Editorial: Are Socket AMD BIOS's Too Fat?

AntiQuark

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Fair article.

I'm happy to lose the gui with one exception, creation of fan profiles.
Its so much easier to draw the profile on a graph with a mouse.
I dont use the gui at all now because I have fans that are so quiet on full power I dont need a profile.
But that might change and I help others set their systems up.
 

Grimlakin

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This is actually rather easy to resolve. Motherboard manufacturers build in the ability to detect the CPU at the BIOS level before boot. Then in the configuration of the BIOS only provide base level support for all TR4 CPU's but to gain full support you have to update your BIOS to the appropriate generation. Heck even charge a nominal subscription fee to change generations (or get the download for Generation N). This will help alleviate the cost of the bios updates from an expense and maintaining X number of BIOS lines. And help improve the experience for the users.

So if I had a Mobo with a TR4 socket and I started with a base threadripper, moved to a newer CPU and now the new Chips coming out. I would have purchased licensing on my motherboard for all 3 generations of bios but only be able to run 1 at a time of course. (Or chips with Dual bios perhaps you could have it switch between the two automatically based on what CPU you have installed?)

Now they can also provide warnings like. "This motherboard was designed to meet a voltage need of x. While this CPU can function at a lower than peak voltage your experience will be limited by this motherboard. We recommend you look into our offerings for a new motherboard at this site: xxx To ease your transition we also offer a coupon for our returning customers. This is unique and tied to your registered motherboard."

It would be informative, ensure greater compatibility and security updates/patches. Alleviate the cost to some degree of maintaining the BIOS engineers. AND keep users brand loyal in many cases.

Thoughts?
 

Dogsofjune

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Subscription fee to update BIOS and driver's? No

I wouldn't mind seeing a trimmed down bios. There are some features I just never use. I just need some tweaking properties for cpu and such.

Don't need color control for rgb, don't need a browser and crap in the bios.
 

Dan_D

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This is actually rather easy to resolve. Motherboard manufacturers build in the ability to detect the CPU at the BIOS level before boot. Then in the configuration of the BIOS only provide base level support for all TR4 CPU's but to gain full support you have to update your BIOS to the appropriate generation. Heck even charge a nominal subscription fee to change generations (or get the download for Generation N). This will help alleviate the cost of the bios updates from an expense and maintaining X number of BIOS lines. And help improve the experience for the users.

So if I had a Mobo with a TR4 socket and I started with a base threadripper, moved to a newer CPU and now the new Chips coming out. I would have purchased licensing on my motherboard for all 3 generations of bios but only be able to run 1 at a time of course. (Or chips with Dual bios perhaps you could have it switch between the two automatically based on what CPU you have installed?)

Now they can also provide warnings like. "This motherboard was designed to meet a voltage need of x. While this CPU can function at a lower than peak voltage your experience will be limited by this motherboard. We recommend you look into our offerings for a new motherboard at this site: xxx To ease your transition we also offer a coupon for our returning customers. This is unique and tied to your registered motherboard."

It would be informative, ensure greater compatibility and security updates/patches. Alleviate the cost to some degree of maintaining the BIOS engineers. AND keep users brand loyal in many cases.

Thoughts?
I don't think you can get away with having partial support for a modern CPU in BIOS. Furthermore, I think the solution you've proposed is entirely too complicated and the problem has already been solved in a sense. The issue stems from the fact that the AGESA code for Ryzen 9 3000 series processors is massive and some of the BIOS ROMs out there are too small to accommodate that and the GUI. Keep in mind it isn't just the GUI that these boards are losing. Some are having to drop RAID support as well.

Keep in mind, the technology to resolve this exists and has existed for several years now. The motherboards that support blind flashing type features have an IC integrated into them that allows updating the BIOS without a CPU or RAM even being installed. Alternatively, motherboards with dual BIOS ROMs could literally have a different AGESA code on each BIOS ROM. Removable BIOS ROMs and a couple of different included options could work too. Lastly, motherboard manufacturers could stop being cheap and buy 256Mbit BIOS ROMs instead. Obviously, some motherboards use the IC needed to flash without a CPU or RAM installed and some have 256Mbit BIOS chips. That's the best solution, but it costs money.

This is something you see primarily on mid-range and lower end motherboards. The more expensive boards often have 256Mbit ROMs and the ability to flash without a CPU. Those are typically the ones you will see with dual BIOS ROMs as well. These are not the boards effected by the AGESA code updates.
 

Brian_B

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Great editorial.

It seems like a better title would be - the case against buying (or making) a cheapy motherboard, as that seems to be the root of most problems with backwards compatibility.

I think AMD supporting socket compatibility is a good thing. You are right, there are limits to it, and you outline a lot of good ones that indicate it can be taken too far. Seems most of the negatives lay with motherboard manufacturer rather than AMD though.
 

Zarathustra

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1.) Totally agree with this. Give me the old fashioned text BIOS with blue screen background, white text and yellow/red accents any day over the modern graphical bullshit with mouse support. IMHO, UEFI was a step backwards and has caused nothing but problems anyway. If I didn't have to use EFI for booting from NVME devices, I'd still be using old fashioned booting. It is much more reliable and simpler to work with.

32

2.) I wonder if they can work around this by splitting the bios file. Have one that supports - for example - Zen and Zen+, and the other that supports Zen+ and Zen2. You install the bios you need for your system.

3.) This seems more like shortsightedness and cutting corners on the part of the motherboard manufacturers than anything else. They knew the socket was going to be around until 2020. That was stated by AMD from day one. Add to that, the cost of a 64MB EEPROM (or whatever they use these days) compared to a 32MB EEPROM is - what - a few cents? It's kind of ridiculous.
 

Zarathustra

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I think AMD supporting socket compatibility is a good thing. You are right, there are limits to it, and you outline a lot of good ones that indicate it can be taken too far. Seems most of the negatives lay with motherboard manufacturer rather than AMD though.
I can see both sides of it, but not because of the growing size of the firmware.

I wonder how many design compromises went into Zen2 because they were working under the design constraint that it "must work on existing AM4 boards"

I think keeping Zen+ on AM4 made sense, but Zen2 probably should have moved to its own, new socket.
 

jardows

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Too many pretties, not enough room for function. Who really bases their buying decisions on a whiz-bang UEFI interface? I worked on a computer once that the MB manufacturer actually developed and included a (simple Atari 2600 style) game within the UEFI! Waste of resources, both computing and development.

More to the actual issue - socket longevity. I am actually the reverse of what most people claim they want it for. I want to be able to use an older chip in a newer motherboard, an then upgrade my processor later. So for example, I would want to purchase an x570 board but put the Ryzen 1700 that I can find super cheap into it. Then as funds are available, I can later upgrade to the more currently supported chip.
 

Zarathustra

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Who really bases their buying decisions on a whiz-bang UEFI interface?
You'd be surprised. There are seemingly many "gamer" kids online these days who seemingly care about little else than appearance.

There was much complaining about the BIOS updates in some of these motherboards reverting to old school text interfaces in order to fit the extra CPU compatibility data. Kids were saying it was "embarrassingly ugly", that it reminded them of "some ancient 80's computer" and that they were "ashamed of how their computer looked" after the update.

These kids are nuts, but they are the market behind the boom in the "gaming" PC market in the last 5-7 years, so the motherboard makers can't ignore them :/

That's why we have disco lights on everything.
 

Brian_B

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Well the GUIs are about market differentiation. They don't really do anything useful, but it does serve to distinguish your product versus the competition. And hey, if that allows you to charge $5.00 more than the competition without hurting sales -- the board is going to approve that unanimously.

I know ~I~ wouldn't pay anything extra for it, but if everything else is the same, except Brand M has a snazzy UI that it can use to put another marketing bullet point on the box, there are undoubtedly people out there that will.
 

Grimlakin

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I don't think you can get away with having partial support for a modern CPU in BIOS. Furthermore, I think the solution you've proposed is entirely too complicated and the problem has already been solved in a sense. The issue stems from the fact that the AGESA code for Ryzen 9 3000 series processors is massive and some of the BIOS ROMs out there are too small to accommodate that and the GUI. Keep in mind it isn't just the GUI that these boards are losing. Some are having to drop RAID support as well.

Keep in mind, the technology to resolve this exists and has existed for several years now. The motherboards that support blind flashing type features have an IC integrated into them that allows updating the BIOS without a CPU or RAM even being installed. Alternatively, motherboards with dual BIOS ROMs could literally have a different AGESA code on each BIOS ROM. Removable BIOS ROMs and a couple of different included options could work too. Lastly, motherboard manufacturers could stop being cheap and buy 256Mbit BIOS ROMs instead. Obviously, some motherboards use the IC needed to flash without a CPU or RAM installed and some have 256Mbit BIOS chips. That's the best solution, but it costs money.

This is something you see primarily on mid-range and lower end motherboards. The more expensive boards often have 256Mbit ROMs and the ability to flash without a CPU. Those are typically the ones you will see with dual BIOS ROMs as well. These are not the boards effected by the AGESA code updates.

I suppose that makes sense. Don't buy the cheapest motherboard you can scrape by on. There are motherboards I don't buy any longer based on experience. I think the people buying the cheapest motherboard available for their CPU are learning lessons. And this is NOT a bad thing.

Why would I say that?

Because that's part of how I got started in IT. This was.. WAY back by many's standards. I had a highly limited budget and got the best I could get for the money I could scrape together. Over the years I've learned a LOT by making that hardware work. And in truth it's led me down the path to a career in IT.

So to those late teens that are struggling with these BIOS related problems. Hey at least you're not having to do the interrupt dance, and weighing the cost / interrupt useage of a sound card to the cpu impact of offloading sound processing onto a dedicated device. Of course that was during the era were 30FPS was ok, and 60 FPS in modern title was considered the SHIT! This was when a 100mb demo made the news on the tech sites because it was HUGE. This was back in the day when a computer might come with a 80mb harddrive. (Yes I meant megabyte). And a 1 gig download would take AT LEAST an hour or two if you were lucky.

Struggling to make your minimum spec computer run as fast as possible so when you brought your PC to the LAN party you could play with the others.

Having to put an order of loading drivers in your config.sys file so your mouse driver would load into the high memory area and your optimized the block space in your upper memory to fit as much as you could so dogs4gw.exe would be able to allocate as much memory as possible to play the new tech FPS game.

When 3d was new.

Now the kids getting into computer gaming... are just computer gamers. They don't need to follow the CPU story, or eek out every last bit of memory from their systems. Windows for the most part does a passable job at all of that. The ones running custom linux builds are the next generation coming up in the world of IT. Part of why windows is embracing that kernel so strongly as of late too. The home grown tech nerd is more likely to know how to make your fire stick get all of the streaming for free than how to tweak your computer performance based on what you have.

Now nerds are more concerned with a 240hz monitor that young nerds can't afford. (I'm in that concerned group just not feeling it for the monitors yet.)

The next generation of IT folks coming up don't know the hardware. Not unless they seek a specialized education. The hobby tries and it's going to be the generation of IT without funds that are working weekends and summers to build up enough money for the new cpu and motherboard that are going to be in my shoes in 20 years.

I uhhh.. i went off on a tangent and I don't even know where I was going.

Ok I'm done... errr.. damn age.
 

Grimlakin

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Well the GUIs are about market differentiation. They don't really do anything useful, but it does serve to distinguish your product versus the competition. And hey, if that allows you to charge $5.00 more than the competition without hurting sales -- the board is going to approve that unanimously.

I know ~I~ wouldn't pay anything extra for it, but if everything else is the same, except Brand M has a snazzy UI that it can use to put another marketing bullet point on the box, there are undoubtedly people out there that will.
Here is the rub. If you only ever learn the new snazzy gui. you are going to hate life in servers. Server farms use the old style gui to this day. Sure there are Idrac's and Lifecycle Controllers as well. But when you get into the real meat and potatoes it's all old blue screen white text. No pretty GUI. So they should really learn it today.

But making that a non requirement I guess works too. Then it's more like I don't know... a mac?
 

Grimlakin

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Do you work in the gaming industry? Buy the base incomplete game and sell the rest as DLC? 🙃😜
This is a bit different than that. When a motherboard is released it should come with support for everything that is out.

When the CPU vendor releases a new generation for the old motherboard I don't see an issue with a nominal fee.

The two while... in your humors statement are similar loosely... when you get down to it they are markedly dissimilar.

In 2018 do you think those vendors new the microcode requirements to support the next 3 generations of TR4 CPU's? Some of the higher end boards had the room to wiggle and the lower tier boards didn't. The lower tier boards are built to meet a price target not a performance target. Where as the higher tier boards are built to meet a performance/features target then the price is assigned.
 
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Why exactly is it an expensive thing for Mobo manufacturers to add more memory for this stuff?
 

Dan_D

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Why exactly is it an expensive thing for Mobo manufacturers to add more memory for this stuff?
Why? Because almost every type of memory, be it volatile or non-volatile always goes up in price with size / density.
 
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Why? Because almost every type of memory, be it volatile or non-volatile always goes up in price with size / density.
I get that it was a stupid question lol I just mean like, it's just such a small space they're talking about (32MB) and how cheap nvme has gotten, it seems reasonable to me that it would be a negligible difference in price and they wouldn't have to choose what features and compatibly to drop.

I am clearly missing something and so I'm trying to figure out what that is.
 

Zarathustra

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I get that it was a stupid question lol I just mean like, it's just such a small space they're talking about (32MB) and how cheap nvme has gotten, it seems reasonable to me that it would be a negligible difference in price and they wouldn't have to choose what features and compatibly to drop.

I am clearly missing something and so I'm trying to figure out what that is.
Well yeah. But to understand these decisions you have to look at the whole board. There are literally thousands of components on a board. If all of them change by even a very small amount of money, it adds up.

Part of the difficulty in design is figuring out where it makes sense to spend on more or higher quality, and where it is safe to cut so you don't wind up with a $700 motherboard...

...wait... :sneaky:
 

s3thra

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Great article. I have always been an advocate for keeping a socket for as long as possible across CPU generations iterations. I've never really considered the downside to this though and the engineering time burnt just to ensure new CPUs are going to be compatible with sockets that weren't designed around newer chips.
 
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