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AMD quits benchmark group, implying Intel bias

Chipmakers AMD and Nvidia quit an industry consortium that distributes a common PC benchmark. AMD is claiming bias, but the BAPCo group and Intel don't agree.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
Advanced Micro Devices has quit a PC industry consortium, implying the integrity of a widely used benchmark is biased toward Intel chips.

In a blog Wednesday, an AMD executive provided a long explanation about why AMD has quit the BAPCo industry consortium, which develops and distributes the SYSmark benchmark.

"Customers need clear and reliable measurements to understand the expected performance and value of their systems," Nigel Dessau, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at AMD, said in a statement. "AMD does not believe SM2012 (SYSMark 2012) achieves this objective. Hence AMD cannot endorse or support SM2012 or remain part of the BAPCo consortium."

Graphics chip supplier Nvidia has also quit the group. The company confirmed to CNET that it has quit but declined to comment further.

AMD's argument revolves around the lack of emphasis on what is called general-purpose computing on graphics processing units, or GPGPU. This is an evolving computing paradigm that attaches increasing importance to the GPU for accelerating common tasks such as encoding/decoding of video and audio and Web browsing.

Dessau continued. "SM2012 doesn't represent the evolution of computer processing...SM2012 focuses only on the serial processing performance of the CPU, and virtually ignores the parallel processing performance of the GPU." Serial processing refers to the computation done on the main central processing unit, or CPU.

AMD's newest "Llano" chips allocate roughly equal real estate to the CPU and GPU, a break from the past when AMD processors were mostly composed of circuits devoted to the CPU. Intel still allocates more real estate to the CPU than the GPU component.

BAPCo responded to AMD's accusations. "Each member in BAPCo gets one vote on any proposals made by member companies. AMD voted in support of over 80% of the SYSmark 2012 development milestones, and were supported by BAPCo in 100% of the SYSmark 2012 proposals they put forward to the consortium...BAPCo never threatened AMD with expulsion from the consortium."

And AMD is certainly not the only company that provides input to the group. Members with equal standing include Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba. And, of course, Intel.

"It is a democratic process," Intel spokesman Dan Snyder said. "Intel believes that no single benchmark alone is a definitive measure of a PC's performance. Intel encourages all technical reviewers to use multiple benchmarks and applications--synthetic and real world--in determining the performance of a PC," he said in an e-mail.

Moreover, Intel is moving increasingly in the same direction of AMD and Nvidia. With its newest Sandy Bridge generation, Intel has, for the first time in a mainstream chip, integrated graphics processing silicon onto the main processor. And Intel will continue to beef up graphics processing on its upcoming Ivy Bridge chips, due late this year.