AMD, GCN, and pulling Fury X review samples

So, did anyone catch AMD pulling review samples? Not just from one, but from several review sites?

I thought it was curious, and wished to share these to hear opinions.

Personally, I'm neutral. These last couple of months have been so riddled with rumors that a part of me just does not care anymore. (Just give me the benchmark numbers!) I think that I am partial to siding with AMD, though. When you have reviews like this, who will talk about the how the R9 380, like its Tonga R9 285 predecessor, has less memory and smaller bandwidth, but fail to talk about the the inclusion of lossless color compression and other improvements to help with tessellation and shaders. (Tom's Hardware and Anandtech delved into those details, thankfully.)

Now, to my knowledge, GCN was designed for the long term. Graphics Core Next did not just stand for a clever way to advertise a new architecture, but the new way that AMD was going to handle its upcoming architecture. It was built with modularity and scalability in mind, in relation to several fields. With this information, and as the R9 200-series was rolling out, I figured that the upcoming generations of graphics cards would be GCN-based, but with changes and improvements along the way. I was just starting to get into PC building when the Radeon HD 7970 ("GCN 1.0") smashed onto the seen. Although it is surpassed today, it still is quite relevant. It can handle 1440p gaming, and at 1080p you can still play with high-to-ultra settings. I wasn't surprised when it was rehashed as the R9 280X, and, equally, I am not surprised to see it phased out of the R9 300-series. As newer feature sets are introduced, older ones should be phased out. (That said, I am surprised that the now-named R7 370 managed to make the cut.) TL;DR - I felt that rebrands were going to be apart of the GCN.

The Bulldozer family of processors followed a similar market path. Seems odd that no one really complained about the released of the next iteration, even though Kaveri was the first APU to actually possess GCN for its integrated graphics, which also allowed for HSA.

Anyway, enough babbling from me. Thoughts, feelings?

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well not that i know of those review sites - its up to amd where do they want to send their cards. I only hope hexus gets to review it day or something before release.

One of those sites turned and attacked amd for not sending them review sample - well thats all I can say... immature to even post it. They can very well buy their card once its out and review it however they like it. If amd withdrew reserved sample for them - it might have been for good reason.

The GCN engine, as we dive from 1.0, 1.1 and 1.2 we can see improvements in performance per core in pretty much everything. I only hoped they'll make firmware bios upgrade for 1.1 and so on engines so all cards can benefit. Seems that didn't come to true.

about their cpu's - i've never been amd person there... i simply prefer intel... as i've had best memories with intel. Though their 8core's were really interesting, and were better than intel if you were going for vm's or servers.

So far I recommend anyone who's buying laptop to get one with apu... he'll get overall better hardware and quality from less... and still be able to do whatever he/she wants.

All this really tells me is who ever made the Bulldozer Archtiecture, should never get another job ever again. all of AMD's issues are aiming all the way back to 2008 damn near back to the Phenom II days. you would think AMD would learn already. i mentioned this too many times before. but I personally feel AMD should of just skipped Excavator entirely, and just focused primarily on Zen. there was no reason to continue updating that turd of an CPU architecture.

All the non-sense AMD's have been pulling in the CPU section for almost a decade now, is scary. and there's too much evidence that supports that if AMD hadn't purchase ATI back then, AMD would off been DEFINITELY been six feet under. and i'm sorry to say no one can truly argue that they wouldn't have.

But back to the point, AMD revoking samples from reviewers because they "said bad things about the cards" wouldn't be a surprise if there was factual evidence to support it. no reviewers have said the cards are terrible. all they said is that they want to see something new. not the same card with a factory overclock, and a new name. and to add insult to injury, people act like Nvidia doesn't do this all the damn time. Nvidia has been shitting on gamers / reviewers for what is years now. "oh you want a review sample, say something good about it." look at all reviewers who reviewed the 960. they said it was good, but you could see it in their face that "Face of Disappointment" cause it really didn't perform well. and let's not get into the 970 VRAM issue that broke the gaming community for a few weeks.

As for future support for DX12 and all the goodies, you would think it doesn't support it cause the old R9-200 series didn't properly support it. but AMD did something to make it work. if you look around the R9-290x 8GB some models state it has full support for DX12, and some models don't. now it does with the R9-300 series.

Performance wise, AMD did some Voodoo magic to get those cards up to par with Nvidia.. people have been "Debunking" that the performance increases are strictly due to drivers, which Kudos to AMD, cause realistically i felt like AMD didn't really do much with Catalyst Omega. The R9-300 series is a weird anomaly cause you have old cards with a new name and drivers with the exception of fury of course and they are performing better than ever. now what's really annoying for me as a gamer who has a preference for AMD cards is, "Why the fuck could you make drivers like these before?"

To end my mild rant, I don't really plan on upgrading my 290 until the R9 Fury either drops in price or i may just skip this gen entirely and wait for next summer for the AMD 400 series.

If we could find any.. I've already come to the conclusion that Intels CPU drivers are horrible. if you want to know how, ask anyone who owns a Windows tablet. ask them how their stand-bye/sleep time is. I could charge my tablet all day. let it sleep, and it'll be dead in the morning. there aren't any AMD based tablets that exist. as far as i'm aware. i would love to test that to see how it stacks up to Intel. AMD needs an "Atom" equivalent. that would be so awesome to have.

there are, in fact i own msi tablet with apu. It has already 2 years and battery is garbage already, but it could go on for a while once it was new. (now it discharges completely after 2-3hours)

I own similar to this one

couldn't you just replace the battery? I know for a fact Dell tablet batteries are replaceable.

never bothered... i use it in bed for movies, when i'm too tired to sit.

~ gonna get oculus rift consumer edition (as they've told us it could be wireless) then you can imagine me...

Yields on HBM aren't that great, and rumors are that all the Fiji GPUs will only be available in very limited quantities. That also includes review samples, of course. And if they can't afford (not because of the price tag, but rather because of availability for the masses) to send out review samples to ALL the big and medium-sized tech sites then they'll have to pull them from some.

Maybe it's just the rumor mill and people freaking out over nothing, but it seems like AMD handled the situation rather poorly. The whole "we're not sending out review samples to sites that have showed a negative stance towards AMD" sounds like blacklisting at first, if they had just said "the FuryX will only be available in limited quantities so we can't send them out to everyone" it would have been totally fine.

And yes, it totally makes sense to pull the samples from smaller, insignificant or generally more negative sites when you can't afford to send it out to everyone. Nobody is entitled to review samples, it's a matter of giving exposure and your honest view on the product in return for getting the product early and "for free". And if you can't give it enough exposure or if you have shown a fairly poor attitude towards a company then they'll probably not send you their stuff anymore. Reviewers can still buy one and review it, so that's not the issue. They'll be a bit late but this whole thing should give them more than enough clicks to make up for that anyway as soon as their review lands. And then they can give their view on the product and how AMD handled the situation as well.

All of this might sound a bit too "nice" towards AMD, so let me sum it up: The real reason for pulling X number of Fiji cards seems to be the fact that they simply don't have enough, and because of that they have to prioritize certain reviewers and sites. <-- this is totally okay in my book.
I certainly don't want a situation like we have with apple, where reviewers need to be afraid of never getting a product again because they said something negative once. There seems to be a good reason for why this is happening, and as long as it doesn't repeat itself for several other, easily available products I don't think that it's a huge issue.
The real issue seems to be AMDs reaction and their communication, but a giant corporation messing up on that part wouldn't be anything new tbh.

Like I'm seriously going to not buy a fury x because some news sites I don't even read aren't getting a sample to review? Or even trying to reason about the rebrands as a reason to dislike when they perform marginally better? Get real. If you feel you have a decent card for whatever resolution you play it then by all means don't bother. For everyone else the card below and the rest in this line is the excitement happening.

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Here's hardwareOCP editor-in-chiefs view of the matter

It is what it is. Manufacturers are not beholden to sample review sites parts. When parts do not come our way, we work out other avenues to review those.
Most recent high profile case is that Intel "cut us off" on the Hasell-E launch. I went ahead and sourced the hardware though non-Intel channels and did the review and published it 3 days before Intel's embargo date.
Intel pulled support on that CPU because it was very unhappy with the previous review of the predecessor CPU.
Bottom line is that shit happens. And there are a couple of ways to react to it. In this case, if HardOCP were not sampled a Fury card, we would reach to see if we could "fix" that, and if we could not, I would let our readers know that we would not be covering the hardware and why.

@wolfleben pointed this out to me yesturday

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Oh wow, I didn't expect this many replies. I'm actually surprised I wasn't written off as an AMD fanboy yet - altough I guess that is why I made the post here, instead of elsewhere.

I'll have a more thorough reply later.

I understand AMD for not sending their cards for review to a site that's been negative to the brand. HBM yields are probably a problem as @anon10737550 mentioned, but they probably do have enough to satisfy at least a small portion of buyers since they've been in production for quite a while now. Agreed, they did handle the situation poorly, but consumers would probably get the short end of the stick if they announced that they didn't have so many ready for them, as retailers would probably raise the prices.
As far as the 300 series is concerned, yes they did reuse the chip, but they enhanced some things and gave them more ram. So if you ask me the price is justified. It may not make sense to upgrade from a 290X 8GB to a 390X, but for some that have a 3 gen or older GPU, it may.
I agree, that they have big problems on the CPU front, they have had them since Core2Duo launched. Before that, they were the better choice, since they delivered more performance for around the same price, but some did require fiddling around in the bios to work as advertised. Hopefully the upcoming Zen will put them back in the game, since with competition consumers always end up on top. If you ask me, Intel has not been as innovative as they would be if they had actual competition on the high end parts.
As far as Nvidia is concerned, they have had their fair share of rebrands, yet most people don't say anything. The 970 comes immidiatley to mind. Titan cards are another way how Nvidia has been making money of their loyal customer base, even though a lot of people don't even need that kind of power, especially people that play games. Only reason those people bought the card(s) is braging rights.

After the fiasco with the R9 200 series and bitcoin miners I imagine that they would be extra careful and make sure that availability is secured for the general consumer. Coupled with the poor yields on HBM it seems very plausible that this is the main cause, the fact that they would pull the review samples from negative or small publications is only the next logical step from that point.

That's a healthy attitude towards the whole subject IMO. Logan has mentioned previously that many reviewers are just trying to get free stuff or that their attitude towards review samples is very poor, causing other people genuine trouble. At the end of the day nobody is entitled to a review sample, and you can still buy the products (let's be honest, it's a business expense, nothing more) and review it or just ignore that product and inform your readers/viewers why that is the case. Even though Apple basically blacklists everyone who is too critical or too negative on their products we still have cases like LTT making a large series about the new high-end iMac.
It seems like a whole bunch of noise over nothing IMO, if it becomes a trend then people have every right to get pissed off and complain, but this is (as far as I can tell) an isolated case with a fairly plausible reason attached to it. Poor communication or not, it's nothing to start rioting over.

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Isn't it a bit childish though? Like many other industries they are dependent on the media but it is a double edged sword. And you just have to bite down and take it sometimes, even if you feel the critique levelled at you is unreasonable. Because when you get good reviews that can translate directly into more sales. Few things are as unappealing as a when big companies throw temper tantrums.

This is hard to agree to. Nvidia faced a shitstorm over the gtx970, and they are still often the butt end of a joke because of their alternative memory math. Also they have been called out over their rebranding every single time. But just like with AMD, some people don't care and buy/keep the cards after the facts are known. AMD managed to sell what is still one of fastest cards in the world even if it is a dual core card that uses power like it was going out of fashion. Who are buying these cards if not loyal costumers that want the best they can get and the bragging rights that comes attached to these extreme cards?

If you see someone shit all over your product you put so much effort into, would YOU bother sending them one? probably not. every tech company is guilty of the "oh you won't say anything good? that's fine, we won't send you a review sample" practice.. Nvidia included. but on a similar note, AMD is known to NOT give out many review samples of anything. Reviewers have to contact Gigabyte, MSI, or Sapphire to get a review sample.

I'm not saying that both companies have not behaved in this manner. A lot of game companies have also done it. And I cringe every time. If I had a tech company I would try to be above such antics simply because I know I have to take the bitter with the sweet. I don't work with hardware but I very well understand what it's like to have something I worked hard on shat on by some twat who happened to be in an ill mood the day they got my stuff.

But you keep them in the loop because sometimes you have to reflect on criticism. It might have been justified even if its a bitter pill to swallow. There might have been something to it and the next review might be golden and get you new costumers. To me it represents the very essence of professionalism. Because the respect has to go both ways. They are reviewers and also have a job to do and a skill set that also took them years of practice, trial and error to reach a point where other people want to listen to them.

I agree, that it is a bit childish and that like many other industries they are dependent on the media. But many other industries don't send out products to some companies to review. The car industry immediately comes to mind, one of the big reviewers Autobild doesn't get all the cars for review immediately, since it's very critical to everything that isn't VAG for instance.
Yes, keeping everybody in the loop is a good thing. But it's not hard to make a bias review, especially on a GPU. You can set the settings in such a way that your preferred brand does better. I for example saw a review that said the 290X can't keep up with the 970 at 1080p, 1440p and 4k. Yet they used 4x MSAA or higher, which isn't really needed at 4k for example since you don't see that much of a difference/benefit at that resolution.
If you're behind in the game financially , like AMD is at the moment, every bad review can mean a lost sale, which they can't really afford.

I may be part of the problem but I actively tell my customers to avoid AMD laptops. I have several on display, even a high end MSI with the mobile 290 in it. They have all had issues constantly, now this could very well be because vendors have skimped in other places because the goal was to make a cheap laptop.

On the opposite side, Mac products seem to be running really well with the mobile AMD GPUS. So maybe there is somthing vendors are doing to cause the problems, cheap parts all over. So far in my experience APU laptops are great if you don't need reliability and Intel always seems to have an option that's on "sale" at a really close price.

hm, so far (i have brought 2 laptops for my sister and mother with apu's) and haven't got slightest issue(been 2years now). Might be as you state, but I don't see MSI doing it - still quite possible. Though I've never seen mobile 290, maybe those laptops incorporating full mobile gpu's have problems. From APU's i've seen more expensive and better parts in favor not having expensive intel cpu, where similar laptops would cost $1.4k; apu's were half ~$700 with much better hardware.

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Compared to what Kingston did with sending review samples of there ssd with faster chips then their retail this is mild. Or giving away benchmark software that favors intel, or putting code in windows that caused Lotus 123 to crash. Car and driver tested radr detectors and one company(fuzzbuster) jamed a competitors superior product in their case and sent it in for testing.
I am ok with losing 1 or 2 fps for a company that saved me allot of money since the dx2 and dx4. Typing this on my 100 dollar RCA tablet from walmart that has survived 50000 miles or so bouncing around an 18 wheeler. I am an AMD man because they save me money and when I see nvidea cards outperform AMD's own stuff make me admire AMD more for not pulling dope-fiend moves. As for rebrainding don't even ask how many times the corvette pushrod V-8 has been rebranded over the decades. oh yea...IMHO:)