The Q1’15 HWBOT Report is a great source of data when it comes to revealing which hardware is being used for overclocking. We’ve had an in depth look at overclocking and its growth in the last quarter, but in fairness the vast majority of the data involved people benching on Intel platforms. If we are take a look at the data from a strictly AMD CPU perspective, there is a very distinct picture emerging. AMD is losing its place in the enthusiast segment, a daunting fact that is evidenced by fewer and fewer people using AMD chips on HWBOT.
To say AMD has had a tough time of it in the last decade or so would be a massive understatement, particularly when it comes to the area of CPUs. Whereas AMD graphics chips are keeping relative pace with rivals Nvidia, when it comes to x86 processors, Intel has soared to greater and greater heights with successive architectural improvements that keep them way out in front. It’s no secret that when it comes to raw performance, we have seen AMD fall further and further behind. Leaked reports suggest that AMD has an ace up its sleeve with its forthcoming Zen architecture chips, but right now it’s looking like a very tough uphill climb.
Declining Activity on AMD
This is reflected in the overall activity of overclockers using AMD processors. We can see a peak in late 2010 / early 2011 where around 500 overclockers per month were active and making any where up to around 3000 submissions between them. If we look at Q1’15 we see a very different picture with fewer than 1000 (-66%) submissions per month being made by fewer than 200 overclockers (-60%).
You can take a look at the graph below and see several submission peaks and troughs in the last few years, largely I would argue in tandem with AMD’s processor launches. My pet theory is that overclockers will always be tempted to dip their toe into the water of a new architecture. As a Vishera replaces a Zambezi, or a Trinity usurps a Llano, overclockers tend to be the curious type that wants to have a taste.
Despite submission bumps from product refreshes, the general trend is unmistakingly a downward one. Even when, as with late 2013, we see a spike in the submissions, it tends to be the result of a relatively small group of pretty dedicated and active AMD fanboys.
Intel Born and Bred
Another possibly even more depressing fact that AMD faces is the attitude of the newer HWBOT members who, it appears have almost a complete disregard for AMD. If we look at AMD submissions across the HWBOT leagues, only 2.85% of Novice submissions and 1.65% of Rookie submissions involve an AMD processor.
This shouldn’t be too surprising to learn, especially when you consider that a large portion of these newer overclockers arrive at OC-ESPORTS or HWBOT via the XTU benchmark, which is of course a strictly Intel only affair.
The big take away here is how AMD have failed to engage with the enthusiast audience. Intel is engaging directly with enthusiast PC builders and overclockers, working with HWBOT to create a tweaking application and benchmark that rewards the user for pushing the hardware. AMD no longer has such strategy. The company is not invested in this kind of engagement anymore. Note that back in the Phenom days AMD offered a similar experience with the AMD OverDrive utility which featured overclocking dials and an integrated benchmark.
In the long term you can see a picture where the majority of newer overclockers may never have ever benched on AMD, and may in fact remain largely ignorant of the existence of any alternative to an Intel CPU.
AMD is Now Ranked 3rd on HWBOT
If you take the broader, historical picture of what hardware is being benched on HWBOT going back as far as 2007, AMD has always been the poor relation to Intel. In fact if you consider the percentage of overclockers using AMD vs Intel, the historical picture has AMD hovering at around 20% and Intel at around 80% of all benchmark submissions. Early 2007 saw AMD in a position to give Intel a run for their money in terms of performance, a fact that is evidenced by AMD hitting its historical peak of almost 30% submission share.
The picture actually gets much worse as we move past 2013 where we see AMD competing with a new processor segment dominated by Qualcomm. Mobile overclocking has really started to take off in the last year. The second quarter of 2014 saw the arrival of contests like the Challenger Division VI and the Mobile Geeks 801 Challenge, both centered on ARM platforms.
Today AMD has yielded its position as No.2, making up a very small percentage of overclocking submissions. Qualcomm is now established at around 12%. Samsung, Nvidia and even Mediatek may well find themselves becoming more relevant in the near future as mobile overclocking continues to grow.
Not Addressing the Needs of overclockers
AMD has placed most of its relatively limited marketing muscle in the PC gaming market. The acquisition of ATI gave the company a decent foothold in the graphics market, and the latest APUs do indeed carry more integrated graphics performance than any competing Intel chip. But while it makes sense to lure gamers into the AMD cave, the company has done very little to make overclockers excited.
Despite the majority of AMD processors being totally unlocked and offering reasonable overclocking headroom, AMD has made very little effort to engage this market. The AMD Overdrive app is in dire need of an overhaul and is a million miles from what Intel has done with its XTU program, combining comprehensive CPU tweaking with an actual benchmark and linking it to the online community. AMD has a lot to learn if it ever wants to win back the hearts and minds of overclockers.
Can AMD Zen Get AMD Back in the Game?
Leaked slides of AMD’s forthcoming architecture look tantalizingly impressive. 16 Zen cores with 32MB of shared L3 cache, High Bandwidth Memory capability that supports DDR4-3200 plus 64 PCIe 3.0… It’s like an AMD fanboy had a wet dream, but is it just that? A dream?
So far it’s just a powerpoint slide, but the noises from AMD are very positive: “We are reinvesting in the high end desktop with the Zen core. High performance and compute in desktop makes a big difference,” – AMD CEO, Lisa Su.
This is exactly the message we would hope AMD would deliver, that they can develop the technology to get themselves back in the game. For the sake of having a valid competitor to Intel, and a real alternative x86 platform in overclocking, I hope AMD are right.