AMD is currently on a roll. It is no longer under Intel’s shadow, and it is sweeping the PC and data centre markets. While Intel struggled under a previous CEO, a large part of the reason is AMD’s almost amazing attention on particular client segment demands.
While AMD has always been one of the more responsive vendors in its segment, going after the game console market, which none of its peers wanted, forced AMD to improve it.
Let’s look at AMD’s gaming market lessons to identify potential. Then we’ll wrap up with my Product of the Week, a gaming-specific edition of the Dell headset I reviewed a few weeks ago: the Alienware AW720H headphones.
AMD’s Data Center Event
AMD held a massive press and analyst data centre event last week at the historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. AMD demonstrated test after benchmark in which their parts outperformed competing offers dramatically. This alone would not have meant much because benchmarks from a vendor demonstrating an advantage are, at best, dubious.
But AMD went one step farther. Nearly every significant chip launched had a reputable customer, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, who supported AMD’s claims of improved performance and energy efficiency.
Forrest Norrod, who left Dell to work for AMD, introduced one of the most intriguing customers: Citadel Securities COO Jeff Maurone, who was effusive in his appreciation for AMD, stating that their solution had increased Citadel’s performance by 35%.
Citadel Securities is one of the world’s major market makers, where microseconds may make or break a trade, so this was high praise from an unimpeachable source. Citadel is unimpeachable because it is not just controlled, but performance flows to its bottom line, making it merciless if a component fails to meet expectations.
AMD’s effort was certainly up to the challenge, with 1 million concurrent cores processing 100 petabytes of data to better forecast market swings. However, each of the three cloud companies, as well as Facebook, recounted similar tales about AMD’s chips not being overhyped and being able to perform what AMD promised.
This isn’t surprising given that AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, came from IBM, which educates its leaders that honesty is important to success, a lesson that Lisa Su has taken to heart, since I’ve never known her to exaggerate a skill. What was especially intriguing was that the highlighted OEM was Dell, rather not HP or Lenovo, both of whom have long used AMD chips. According to what was mentioned on stage, Dell is now a huge believer in AMD.
Lessons Learned From Gaming
One way AMD got past Intel was by listening to what vertical markets wanted but weren’t receiving. This was a problem since several of the top cloud suppliers appeared to believe they could design chips as good as or better than a chip maker and had begun to create their own processors.
A semiconductor business like AMD should be able to create a better, quicker, and less expensive part than a do-it-yourself attempt, but only if they listen to what the consumer wants. This failure to listen to consumers has been typical in the PC and server markets since their creation, but it has left some of the largest corporations disappointed. As a result, they began creating and utilising their own CPUs, a trend that, if carried to its natural conclusion, might push businesses like AMD and Intel out of business.
However, AMD’s extensive experience, intellectual property, and early pivot to chiplets have significantly improved the chipmaker’s market position and allowed it to better target markets with unique products. This contributes significantly to AMD’s success.
The Demise of MLPerf
Another odd thing that happened at the event was that many of the customers who came on the stage did not appear to be using benchmarks like MLPerf anymore.
MLPerf is one of the most extensively used AI benchmarks, yet no one uses it outside of semiconductor firms, according to AMD and the clients they had on stage. In truth, many of the prominent benchmarks aren’t utilised for judging a purchase outside of chip industry bragging rights. Customers are instead leveraging their own information and solutions to evaluate goods in-house, just like they would if they were building their own chips.
This is why AMD needed to get in close and collaborate with these customers because they needed to design and tune their unique data centre processors for these equally unique vertical workload types, with the result being vastly more powerful than the alternatives, according to the customers on stage. With the shift to utilising actual workloads to test technology, I’m beginning to question if generic benchmarks are still useful.
AMD has fewer distractions than the other two big chip firms in the United States, allowing it to target market possibilities and build distinctive solutions to fulfil those opportunities. It employs abilities learned while entering the gaming console business to cultivate deeper connections with and develop innovative solutions for some of the world’s major cloud and financial clients.
Customers such as Petronas, a large multinational oil business, demonstrated that AMD’s solution is far superior to competitors’ solutions. AMD’s emphasis on connections is paying off handsomely, strengthening the company’s position as a rising leader in the semiconductor business.
Finally, while several of the benchmarks mentioned Intel, most of AMD’s presentation was far more focused on understanding and addressing customers’ demands, which was crucial.
Alienware Dual-Mode Wireless Gaming Headset – AW720H
Dell’s Alienware AW720H headphones appear to be the same as the AW920H headphones I tested two weeks ago, but they are not. In comparison, the AW920H headphones are Bluetooth, whilst the AW720H headphones are not. To make them function, you must use the accompanying dongle or wired connector.
These headphones are roughly $70 less than the AW920H headphones at $129.99, which is a significant discount, and they appear to feature fairly identical microphones and speakers.
While you may be able to use a wire to connect them to your smartphone, they are actually meant for gaming and sacrifice the usage breadth of Bluetooth headphones to give shorter latency and greater sound performance for gamers – the target market for these headphones.
The AW720H headset is available in two colours: black (Dark Side of the Moon) and off-white (Lunar Light). I prefer the colour black. You may also use them for video conferencing with a desktop or laptop computer and a dongle or connection. Though, unless it’s a gaming laptop, I’d argue that a non Bluetooth solution is likely better for a desktop user than a laptop user.
To my ear, the music is clear, but these headphones emphasise the lows more than the highs, resulting in a sound that is tilted towards the low end. I generally used them with the accompanying audio connections on my gaming system, and they worked perfectly. I anticipate them to work effectively on aeroplanes that still require a physical connection via an audio cord.
With a projected battery life of 30 hours, they should last longer than most of us would be playing or listening. When physically linked, they continue to function as headphones even without electricity, so they aren’t rendered worthless if you forget to charge them. Nonetheless, these are aimed for gamers and are best suited for gaming.
The AW720H headphones, like the AW920Hs, contain a boom mic with a light to indicate when you are broadcasting, as well as the Alienware lit Alien head on the exterior of the headphones. If you want a headset that is properly optimised for gaming and will be used mostly on a desktop computer, the Dell Alienware AW720H headphones are my pick and Product of the Week.