After rekindling competition in the desktop and laptop CPU markets with multiple generations of successful Ryzen processors, AMD is now focusing on the GPU space with its latest Radeon RX 6000 series. Gaming is a top priority for AMD identified for itself, and in 2019, the company brought in Alienware co-founder Frank Azor, who now serves as chief architect of gaming solutions. Mobile and desktop PC gaming had a huge growth during the pandemic period, and the 360 Gadgets asked Azor about what’s going on at AMD, which is still in store for us.
360 Gadgets: How have things changed for PC gaming since the crashes began globally in early 2020? Did you see any trends emerge specifically in India and how AMD responded?
Azor: When the pandemic started last year, many traditional recreational and entertainment activities were unavailable to people. This has made the game a popular choice for individuals to engage virtually with other players across the world, participate in in-game events and make gaming a serious pastime. In 2021, we’re seeing demand continue, which is further driven by consumers increasingly picky about their DIY PC builds and laptop preferences. As they spend more hours indoors, they want to invest in more premium designs for games and content creation.
In most countries, including India, the demand for laptops has arisen from the need to switch from one PC per home to one PC per person. It has also led consumers to choose laptops with desktop-level performance for gaming, content creation, daily workloads and entertainment.
With consumer behavior patterns shifting, AMD is in a good position to power next-generation devices – new desktop processors, graphics cards and consoles. We’ve also teamed up with OEMs to launch premium and hero laptop designs in the ultra-thin and premium gaming categories for students, professionals and gamers. We created the AMD Advantage design framework to deliver the next generation of premium, high-performance gaming laptops.
Considering that the growth trend of gaming laptops is reflected in India, the AMD team is working closely with our OEM partners to expand access to gaming laptops that are thinner and more powerful and have incredible battery life . In addition, to support the local market in addition to the products, AMD has been actively associated with several e-sports gaming tournaments in India.
360 Gadgets: What is AMD doing to build its brand and recognition in India, especially around gaming? Which product segments work well in India and where do you aim for growth?
Azor: India is a priority market for AMD. India has one of the youngest populations in the world and this also translates into the youngest population of players. Improved internet penetration, lower data costs and greater accessibility to affordable devices are driving unprecedented growth in the gaming sector in India. Also, this has increased with more people at home due to the pandemic.
Our brand building in India, especially for games, is largely driven by digital marketing platforms and is resulting in increased consumer preference and consideration for AMD products. Our association with partners such as HP, Microsoft, Western Digital and LG in the recent past has helped to broaden our marketing efforts. In India, AMD has been actively partnering with several renowned e-sports gaming tournaments to establish a connection with the gaming community, and this has brought us a lot of traction in recent years.
360 Gadgets: Globally and in India, what trends are driving gaming laptop sales? Is AMD working with PC system integrators in India and how is it going?
Azor: Gaming brings together entertainment and technology and is a great way to bring people together to interact and build a community. More and more users prefer having a single device to use for both work and play. In the past, many debated the validity of buying a gaming laptop over a desktop or console; however, thanks to recent technological innovations, gamers can finally get desktop-level performance in a portable form factor.
AMD’s focus is on optimizing our hardware and software technologies for competitive electronic games and AAA gaming titles that are relevant today and for the games we hope to see in the future. This involves working closely with our OEM partners including Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and MSI to bring compelling products to market. We are working with them to integrate our AMD Advantage value proposition, namely Ryzen CPUs combined with Radeon GPUs and optimized with AMD Radeon software, and together redefining what will be the next generation of gaming products.
For two consecutive years AMD has been recognized as India’s “Most Trusted” and “Most Desired” semiconductor brand by TRA. This is a great testament to the ecosystem we’ve built through our relationships with OEMs, channel partners, retailers and end users.
360 Gadgets: PC components have become expensive and hard to find due to the pandemic and encryption mining. What is AMD doing to combat this?
Azor: Customer demand remained very strong across our product portfolio in 2020 and 2021. We added supply over this period, which was reflected in our above-expected growth, but demand also continued to grow. As a result, we had some supply constraints primarily in the lower end of the PC market and in the gaming markets. We are focused on working across our entire supply chain to increase production and meet the incremental demand we are seeing.
360 Gadgets: Gaming Laptops with Ryzen CPUs are now in demand, but Radeon GPUs are uncommon and the product stack is not well understood. Will this change with the RX 6000 series?
Azor: Gamers tend to be more tech savvy and more knowledgeable about their hardware, and they want it all – performance, great visuals, faster charging times, long battery life, and cool industrial design. We recognize that buying a gaming laptop is really a big investment and there is no room for error when it comes to making your choice.
You may have noticed on Computex that AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su has announced the Radeon RX 6000M product stack, signaling our return to high-end laptop GPUs. With our AMD Advantage program, these gaming laptops will deliver amplified gaming performance through our Ryzen CPUs, Radeon graphics and exclusive features including Smart Access Memory and SmartShift.
We’re very happy with the initial response to the Radeon RX 6000M series and the AMD Advantage designs we’ve introduced – the feedback has been extremely positive and we’ve seen gamers eager to get their hands on these amazing laptops. We are excited about this new wave of gaming laptops and will continue to work closely with our partners to bring more platforms to market in India and around the world.
360 Gadgets: There are persistent reports of OEMs designing laptops poorly, especially in terms of thermals. Will AMD Advantage help counteract this, and the market as a whole?
Azor: OEMs will be able to better comment on the design decisions they make regarding laptops. As we gain share in the mobile space, we will continue to work more closely with OEMs to get the best result for our mutual customers. AMD Advantage solutions are unique in that they follow a mutually agreed-upon design framework between AMD and our OEM partners that ensures an optimal overall gaming and computing experience for the end-user.
360 Gadgets: Why Was There Only One SmartShift Laptop For So Long? Will SmartShift now become exclusive to AMD Advantage laptops?
Azor: AMD SmartShift technology is not exclusive to AMD Advantage laptops. It is an important part of the overall design framework, which has over 200 different design touch points.
360 Gadgets: Will there be an AMD Advantage level (or equivalent brand) for non-gaming laptops?
Azor: AMD Advantage is currently focused on gaming laptops. We cannot comment on potential future plans or unannounced products.
360 Gadgets: Are there any specific performance and design goals or limits that AMD will disclose, for example, battery life, skin temperature, weight and thickness, etc? What are the hardware and software requirements for a laptop to obtain the AMD Advantage badge?
Azor: Yes, in our release, we reported several examples of design framework targets, such as FreeSync Premium-class monitors with a minimum refresh rate of 144 Hz, LFC (Low Frame Rate Compensation) and a minimum brightness of 300 nits. NVMe storage units and WASD keyboard temperatures of less than 40°C while playing games are also examples. What’s most important about the AMD Advantage design framework is the experience these laptops provide to gamers. For example, players can expect an average of 100 fps on the latest games and more than 10 hours of battery life to watch videos. There are over 200 different design requirements and/or recommendations in the existing AMD Advantage framework, and it’s constantly evolving.
360 Gadgets: How did FidelityFX Super Resolution come about? Do you see this becoming an industry standard, like VESA’s adoption of FreeSync?
Azor: With FidelityFX Super Resolution, we wanted to develop a world-class spatial upscaling solution that was completely open source and could be quickly and easily implemented by game developers.
Developers can expect a low barrier to entry when using FSR as well as our other AMD FidelityFX tools, and the full shader source code is provided for smooth and flexible integration. As a spatial upscaling solution, FSR does not rely on other data such as frame history or motion vectors, making implementation faster and easier.
FSR is the industry’s ideal upscaler – it doesn’t require any specialized proprietary hardware and isn’t limited to the latest graphics architectures, unlike competing solutions. FSR is supported on a wide spectrum of platforms and ecosystems for all gamers to try and enjoy, including AMD and our competitors’ graphics cards, from embedded to ultra-enthusiastic.
Most of our developer technologies available on GPUOpen.com are open source and we are encouraging game developers to adopt FSR. It’s already garnered broad industry support – it’s already available in 13 games, with more to come. More than 40 game developers and publishers have pledged to support FSR in their upcoming titles.
360 Gadgets: What’s the appeal of a high-end GPU on a phone, tablet, etc? Will developers target such a small niche? AMD has big ambitions in the smartphone gaming market, and if so, how long will it take for this level of GPU power to become common among mainstream phones?
Azor: We’re excited to be working with Samsung to bring AMD RDNA graphics architecture to their next-generation Exynos mobile chips. The technology partnership extends Radeon graphics, specifically our AMD RDNA gaming graphics architecture, from PCs to consoles, automobiles, cloud and now mobile devices. However, we cannot comment further on our future plans.