Monday, September 25, 2006

Anandtech Melts Down

Anandtech used to be a good and honest website. However, since 2000 the opinions of Anand Lal Shimpi have changed nearly 180 degrees. This change in viewpoint has been accompanied by a similar change in quality and integrity.

It is difficult to place any crediblity in a website that says two completely different things. For example, Tom Pabst at Tom's Hardware Guide said in 2000 Intel Admits Problems With PIII:

  • On Intel's VC820 platform Sysmark 2000 crashed consistently. I was unable to finish even one run of Sysmark with this CPU and I certainly tried about 20 times. As soon as I plugged a Pentium III 1 GHz into the system the benchmark would run all the way through.

  • The most consistent error I got however was with my timed Linux kernel compilation. Even on the VC820 the Pentium III 1.13 GHz was utterly unable to finish the compilation even once. All other CPUs I used finished the compilation without the slightest flaw.

  • Interestingly, stress tests as Prime95 or CPUburn under Windows98 would not get my 1.13 GHz processor to fail on the VC820.
Today, however, in Green Machine Test THG says:

This also lets us to limit the scope of this article to measuring power consumption at maximum and minimum CPU load, using our Prime95 torture test.

This is why Tom's Hardware Guide has little credibilty today. Unfortunately, Anand has done the same thing. For example Anand also used to criticize Intel on their paper launches.

Prior to Intel’s downward spiral, AMD would be the one we would accuse of “paper launching” processors, since you could never find a newly “released” AMD CPU until after its launch. Intel’s policy was exactly the opposite, upon the introduction of a new CPU, systems based on that CPU would be available the very same day.

Since the release of AMD’s Athlon, things have changed. Slowly but surely the roles of the two companies have reversed, now, Intel is the one being accused of “paper launching” processors while AMD CPUs are readily available and definitely affordable. These “paper launches” were at their worst with the release of the 1GHz Pentium III (March 2000) before the 850, 866 and 933MHz Pentium IIIs in an attempt to compete with AMD’s 1GHz Athlon that was released just days before. What began to make the community characterize Intel’s CPU releases as “paper launches” was the fact that you couldn’t actually go out and buy a 1GHz Pentium III whereas, by the end of the month, the Athlon was already available in speeds from 500MHz up to 1GHz in 50MHz increments.


Yet, Anand's criticism of this had entirely vanished when Intel sent out its P4 EE for review in 2003. The P4 EE was specifically sent out to compete with AMD's FX review but Intel didn't actually deliver it until months later in 2004 while the FX was available shortly after. Today, AMD's chips are always available the day of release while Intel's don't show up for as much as three months.

Anand's point of view has completely switched. Today he no longer criticizes Intel for delivering chips late after "release". He began being biased against AMD some time in 2002 when he began complaining about the late release of K8. When Athlon 64 was released in September 23, 2003 he said:

Fast forward to almost two years and the Hammer is just finally being released on the desktop as the Athlon 64 and the Athlon 64 FX. AMD has lost a lot of face in the community and in the industry as a whole, but can the 64 elevate them back to a position of leadership?

AMD has also priced the Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX very much like the Pentium 4s they compete with, which is a mistake for a company that has lost so much credibility. AMD needed to significantly undercut Intel (but not as much as they did with the Athlon XP) in order to offer users a compelling reason to switch from Intel. However, given the incredible costs of production (SOI wafers are more expensive as well) and AMD's financial status, AMD had very little option with the pricing of their new chips.


What Anand is complaining about is that AMD originally had K8 listed on their unofficial roadmaps as being released 1st Half 2002. However, just one month later K8 had moved to 2nd Half 2002. It was actually released Q2 2003. These roadmaps are not official documents so complaining about changes seems a bit silly. It is remarkable too that these types of complaints would be made at all because both Tom and Anand had the opposite view for Intel in 2000. Both said that it would have been better for Intel to have delayed the release of the PIII 1.13Ghz chip rather than shipping a defective product. Yet when AMD delayed launch of K8 to ensure quality and availability on the new SOI process Anand was critical.

Anand was also critical because AMD had planned to release the desktop Clawhammer first and then the server Sledgehammer later. Anand didn't like it when AMD switched and released the server version first. This is why he makes a point of saying "on the desktop" when Opteron had already been out for months. However, this contradicts what he said in May 14, 2002 after the release of Athlon XP(4):

The MP server market is a very lucrative business for AMD to get into since the profit margins are so high, just look at the profit margins off of Intel's Pentium II Xeon and Pentium III Xeon parts to see the potential for AMD there. However the Athlon 4 will only be a stepping stone for AMD into this market; AMD's 64-bit solutions will truly be the ones to lead the company in this area.

His criticism on price didn't make any sense either. Just a few years earlier he was concerned that AMD would be hurt by too low of a price as he said in October 17, 2000:

we were afraid at the end of 1999 that Intel would begin to compete with the Athlon in a price war, something which AMD, being a smaller company than Intel would have some serious problems with.

His criticism is even more ludicrous considering that AMD had problems with profitability all during 2002 and into the beginning of 2003. Yet, presumably he wanted AMD to sell its best and still low volume K8 at a bargain price. K7's were still the main chip even two quarters after this article was written.

In contrast, his views in 2003 have become much more optimistic about Intel and don't change even when his optimism is unwarranted. For example, both he and Tom believed that Itanium would be a desktop processor and would compete directly with Opteron. There was no criticism when this never materialized. There was no criticism when Tejas was canceled. No criticism when Whitefield was canceled.

Anand was optimistic about Prescott. In February 1, 2004 he said:

Prescott becomes interesting after 3.6GHz; in other words, after it has completely left Northwood’s clock speeds behind.

Yet, he took it in stride when Prescott topped out at 3.8Ghz.

I have to admit that I find this one particularly interesting because nearly a year earlier in 2003, I had said that I didn't believe that Intel could add another generation onto P4. At that time, everyone that I knew of was saying the same thing as Anand, that Prescott would be great, that it would clock as high as 5.0 Ghz and put Intel back into the lead. I don't recall anyone besides me who doubted Prescott before its release. My crystal ball has been pretty good since 2003. And, none of the big websites has had a track record anywhere near mine. That often amazes me because the big websites should have much more information than I do. I don't know what the reason for this would be unless a pervasive bias leads them to consistently overestimate Intel.

Anand Lal Shimpi reached his personal low when he put his name on Spring IDF 2006 Conroe Preview: Intel Regains the Performance Crown . In this article he tosses away whatever ethics he had remaining and essentially becomes a spokesperson for Intel. Both the Intel Conroe system and the AMD FX-60 system were built by Intel. Intel would not allow Anand to look inside the case or even look at the BIOS settings. They would not allow him to bring any of his own benchmarks and only let him use what they had installed. Yet, based on this entirely controlled Intel testing, Anand, nevertheless proclaims, "Intel Regains the Performance Crown". Gone is Anand's once strong critism for Intel processors that were not available four months after review. Instead Anand cheerfully comments, "keep in mind that we are over six months away from the actual launch of Conroe, performance can go up from where it is today."

Anandtech's credbility as a whole has continued to deteriorate since 2002. Today, they too use THG's highly unethical technique of comparing overclocked Intel chips against stock AMD chips as they do in Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 & E6400: Tremendous Value Through Overclocking. A fair comparison would have been to include overclocked X2 3800+ and 4200+ but this was not done.

However, the latest sad chapter in Anandtech's increasing bias and incompetence was this comparison of Woodcrest, Opteron, and Sparc.

The Intel Woodcrest system used the excellent Intel Server Board S5000. This motherboard uses the robust Intel 5000 dual bus chipset. This chipset gives each processor its own Front Side Bus to the Northbridge. This allows each processor to have excellent memory bandwidth.

The AMD Opteron system, however, used the MSI K8N Master2-FAR. This choice of a motherboard for AMD shows either extreme incompetence or an outright attempt to cheat in Intel's favor. From the time of Opteron's release in 2003, they have always had independent memory buses for each processor. However, this is a new thing for Intel and has only been available since late 2005. It makes sense that Woodcrest would use Intel's best dual bus chipset. However, the motherboard chose for Opteron was not (and still isn't) approved by AMD for use in servers. In spite of the fact that this board has two sockets for Opterons, it only has a single memory bus. In other words, Intel's chips got the newest and best Intel dual bus motherboard whereas AMD's chips which have always had dual buses were put into a stripped down, single bus motherboard. This forced the two Opterons to share the single memory bus and greatly reduced the speed of the second processor. This comparison pretty much stripped Anandtech of whatever shreds of crediblity they had left after Anand's participation in Intel's promotion of Conroe.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, all I have to say about Anand is that they are not "completely" biased as THG does. Anand used to be my fovourite tech site but since the introduction of intel's C2D architechture it became kinda "biased" towards any intel offering. I believe they tend to be with the "stronger guy" (at the moment), but once AMD introduces their K8L architecture then you can see Anand going back again to the AMD bandwagon (I can bet on it).

Erlindo.

Anonymous said...

hi

Tomasz Torcz said...

Your blog is very valuable. I would like to know what do you think about this two reviews: http://tweakers.net/reviews/638 and http://tweakers.net/reviews/646 . They seem credible, but it's hard for me to believe that Socket F Opteron is so much worse than Woodcrest Xeon.

Scientia from AMDZone said...

No, the tweakers tests were not very good. They really don't show anything. If Woodcrests are better this will show up in the official TPC database. AMD doesn't have enough to cover all of the categories yet. However, for the categories it was represented it had the best scores.

Turtle said...

This is the conclusion to TomsHardware review of AMD's X2 EE chips:

http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/09/25/green_machine/page4.html#conclusion

The review showed AMD using less power than a comparible C2D system, but the first paragraph of the author's opinion shows the true integrity of TH. When it's an Intel chip beating A64 in power consumption they praise it, but when an A64 beats C2D they find something negative to say.

Anonymous said...

Though the observations you note are true most tech companies tend to hype and favor whatever is the best performing CPU in the market at the time.

Anand as well as other tech sites all sung AMD's praises when it was in the lead and you cant expect them to still praise AMD when their best processor is fourth in row with intel being the top three.

As far as critizing anand for his article during IDF the whole first half of the section was him saying that he was not able to manipulate the system and it was intel made. He was posting his findings based on the information he had been given and since it was a scoop he posted it. Afterall he is in the business of making news and generating interest for his site.

IF you got a chance to test out a k8l system against a kentfield system are you telling me you wont publish it or brag about it just because you dont know what the kentfield system has???? Please dont think of us as soo naive.

But at the same time it wasnt like the FX was competing or was ever close to the core 2 in terms of performance. Rite now the FX series is not just losing but is being dominated by the core 2 duos no matter how bias you are you cant deny numbers. There is not a single benchmark that the FX wins in unlike back in the single core days where multimedia used to be EE's forte and FX would rule all else.

Infact Anand ran a second article debunking every thing all the amd fans were complaining about and found the difference in performance compared to the intel put together system minimal at best. And all the numbers were also verified by other sites confirming that the intel based FX system was not crippled.

Scientia from AMDZone said...

Anand as well as other tech sites all sung AMD's praises when it was in the lead

When K8 was released Anand didn't praise it; he criticized it for being late and too expensive. However, Anand said nothing when P4 EE was late. When Prescott turned out to be bad, Anand spoke of Tejas. When Tejas was canceled Anand talked about Smithfield. AMD didn't get as much praise for K8 as Intel got for products that later were canceled or turned out worse than expected.

He was posting his findings based on the information he had been given

This is the definition of a press release, not a review.

Afterall he is in the business of making news and generating interest for his site.

Rather than being fair and honest.

IF you got a chance to test out a k8l system against a kentfield system are you telling me you wont publish it or brag about it just because you dont know what the kentfield system has?

A test is a test, neither more nor less. To say more than you know is dishonest.

??? Please dont think of us as soo naive.

I have no idea where you get your ideas from. There is no reason for me to be dishonest. All Anand had to was qualify his statment. Rather than saying that Intel had taken the lead, he could have said that Conroe was looking good, looking promising, or even that the early tests looked good so far. It isn't so hard to maintain your integrity if that is important to you. All he had to do was post a short article saying looks promising so far; can't wait to get ahold of a real system for testing. The preliminary results are ... Why is this so hard?

no matter how bias you are you cant deny numbers. There is not a single benchmark that the FX wins in unlike back in the single core days where multimedia used to be EE's forte and FX would rule all else.

I would put both E6700 and X6800 ahead of FX. FX is close to E6600 but why would anyone pay an FX price for an E6600 level processor?

Infact Anand ran a second article debunking every thing all the amd fans were complaining about and found the difference in performance compared to the intel put together system minimal at best.

That was too late. Once you've shown bias you can't get your integrity back by publishing more tests. If you really think that Anand restored Anandtech's integrity then you didn't read about his Opteron versus Woodcrest test which was not controlled by Intel. Either Anandtech is biased in favor of Intel or they are incompetent.

And all the numbers were also verified by other sites confirming that the intel based FX system was not crippled.

I've yet to see proper testing for dual core. Certainly this hasn't happened at either Anandtech or Tom's Hardware Guide.

Anonymous said...

"When K8 was released Anand didn't praise it; he criticized it for being late and too expensive."

Anand was rite though the hammer was WAAAYYY late and expensive at the time.

"This is the definition of a press release, not a review."

What part of "Spring IDF 2006 Conroe PREVIEW: Intel Regains the Performance Crown" was mistook for a full review. Like i mentioned his very first page clearly stated that both the setups were intel given and he was not allowed to go through with it. He tried his best to make sure that all the drivers and hardware were the same, you cant blame the dude for trying to do everything he can with the situation presented. As far as the title goes its something that catches the eye makes news and brings more people to his site kinda like the titles you have in your blog.

"It isn't so hard to maintain your integrity if that is important to you. All he had to do was post a short article saying looks promising so far; can't wait to get ahold of a real system for testing. The preliminary results are ... Why is this so hard?"

The show is IDF he clearly states that conroe is six months away, that it looks very impressive and he will be looking forward to see what AMD has with AM2(which turned out to be nothing). The fact of the matter is he saw benchmarks he concluded that conroe will wipe the floor with the k8 and he was rite. Does our argument here change any of that. Yea sure if he said that conroe will wipe the floor and it didnt i can understand your point of view.

"That was too late. Once you've shown bias you can't get your integrity back by publishing more tests."

Dats not the point of the second article the point of the article was to satisfy those amd fan boi who could not believe what just happened. It was really designed to show that even with all their bios and memory in place the k8 could not touch the conroe.

"I've yet to see proper testing for dual core. Certainly this hasn't happened at either Anandtech or Tom's Hardware Guide."

Every website had the same exact results (unless you are running sum optimization from michael's computers) i dont care what kinda tweaking you do the k8 can not make that kinda deficit without a major architecture change. Wait for k8l.

Oh by the way great blog kinda refreshing to see an amd based blog with some logic and sense behind it unlike the craziness of Fake phd (who still insists that the laptops blew up cuz of dual core cpus despite sony's very public global recall) and Madmod.

Anonymous said...

Oh another thing would like to hear your comments about the recent amd roadmap and about 4x4's performance agains the kentfield.

Scientia from AMDZone said...

Anand was rite though the hammer was WAAAYYY late and expensive at the time.

K8 was late without a doubt. However, it wasn't expensive. Even in Q1 04 AMD was still making mostly K7's. It had to set the price of K8 higher than K7. The thing is that Anand thought that Itanium was going to be K8's competitor but I don't recall the same criticism about Itanium.

What part of "Spring IDF 2006 Conroe PREVIEW: Intel Regains the Performance Crown"

"Intel looking promising" would have been better. I still haven't seen enough benchmarks to tell exactly how fast C2D is. There is no way that Anand could have concluded this based on what he saw.

kinda like the titles you have in your blog.

Not exactly. I'm limited because the feed includes only the title and a bit of the first text. This was the first page on Anand's site. It is a bit absurd to suggest that the content on my blog is somehow competitive with Anandtech.

Dats not the point of the second article the point of the article was to satisfy those amd fan boi who could not believe what just happened. It was really designed to show that even with all their bios and memory in place the k8 could not touch the conroe.

He hasn't satisfied me yet. Also, how do you explain that horrible Opteron/Woodcrest comparison? You know, I remember when Anand was sharp and knew all of the technology. Today, I have no confidence in this at Anandtech.

Every website had the same exact results

If C2D were a single core chip I'd say they've won the tests. However, C2D is a dual core chip and we really need to see how these two chips compare under loading and I haven't seen that yet.