AMD Takes A Swing At Intel's SysMark Benchmarks, Misses Completely

It always fun when major corporations decide to publicly slag the other one off. So to help round off your Friday with a smile, let’s enjoy AMD having a good old whinge about benchmarks and bias towards Intel.

The video starts out with AMD saying “why the Federal Trade Commission has required Intel to use a disclaimer” on the SYSmark 2014 benchmark. “Choosing the wrong benchmark could result in overpaying for technology or getting a less performing PC,” AMD’s director of computer client products, John Hampton, starts out by saying.

Hampton and AMD engineering manager Tony Salinas then compare the biased SYSmark benchmark with others they think is fairer, namely the work accelerated test in the PCMark 8 benchmark and a “set of scripts that walked through the office suite [of programs]”.

AMD’s contention is that the difference between performance in the AMD laptop versus the Intel one shown is only between 6-7%, compared to the 300-plus margin with which the Intel laptop wallops its AMD competitor in SYSmark.

For reference — and you can see this in the video for yourself — the AMD laptop is a FX-8800P with an AMD Radeon R7 GPU, while the Intel laptop is an i5-5200U at 2.2GHz with an HD Graphics 5500 integrated GPU. The Intel laptop also packs 8GM of RAM, according to the visible information in PCMark 8, while the total memory for the AMD laptop is oddly reported as “0MB”.

AMD does have a point here, though. Manufacturers cherry-pick things that make their products look the best all the time, although insinuating a link between Intel, SYSmark and Volkswagen’s recent scandal (as Hampton did at the start of the video) is a stretch and a half.

But AMD are cherry-picking facts too. If you’re going to thoroughly benchmark a system, there’s nothing wrong with a tool like SYSmark that AMD says more or less exclusively tests the CPU. The trick is to use a suite of benchmarks to give you a complete picture of the system’s capacity, and that includes theoretical tests alongside ones that prioritise real-world applications and programs.

And it’s not like AMD’s comparison is hugely fair either. PCMark 8 tests the GPU and the CPU, and the FX-8800P is AMD’s top of the line APU for laptops. Intel’s i5-5200U is based on the older Broadwell micro-architecture, not the newer Skylake architecture that was released later this year. On top of that, the i5-5200U didn’t even have the most powerful integrated GPU among other Broadwell Core i5 mobile CPUs, let alone the latest Broadwell versions that were released last June.

Despite all of that, the Intel laptop still beat its AMD counterpart in every single test AMD showed in the video, including two of their fairer benchmarks. It just makes AMD look petty. The video starts with the tone of a current affair-style expose, only for AMD to end up deploying the same cherry-picking tactics they’re accusing Intel of.

Their complaints against SYSmark aren’t that helpful. Its benchmarks can be a useful yardstick for gamers looking for the highest performance possible, particularly given we’re still in a world where many games are still yet to fully take advantage of multiple CPU cores. (Although with DirectX 12 around the corner, that should start to change very rapidly.)

So at the end of the day, AMD hasn’t said or shown anything technically inaccurate. But their portrait of real-world performance has just as many caveats as Intel’s.

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