AMD FX-8150 'Bulldozer' CPU Review

👤by Alex Hull Comments 📅11-10-11
It's clear now that AMD have taken a different approach to making an enthusiast CPU than ever before. AMD FX concentrates on delivering performance in highly threaded applications, games and content creation. Coupled with new and AMD-specific instruction sets it has the potential to offer great performance in select scenarios. This departure from the norm however, is also the problem. The current AMD FX processors are the first in a new breed for AMD, and as such, the architecture is immature, the process design is young and it finds itself landing in a world that just isn't completely ready for it yet. That is, not enough applications are currently multi-threaded enough to make full use of this new architecture, and nor do many applications currently make use of the new instruction sets. Hopefully this can only improve with time, and AMD are investing into this design for the future, which will include inevitably making further tweaks, shrinking the process and adding cores. There's no doubt that the new 'Bulldozer' design is much more compatible with multiple cores and the prospect to increase this number. The 'Interlagos' server processors already sport 16 cores in one chip. Perhaps this is the future of enthusiast desktop computing, AMD certainly thinks so.

Is the FX-8150 up to scratch? Maybe. A big maybe.

However, this isn't the only problem. Most consumers looking to upgrade their PC are looking for more performance today. It's very difficult to argue that the FX CPU lineup offers that, not just over the extremely strong competition at Intel, but amazingly, also over the previous AMD CPUs, the Phenom II range in certain scenarios. We've seen that in some situations, the AMD FX-8150 was outperformed by the previous AMD flagship, the Phenom II 1100T. AMD have warned of this, and have been very clear to point out that the FX CPUs have a 'competitive disadvantage' over the older Phenom IIs in old and low-threaded benchmarks and performs better in 'real world scenarios'. Most of the synthetic benchmarks we run have fundamentally been around for a while, in one form or another, and so may be classed as 'old' due to the fact that they mostly have no support for the new instruction sets that the 'Bulldozer' design brings with it. Unfortunately, this is also the case with the majority of the games tested, and although we don't use eyefinity or super-high resolutions (where we understand the FX CPUs do pull back some performance against even more expensive Intel offerings), neither will a lot of the prospective buyers of these new chips.

Current pricing makes it more expensive than the Intel i5 2500K but cheaper than the Intel i7 2600K, which in the best-case scenarios is a good deal. If you need hardware virtualisation support for virtual machines, the FX line may be a good option as Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs do not sport Vt-d. In most scenarios though, it isn't that OK. In fact, it can get worse depending on what you're doing with it. You'll also need to consider the price of motherboards on both sides of the fence has come down dramatically to the point where around 100-150 will buy a decent board for either Intel or AMD, and they both use the same type of memory, making either platform highly accessible to enthusiasts.

AMD FX certainly has great potential for the future, not just when more applications make use of the new technologies and cores, but also with the inevitable improvements in this fledgling architecture. This is good for competition, but the fact is that Intel are showing no signs of slowing down, and with their much larger resources it will be easy to keep their nose ahead for the ultimate performance crown and increasingly in the bang-for-buck stakes. Innovation is great to see in this market, especially from AMD who've kept a fairly similar design over the last 10 years, but innovation at the cost of performance isn't looking quite as smart today. Perhaps in the future this will pay big dividends, but at this moment in time the bulldozer is looking more like 8 shovels.

+ Innovative architecture design
+ Very overclockable
+ Power efficient using Cool 'n' Quiet
+ Improved Turbo modes

- Weak single thread performance
- Often outperformed by Phenom II
- Only fast in ideal scenarios

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