Intel CEO believes losing benchmarks to AMD is not everything.


Intel CEO Bob Swan feels the industry should move from benchmarking to benefits and impacts. (Image Source: Intel)
Intel CEO Bob Swan feels the industry should move from benchmarking to benefits and impacts. (Image Source: Intel)

Intel CEO Bob Swan suggested moving away from traditional benchmarks to focus more on the benefits and impact of technology. Swan also confirmed the arrival of Cooper Lake in a few weeks time for datacenter and AI applications and Tiger Lake later this summer, which he expects would further consolidate Intel’s leadership in mobile.

In a recorded video message for Computex 2020, Intel CEO Robert “Bob” Swan spoke about the importance of an event like Computex, the challenges for the tech industry, and how the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping businesses. Swan also hinted at Intel’s upcoming offerings while also emphasizing that the industry should move away from traditional benchmarking. He said,

We should see this moment as an opportunity to shift our focus as an industry from benchmarks to the benefits and impacts of the technology that we create.”

This statement does have serious implications depending on how one looks at it. Is Intel indicating that it will no longer rely on benchmarks to prove a processor’s worth? If so, how does it expect one to compare performance benefits across generations or between competitors? Even for Intel to state its typical “faster than a 4-year old PC” claim in its official presentations, benchmarks serve a vital need. Or, is Intel indirectly admitting Tiger Lake’s purported mediocrity against AMD Renoir Ryzen 4000 in benchmarks, at least when it comes to raw CPU power?

Synthetic and real-world benchmarking is an integral component of the semi-conductor industry. Heck, even Intel’s claims of the Core i9-10900K being the “world’s fastest gaming processor” are due to benchmark comparisons and not from mere qualitative assessments. In fact, the company even openly challenged AMD saying, “beat us in real world gaming” instead of claiming victory with Cinebench numbers. If Swan’s statement isn’t just a PR exercise, it could mean that Intel’s future launches could indeed take a more qualitative approach.

In the video message, Swan also said that Cooper Lake will be announced in a few weeks to cater to datacenter and AI applications. This implies Ice Lake-SP would be targeted at workstation/HEDT as we had alluded to previously. The Intel CEO confirmed that Tiger Lake will launch later this summer and exuded confidence that it will “cement our position as the undisputed leader in mobile computing and PC innovation“. Sure, Intel still has the largest chunk of the mobile market, but this statement again emphasizes a more qualitative look at things.

From what we know so far, Tiger Lake, with its Xe Gen12 iGPU, focuses on offering more GPU power while being fairly conservative on the CPU side of things. We still aren’t sure how much of an absolute gain a 4C/8T Tiger Lake would offer over a 4C/8T Ice Lake, but this is sort of a quantitative approach is precisely what Intel wants to move away from.

To be fair to Swan, he does have a point here. Benchmarks only tell half the story. A lot also depends on the overall user experience that typical notebook or PC buyers usually lookout for. For the vast majority of use cases, the prowess of the underlying silicon itself usually takes a backseat as long as the laptop serves its purpose well. Intel already has a big lead in the laptop segment, and it will take a while before AMD can make a significant impact in this space.

Renoir Ryzen 4000 has laid a very strong foundation for AMD in the mobile space, but there’s still miles to go; a lot also depends on how proactive OEMs are in giving prominence to AMD variants of their popular models.