AMD Partners Look To Leverage Cost-Effective, Low-End Radeon 6000 GPUs

AMD’s partners in the system builder channel say its low-end Radeon 6000 GPUs offer good value and competitive pricing -- although questions regarding power consumption, the value of multi-display technology, and the positioning of discrete graphics relative to embedded GPUs remain.

AMD on Tuesday launched its Radeon HD 6670, 6570 and 6450 graphics cards -- the lower end of its Radeon 6000 GPU line-up, which AMD unveiled gradually last year. Unlike its more powerful Radeon 6800 and Radeon 6900-series GPUs, however, AMD is aggressively marketing its more competitively-priced GPUs through its distribution channels – mainly online retailers such as Newegg and iBuyPower, as well as some system builders.

Among the latter, John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider, said Denali , AMD and HP participated in a recent Seattle Mariners opening day event in which they invited 40 of their top customers and prospects to promote their partnership and attract SMB customers. He said their products offer great value and pricing as well as partner support.

’AMD [is] a friend of the SMB channel, and offers tremendous function at an affordable price,’ Convery said. ’They have energized their partner programs focused on growth and profits [and] have supported Denali ’big time’ with our local events strategy.’

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Bob Nitrio, CEO of Orangevale, Calif.-based Ranvest Associates, said the introduction of Radeon products integrated onto desktop motherboards could undercut the relevance of discrete GPUs -- as AMD introduces its Fusion integrated processors to new markets and form factors throughout this year.

’I have a long-held preference for the Radeon products that were produced by ATI and which are now owned by AMD,’ Nitrio said. ’The inclusion of that technology on desktop motherboards has been a great cost savings for my client base, which is comprised of typical business users. As it stands, I don’t see a need for discrete graphics cards for them going forward.’

In October, the manufacturer launched its high-end AMD Radeon 6800 cards, the first Radeon chips to appear without the ATI brand name, and has since brought similar features to lower price points down its product line. Although enterprise and SMB customers can now turn to embedded graphics as a sufficient solution for their modest GPU workloads, Nitrio said he expects discrete graphics to continue to prevail in high-end consumer and enthusiast markets -- at least in the near term.

Next: Embedded Markets

’In recent years we have seen a move away from discrete graphics at the desktop level to embedded graphics chips on the motherboard,’ he said. ’At first I was not very satisfied with the output of those chips, but over time they have become quite capable of delivering a very good end-user experience for the typical office worker. They have not been a replacement for users who work with high-end graphics, however.’

Aside for some commercial uses, such as multiple displays in finance, AMD’s Radeon 6000 series lineup supports Microsoft’s DirectX 11 and include AMD’s Eyefinity multi-display technology, which can expand the desktop to 3-6 displays running simultaneously on one graphics card. It also includes AMD’S App Acceleration, which accelerates graphics processing on GPU-intensive applications.

Some AMD partners believe there is a real opportunity for the channel to leverage these additional features from relatively cost-effective products. ’There is a large market for discrete GPUs in the channel, for customers who have a lot of graphics files, such as videos, pictures, and digital content creations, where on-graphics is not powerful enough to support,’ said a system builder who requested anonymity. ’Therefore, it’s good to see AMD introducing these low-end, lower-priced Radeon 6000 GPUs to the consumer market, where many customers have a limited budget but are in need of more powerful GPUs.’

As for AMD’s Eyefinity multi-display technology, which the chipmaker says is an essential, unique feature to its Radeon GPU product line, the system builder said that while the channel may not benefit from such technologies, it's time for the entire supply line to adopt Microsoft’s DX11 API.

’The demand for multi-display technology may be somewhat limited, and I am not sure if many resellers will be able to benefit from this technology,’ the system builder said. ’Direct X11 support is an industry standard by now, and there is no reason why a new graphics card would not support it.’

Another AMD partner, however, said AMD’s Eyefinity technology does offer an opportunity to both the manufacturer and the channel -- except that, unlike the Radeon 6000 solution and discrete GPUs in general, multi-display is more useful in an enterprise setting then in the high-end consumer markets.

’On the other hand, the ability to provide multiple display support is becoming more important to not only my power users but also general office users as the price of decent monitors make multiple monitor arrays more attractive,’ Nitrio said. ’If AMD can deliver that and maintain competitive pricing, I think they will find a good market for it in the business world.’

Next: Power Consumption

Despite AMD’s recent emphasis on energy-efficiency in its branding, power consumption is another concern, and a potential impediment to the success of AMD Radeon 6000-based solutions sold through the channel, the source said.

Unlike rival Nvidia, which publishes its GeForce GPU power consumption specifications on its site, AMD provides no such information, the system builder said.

’I wish AMD would publish the maximum power consumption information of their Radeon GPUs on their web site, instead of making their partners guess, and potentially end up installing some of these Radeon graphics cards on systems that do not have a strong enough power supply to support the graphics card,’ the system builder said. ’I guess AMD is relying on their graphics card manufacturers to publish such power consumption info for specific Radeon graphics card models.’

AMD on Oct. 7 marked the one-year anniversary of its Fusion Partner Program by adding a new track for distributors and a loyalty program for channel business. AMD in the past dealt with different types of distributors differently and focused on components, but the new track gives the same benefits to system distributors that were previously only available to channel providers.

In March, AMD launched its embedded G-series platform and added a Systems and Technology track aimed at the embedded solutions market to its Fusion Partner program. David Kenyon, vice president of worldwide channel marketing at AMD, said at the time said there are two main specialties among resellers of embedded products: those who partner with embedded OEMs and the newer, emerging category of single-board ODM partners.