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Last year's launch of AMD's FX processors was honestly disappointing. The Bulldozer CPU cores that were bundled into each Zambezi chip were hardly power efficient and in many areas couldn't significantly outperform AMD's previous generation platform. Look beyond the direct AMD comparison and the situation looked even worse. In our conclusion to last year's FX-8150 review I wrote the following:

"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."

The performance advantage that Intel enjoyed at the time was beyond what could be erased by a single generation. To make matters worse, before AMD could rev Bulldozer, Intel already began shipping Ivy Bridge - a part that not only increased performance but decreased power consumption as well. It's been a rough road for AMD over these past few years, but you have to give credit where it's due: we haven't seen AMD executing this consistently in quite a while. As promised we've now had multiple generations of each platform ship from AMD. Brazos had a mild update, Llano paved the way for Trinity which is now shipping, and around a year after Zambezi's launch we have Vishera: the Piledriver based AMD FX successor.

At a high level, Vishera swaps out the Bulldozer cores from Zambezi and replaces them with Piledriver. This is the same CPU core that is used in Trinity, but it's optimized for a very different purpose here in Vishera. While Trinity had to worry about working nicely in a laptop, Vishera is strictly a high-end desktop/workstation part. There's no on-die graphics for starters. Clock speeds and TDPs are also up compared to Trinity.

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Vishera 8C 32nm 8 1.2B 315mm2
AMD Zambezi 8C 32nm 8 1.2B 315mm2
Intel Ivy Bridge 4C 22nm 4 1.4B 160mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge E (6C) 32nm 6 2.27B 435mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge E (4C) 32nm 4 1.27B 294mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 4C 32nm 4 1.16B 216mm2
Intel Lynnfield 4C 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT1) 32nm 2 504M 131mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT2) 32nm 2 624M 149mm2

Vishera is still built on the same 32nm GlobalFoundries SOI process as Zambezi, which means there isn't much room for additional architectural complexity without ballooning die area, and not a whole lot of hope for significantly decreasing power consumption. As a fabless semiconductor manufacturer, AMD is now at GF's mercy when it comes to moving process technology forward. It simply has to make 32nm work for now. Piledriver is a light evolution over Bulldozer, so there's actually no substantial increase in die area compared to the previous generation. Cache sizes remain the same as well, which keeps everything roughly the same. These chips are obviously much larger than Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge parts, but Intel has a full node advantage there which enables that.

Piledriver is a bit more power efficient than Bulldozer, which enables AMD to drive Vishera's frequency up while remaining in the same thermal envelope as Zambezi. The new lineup is in the table below:

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Codename Cores Clock Speed Max Turbo L2/L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD FX-8350 Vishera 8 4.0GHz 4.2GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $199
AMD FX-8150 Zambezi 8 3.6GHz 4.2GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $183
AMD FX-8320 Vishera 8 3.5GHz 4.0GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $169
AMD FX-8120 Zambezi 8 3.1GHz 4.0GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $153
AMD FX-6300 Vishera 6 3.5GHz 4.1GHz 6MB/8MB 95W $132
AMD FX-6100 Zambezi 6 3.3GHz 3.9GHz 6MB/8MB 95W $112
AMD FX-4300 Vishera 4 3.8GHz 4.0GHz 4MB/4MB 95W $122
AMD FX-4100 Zambezi 4 3.6GHz 3.8GHz 4MB/4MB 95W $101

The table above says it all. TDPs haven't changed, cache sizes haven't changed and neither have core counts. Across the board Vishera ships at higher base frequencies than the equivalent Zambezi part, but without increasing max turbo frequency (in the case of the 8-core parts). The 6 and 4 core versions get boosts to both sides, without increasing TDP. In our Trinity notebook review I called the new CPU core Bulldozed Tuned. The table above supports that characterization.

It's also important to note that AMD's pricing this time around is far more sensible. While the FX-8150 debuted at $245, the 8350 drops that price to $199 putting it around $40 less than the Core i5 3570K. The chart below shows where AMD expects all of these CPUs to do battle:

AMD's targets are similar to what they were last time: Intel's Core i5 and below. All of the FX processors remain unlocked and ship fully featured with hardware AES acceleration enabled. Most Socket-AM3+ motherboards on the market today should support the new parts with nothing more than a BIOS update. In fact, I used the same ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard I used last year (with a much newer BIOS) for today's review:

The Test

For more comparisons be sure to check out our performance database: Bench.

Motherboard: ASUS Maximus V Gene (Intel Z77)
ASUS Crosshair V Formula (AMD 990FX)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Crucial RealSSD C300
OCZ Agility 3 (240GB)
Samsung SSD 830 (512GB)
Memory: 4 x 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-1600 9-9-9-20
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (Windows 8)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64/Windows 8 Pro x64

General Performance
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  • Mugur - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I'm trying to find a good scenario for those desktop cpus... Cheap 8 core virtualization hosts? Video encoding? Other than that, in this "mobile" world when every desktop PC looks out of time, I don't know what you can do with them. They are obviously not good for light loads or gaming... Reply
  • lmcd - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    The architecture makes more sense when less modules are used, i.e. the APU series. Look at how Trinity destroyed Llano, both desktop and mobile. And note that an A10+6670 is a perfect midrange gaming value. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    fanboy much ? Now we have again the amd perfection. LOL

    SB smacks it down, as does nVidia. Sorry fanboy, amd has nothing that is a perfect value, especially in gaming.
    Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, November 06, 2012 - link

    What are you blabbing about? You should be banned from this forum.

    While Intel's CPUs are clearly in a class of their own for high-end CPU gaming rigs, AMD's GPUs are doing very well this generation, having captured single-GPU performance crown, performance/$ and overclocking performance. The minute you said NV smacks AMD's GPU around, you lost ALL credibility.

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/Catalyst_12...

    You may want to take a look at 90% of all the games that came out in 2012 - GTX680 loses to 7970 GE (or 680 OC vs. 7970 OC). Facts must not sit well with AMD haters.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1 - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Nice performance predictions for Haswell and Steamroller.
    But IMHO, 15% increase for Haswell is too high and 15% for Steamroller is low.

    IMHO, more realistic expectations would be :
    Haswell 10%. probably more like 8%.
    Steamroller 20%
    Reply
  • dishayu - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Steamroller 15% is straight from the horse's (AMD's) mouth and 15% for Haswell is well within reason because it's a "tock" (new architecture). So, i think 15% for both works out fine for making speculative statements at this moment. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Except we can probably agree amd will fail to meet their goal in most of these future cases and fail to meet it and be very late as well (cpu side after all and they suck at being on time) , so some sideways review with all the possible advantages in testing and text will need to be skewed toward the amd side ( and they will be) to be able to claim "amd met it's goal! "
    Let's face it, if amd meets some bare minimum "test" for "achieving that goal" in one single area, the review will claim "they accomplished it". Like the recent time amd released whatever it was a cpu or a vid card and they had a single or so instance of 5 or 10 PROMISED on the egg shelf the day of their declared release and we were told (yes here) "they did it !"
    LOL

    On the other side of the "perfectly legitimate 15% is an equal and fair equation of the future", we have Intel, that likely won't be late, and if so just barely, and has the cahunas and record to probably exceed their stated goals.

    To be honest, the best I can do for amd is say I like their new cpu name " Steamroller !"
    For some reason, and this is of course pure speculation, hopeful ESP, wimmin's intuition, or perhaps a desperate attempt to give them a break...but...
    I think the name Steamroller indicates they will have a winner when that puppy comes out.
    Yes, I think it's crazy as well, but what if I'm right ?
    LOL
    I might be absolutely correct.
    Reply
  • ac2 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I really like those graphs...

    Especially the Sysmark and Compile ones, which project Steamroller being ahead of Ivy Bridge, and of course clear wins for the multi-threaded ones.

    I wish Anand had done a similar current->projection graph for power consumption as well, that would have been very useful.

    * Fingers crossed *, I think (wish!) the next gen APUs, Steamroller + GCN + new process node will be a real winner for AMD assuming power envelop comes down to < 100W TDP across the board and delivery in 2013.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Isn't it interesting how when it comes to AMD, the fanboy will go to great lengths never before seen, never before done for any other product from any other entity ever, and I mean ever, and spend their time in pure speculation about the future, graph it out, get their hopes going, take a look at the futureville landscape - LOL

    It's AMAZING.
    Reply
  • Penti - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Just proves, as it would that there shouldn't be any AM3+ socket for AMD as there are no high-end processors and it doesn't even help for general computing, workstation and gaming performance that AM3+ has 8-core chips. If you want i3 performance and gaming why would you buy anything over FX4300? If you buy a chip like that why couldn't you and AMD just have gone with FM2 instead? Why not launch 8-core FM2 chips if you really want them in consumers hands? FM2 will get Steamroller, why not make sure it will be thriving as a platform instead of having two desktop platforms? I don't think AM3+ justifies it's existence, I don't really want it and it doesn't really bring anything. It just reminds me of the AM2/+ and AM3 Phenom II days and look dated. I understand that there is no hypertransport in the FM2 platform, but let workstation users just buy Opteron server chips. AMD still needs to up it's singlethreaded performance with about 50%. Reply

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