AMD had some major announcements for gamers at the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas. First, it was the 8000M line of mobile graphics chips, aimed at bringing an incredible experience for gamers operating on a mobile platform, be it a beast of a laptop or a thin ultrabook. This new AMD Radeon HD 8000M series offers 2nd generation GCN-based notebook products, fully DirectX 11.1-capable. The other major announcement had to do with AMD’s A-Series APUs, which will offer 20 to 40% more perfromance than the previous generation.
We sat down face-to-face with AMD Senior Marketing Manager Darren McPhee to talk about the various AMD announcements here at CES, reflect back about 2012 and of course, be the only media outlet (they confirmed!) to beg Mr. McPhee about information on the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): This is Sean Gibson, I’m at CES 2013 along with Ethan Smith. We are visiting with AMD, if you could give us an introduction of yourself and your job title please.
Darren (AMD): My name is Darren McPhee I’m the Director of Product Marketing for Graphics at AMD.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): You had some major announcements on Monday for two different segments of the graphic side; one is the mobile side with the 8000M-line, as well as a couple of new Desktop Graphics Cards coming out. Let’s talk first about the laptops and the 8000M-line. For those of us that are stuck at 5000 or 6000 series and we’re looking to getting a new laptop, what’s really exciting? What’s going to be the selling point, the tipping factor that makes gamers say, “You know what, I do need this!”
Darren (AMD): I think the common theme is Graphics Core Next. It’s something we launched last year. It’s the foundation of all our graphics solutions, APUs and GPUs going forward. The theme for these products is really taking the GCN Architecture to our entire notebook graphics family as well as mainstream desktop, where today you can only buy it in graphics card that are $150 or more.
You’re going to have an entire 8000M series that supports GCN that gives you incredible compute and gaming performance, brings in some great power management features. Again, they can only get it on a very expensive desktop graphics card. Now, you can get it in a really cool ultrathin from Asus, you’ll be able to get an amazing desktop, you’ll be able to get a gaming notebook, but it really brings out architecture and those advantages to pretty much everybody that buys our graphic solutions.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): That was the one major selling factor consumers noticed, was that it wasn’t just going to be in the desktop replacement laptops, that this was going to be a major powerhouse GPU in anything we wanted it to be in, like thin form factor notebooks.
Darren (AMD): Yes, exactly. We have some of them on display here. You can see an ultrathin notebook, the type of mainstream thin and light notebook with a larger 1080p screen, you can see that all-in-one PC. This GCN technology is going across all our graphics solutions and showing up in all these different types of form factors.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): You mentioned some of the folks here at CES that are showing of their notebooks and it’s a very impressive list of vendors that are debuting your chipset here. Could you mention some of the partners that you have that are on the floor right now with AMD?
Darren (AMD): We were very lucky that multiple partners were more than happy to launch with us at CES. So far we’ve announced that Samsung, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, and Vizio are all showing designs here and have launched designs. Actually, in the coming launch, you’ll see even more OEMs coming to market in notebook and desktop with these parts.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): Awesome. Let’s move to the desktop. There are two new cards. Could you talk a little bit about what’s exciting about these two new systems?
Darren (AMD): Yes, it’s actually kind of a similar thing to the notebook side. We’ve got an 8500 and 8600 on the mainstream desktop side and it’s launched here at CES. Again, it’s all about bringing the goodness of GCN down to the mainstream classic product for us; it’s not just for those high-end gamers who are taking it everywhere. That’s what those products are.
They’re taking those capabilities and also kind of cool things that we have in a higher end cards like Power Tune which maximizes your performance within a certain thermal design power budget, if you will. It always gives you the best performance but stays within that power limit and zero core power, which basically shuts down the core of the GPU when your system is idle. All those things are going into these mainstream solutions as well as the notebook side, and it’s coming in desktops that we’re launching this quarter.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): One thing I really thought was a smart move was the alliances you built with the software developers. We saw some really interesting titles, Far Cry 3 comes to mind. Can you talk a bit about the alliances you’re able to forward in 2012? How that’s going to carryover in 2013?
Darren (AMD): That’s basically what our Gaming Evolved program is. The theme of that program is, it’s all about the gamer. It’s not about us, it’s about the person who wants to play that game, and hopefully use our hardware with it. The fundamental piece of that is we want to make sure if you buy one of our cards and you play any of these games, we’re going to give you the best experience possible. What does that mean? That means that we’re going to give you a stable and reliable experience. You’re going to get the best performance you could possibly get out of our solutions. We’re going to squeeze every frame we can, a design in our driver and our GPUs. We’re going to give you the most immersive experience.
We’re going to make sure that our partners have things like Eyefinity, that their CrossFire scaling is good if you use two cards, that they’re putting in new features. It brought in this incredible light effects in that game using the compute side of the GPU to do some post processing in games to add some more realistic effect.
We want to give you a really reliable and great gaming experience, but also bring in some things that you can only get through our cards. That’s really what Gaming Evolve is about. We invested a lot, put a lot of energy and effort into that this year, had some fantastic partners like you mentioned. You mentioned Far Cry 3, Medal of Honor, Warfighter, Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, Dirt Showdown and it can go on and on.
Going into 2013, we’ve already announced partnerships with BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Devil May Cry. We’re going to have many more exciting announcements to come in 2013.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): There were a couple missteps at AMD in 2012 and we talked about them earlier before this interview – involving some of the drivers and making sure that the card’s working to optimum performance. At the same time, there were a lot of lessons learned in 2012.
Darren (AMD): Yes, a little over a year ago it was kind of a turning point for us. A number of things happened. We had some missteps, let’s say in terms of some major games we’re launching. We just weren’t ready from a driver perspective. We really kind of fixed things at the beginning of the year. So, we changed our catalyst driver release model. We moved away from the monthly WHQL-certified builds. We really tried to get a little bit more strategic in terms of is does a customer looking for when they download a drive from us. There are really two camps. For someone who wants to have a stable, reliable driver, they’re not going to be updating every month, so for them we would kind of stock to a quarterly WHQL-certified release schedule, so that if they want to, they can check every quarter and get something that’s been certified.
Then we looked at the gamer, the person who is going to download the latest driver. What do we want to give them? We know that again that content is king. It’s not about our hardware, it’s about the games they’re playing. When those big games launched, we’ve I think had an excellent track record this year of the launching a driver on the day of or just before the game launches that we know is optimized for the game, make sure it gives you the best possible experience. We even followed up with additional builds if we identify an issue or if a user identifies an issue.
We’ve done followup Beta releases as well. I think that the whole driver approach for us here has dramatically changed. I think we’ve done the monthly WHQL-certified release process for years. It took a little while for people to kind of I think get accustomed that, but now that we have and looking at how we’ve been executing around games – because it’s all about that – I think that you know we made a lot of big strides. Certainly, we could improve quite a bit more. We’re intending to, but I think if you look at our execution over the course of the year, it’s gotten better and better.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): The new Wii U has been out and now everyone is now taking a deep breath saying, “Okay, we’ve gotten through the launch period.” How has your company looked back at the launch, and the reception, and the performance of your chipset in that new consul system?
Darren (AMD): Yes, obviously it’s Nintendo-driven, it’s our console, we’re quite excited to have any part of that to be honest. There’s a great a partnership with Nintendo historically over the last few consoles. We’re just proud to be associated with any of these consoles in any way. That just tells us that we have a very good technology from a graphics perspective. Certainly, when something new like the Wii U comes along, and I think it’s done fairly well. We’re proud to have any kind of association with them.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): Of course the obligatory question I MUST ask… and you’re going to give me a no comment, but I have to ask you – Xbox 720, PlayStation 4 – AMD’S potential involvement with those new consoles?
Darren (AMD): There is no comment on that so that’s something that there’s no information available , and something I couldn’t comment on.
Sean (Gaming Illustrated): Fair enough, I’m just doing my job (laughing) but it’s appreciated. Thank you so much for hosting us here at Gaming Illustrated.
Darren (AMD): Thank you, I appreciate it.