The Hammer Survey

We asked you about Hammer a little while back.

Thanks to all who responded.

Basically, we’re going to break the data into two based on your CPU company preference. A little less than half of you said you were AMD fans. About the same number said you had no preference one way or the other. Very few admitted to being Intel fans (in all likelihood, they saw no reason to answer the poll, so they didn’t).

Since the number of Intel fans was so small as to be statistically insignificant, we’ll leave them out of the picture, and report on what AMD fans said, and what the neutrals had to say.

Scenario #1

AMD comes out with an Athlon FX system. It will run at 2GHz. It will use an Opteron motherboard, and required registered RAM to function.

Assume that it will perform in 32-bit overall at the equivalent of a 3200 MHz Pentium IV, and somewhat better than that for games. Assume that it can be overclocked 10%. Assume there is no 90nm AthlonXP around, and assume that while you can get your hands on Windows x86-64, there is little other x86-64 software for it.

Assume that the initial cost of such a system is:

CPU

$640.00

Motherboard

$180.00

2 sticks, 256Mb each registered RAM

$150.00

Total cost

$970.00

Question 1: Would you buy this system as is?

a) Yes
b) No

AMD Fans Said:

Yes

12%

No

88%

Neutrals Said:

Yes

6%

No

94%

Believe it or not, these are actually pretty decent numbers under the circumstances. It indicates a more-or-less normal
pattern of early adapters willing to pay sky-high prices for the initial product.

Given that AMD will only be making tens of thousands of socket 940 CPUs the rest of the year, there
seems to be enough demand for the limited supply.

Neutrals were rather less eager to jump on the bandwagon than professed AMD fans. As you’ll see, this is a pretty steady trend.

Question 2:

If you answered no to question 1, why?

a) It costs too much.
b) It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system.
c) Both a and b.
d) The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now.

AMD Fans Said:

It costs too much

33%

It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system

14%

Both a and b

50%

The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now

3%

Neutrals Said:

It costs too much

26%

It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system

10%

Both a and b

62%

The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now

1%

This question proved to be a barometer of cost-consciousness. Many who said “it cost too much” didn’t type “No,” they typed “NO!!” Again, neutrals were
a bit less perturbed about the price than the AMD fans.

These two questions by themselves do little more than indicate that there’s not a ton of people foaming at the mouth to buy this platform three weeks from now, but then, only an especially crazed AMDroid would expect such.

What is more important in the long run is at what point performance and price parameter become acceptable to the bulk of potential buyers.

Performance and Price…

Question 3:

If you answered no to question 1, what speed would you require (overclocked) before you would buy?

a) Current speed is fast enough.
b) 3700+ equivalent
c) 4000+ equivalent
d) 4300+ equivalent
e) 4600+ equivalent
f) 4900+ equivalent
g) More than that.

AMD Fans Said:

Current speed is fast enough

21%

3700+ equivalent

13%

4000+ equivalent

27%

4300+ equivalent

25%

4600+ equivalent

11%

4900+ equivalent

2%

More than that

2%

Neutrals Said:

Current speed is fast enough

17%

3700+ equivalent

4%

4000+ equivalent

19%

4300+ equivalent

22%

4600+ equivalent

11%

4900+ equivalent

7%

More than that

19%

These numbers aren’t quite as good as one might think. Those willing to buy a lower speed Hammer tend to want it cheap,
while those who want higher speeds are willing to spend more. The likely combination in the near future of low speed and
high price will effectively keep most on the sidelines. Fans are more likely than neutrals to jump in early, with many more
neutrals inclined to sit it out for quite a long time.

The mainstream choice looks to be at 4000+ or a bit above, which would most comfortably occur with the beginning over the second
generation of Hammers.

Question 4:

Provided a system like that described above was fast enough, what price would you pay for it?

a) Current price ($970) or more
b) $900
c) $800
d) $700
e) $600
f) $500
g) $450
h) It would have to be cheaper than any of the above.

AMD Fans Said:

Current price ($970) or more

12%

$900

3%

$800

3%

$700

14%

$600

27%

$500

23%

$450

6%

It would have to be cheaper than that

10%

Neutrals Said:

Current price ($970) or more

6%

$900

4%

$800

6%

$700

11%

$600

23%

$500

21%

$450

10%

It would have to be cheaper than that

17%

Though neutrals again are less eager than fans, it’s clear that in both cases, the point
at which most people will jump in occurs at what boils down to a CPU selling price of $150-$250.

Question 5

If you answered yes to any of the purchase questions, would an x86-64 version of Windows also need to be available before you would buy such a system?

a) Yes
b) No, I already regularly use Linux
c) No, I would switch to Linux for this system.

AMD Fans Said:

Yes

52%

No, I already regularly use Linux

16%

No, I would switch to Linux for this system

11%

No, I would keep using 32-bit Windows until x86-64 came out

21%

AMD Fans Said:

Yes

58%

No, I already regularly use Linux

14%

No, I would switch to Linux for this system

6%

No, I would keep using 32-bit Windows until x86-64 came out

22%

This was a rather big surprise. Over 20% of those who voted wrote in and said, “Nah, current Windows is fine,” and not just as an
interim measure, either. In the comments made on the subject, Windows users voiced more than occasional skepticism over the benefits of
x86-64 any time soon. Linux users, on the other hand, tended to cite x86-64 as a big reason for buying Hammer.

There were rather more negative comments about x86-64 than positive ones (though most had nothing to say either way). This is not good
news for AMD for two reasons. First, x86-64 may not be as strong a selling point as AMD thinks it is. Second, it is difficult to see how AMD
will be able to claim any significant performance advantage over Intel over the next couple years without the use of x86-64, so if x86-64 doesn’t take off, neither will AMD.

The Initial Athlon 64s…

Scenario #2

AMD comes out with an Athlon 64 system. It will run at 2GHz. It will use a socket 754 motherboard, which can run regular RAM. Assume that it will perform in 32-bit overall at the equivalent of a 3000 MHz Pentium IV, and somewhat better than that for games. Assume that it can be overclocked 10%.

Assume that the initial cost of such a system is:

CPU

$400.00

Motherboard

$120.00

Total cost

$520.00

(RAM is left out on the assumption that many would use their current RAM for the new platform. Assume that PC3200 or better would be optimal for such a system, and factor that in if you would also buy new RAM for such a system)

Question 6: Would you buy this system as is?

a) Yes
b) No

AMD Fans Said:

Yes

17%

No

83%

Neutrals Said:

Yes

14%

No

86%

Although a somewhat higher percentage of people voted “Yes” than for Athlon FX systems, AMD plans to make many more socket 754 CPUs than socket 940.
While there may be enough buyers initially, it is hard to see how AMD can ramp up production next year and sell the number of socket 754 CPUs they plan
to make without significantly lowering prices.

Question 7:

If you answered no to question 6, why?

a) It costs too much.
b) It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system.
c) Both a and b.
d) The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now.

AMD Fans Said:

It costs too much

30%

It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system

40%

Both a and b

28%

The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now

2%

Neutrals Said:

It costs too much

16%

It’s not fast enough for me to change from my current system

26%

Both a and b

55%

The price and speed are fine; I just don’t have the money now

3%

Again, AMD fans are more enthused than neutrals, if only because most now find either price or performance
out of whack rather than both. Neutrals still remain quite skeptical.

Again, initial prices are no long-term bellwether. Let’s see at what point people are willing to bite.

Performance and Price…

Question 8:

If you answered no to question 6, what speed would you require (overclocked) before you would buy?

a) Current speed is fast enough.
b) 3500+ equivalent
c) 3800+ equivalent
d) 4100+ equivalent
e) 4400+ equivalent
f) 4700+ equivalent
g) More than that.

AMD Fans Said:

Current speed is fast enough

12%

3500+ equivalent

17%

3800+ equivalent

13%

4100+ equivalent

40%

4400+ equivalent

13%

4700+ equivalent

4%

More than that

0%

Neutrals Said:

Current speed is fast enough

12%

3500+ equivalent

7%

3800+ equivalent

10%

4100+ equivalent

37%

4400+ equivalent

18%

4700+ equivalent

7%

More than that

10%

As with the Athlon FX, the sweet spot looks to be early in the second generation, or at the 4GHz equivalent or more.

Question 9:

Provided a system like that described above was fast enough, what price would you pay for it?

a) Current price ($520) or more
b) $450
c) $400
d) $350
e) $300
f) $250
g) $200
h) It would have to be cheaper than any of the above.

AMD Fans Said:

Current price ($520) or more

28%

$450

13%

$400

10%

$350

19%

$300

10%

$250

11%

$200

7%

It would have to be cheaper than that

1%

Neutrals Said:

Current price ($520) or more

14%

$4540

11%

$400

10%

$350

22%

$300

23%

$250

9%

$200

6%

It would have to be cheaper than that

5%

Again, these numbers look better than they are. Those willing to lay out considerable cash want 4GHz or better, those who’ll buy sooner want a low price.

Question 10

If you answered yes to any of the purchase questions, would an x86-64 version of Windows also need to be available before you would buy such a system?

a) Yes
b) No, I already regularly use Linux
c) No, I would switch to Linux for this system.

The question is identical to question 5 on page 2; the results were virtually identical, too. This article is going to be long enough. 🙂

However, at least at the moment, Athlon FX and 64 aren’t going to be the only new AMD CPUs around.

90nm Socket As…

–>

Question 11

Assume the following:

AMD comes out with 90nm AthlonXPs next spring. Presume they’re compatible with any motherboard that can handle TBredBs. Also presume that a socket A system with such a chip would be 10% slower than the equivalent Hammer system.

Assume that the difference between the XP and the Hammer upgrade is just a new motherboard ($130). Assume little x86-64 software is available.

Which upgrade would you most likely make?

a) Upgrade the socket A.
b) Buy the Hammer system.

AMD Fans Said:

Upgrade the Socket A

58%

Buy the Hammer system

42%

Neutrals Said:

Upgrade the Socket A

54%

Buy the Hammer system

46%

This is the first indication that a 90nm socket A would seriously cannibalize near-term Hammer sales.

Question 12

Assume the same facts as in question 11, except that there are x86-64 versions of the software you want, and the difference in performance is more like 30%. Again, the difference in cost is $130.

Which upgrade would you most likely make?

a) Upgrade the socket A.
b) Buy the Hammer system.

AMD Fans Said:

Upgrade the Socket A

58%

Buy the Hammer system

42%

Neutrals Said:

Upgrade the Socket A

12%

Buy the Hammer system

88%

This may look reassuring, but it effectively presumes a flourishing x86-64 software market. It’s hard to see how
one could have a 30% performance difference between socket A and Hammer without it.

Question 13:

If you answered “buy the Hammer system” to question 12, would you pay a bigger premium than $130 for a 30% improvement?

a) No.
b) Yes, $200.
c) Yes, $300.
d) Yes, $400.
e) Yes, $500.
f) Yes, more than $500.

AMD Fans Said:

No

28%

Yes, $200

57%

Yes, $300

12%

Yes, #400

1%

Yes, $500

0%

Yes, $500 or more

1%

Neutrals Said:

No

39%

Yes, $200

37%

Yes, $300

15%

Yes, #400

4%

Yes, $500

1%

Yes, $500 or more

3%

This is rather shocking. What this basically means is that so long as there’s a viable socket A around, most people
will pay no more or little more than the cost of a new motherboard to get a Hammer system, even with a huge performance difference.

Perhaps people are considering the additional cost of x86-64 software, perhaps it is something else, but a 90nm socket A processor, especially a cheap 90nm socket A processor, gives every sign of being a Hammer-wrecker.

Unless AMD literally can’t get Hammer out in 90nm, putting out 90nm XPs looks to be a very, very bad idea in the long run, at least in these circles. Unless AMD prices them about as high as Hammer (in which case, what’s the point of having them), they will chew up Hammer sales and/or pricing.

Question 14

Would you call yourself an Intel fan, AMD fan, or neither?

a) AMD fan
b) Intel fan
c) Neither

This was addressed on page 1.

However, based on the survey results, one ought to take the “Neither” categoy with a grain of salt. What “neither” really seems to usually mean is “I’m on the side of my wallet” and many “neithers” said just that.

Question 15

Would you ever pay more for an AMD Hammer system than for an equivalent Intel PIV system?

a) Yes
b) No


AMD Fans Said:

Yes

51%

No

49%

Neutrals Said:

Yes

42%

No

58%

I frankly wouldn’t read too much into these answers; people often seemed confused by the question. Many of those who said “Yes” then
qualified them by saying that the AMD system would have to have some sort of advantage over the Intel system for them to pay even the same.

Conclusions…

Conclusions

There’s some good news and some bad news for AMD here.

The good news is:

  • There seems to be enough early adapters around to buy the early batches of Athlon FXs and Athlon 64s.
  • On the whole, people seem willing to pay reasonably decent and profitable sums of money for Hammer CPUs

    The bad news is:

  • Once the early adapters run out, AMD will have to lower prices on at least the socket 754s from skyhigh levels to sell ramped-up production. It’s not clear they want to do that, and even if they do, they may still be a hard sell with 90nm processors coming soon thereafter.
  • x86-64 does not seem to be a terribly good general selling point at the moment. A relative few are enraptured by it, more are indifferent.
  • For the second generation, AMD’s biggest threat appears to be fratricide. A 90nm socket A CPU will savage mainstream Hammer sales.

    What AMD must not do (and they unfortunately are giving signs of doing) is to overestimate the enthusiasm their user base has in Hammer. Outside of a relatively few rabid dogs, there is little evident exuberance about the product.

    That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s not that people don’t want to buy it, or are reluctant to buy it. The people who answered this poll expect to buy one sooner or later; they’re just not going to run through walls to get one.

    The response looks to be healthy enough, but it can get sick real fast if AMD thinks their average buyer, even in these circles, will pay huge premiums six, nine, twelve months from now just to have a Hammer.

    They won’t.

    AMD’s biggest enemy the next year is likely to be AMD. The fan base is willing enough; it’s theirs to lose.

    Again, thanks to all who took the time to answer!

  • Discussion

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