Monday, December 29, 2008

Still Waiting

I should have some spare money by the end of January and plan to buy a new computer. However, like most people I am still waiting on comparisons between AMD's 45nm Shanghai and Intel's new Nehalem. The silence is deafening.

Reports trickle in from places like XtremeSystems Forums and other scattered locations of people doing freelance testing on Shanghai. The suggestions are pretty good for AMD. It looks like Shanghai gets a fairly good boost at the same clock versus Barcelona while overclocking much better. It also appears that Nehalem is worse at overclocking than Penryn. That doesn't really surprise me since an IMC seems to be tougher to overclock than a FSB and putting the memory controller on the die increases the thermal load. Frankly I was impressed by how much smaller the HSF was for Penryn versus C2D and was equally surprised to see how much bigger the HSF was for Nehalem (larger than C2D). I don't think that Intel is in any danger of another Prescott but some of the blush is definitely off the Penryn rose. I'm also wondering if reports of Nehalem overheating with the stock HSF (even with the larger size) are true.

Still, this is going to be a problem for Anand Lal Shimpi and I'm not sure what he is going to do about it. See, back in late 2005 Intel was getting thumped hard by Athlon X2 and Anand decided to be value conscious and railed against X2's "insane price". Then as C2D was released in 2006 Anand conveniently dropped his previous objection to price. In fact these days you never even see him mentioning insane prices when talking about Intel's Skulltrail system. Nevertheless, he did try to excuse his change on prices by noting that even the low end Intel's chips were much better at overclocking than AMD's.

I still have reservations about judging the value of a chip by overclocking because so few people do it. The truth is that most systems run at stock speed with stock cooling and integrated graphics. So, it is somewhat odd that Anandtech bases its value on discrete graphics with overclocking and premium cooling. Perhaps the fact that Intel excelled at overclocking with premium cooling but needed a graphics card to make up for its poor integrated graphics is just a coincidence . . . maybe. I would be happier if Anandtech did this in two parts, one for common users and another for performance users. But at any rate, I will readily admit that AMD wasn't even in the running for OC'ing until they released the B3 stepping with the SB750 southbridge. So, one has to wonder if Anandtech will suddenly change its stance on value based on overclocking now that Intel's once proud OC banner is lying on the ground in tatters.

It could be the fact that Anandtech does about three Intel articles for every AMD article that makes it appear biased. Or perhaps it is when Johan De Gelas admitted that their server testing was 18 months out of date. And, that coincidentally the things that they were behind on were the things that Intel's chips did poorly. I know that Anandtech took a big hit in credibility when they first criticized AMD's 4000 series for requiring a dual GPU card and then turned around and chose a dual nVidia card as the best value. Maybe I'm biased and just not giving Anandtech a fair shake. Maybe, but then the numbers agree with me. AMD's graphics sales are today mostly the new 4000 series while nVidia's are still the older 9000 series. In fact, demand for nVidia GT200 series is about as dismal as it was for AMD's 2000 series.

I know what the rumors are. The rumors are saying that Anandtech has already benched Shanghai and it does pretty well with Intel only holding onto the really expensive (overpriced) top slot. If prices don't change then Intel's i7 920 at 2.66Ghz is going to be going head to head at $300 with AMD's Phenom II 940 at 3.0Ghz. So, with equal price that would put Intel at a 13% clock disadvantage right off the bat. And, without the fig leaf of better overclocking it has been suggested that Anand is having a hard time spinning the comparison in Intel's favor. Time will tell but I certainly hope we see some real numbers over the next month.