Final Words

In many cases, AMD's FX-8150 is able to close the gap between the Phenom II X6 and Intel's Core i5 2500K. Given the right workload, Bulldozer is actually able to hang with Intel's fastest Sandy Bridge parts. We finally have a high-end AMD CPU with power gating as well as a very functional Turbo Core mode. Unfortunately the same complaints we've had about AMD's processors over the past few years still apply here today: in lightly threaded scenarios, Bulldozer simply does not perform. To make matters worse, in some heavily threaded applications the improvement over the previous generation Phenom II X6 simply isn't enough to justify an upgrade for existing AM3+ platform owners. AMD has released a part that is generally more competitive than its predecessor, but not consistently so. AMD also makes you choose between good single or good multithreaded performance, a tradeoff that we honestly shouldn't have to make in the era of power gating and turbo cores.

Bulldozer is an interesting architecture for sure, but I'm not sure it's quite ready for prime time. AMD clearly needed higher clocks to really make Bulldozer shine and for whatever reason it was unable to attain that. With Piledriver due out next year, boasting at least 10-15% performance gains at the core level it seems to me that AMD plans to aggressively address the shortcomings of this architecture. My only concern is whether or not a 15% improvement at the core level will be enough to close some of the gaps we've seen here today. Single threaded performance is my biggest concern, and compared to Sandy Bridge there's a good 40-50% advantage the i5 2500K enjoys over the FX-8150. My hope is that future derivatives of the FX processor (perhaps based on Piledriver) will boast much more aggressive Turbo Core frequencies, which would do wonders at eating into that advantage.

AMD also shared with us that Windows 7 isn't really all that optimized for Bulldozer. Given AMD's unique multi-core module architecture, the OS scheduler needs to know when to place threads on a single module (with shared caches) vs. on separate modules with dedicated caches. Windows 7's scheduler isn't aware of Bulldozer's architecture and as a result sort of places threads wherever it sees fit, regardless of optimal placement. Windows 8 is expected to correct this, however given the short lead time on Bulldozer reviews we weren't able to do much experimenting with Windows 8 performance on the platform. There's also the fact that Windows 8 isn't expected out until the end of next year, at which point we'll likely see an upgraded successor to Bulldozer.

So what do you do if you're buying today? If you have an existing high-end Phenom II system, particularly an X4 970 or above or an X6 of any sort, I honestly don't see much of a reason to upgrade. You're likely better off waiting for the next (and final) iteration of the AM3+ lineup if you want to stick with your current platform. If you're considering buying new, I feel like the 2500K is a better overall part. You get more predictable performance across the board regardless of application type or workload mix, and you do get features like Quick Sync. In many ways, where Bulldozer is a clear win is where AMD has always done well: heavily threaded applications. If you're predominantly running well threaded workloads, Bulldozer will typically give you performance somewhere around or above Intel's 2500K.

I was hoping for Bulldozer to address AMD's weakness rather than continue to just focus on its strengths. I suspect this architecture will do quite well in the server space, but for client computing we may have to wait a bit longer for a more competitive part from AMD. The true culprit for Bulldozer's lackluster single-threaded performance is difficult to track down. The easy answer would seem to be clock speed. We've heard of issues at Global Foundries and perhaps Bulldozer is the latest victim. If AMD's clock targets were 30% higher than Phenom II, it simply didn't make them with the FX-8150. I've heard future derivatives will focus more on increasing IPC indepedent of process technology and clock speed, but if you asked me what was the one limit to success I would say clock speed. As a secondary factor, AMD appeared to make some tradeoffs to maintain a reasonable die size at 32nm. Even then Bulldozer can hardly be considered svelte. I suspect as AMD is able to transition to smaller transistor geometries, it will be able to address some of Bulldozer's physical shortcomings.

The good news is AMD has a very aggressive roadmap ahead of itself; here's hoping it will be able to execute against it. We all need AMD to succeed. We've seen what happens without a strong AMD as a competitor. We get processors that are artificially limited and severe restrictions on overclocking, particularly at the value end of the segment. We're denied choice simply because there's no other alternative. I don't believe Bulldozer is a strong enough alternative to force Intel back into an ultra competitive mode, but we absolutely need it to be that. I have faith that AMD can pull it off, but there's still a lot of progress that needs to be made. AMD can't simply rely on its GPU architecture superiority to sell APUs; it needs to ramp on the x86 side as well—more specifically, AMD needs better single threaded performance. Bulldozer didn't deliver that, and I'm worried that Piledriver alone won't be enough. But if AMD can stick to a yearly cadence and execute well with each iteration, there's hope. It's no longer a question of whether AMD will return to the days of the Athlon 64, it simply must. Otherwise you can kiss choice goodbye.

Overclocking
POST A COMMENT

428 Comments

View All Comments

  • psiboy - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    What kind of retarded person would benchmark at 1024 x 768 on an enthusiast site where every one owns at least 1 1920 x 1080 monitor as they are 1. Dirt cheap and 2. The single biggest selling resolution for quite some time now... Real world across the board benches at 1920 x 1080 please! Reply
  • mumbles - Sunday, February 12, 2012 - link

    I am not trying to discount the reviewer, the performance of Sandy Bridge, or games as a test of general application performance. I have no connection to company mentioned really anywhere on this site. I am just a software engineer with a degree in computer science who wants to let the world know why these metrics are not a good way to measure relative performance of different architectures.

    The world has changed drastically in the hardware world and the software world has no chance to keep up with it these days. Developing software implementations that utilize multiprocessors efficiently is extremely expensive and usually is not prioritized very well these days. Business requirements are the primary driver in even the gaming industry and "performs well enough on high end equipment(or in the business application world, on whatever equipment is available)" is almost always as good as a software engineer will be allowed time for on any task.

    In performance minded sectors like gaming development and scientific computing, this results in implementations that are specific to hardware architectures that come from whatever company decides to sponsor the project. nVidia and Intel tend to be the ones that engage in these activities most of the time. Testing an application on a platform it was designed for will always yield better results than testing it on a new platform that nobody has had access to even develop software on. This results in a biased performance metric anytime a game is used as a benchmark.

    In business applications, the concurrency is abstracted out of the engineer's view. We use messaging frameworks to process many small requests without having to manage concurrency at all. This is partly due to the business requirements changing so fast that optimizing anything results in it being replaced by something else instead. The underlying frameworks are typically optimized for abstraction instead of performance and are not intended to make use of any given hardware architecture. Obviously almost all of these systems use Java to achieve this, which is great because JIT takes care of optimizing things in real time for the hardware it is running on and the operations the software uses.

    As games are developed for this architecture it will probably see far better benchmark results than the i series in those games which will actually be optimized for it.

    A better approach to testing these architectures would be to develop tests that actually utilize the strengths of the new design rather than see how software optimized for some other architecture will perform. This is probably way more than an e-mag can afford to do, but I feel an injustice is being done here based on reading other people's comments that seem to put stock in this review as indication of actual performance of this architecture in the future, which really none of these tests indicate.

    I bet this architecture actually does amazing things when running Java applications. Business application servers and gaming alike. Java makes heavy use of integer processing and concurrency, and this processor seems highly geared towards both.

    And I just have to add, CINEBENCH is probably almost 100% floating point operations. This is probably why the Bulldozer does not perform any better than the Phenom II x4.

    Also, AMD continues to impress on the value measurement. Check out the PassMarks per dollar on this bad boy:

    http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu.php?cpu=AMD+FX-815...
    Reply
  • djangry - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Beware !!!! this chip is junk.
    I love Amd with all my heart and soul.
    This fx chip is a black screen machine.
    It breaks my heart to write this.
    I am sending it back and trying to snag the last x6 phenom 2 's
    I can find.
    The fact that this chip is a dud is too well hidden.
    When I called newegg they told me your the second one today with
    horror stories about this chip.

    msi would not come clean ...this chip is a turkey....
    yet they were nice.

    I will waste no more time with this nonsense.
    my 754's work better.

    We need honesty about the failure of this chip and the fact windows pulled the hot fix.
    tlb bug part two.
    Even linux users say after grub goes in Black screens.
    Why isn't the industry coming clean on this issue.
    Amd's 939 kicked Intel butt for 3 years- till they got it together,we need Amd ,but I do not like hidden issues and lack of disclosure.
    Buyer beware!
    Reply
  • AMDiamond - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Guys you are already upset because you spent your lunch money on Intel and even with higher this and that boards and memory AMD (even with half as much memory onboard [32GB] & Intel has [64GB] ) Intel is misquoting thier performance again...no matter what you say AMD= Dodge as to Intel=Cheverolet ..and when it gets down to AMD on the game versus Intel ...Intel has another hardcore asswhipping behind and ahead... its the same thing as a Dx4 processor(versus the pentium) even though Pentium had 1 comprehesion level higher ..when running the same programs DooM for example Pentium couldn't run DooM anywhere near as good as a simple DX4 amd..same stays true ...this Bulldozer has already broken unmatched records...AMD only lacks in 1 area..when you install windows the intel drivers already match at least 80 percent performance of Intel ...where AMD needs a specific narrow driver to run...once that driver is matched ..AMD =General Lee versus (Smokey & the) Bandits POS =Intel's comaro and its true ashamed that Intel even with 2x as much ddr3 memory ..cant even pickup the torch when AMD is smoking a Jet on the highway to hell for Intel -Hahahamauhahaha...sorry as intel qx9650 ahahahaahahahahahahahhahahah Reply
  • AMDiamond - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    watch AMD take Diablo 3 (1 expansion by the next/it will be so ) Intel always lags hard on gaming compared to a weaker AMD class...point proven ...everest has alot of false benchmarks for Intel example NWN2 Phenom x3 8400 (triple core hasa bench 10880) yet a Intel Core 2 Duo e7500 has a bench of 12391 thats a 2.9ghtz cpu versus a 2.1ghtz CPU ..ok the kicker is intel is a dell amd is an aspire..DDR2 memory on the AMD and ddr3 memory on the intel ..all the intel bus features say higher (like they always do) but try running the same dammned video board on both systems then try running 132 NWN2 maps each medium size...no way the intel can do it ..the AMD can run the game editor and the maps at once..Intel is selling you a number AMD is selling you true frames per second..but your going to say oh but my Intel is a better core and this and that..ok now lets compare the price of the 2 systems...Intel was $2,500 the AMD was $400 ..why do you think that phenom just stomps the ass off that intel?(always has always will) Reply
  • zkeng - Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - link

    I work as a building architect and use this CPU on my Linux workstation, in a Fractal Design define mini micro atx case, with 8GB ram and AMD radeon hd 6700 GPU.

    I usually have several applications running at the same time. Typically BricsCAD, a file manager, a web browser with a few tabs, Gimp image editor, music player, our business system and sometimes Virtualbox as well with a virtual machine.

    I do allot of 3D projects and use Thea Render for photo rendering of building designs.

    I use conky system monitor to watch the processor load and temperature.

    These are my thoughts about the performance:

    Runs cool and the noise level is low, because the processor can handle several applications without taking any stress at all.

    Usually runs at only a few % average load for heavy business use (graphics and CAD in my case).

    When working you get the feeling that this processor has good torque. Eight cores means most of the time every application can have at least one dedicated core and there is no lag even with lots of apps running. I think this will be a great advantage even if you use allot of older single core business applications.

    The fact that this processor has rather high power consumption at full load is a factor to take into consideration if you put it under allot of constant load (and especially if you over clock).
    For any use except really heavy duty CPU jobs (compiling software, photo rendering, video encoding) temporary load peaks will be taken care of in a few seconds, and you will typically see your processor working at only 1,4 GHz clock frequency. When idle the power consumption of this CPU is actually pretty low and temporary load peaks will make very little difference in total power consumption.

    I sometimes photo render jobs for up to 32 hours and think of myself as a CPU demanding user, but still most of the time when my computer is running, it will be at idle frequency. I consider the idle power consumption to be by far the most important value of comparison between processors for 90% of all users. This is not considered in many benchmarks.

    It is really nice to fire up Thea Render, use the power of all cores for interactive rendering mode while testing different materials on a design and then start an unbiased photo rendering and watch all eight cores flatten out with 100% load at 3,6 GHz.

    Not only does this processor photo render slightly faster compared to my colleagues Intel Sandy Bridge. What is really nice is that i can run, lets say four renderings at the same time in the background, for a sun study, and then fire up BricsCAD to do drawing work while waiting. Trying to do this was a disaster with my last i5 processor. I forced me to do renderings during the night (out of business hours) or to borrow another work station during rendering jobs because my work station was locked up by more than one instance of the rendering application.

    ....................

    To summarize, this is by far the best setup (CPU included) I have ever used on a work station. Affordable price, reasonably small case, low noise level, completely modular, i will be able to upgrade in the future without changing my am3+ mother board. The CPU is fast and offers superb multi tasking. This is the first processor I have ever used that also offers good multi tasking under heavy load (photo rendering + cad at the same time)
    This is a superb CPU for any business user who likes to run several apps at the same time. It is also really fast with multi core optimized software.

    AMD FX-8150 is my first AMD desktop processor and I like it just as much as I dislike their fusion APUs on the laptop market. Bulldozer has all the power where it is best needed, perfectly adopted to my work flow.
    Reply
  • la'quv - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    I don't know what it is with all this hype destroying amd's reputation. The bulldozer architecture is the best cpu design I have seen in years. I guess the underdog is not well respected. The bulldozer architecture has more pipelines and schedulers that the Core 2. The problem is code is compiled intel optimized not amd optimized. These benchmarks for a bunch of applications I don't use have no bearing on my choice to by a cpu, there are some benchmarks where an i5 will outperform and i7 so what valid comparison's are we making here. The bulldozer cpu's are dirt cheap and people expect them to be cheaper and don't require high clock speed ram and run on cheaper motherboards. AMD is expected to keep up with intel on the manufacturing process. Cutting corners and going down to 32nm then 22nm as quickly as possible does not produce stable chips. I have my kernel compiled AMD64 and it is not taxed by anything I am doing. Reply
  • brendandaly711 - Friday, September 06, 2013 - link

    AMD still hasn't been able to pull out of the rut that INTEL left them in after the Sandy Bridge breakthrough. I am a (not so proud) owner of an FX-4100 in one of my pc's and an 8150 in the other. The 4100 compares to an ivy bridge i3 or a sandy bridge i5. I will give AMD partial credit, though, the 8150 performs at the ivy bridge's i5 level for almost identical prices. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now