taught us that things often change at the last minute: launch dates get pulled ahead or pushed back, products get changed, key specs are revised, and hardware gets delayed. As a result, we oftentimes have a very small window of time in which to test a new video card or processor, and we want to be sure to meet the standards we’ve established for thoroughness and detail if at all possible.

Unfortunately, as the launch dates approached for AMD’s new GPUs, CPUs, and chipset, we slowly started to realize that not all was well. The first major indicator was the fact that AMD chose to send out a pair of Radeon HD 3850 cards for review, but neglected to include 3870s. Then, just as Geoff was returning from the NYC press briefing, we received an email inviting us to another press event in Lake Tahoe.

This threw us for a loop.

Why, we wondered, would we be attending a third event for this round of products? Had we not endured enough PowerPoint time already? The answer from AMD PR was even worse than we thought: Tahoe would be a "hands-on" testing event, and would likely be our only chance to spend time with the hardware before the product launch.

Now, given what I’ve said about the preparation we’d done ahead of time in our labs, you can imagine the relative value of a one-day test session, completely off site, where we work with systems configured by AMD. Put bluntly, it’s almost entirely worthless to generate the kind of comparative test data we put into our reviews. Just setting up a test rig can take us as long as one of these events lasts, and that’s assuming you have complete freedom to swap components around at will. These events don’t afford such freedom.

More importantly, learning that AMD was looking to restrict reviewers’ access to its products before the launch was the equivalent of seeing a bright, red flare shooting upward into the night sky. As a reviewer, I’ve become conditioned over time to see this sort of PR move as a classic and sure-fire indicator of a poor product.

Now, I’m not saying that we here at TR or those in the press in general have a divine right to advance review samples of products. That’s not my position. But I’ve observed over the years that would-be clever PR people have an uncanny tendency to change the terms on which they work with us, to change their philosophy about product samples, at the precise time when the product they’re shepherding to market has the moldy odor of a possible stinker emanating from it. We’ve seen this dynamic unfold time and again, yet the PR types—whose average tenure tends to be measured in months rather than years—continue to pull out this tactic at key moments, as if it were smart, new, and likely to succeed.

Of course, that simply doesn’t work with us, for a variety of reasons. First and foremost among them is this one: we will review the product, one way or another. When we called the GeForce FX a disappointment early on and nicknamed the cooler a "Dustbuster", Nvidia excommunicated us for a year. So we paid the ransom for one on eBay and reviewed it anyway, complete with decibel-meter readings for that ridiculous cooler.

We choose to work with companies like AMD only because it suits our purposes, which are to bring fair and thorough reviews to our readers in as timely a manner as possible. Generally, we’ve found that playing nice with chipmakers has been the best path to that goal, even though we often have to agree to wait for launch day to publish a review. But we don’t have to make that deal, and I see no reason to do so if we can’t get our hands on the product. We could always go the "gray market" route, acquiring a chip from other sources and publishing test results as soon as possible. In many cases, that would mean having hard numbers before the launch date, even if they were from pre-release hardware.

We’re also not going to be dazzled by a trip to Tahoe to see the sights. We’ve long since learned that hotel conference rooms with PowerPoint slides look the same whether they’re in San Jose, Tahoe, or Tunisia. The sight we want to see is review hardware humming away on our test bench, and nothing else. We’re geeks, you see.

In the case of the Spider platform, AMD’s reluctance to provide review samples had less impact on us than it did on some publications. We managed to wrangle at least one Radeon HD 3870 for testing, and we got our hands on a couple of 790FX-based motherboards and a Phenom engineering sample. But our Phenom review was a day late, and we wound up testing early revisions of the Asus M3A32-MVP Deluxe motherboard and the Phenom processor that don’t represent final products—or so we hope, since the user experience was decidedly less than ideal. We’re currently engaged in follow-up work, hoping to confirm that the shipping hardware works properly.

Of course, we try very hard to separate a company’s shaky PR efforts from the products themselves. We owe it to our readers and to the smart engineers who work behind the scenes on these things to get our evaluations right, even if we’re exasperated by the press interface.

But AMD’s path to the Spider platform launch could have—and should have—been a much smoother one than it was, and it would have worked out better for all parties involved. AMD would have avoided communicating the messages it did to us and, by proxy, to the public. Among them: "we’re not confident in our products," "we’re not a particularly well-run organization," and "our chipset’s south bridge is probably broken." We would have been able to sleep more, worry less, and provide fuller coverage to our readers. And our readers would have been able to make better-informed decisions about AMD’s products on day one, understanding their best merits in the context of stable release hardware, including Phenom processors with working Cool’n’Quiet power-saving mechanisms.

Instead, what we got was a frustrating result in which the drawbacks of the Spider platform components are generally clearer than their virtues, and we’re left wondering whether AMD can be trusted to make things right. We’re also unsure about the value of working with AMD going forward, given the apparent change in PR philosophy. Things may be tough for a while, but AMD could learn a thing or two from how Intel handled its rough times. Even in the darkest days of the Prescott fiasco, Intel supplied reviewers with new product samples regularly. The grace and class with which Intel handled itself cultivated goodwill with PC enthusiasts, and that paid off when the time came for Intel to recover its competitiveness with Core 2 Duo. Things may be rather difficult for AMD for a period.  The company would do well to handle its struggles with similar grace and class.

Comments closed
    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    just seeing if I’m banned or not

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    Holy Flame Wars, Batman!

    I do find it funny that users are making a huge fuss out of rehash of ill-fated 4×4 and that is a blog entry = editorial = writer’s opinion.

    IMHO, Intel’s own Skulltrail is just as much as a joke as 4×4 *cough* I mean Spider.

    • RambodasCordas
    • 12 years ago

    To Scott Watson:
    Well here are some ideas of things that you and your colleges when you guys have some time, and stop beating AMD:

    -Tests with PCIe 2.0 the performance increase or not?
    – Is it good deal buy a pair of those cards (Ati/Nvidia) or not?
    – Anandtech for example showed how crossfire scales badly compared to SLI, well these tests completely show the opposite, crossfire scales well and SLI bad. Who tells the truth? §[< http://en.expreview.com/?p=53&page=5< ]§ - I think it’s strange that I have already got one MSI 790FX motherboard and that the only review I saw of it was from Poland. Isn’t this a joke? - Tell me if I already got one X1950Pro card should I buy another X1950Pro? - How will they perform with the 790FX chipset? With the RD580? With P965? 975? P35? … - One 3850 VS two X1950PRO who wins? - In this review §[<http://www.sysopt.com/features/mboard/article.php/3712611< ]§ (page 5) The results from the X1950PRO doubled with 3Dmark2006, how? Doesn’t websites like this exist to do tests that we don’t have time or resources to do but would like to see them done? - How about overdrive, does it run OK? Can I overclock the first CPU to 3.0Ghz to improve single thread performance and keep the others at 2.2Ghz? - Phenom looks bad at first sight but what processor Intel released besides Core 2 Duo was magnificent from the start? Don’t websites like this have lots of tests to do like the ones I have talked in the previous lines? And don’t do them, because… Also how about: - an article bashing Nvidia because they don’t have PCIe 2.0 motherboards and AMD and Intel already have? - Bashing Intel because they released a stupid processor that doesn’t have a chipset to run with and said DON’T give you any warranty with what you do with it, and even force you to upgrade again to X48? §[<http://www.tomshardware.com/2007/11/27/intel_core_2_extreme_qx9770/<]§ Who says socket 939 to AM2 migration was big mistake and doesn’t see what Intel has been doing in the past year and half will all the different socket 775 versions with rather “complex” chipsets/cpus/motherboards combinations? -Bashing Nvidia because of the 8800GT pre-launch. -Bashing Nvidia and Ati because they failed to deliver psychics with their GPUs. -Bashing Nvidia because their top chipset doesn’t support Intel 45nm CPUs. … AMD isn’t the only guy doing mistakes!

      • Jon
      • 12 years ago

      Okay, I battled with your post but all I can think of is … lolwut?

      • bfellow
      • 12 years ago

      Rambo…
      -Bashing Nvidia and Ati because they failed to deliver psychics with their GPUs.

      Dealing with current psychics is tough business. They always know you’re coming to get them!

        • indeego
        • 12 years ago

        That’s OK because if they go to college they will learn how to defeat allg{

      • morphine
      • 12 years ago

      Congratulations for totally and completely missing the point.

      The blog post is talking about how AMD did a piss-poor job of handling its PR, and what that *usually* means for the product, nothing more, nothing less. Remember, about the company and its press relations, not directly about the products themselves.

      Going one step further (this part is my unique opinion), anyone who’s worked with big companies knows that this kind of move from AMD really strikes a chord with us techies. That move is, marketing/PR people whose attention span doesn’t go beyond the latest buzzword and their severance pay, coming in to “fix” a problem by, well, spinning a lot of bull****, which what 99% of the marketers do (the other 1% are what I like to call the “real” marketers).

    • kc77
    • 12 years ago

    While I have read your “article” on AMD’s poor performance I was with you all the way until l[

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      It seems that people really have trouble sorting out between an “TR official” review article and the opinion pieces that are now categorized under the blogs. This is a blog post, not a technical review article.

      That said, for DAAMIT who has been supposedly be catering to so-called enthusiasts, this is seriously dropping the ball and enthusiasts are not people you want to piss off.

      The benchmarking fiasco I did recall some sites bashing, most notably the [H].

      Edit: also when the P3 1.13GHz Linux kernel compile failure appeared, Intel got bashed quite a bit. Not only the chip was not stable, they had trouble getting supplies out as well.

    • sigher
    • 12 years ago

    Trouble in corruption paradise.
    You can always become a senator and get your bribes that way.

    • WellhungFungun
    • 12 years ago

    The article was well written but incredibly long winded for such a simple fact! and as far as Intel being so full of class , judging from how many lawsuits they
    have against them around the world for trying to put AMD out of business I would suggest they’re full of something else! and of course when you have that kind of money it’s easy to pay people to be classy on your behalf where is AMD is starting sell some of their business to Russian firms just to stay afloat so I don’t imagine they have much time or finances for classy. and let’s make no mistake Intel has marketed their products as superior all through the years when everyone knew AMD had the superior product. so if this writer wants to kick AMD while they’re down in the guise of making some kind of point about class then that’s fine because I’ve been watching AMD for many years and there truly an incredible innovative company whose class will be shown in their ability to survive such FLUFF not to mention the relentless unfair business practices of the chip giant Intel. I would also like to point out that contrary to the writers indication that AMD might be trying to hide a BAD or mediocre product that AMD’s new spider phenom platform is going to mature into a much more desirable technology than most people or this writer realize right now.

      • JoshMST
      • 12 years ago

      I think that you are losing your perspective on the topic. Take a quick step back… here, let me help you.

      Both AMD and Intel are large organizations (Intel is of course much larger). The issue that you are having is that you attribute human characteristics to a large organization comprised of thousands of unique individuals. So, when you say things like “Intel is Evil” or “AMD is nice” that is of course not true. Each are companies that are out to make a profit and provide products to the market.

      Now, as I seem to recall, Scott was talking about the PR divisions of these companies. This is of course a much smaller sample of the company, and one you can get a more human face for. While Intel is out to dominate AMD and take back the marketshare they have lost, that does not mean that the PR people are necessarily pushing the company in that direction. So, when Scott says that Intel has been classy in how they have handled their releases, he is talking about the PR folks that he deals with on a weekly basis. He is not talking about the Craig Barretts, or the unholy cabal that controls Intel’s actions from dark and secret locations, but rather the George Alfs and Dan Snyders. These are very human people, and they control the flow of review products for sites such as ours (well… for Tech Report at least). To say that these guys acted in a classy manner does not reflect upon the course that Intel has taken with business.

      On the other hand, for some reason the AMD PR folks decided to take the other route and not provide hardware for independent testing because the results would have been poor. This is in direct contrast to Intel sending out the original Prescotts which were melting the styrofoam that motherboards were frequently tested on outside of a case. They knew they were going to suck compared to the Athlon 64’s that were out, but they still got the product out there for testing. Now, saying that the AMD PR failed in this manner does not reflect upon the engineering talent that is working overtime to get Phenoms up to speed, or creating the next generation of 3D graphics, or getting new revisions of chipsets out there that will likely redefine integrated graphics performance.

      You need to compartmentalize your arguments, because Scott certainly has.

        • WellhungFungun
        • 12 years ago

        I think you’re losing perspective with your mind if you think I have to compartmentalize this fluff! your boy got stiffed for some parts! was it right ? probably not but do you really think that’s so complicated it has to be compartmentalized lol, perhaps you should stop mentalizing so much about nothing that you start using words like evil when para quoting me because I never used that word and I don’t need to be condescended to about business and how it works anyone following the lawsuits around the world knows how it works for Intel but you want to make a big point about how classy their diplomatic team is ! well who gives a rat’s ass about that when we hear innuendoes about AMD trying to hide something about their new parts. if you want to hear more positive comments in relation to your writer perhaps you should give him your dissertation on perspective and tell him to shorten the fluff lose the innuendoes and write about the tec !even if he has to wait till it’s released boohoo.

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      q[

        • Usacomp2k3
        • 12 years ago

        Are you saying it’s chips they don’t have, not $$?

          • Flying Fox
          • 12 years ago

          The guy was trying to defend DAAMIT in that they have no money. But if they have no money why the hell they go through all these? So to me (and to the reviewers too) it does not seem to be a money problem, but there is something else going on. And what could that be? Like the products they are releasing suck?

    • halbhh
    • 12 years ago

    We forget a lot that AMD is tiny compared to Intel.

    The giant company employees people in PR, and generous compensation.

    Their job is to outwit you.

    They are quite successful.

    Ergo: many people are induced to spend $200, 250 or $350 or more to get a modest increase in performance (in most cases) that cannot be subjectively noticed most of the time (compared to a new Windows install or hard drive defrag), and your old configuration was usually (in most cases) quite good already, etc.

    They are the sheperds, and most of us are the sheep.

      • bfellow
      • 12 years ago

      When AMD goes and blows off *[

    • raymin
    • 12 years ago

    WaltC…very well said!

    I really kind of glossed over most of this article when it became clear to me what the tone was, but the point at which I nearly fell on the floor laughing was reading about Intel’s “class and grace”! LOL! Are you kidding me? I would expect that kind of naivety from the fanboys that inhale this sort of drivel, but from a fellow ‘journalist’?

    This is the same Intel that spent 3 years denying that the Athlon core even existed as a threat (“We believe the Celeron competes effectively against our competitor’s best”); dismissed all the journalists and industry analysts that actually saw AMD64’s platform development and thought it meritorious (“We believe the notion that users want to run 16GB of RAM is silly”); and downright insulted journalists who, at the height of the roasty-toasty Prescott era, dared to ask when they were going to finally abandon the horrid Netburst architecture and actually innovate for the first time in 6 years (“You’re French, aren’t you?”). And let’s not forgot the graceless and classless manner in which Craig Barrett & Co attacked Negroponte’s then-nascent OLPC initiative (“We believe that near-starving, semi-literate children in Africa & Asia want a full-functional modern computing experience and not a half-baked platform”)!?

    I don’t think any self-respecting journalist could seriously use the terms “class and grace” to describe the Intel corporation. Which brings me to an even more nagging issue: why does TechReport now feel the need to exceed it’s mandate? Of all my favourite tech sites, TR seems to be the first and only that is harping on the “O my God AMD is going to completely collapse and disappear by screwing themselves into oblivion” bandwagon. While I and everyone else here has some perspective to render on that, I don’t think it falls under a technology review website’s purview. It is completely premature and amnesic, and not constructive.

    “AMD would have avoided communicating the messages it did to us and, by proxy, to the public. Among them: “we’re not confident in our products,” “we’re not a particularly well-run organization,”” WTF?! I never saw that press release. Scott, you should save this sort of Jonathan Schwartz-like rant for your private blog.

      • Irascible
      • 12 years ago

      I didn’t realize the /[

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 12 years ago

        I have to agree with the half-dozen or more comments that the new front page design makes blog postings look just like featured articles. They appear in the same spot of prominence on the page in the same format, with similar photographs.

        Sure, this has generated a much more active comment section, but it has also offended and driven away some readers who like their tech report articles to always be objective and professional.

        This is not the first blog entry to stir up such controversy.

          • Irascible
          • 12 years ago

          /[

      • Flying Fox
      • 12 years ago

      q[

    • flip-mode
    • 12 years ago

    Hey, WaltC, if you wanna put on the blindfold and let AMD stick it to you every which way that’s your business. But you’re on your own there, man.

    AMD’s recent behavior is the most disgusting and deceptive I’ve seen from the tech industry since the Phantom game console debacle. And as I type those words I’m struck by the similarity between Phantom and Phenom.

    Good luck on your crusade to save the deceiver.

    Fanboys make me gag.

    • geob3d
    • 12 years ago

    I think anyone who perceives Scott’s piece to be about “hurt feelings”, “getting even”, etc ought to sign-up for a reading comprehension course. I’ve personally read quite a few of those over the years, and this doesn’t read that way at all. The key differentiator being the promise to go to other sources for hardware if necessary to continue doing the job his readers expect. In order for “win-win” to work, it needs to be “win-win”. . .if its not, then its time to move on to another model.

    • herothezero
    • 12 years ago

    q[

    • JoshMST
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t think this is sour grapes at all for Scott. I think informing the readers about the issues behind the actual review is a good insight into how the company has changed, and potentially how they can grow stronger out of this experience. Scott’s comments towards AMD are not out of spite, but rather pointing out the problems in their approach to this release. We all want and NEED AMD to be a strong competitor, and pointing out their weaknesses as well as their strengths helps keep them healthy. Oddly enough, I wrote a piece yesterday morning concerning the culture clash going on at AMD PR. It will be published at PC Perspective tomorrow.

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 12 years ago

      I’ll look forward to reading that.

    • WaltC
    • 12 years ago

    Not to put too keen a point on it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an account written about any other “enthusiast platform” initiative. Tearing into AMD because they sometimes don’t make things as convenient for tech web sites as these sites might like things to be doesn’t strike me as a particularly informative point to make. To that end, I have a couple of points I’d like to make:

    1) It’s a well known fact that Intel is now and always has been at least 10x the size of AMD. Curiously, some web journalists who’ve been around long enough to know it don’t seem to think this kind of fiscal disparity means much of anything substantial when it comes time to roll out new products.

    2) Yet, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that current x86 cpu tech as well as current state of the art 3d tech is the direct result of product introductions made by AMD and its other half of late, ATi. Basically, it was Athlon/A64 that put Intel on the road to Core 2, and it was ATi’s R300 that put nVidia on the road to nV4x and everything that has come since. I will not even attempt to describe what current cpu and 3d tech state of the art would be had Athlon & R300 never existed. It’s too frightening to imagine. So it seems to me that tech sites everywhere have, through the years, gotten just as much from AMD/ATi as they have from Intel & Everybody Else.

    And talking about class…Hmmmm…. Just what was so “classy” about Intel dumping Core 2 into the market just to hurt AMD? I think everybody knows that Core 2 was a newer and better cpu than the former reigning champ–the A64. Right? So was it “class” that led Intel to bargain-bin price Core 2 from the start?

    Please don’t tell me that Core 2 had to be priced so much lower than A64 because Core 2 was so inferior…;) Fact is, Intel could have maintained higher-than-A64 prices for Core 2 right from the start and Intel would still have been able to sell plenty of them because Core 2 proved a newer and better cpu than the venerable A64–which held the title for years. Right? I mean, back in the old days prior to Athlon, Intel wasn’t at all squeamish about charging $1k a pop–but that was back when Intel had a clear monopoly on the high end of x86 cpu production.

    So, OK, this class act known as Intel decides to wage a price war with AMD at the very moment it releases what it knows to be a superior x86 cpu architecture. Since we’ve established that Core 2 is both newer and better than A64, Intel didn’t start the price war out of the fear that nobody would want its Core 2 cpus, did it? Yes, the class act known as Intel decided to wage a price war with AMD during the introduction of Core 2 simply to better its odds for finally being able to run the pesky AMD out of town on a rail. Yea, that’s real class alright.

    Frankly, I think AMD has shown immeasurably more class and grace than Intel over the years, and further, I think that the difference between the two companies is such that had their respective market positions been reversed during the last decade Intel would certainly not have survived the challenges that AMD has both met and overcome. Intel has never had to overcome such conditions–in its history.

    So, I think there are more ways to measure class than by looking at it from the very narrow perspective of the self-interest of a tech web site. I know that many tech sites consider themselves unofficially and loosely allied with hardware manufacturers, because from time to time these web sites promote the products these companies make. So the sites are thinking, “Why won’t you send me some product to pimp for you? I’m trying to do you a favor here!” or something very much along those lines…;) And, when for whatever the reason that doesn’t happen at the personal convenience of some folks, some sites become miffed as though there was something personal going on. And then personal–and somewhat petty, I might add–remarks, like who has class and who doesn’t, get thrown around. I find this kind of commentary not only completely off the subject, but churlish and beneath the level of professionalism that Tech-Report has maintained from its beginning.

    I’ve seen similar commentary from other established web sites through the years, and I don’t like it any better coming from them, even though I have to say that in comparison TR usually manages to avoid such displays of hurt feelings. Not really applicable to TR, some other sites act as if various companies “owe” them this or that for various unofficially rendered services. Some web sites think they are in a position to throw around mandates at various companies, and when those companies fail to say “How high?” when those sites say “Jump!” the resulting editorial commentary can be vicious. I just don’t consider that a professional approach to anything.

    When it comes to Intel I can see only one imperative in play, and that is this: run all competition, including AMD, out of business. Everything else Intel does, imo, is peripheral to that central imperative. That’s exactly why AMD has Intel in court today, if there might be some confusion on that point.

      • axeman
      • 12 years ago

      While I think you make some good points, I think Damage’s point is that Intel PR department is run better than AMD’s. The points you make about Intel’s behavior are more about corporate decisions and behavior, so maybe you’re both right.. The fact is, most big businesses do absolutely nothing out of “goodwill”, they just want to give that appearance to the consumer to sell their product. I suppose there might be some CEOs that are more or less evil, but I doubt Hector is one of the better ones… Do you think he’s hurting as much as AMD’s shareholders?

      Whereas Intel uses PR to make themselves look better when the company’s position is “weak”, AMD fails miserably at marketing, whether their products are good or not.

      Of course this may only be a question of size and budget, Intel has the money to make themselves look pretty, whereas AMD does not.

      The scary thing is, Intel was still profitable during the NetBust years, so as you pointed out, they had no reason to start a price war with the release of Core 2, other than trying to crush AMD. From a fiscal standpoint, that would seem their business plan involves abusing their market position, since trying to under-cut AMD doesn’t help Intel’s bottom line in the short-term, either.

      I might point out, though, as others have in the past, that neither of these players are benevolent entities, they are big (yes, even AMD) corporations out to make money… I have very little doubt the story would be different if their relative market share was swapped.

      • cobalt
      • 12 years ago

      q[

      • Usacomp2k3
      • 12 years ago

      There’s no dash in Tech Report, dag-nabbit 😉

      • calyth
      • 12 years ago

      I don’t think it is a real matter that it is just inconvenient to the TR staff, but it actually give an air of inadequacy when you drag geeks into an event, where they know that the chips are handpicked, and maybe even the benchmarks are tweaked. I cannot use the word objectivity because clearly review sites often do have a soft side for one manufacturer or another, but at least we can remove the manufacturer as a variable on the information that tech sites provide.

      In the end, readers are the ones who get a slightly clearer picture if AMD had just FedEx the parts instead of dragging them to a off-site PR event, even if AMD’s stuff isn’t quite ready. TR isn’t the only site who has complained about the Tahoe event. I’ve read similar feelings elsewhere.

      Although I can empathize with Scott’s view that Intel handled tough times without interference to the reviewer, I do agree with WaltC that we can’t say that Intel has class. Intel has shown itself to be a cutthroat business, and will slash down competitors when they’re down and out. To me, AMD is tech-oriented – Intel’s next-gen is playing catch up to A64 – but they need to learn some business tricks from Intel.

      • Joovilhar
      • 12 years ago

      Intel dumped the Core 2 because it could afford to. AMD would have dumped the Athlon if it could have, too. It’s all about opportunity and timing. Intel is obliged by law to do business in the way that best benefits its shareholders and its own bottom line. That means hurting the competition, guys and gals – hope that didn’t catch you by surprise…

      AMD had its chance to laugh at Intel when it came out with the Opteron and Athlon 64. But the time for laughing is now over – whether people credit AMD for Intel’s development of the Core 2 or not, the simple fact is that if it hadn’t been for Intel’s superb engineering effort, Core 2 would not be here today – regardless of pressure from AMD.

      What puzzles me somewhat is that it’s been 4+ years since AMD made Intel eat humble pie. So, what’s been in development since then? Did AMD just assume “That’s it, they can’t beat us now – let’s cut R&D”? How come it’s been four years, and all we get to see are some semi-secret showings of Spider?

      Sod all this baloney about class. Business is war. If you don’t believe me, just try collaborating with Microsoft with a new advanced software product, and count how many seconds go by before they screw you over.

    • Dposcorp
    • 12 years ago

    Thanks for the Inside scoop, Damage.

    It is nice to know the reasons why things go bad, as well as why they are good.

    I dated someone who did PR for Motorola once, and a lot of the times she admitted stuff the PR / SPIN people could be handled better.

    “Eagle-eye hindsight, old Alvarny the Quick used to call it.”

    • Welch
    • 12 years ago

    Seems like a lot of people replying here missed the point of this article. Its not about them being sour at AMD for not getting them a test sample, its a matter of WHY did they not give them a test sample.

    To me, if a company is unwilling to allow reviewers the ability to inform us… the consumers on the ups and downs of a product… then to hell with them. For any company to be two faced about their motives, leads me to never wanting to deal with them. This move on their part clearly spells “Its the latest and greatest! Buy without being informed!”

    On the other hand, I can also imagine if AMD is in all honesty protecting the release of this new product because it is in-fact a good chip, and they would rather certain reviewers not twist the truth or mess it up.

    Either way, I too take my hat off to the TR staff for making it very clear as to their motives for these new hardware and not releasing half ass reviews based on PR chips.

    Now the movie escapes me… but allow me to share with you a quote that sums up this situation.

    “May it never be said that your anal retentive attention to detail does not produce positive results!”

      • axeman
      • 12 years ago

      This bears striking similarity to the tatic movie studios use to try when they know a new release sucks…. They don’t allow critics to screen the movie before it’s released, hoping more people will see it before the word gets out how bad it is, so they can minimize their losses.

        • Spotpuff
        • 12 years ago

        Was thinking the same thing.

        If a movie is going to be released and there’s 0 reviews on rottentomatoes.com the day before, the movie sucks. It means the movie didn’t screen well with test audiences and the studios are refusing to allow critics to review it.

        Shame on AMD for trying this. The enthusiast community will always get the real story before buying and this just pisses some of us off.

    • fpsduck
    • 12 years ago

    I think it’s about traditional things on Intel side which AMD is lacking.
    Intel has “uber” product lines (in term of the top market segment which is damn expensive)
    for long long time (Extreme Edition, Extreme series and so on).
    When the earlier Intel “uber” products confronted with AMD rising star products,
    yes, AMD win proudly and cost less.

    Now Intel still has ‘uber” products but the tide was turned by new microarchitecture.
    AMD just launched their special products (Black edition)
    which I don’t have any idea whether it can do well on the market or not.

    Also the habit of feeding units for testing to tech websites,
    I think big companies should learn to do good things (or bad things) traditionally.
    No matter what how cool/sucks products they have in hand
    they are absolutely for selling.
    Just spread it out to the world and let the people know and decide.

    At last, BIG BIG Thanks for TR team for your hard works.
    I always enjoy reading TR articles.

    • pluscard
    • 12 years ago

    Well, this article cements it. I was brought to techreport by a friend who said you can always find an impartial review here. Tomshardware sold out to Intel the day they posted the video of the Athlon smoking and catching on fire when the heatsink was removed. It appears techreport has just joined Toms in being yet another AMD basher.

    Personally, I’ve never purchased an Intel product, and I can assure you I’m none the worse off. My worry is if the AMD bashing campaign continues , all the newbies will buy Intel products; AMD will go away, and cpus will once again cost $1200 each.

    I continue to believe that AMD deserves the benefit of the doubt. I’m hoping some grass root sites will pop up soon, that haven’t been tainted by Intels touch, and once again we can read some ‘impartial’ reviews.

    Plus

    • bogbox
    • 12 years ago

    AMD is in trouble ,but now understend them for all the times ( 3 years) they did good ,very good TR is upset because the lack of samples

    .r[

      • danny e.
      • 12 years ago

      so, Dennis Rader, the “BTK Killer” should be thought of for all the times he did good?
      .. for the times he took the kids to boy scouts and the time he petted the neighbors dog?

      you fanboys are just making no sense.
      you’re basically all saying “let corporations do evil and shut up about it”

      yes, i’m using extreme examples to make a point.. but i think some of you.. are too thick to get it otherwise.. and probably still wont.

        • eitje
        • 12 years ago

        i think murder and bad product launches are too different to make an effective point.

        it’s not evil to have a bad release. it’s not even evil to try to control a release.

        really, at this stage in the enthusiast game (~15 years?), it’s just dumb. it’s like parachute pants.

    • axeman
    • 12 years ago

    Some great editorial content there without a bunch of pompous grandstanding like you see of many other sites.

    I just donated to TR, you guys rock.

    • impar
    • 12 years ago

    Greetings!

    Clone made a point.
    Its so easy, and popular sport, to bash AMD lately…

      • danny e.
      • 12 years ago

      its easy to bash bin Laden.
      its easy to bash Chavez.
      its easy to bash most politicians.

      its easy to bash anyone who is an idiot or does something stupid.
      whats your point?

      are you trying to say that those that do stupid or wrong things should be patted on the back?

    • indeego
    • 12 years ago

    I’ve made this comment before, but I really think you need to point out that these opinion articles are part of your blog. It’s a big link on the front page, you get your occasional reader in here who might not notice, or mistake it for a review or part of a review, and you have people saying, eh? what is this? “This is anger without reviews.g{<"<}g

      • clone
      • 12 years ago

      my point exactly kudos for stating the obvious.

        • willyolio
        • 12 years ago

        i’m sorry, but i’ll have to point out what’s even MORE obvious:

        how could you possibly mistake articles entitled
        “The problem with enthusiast platforms”
        and
        “Lessons from the difficult birth of the Spider platform”

        to be equivalent to articles like this?
        “AMD’s Phenom processors”
        “Intel’s Core 2 Extreme QX9650 processor”
        “AMD’s Radeon HD 3850 and 3870 graphics cards”
        “AMD’s 790FX chipset”
        “Intel’s X38 Express chipset”

        not to mention the fact that, in all review articles, a picture of the product is used on the front page. these two had pictures of spiders. not even AMD’s metallic spider pic, just spiders.

          • indeego
          • 12 years ago

          Easily. Again, If you don’t follow TR religiously, I can see the confusion quite easily. TR didn’t use to have a blog, in fact, even when they did have one it was fairly well hidden from the front page. They changed formats and now you have a singular graphic, which most people would view as indicative as your main article…

          Look at other tech-review sites. The blogs are not feature articles, don’t have the largest non-advertisement picture featuring blogs, and clearly separate the content for both. An exception I can think of is CNET, which apparently has really gone down the tubes in the past few years with 12 year-olds writing their blog content, which makes up a large majority of their misinformed rants.

          All I’m trying to point out is TR does need to separate this line a little. Since the redesign I’ve found myself questioning whether I’m either missing articles, blog entries, or why indeed there is a spider picture on the front page? Oh well, carry ong{<...<}g Nobody listened to me when I questioned the newegg deal of the week, which I still find quite offensive... For the record: I agree with this article, I find the site design is possibly confusing your readers, given this dude's rantg{<.<}g

            • Flying Fox
            • 12 years ago

            Ever since the 3 elements of Spider are released the fanboys have been coming out of the woodwork like those Intel ones back in last year. This is just normal process.

            Not to mention there’s a big logo called “The Damage Report” on top, different from regular articles.

            But I do agree this can be dealt with better.

    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    I see a title for this article and think “geez TechReport got a look inside at the inner workings that spawned the release of the Spider platform….. this could be interesting while disappointing initially maybe it will have some promise later next year or after a few bios revisions”…. you know something that actually might be interesting and not this stupid drivel that I unfortunately read.

    AMD didn’t get you a test sample in time and tried to control the release…… well I guess it’s time for threats and sour grapes…….

    taken in context I see why the previous editorial was published as an attack for no other reason than the lack of what appears to be royal treatment…… “AMD could you hand me that stainless Wustoff knife by the caviar so that I can stick it in your back please…. so good of you….. what do you mean you won’t….. why…. I’m shocked and to be honest so hurt by your lack of compliance to my whims”.

    1 editorial saying quite flatly that the Spider platform isn’t ready yet with far to many flaws at the moment making it impossible to recommend…. there done so easy….. or to be a little nicer they could have said it’s still to early to tell given the bugs but well see and possibly AMD had best get in gear now is not the time to screwup.

    instead an article explaining now how TechReport was so naive up until today to believe what exactly?….. that AMD is in trouble, possibly dersperate,

    judas priest I’m not saying you should commend AMD what I’m saying is why all the pissing and whining because AMD didn’t send you 4 Spider platforms 6 months ago so that you could test the crap out of them before anyone else…… when by the indications I’ve seen Spider simply isn’t ready yet….

    what is it exactly TechReport brings to the table that would compell AMD to stand up and take notice aside from articles complaining about how they are so shocked and dismayed and heartbroken because AMD is in serious trouble and while struggling to survive they also aren’t running with bells on to TechReports aid throwing review products at them by the skid load….I commend TechReport for it’s articles presented in an unbiased manner but not for this.

    as for AMD they will get great press when they release great product and not before….. aside from throwing sourgrapes at AMD what purpose did this editorial serve.

    • My Johnson
    • 12 years ago

    Well let’s not even bring up the fact that they issued convertible bonds. That’s either a sign of a CEO being duped by Wall St. or hating the shareholder.

    /off topic

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    also, i’m really excited to see how many spider pictures you guys have found. 🙂

      • indeego
      • 12 years ago

      Hopefully they created it themselves since no attribute was given. I believe even under Creative Commons you must attributeg{

        • muyuubyou
        • 12 years ago

        You can also, you know, pay for them. Or pay a stock photo provider so you don’t have to attribute every picture. There are also public domain pictures. Not everything is CC, GPL, BSD or some sort of proprietary.

    • eitje
    • 12 years ago

    q[

    • kilkennycat
    • 12 years ago

    Tech Report and Anand have been top of my list for PC-related technical reviews for the past 3 years or so. For me, these sites will obviously continue to be top of the list, for the reasons stated and implied in this article. Thanks Scott. Keep up the great work.

    BTW, in paragraph 7 of your article you might like to unswizzled the typo “3780” to read “3870”….

    • Risme
    • 12 years ago

    Bad move from AMD, they’re shooting themselves in the foot by doing this kind of stuff. It’s like putting up big construction signs with caution colours and big red blinking lights to warn wise customers to stay the frock away from these products. We don’t need a god damn platform in the form of Spider or Skulltrail!

    Demanding customers, enthusiasts, don’t want such systems. Also i want to add that when time goes by this segment is only going to grow as people are becoming more knowledgeable. All they want is a solid system that does exactly what they want without unnecessary bells and whistles. A system that gives them the most value for their investment while having as long life span as possible. We don’t need an expensive toy like platforms like Spider or Skulltrail that have piss poor value. Moreover, mainstream customers couldn’t care less about platforms. They want a system that is inexpensive, simple to use and does exactly what they want it to do.

    I see these kind of platforms as a waste of valuable resources. Instead they should use these resources to improve and create solid CPUs, chipsets and GPUs. Improve each product segment and forget about platforms already. If people want a “platform” they can and will build it themselves by choosing the best components so that there are no weak links in their system.

    I agree about what people said about Intel playing smart in the presscot era.

    TR and Anand both made the right choise imo by refusing to go to Lake Tahoe. I’m lifting my hat for you guys.

    • IntelMole
    • 12 years ago

    *deleted for sounding like a crazy ranting person*

    • AMDisDEC
    • 12 years ago

    AMD is fortunate that ANYONE even wishes to fill space with covering this platform. Let’s be real. It’s being covered because there is nothing else of greater worth to cover.

    I think TR did an excellent job of reporting on what little they have been given. They created some excitement when there should have been none.

    Realistically, how successful do you really expect the Spider platform to be? How many units have to ship before AMD/ATI even break even from the effort, 500,000, 1M, 10M units in it’s 18 month lifetime?
    How competitive will it be in 4,5,10 months time, or will it vanish into limbo has we’ve seen other ATI/AMD system products do in the past?

    Perhaps, it’s better to look at spider as a cutting-of-teeth platform for AMD. Third or fourth generation platforms may actually provide some real value, but can AMD really compete with the Dells and HPs in this low asp area?
    I wouldn’t put any money on it, but only time will tell.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 12 years ago

      This was an extremely important platform release for AMD. Of course PC tech sites are going to cover it in a lot of detail. The product release timing was nearly-perfect for the holiday shopping frenzy.

      I expect that we will continue to see the elements of the Spider platform being very important to AMD for a while. I don’t understand how you can already write it off as a failure.

      Radeon 3870 and 3850 look like good products to me. They offer better performance, better features, more efficiency, less noise and less heat than the products that they replace. They’re priced very competitively, and they fit in a price/performance gap in the mid-range that’s been largely ignored by both NVidia and AMD/ATI since the Radeon X1950Pro.

      The 790FX chipset introduces 3-way and 4-way CrossfireX and PCIe 2.0. That’s a decent technological achievement. Sure, overclocking performance will be better in the next stepping, and the feature set will get better when a new southbridge comes along, but it doesn’t seem terrible. I’d like to wait for the second wave of motherboards (and BIOS revisions) to appear before I jumped on a new chipset’s bandwagon, but I haven’t seen anything to scare me away completely.

      Phenom is where the Spider platform isn’t as competitive as it ought to be for AMD’s success. Clock-for-clock, it’s a good processor compared to Intel’s C2Q, but AMD’s manufacturing process technology still lags behind Intel’s. AMD appears to be having trouble getting high clock speeds out of their 65nm process. Intel has mastered that challenge and is moving on to 45nm production.

    • Krogoth
    • 12 years ago

    Kudos to you Damage. AMD is trying way too hard to please enthusiast crowd. They should focus their attention on areas where performance isn’t the absolute concern a.k.a mainstream market and servers.

    I have come to the conclusion that Spider is really a reharsh of 4×4. Disappointing performance for outlandish prices and avaiablity.

    It is just about as much as a joke as”Skulltrail” platform that Intel offers. At least “Skulltrail” performs when it needs to, but only hardcore enthusiasts with a generious budget would consider it.

    • blitzy
    • 12 years ago

    AMD is really digging itself a hole with this type of behaviour, I think they need to stop trying to go toe-to-toe with Intel pretending like everything is fine. It just makes their hardware seem all the worse, when in reality it isn’t half bad.

    They should accept that they’re once again in second place and play their cards accordingly, there’s still the possibility of producing better products in the future. Playing with smoke and mirrors does nothing to encourage interest in the products, they should be straight up about the merits and weaknesses of their products and price them aggressively.

    I don’t want to buy a product that I’m not confident in even if it is cheaper, right now I find it hard to even consider AMD. I know it must be a difficult time for them as in both the CPU and GPU markets they’re facing extremely solid competition from outstanding products, but the point is that AMD’s products are only slightly slower in most cases – the problem is that they want to pretend like they aren’t. That’s the impression I get.

    If AMD can’t win outright on performance they should focus on offering better value in some way, whether it be with bundles/features/whatever. It just seems like AMD is trying to spin things positively rather than actually doing something positively.

      • shalmon
      • 12 years ago

      hear hear,

      i second that

    • Sargent Duck
    • 12 years ago

    I just wanted to say thank-you to both you and Geoff for an amazing job well done, to Cyril and to all the others working in the back-ground.

    That being said, you’re not alone. Anand also refused to go to benchmark on AMD’s Lake Tahoe computer which he mentions in his review of Phenom. It’s too bad more reviewers didn’t stand up to AMD like TR and Anand and say that running benchmarks on a pre-configured system by AMD on the eve of the launch is unacceptable.

    TR, you guys rock.

    *edit* My original post may have given off the wrong impression which I clearly did not mean imply. Fixed the wording to help better communicate.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 12 years ago

      Another site published a photo of Dissonance at AMD’s Lake Tahoe event, so TR was represented, even if the pre-launch demonstration event did not present the opportunity for the usual thorough and objective comparison testing that goes on in Damage’s underground bunker.

      Just because you’re not getting all of the information that you want doesn’t always mean that you won’t take what little you can get.

        • Damage
        • 12 years ago

        Geoff attended essentially as a courier. We were promised a CPU and mobo to test only if we attended, and so we did.

        • Sargent Duck
        • 12 years ago

        Ah. I wasn’t aware of that. Still though, TR didn’t go along with AMD’s shenanigans, so although my post is slightly wrong in the information it presents, the message stays the same.

        • Dissonance
        • 12 years ago

        Damn paparazzi follow me everywhere.

          • JoshMST
          • 12 years ago

          Geoff was in fact sent to be my “Love Slave”. He performed his duties admirably.

          On a serious note, it is not fair to accuse people attending that event of being “shills” or “paid off by AMD”. It was a major launch for AMD, and while they could have handled it a LOT differently, it is still something that we have a duty to cover. Getting a chance to have a sit down (albeit a slightly drunken one) with guys like Raja and Pat, and really dig down into the nitty gritty of getting these products out, and where the company is headed, was far more productive than sitting down and working on those test machines.

            • Sargent Duck
            • 12 years ago

            I certainly hope I didn’t come across as accusing people who went there as being “paid off by AMD” because that was not my intent.
            Re-reading my orginal post, it does sound like I am coming down on reviewers who went there, and I am going to go back and edit that to better communicate my point. Of course reviewers are expected to be there, talk with the reps, maybe get a free sample, talk about the nitty gritty and what not, and there is no problem there. That’s too be expected, and I’d do the same thing if placed in those shoes.

            I am sorry if I came across as coming down on reviewers who went to Tahoe, I meant that negative connotation towards reviewers who went along with benchmarking on AMD’s biased machine, instead of saying “no, we want to perform an independent review of the chip free from any AMD bias”

    • Reldey
    • 12 years ago

    I would rather them be patient, and intelligent about release than be hasty just to meet the originally planned launch date.

    AMD is just trying to build up as much strength as possible as to compete with intel, you give them crap about releasing products that cant compete, and yet when they are working on optimizing something with already promising results to look forward to, you do a little “report” about how horrible of a company they are.

    They push innovation through competition and keep product cost low. Whats not to like by a consumer stand point?

    All this is, is complaining coming from a publisher whos been inconvienced.

    Stop griping, im done reading your oppinions.

    • gerbilspy
    • 12 years ago

    A nice and polite dressing down, Scott. From your description I doubt that I could have kept my cool the way you did in this article. I hope you gave them Hell in private though. The TR staff writes top notch, objective reviews, and deserves top drawer treatment. I don’t understand how AMD could let this kind of thing happen…it’s such bad business! A sign of their impending doom, perhaps?

    • cegras
    • 12 years ago

    I don’t understand all this crap being given to AMD. Granted, now I probably will go with whoever is best in a year from now, but was everyone giving Intel this much crap over Prescott? What ever happened to letting something mature, or being patient with it?

      • evermore
      • 12 years ago

      Are you kidding? You don’t think Prescott was loudly derided by everyone, repeatedly?

      • crazybus
      • 12 years ago

      People were giving Intel crap from the moment the first Netburst processor was released. It eventually subsided but reared up again when PresHot came around.

      • Spotpuff
      • 12 years ago

      You have to tell us where that cave you were hiding in for the Prescott launch is, because it obviously shields you from all news from the outside world.

      Prescott was universally bashed when it was released because it ran super hot and sucked and everyone said so.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 12 years ago

    Well said. I really appreciate the information on what happens behind the scenes. I don’t think I can ever fully appreciate the effort that goes into the production of a review that takes ~15 minutes to read.

    /me takes his hat off to the TR staff.

    Now lets just hope that AMD really does know aht they are doing and will produce the cards/chips taht we have come to value them for.

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