AMD Spokesman: Yes, They Are Our Videos

By Van Smith

Date: October 30, 2001

Two controversial videos have recently appeared on the Internet depicting thermal protection performance of CPUs under worst case catastrophic circumstances.  Obviously meant to counter a sensationalist article from hobbyist site Tom's Hardware Guide, the results of the two videos directly contradicted the findings of that webpage.

Adding to the squabbles surrounding the two videos was the fact that both pieces bore credits indicating that they had originated at AMD, the company whose products had been targets of derision in the now infamous and widely ridiculed THG article.

Responding to our inquiries, AMD spokesman Damon Muzny confirmed that the two controversial files came from the chipmaker.  “Yes, they are our videos,” Muzny admitted, “but we didn't intend to make them public.”

Stressing that the pieces were created for "internal use only" as training aids, Muzny nevertheless defended the videos' accuracy.  At the same time, Muzny took issue with the THG article.

THG used a motherboard that “was not intended to operate without a CPU heat sink,” Muzny firmly asserted.


A Gross Mischaracterization

Furthermore, Muzny cited a gross mischaracterization of AMD technology in the THG piece.  In that article, THG stated:

The thermal diode of Palomino is unable to react quickly enough. Only 1 degree/s is what the thermal diode is able to handle. That might be good enough for failing fans. A fallen off heat sink however will ensure a dead Athlon processor and possibly a damaged motherboard as well. What a serious disappointment!

According to Muzny, this statement is simply and egregiously wrong.  “The value of the internal diode can respond almost instantly, and certainly fast enough for the logic to check it and do what it needs to do” to shut down power in the extremely rare case of a "fallen off" heat sink Muzny stressed.  He added, “Of course implementation is dependent on motherboard manufacturers' use of logic to control the system power, etc.”

Muzny underscored, “the thermal diode is not the limiting factor” and not the cause of the Palomino failure on the THG video as the German hobbyist website claimed.  The purpose of the Palomino's on-die thermal diode is to enable the deployment of flexible and varied chipset driven thermal solutions ("Palomino" is AMD's internal name for Athlon MP and XP and mobile Athlon 4 cores).

Underscoring what should have been obvious to the THG crew, Muzny explained that the reason existing motherboards do not yet support the new Palomino feature is because older Athlons and Durons do not have an internal thermal diode.  In other words, infrastructure has yet to catch up with the recently released Athlon XP.

But rapid strides are occurring to fully leverage the Palomino's on-die thermal diode (new Durons based on the "Morgan" core also boast this feature).  Although the video used a customized board,  Athlon XP systems that will support power shutdown in worst case catastrophic failure of CPU cooling will be available “immediately from a tier 1 OEM,” Muzny revealed.


Faulty Premise

Finally, Muzny took aim at THG's assertion that heat sinks commonly fall off processors.  In their article, THG claimed:

It is no rare occasion that the processor heat sink fell off while the system was in transport. The result is a black screen when the system is started for the fist time. In some cases this problem can easily be solved with a simple re-fixation of the heat sink, but often enough the processor did not survive this first doomed run of the system. A replacement of the processor is required, which can cause a lot of hassle, should the retailer not be willing to do this replacement free of charge.

Mr. Muzny begs to differ:

AMD has shipped 35 million seventh generation Athlons and Durons and we have never had a report of a properly installed AMD recommended heat sink / fan combination falling off during normal operation.

Interestingly enough, although the THG piece admitted that CPU fan failures are a much more common occurrence, the hobbyist site selectively chose not to test this scenario, one in which every CPU tested would have passed as long as the corresponding motherboards were configured properly.

Recently, some have questioned the impartiality of THG after the website began running Intel advertising at the launch of Intel's 2 GHz Pentium 4.


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