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AMD Downgrades Bulldozer Transistor Count By 800 Million 149

Posted by timothy
from the but-who's-counting-is-the-actual-question dept.
Robadob writes "It has come to light that AMD PR had originally reported that the new Bulldozer processor's transistor count was 2 billion. AMD PR are now asking reviewers to correct this count to 1.2 billion from the original amount they provided ~3 months ago."
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AMD Downgrades Bulldozer Transistor Count By 800 Million

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 04, 2011 @07:12PM (#38260798)

    I'm paying for *transistor count*, not GFLOPS!!!

    Priorities, people!

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @07:34PM (#38261008) Journal

    So a few points about this rather bizarre announcement:

    1. Unfortunately for AMD this does nothing to reduce the power consumption of Bulldozer which is higher than a 3960x at stock speeds. When you remember that over 1/3 of the transistors on the CPU (using the new 1.2 Billion transistor count) are in the L3 cache that only runs at 2.2 Ghz while the L3 on the 3960x runs at full-speed, you have to wonder at whether GloFo's 32 nm process has some fundamental flaws, or if AMD didn't listen to GloFo's design rules (or some of both).

    2. AMD's and GloFo's combined marketing of their "gate-first" 32 nm process bragged loudly and repeatedly that gate-first (as opposed to gate-last used by Intel) gave 20%+ transistor density benefits and that Intel's process wasn't truly 32 nm. Well, when Bulldozer was reported to have a die area of 315 mm^2 and a 2 billion transistor count, this seemed like a justified advantage. Now, however, the transistor density of Bulldozer is lower than any other 32nm design from either AMD or Intel. Note: the same AMD PR guys that adjusted the transistor count confirmed that the 315 mm^2 die size is still accurate.

    Rory Read is smart to shift the focus away from these unmanufacturable monsters and to put it on the next-generation of Bobcat and Trinity designs where AMD can actually leverage it's only real advantage over Intel: the GPU.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @07:35PM (#38261016) Journal
    I suspect that transistor count means different things to different people.

    The PR numbers provided for tech journalist previews and fan-wank benchmarks are pretty much just noise: If the number is big, you'll see a couple of sentences about "zOMG 2 Billion! motherfucker is a BEAST!". If the number is small, you'll see a couple of lines about how 'the foocorp design team was heavily focused on optimization for this generation'. The only thing the end customer will care about are the benchmarks at the end.

    For people attempting to glean financially useful clues about a company's process strength or design prowess, or ability to hit some thermal target in the upcoming product cycle, transistor counts are likely much more relevant; but are also rather less likely to depend on PR numbers(actually reverse engineering a modern x86 chip would be Serious Business; but just paying somebody to crack the top off, get some die shots, and provide good ballpark numbers on transistor numbers and allocation between cache and various functional blocks should be relatively cheap compared to some of the moves you might make on the basis of such information...)

    It seems bafflingly weird that PR would provide a number so grossly wrong, since the fanboys and the haters basically make no real use of the number and the people who really care should be able to easily detect a lie of that magnitude; but I'd be somewhat surprised if the original PR numbers meant all that much.
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday December 04, 2011 @08:19PM (#38261316) Homepage Journal

    "I suspect that transistor count means different things to different people."

    No, it means nearly nothing to anybody. The closest one I've seen is another answer to this thread linking it to cache sizes, but even then, people measure caches on bytes, not transistors.

    Buyers want software performance, measured by benchmarks, cache size + instruction throughput, or any other functional metric. Engineers care more about hight level units, except where they optimize deeper, fabs care about die area. Nobody cares about how many times a poly line crosses over a crystaline line.

    By the way, that is probably the reason such a huge mistake in the number could be made. Nobody cared.

  • by mug funky (910186) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @09:08PM (#38261670)

    what about examples from outside the USA? BP stands for British Petroleum, don't you know?

    some of the food scares going on in China are just scary - melamine in milk, cooking oil salvaged and re-refined from retail liquid waste... of course, people got the death penalty for the milk thing.

  • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Sunday December 04, 2011 @09:39PM (#38261870)

    They told you the V10 engine used 50 hours of labour in its manufacture but it turned out the V10 engine only used 25 hours of labour in its manufacture.

    It's still the same engine in every way. Transistor count is simply a manufacturing detail.

  • Re:LOL (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @12:51AM (#38262738)

    Whoosh!

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Macman408 (1308925) on Monday December 05, 2011 @01:35AM (#38262988)

    It seems bafflingly weird that PR would provide a number so grossly wrong, since the fanboys and the haters basically make no real use of the number and the people who really care should be able to easily detect a lie of that magnitude; but I'd be somewhat surprised if the original PR numbers meant all that much.

    IANALE (I am not a layout engineer), but it's my understanding that it is not an easy task to actually figure out how many transistors are contained within a modern chip. The CAD tools used aren't anything like Photoshop, where you can pop up an info window and see how many pixels it has. There are many different pieces within a chip - some might be standard library cells (like building a chip out of legos, rather than making a custom injection mold and filling it with plastic - where each building block is a few to a few thousand transistors (or more?). Other parts might be a full-custom layout, where somebody hand-placed every transistor to get the highest speed, lowest power, smallest area, or some combination of all of those. The chip might also include some hard macros, IP that is purchased from another company (like a memory controller or power manager) and just plopped onto the chip, with no insight to what is actually inside. There are hierarchies, and some parts (like cores or cache sub-blocks) are replicated a couple times, or a couple thousand times.

    So it's my indication that any time you hear one of these numbers, it's really just an estimate anyway. Probably some engineer at AMD heard the 2B number after PR trumpeted it, thought it sounded a little high, and found a mistake in somebody's estimate.

    Or, maybe more likely, marketing just made crap up without actually asking any of the engineers. That happens a lot too, and it pisses us engineers off to no end. At least when they do it after the product is made, PR has to fess up. When they do it before a product is finalized, it usually means engineering has to scramble and actually make it do whatever marketing promised.

  • by fnj (64210) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:23AM (#38263220)

    Er, well, actually, BP doesn't stand for British Petroleum any more. It officially stands only for BP. In fact, they have tried to make people think BP stands for Beyond Petroleum. OK, this sounds like an academic point, but actually it illustrates the very practical point that all these corps from whatever country are international and indistinguishable nowadays.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:11AM (#38263408)

    No, BP still stands for British Petroleum regardless of what their corporate HQ wants to call themselves.

    And gambling is not equivalent to gaming.

    And thermal is not equivalent to fossil fuel burning.

    And KFC is really Kentucky fried chicken.

    And marketing is really just plain old fashioned advertising.

    etc. etc.

    don't buy into the crap just because someone with an agenda and a bad reputation would like to change what you think.

  • Re:LOL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @05:22AM (#38263850) Journal

    From the looks of it Bulldozer is another Phenom I, where they have to use a generation getting the bugs out. Phenom II was and is an excellent chip BTW, sure its not gonna slaughter the latest and greatest from Intel but the dirty little secret AMD and Intel don't want to talk about is that for 95%+ of the users out there PCs have been "good enough" for quite some time. hell I'm the kind of guy that was building himself a new PC practically every year in the past, now my AMD Deneb quad is going on 3 years old and if I get that Thuban upgrade i plan to for my BDay i could easily see it lasting another 5 years, maybe more.

    The smart move which I applaud the new AMD CEO for doing is cutting down on the desktop product to crank the living hell out of mobile because that is where the money is at right now. you look at Brazos and they have been selling out of those chips as fast as they can crank them and as an owner of a EEE E-350 netbook I can see why, 6 hours of battery life running full Win 7 HP X64, takes 8Gb of RAM easily, does full HD video without a stutter, low heat, and its a great little multitasker chip, running head and shoulder better than Atom and often beating ION at a lower price. The OEMs have taken notice it seems as i have seen Brazos in netbooks, all in ones, and HTPCs all over the place. Walking into my local Walmart the other day, a place that just a few years ago was strictly Intel land, more than 3/4ths of the laptop/netbooks and virtually all the desktops were AMD Fusion. I asked one of the guys I knew there about them and he said 'These things are selling like crazy, great for video and FB' which is of course where most folks are nowadays.

    Frankly I think the path AMD is on is the smart one right now but its gonna have teething problems. They are in the process of switching their GPUs from VLIW to vector and looking at the chip bulldozer arch is really made for the new vector GPUs that simply aren't finished. by switching to vector you'll have a super FP that the CPU can hand off heavy math to when not in use for gaming while having a smaller FP on the CPU thus allowing more cores per chip. Like the switch to Stars its gonna take some teething pains to get everything switched over to the new designs and having GloFlo drop the ball certainly didn't help.

    Personally I can easily see a day where Intel owns the top end and that is pretty much it, as AMD cranks out the chips for the low and midrange. Frankly the dual core Brazos is more powerful than 90% of the jobs my customers could come up with and I can see a quad version pretty much owning the low and midrange sectors due to the combo of price/performance and lower power. Just give them time folks, they are still cranking out Denebs and Thubans so I'd stick with those for now and let the new BD arch get the bugs worked out and by the time the chip after Piledriver comes out the boards and laptops will be cheap and plentiful. Until then just stick with Thuban, Mobile Phenom II and Brazos.

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