Saturday04 February 2023

AMD sued for misleading information about Bulldozer cores, does it hold water

Reading time is around minutes.

It seems that at least one person is rather annoyed at AMD for making claims about certain FX series CPUs running Bulldozer cores. On November 4th the news went out that Tony Dickey had filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of himself and others. The suit was actually filed back on October 26th and alleges violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. This act covers misrepresentation and false advertising. Dicky alleges that AMD knowing mislead consumers about the number of functional cores Bulldozer CPUs have. AMD claims that Bulldozer has eight independent cores, Dickey says that there are only four that are functional.

So here is the deal on this one. In Bulldozer AMD shoved two CPU “cores” together into a module. This module works as a single unit with each core inside reliant on the other for many functions (including cache and memory access). This is not that big of a deal until you start working with highly threaded applications that push different workloads through the cores. When this happens you end up with modules acting like single cores instead of two independent ones. It makes the CPU seem like it only has four CPU cores when it should have eight. For many users this is not going to be an issue at all as the vast majority of applications are not going to properly use more than 2-4 cores in a CPU. In fact at the time of this writing most applications are still going to only use a single core on a CPU even if it is busy. This is changing, but not really that fast.

Dickey maintains that this does not matter and that AMD was aware of this when they (AMD) made the claim of 8-cores for the CPUs in question. Dickey is asking for damages (of course), including statutory and punitive damages, litigation expenses, pre- and post-judgment interest, as well as other injunctive and declaratory relief as is deemed reasonable.

This would not be the first time that a company has mislead consumers in the tech industry. Remember that NVIDIA faced a similar issue when they claimed an inaccurate amount of memory on one of their GPUs. The GTX 970 was advertised as having 4GB of memory, but was only able to use 3.5or so of that amount. It turned out that while the GTX 970 did indeed have 4GB of memory on the PCB there was a segmentation that limited general use to 3.5GB while a 0.5GB portion was reserved. The issue made headlines and NVIDIA made multiple statements about it. Many websites tried to show how bad it was (or was not) and a class-action lawsuit was filed near the end of February.

The matter will really come down to what the definition of a “core” is. In most terms a core is a standalone compute unit that can operate independently on a workload. If this is upheld then AMD is in trouble. The cores inside the modules on Bulldozer do not meet that definition and there are ways to show this. If AMD can get the word independent removed from that description they are in much better shape. At that time they can show they have eight compute units under the hood even if they are in four clusters of two. AMD might be able to sway a judge into accepting the fact that there are indeed eight cores under the hood of the CPU while ignoring the fact that they do not operate fully independent of each other, but we have a feeling that one will be a hard sell. We do not think that they will opt to settle as that is almost an admission of built in the tech industry. AMD does not need any more damage to their reputation as they bet the farm on Zen.

Will a judge see it the way Dickey does or will they toss it out? Either way it could actually end up bad for AMD.

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