Projected Performance: Can AMD Catch up with Intel?

I keep going back to this slide because it's incredibly relevant. It's the only indication we have from AMD of what its future roadmap will look like in terms of performance increases:

Each year AMD promised to increase performance of its high-end cores by roughly 10 - 15%. Astute observers will note that, at this rate, AMD will almost never catch up to Intel. AMD at the time was careful to point out that it's talking about 10 - 15% gains in core performance, and it could potentially see even larger increases in total chip performance by pulling other levers. Vishera is an example of AMD doing just that. The Piledriver cores by themselves don't increase performance tremendously, but they do give AMD a little more thermal headroom to work with thanks to some more efficient design decisions and better transistor choice. With Vishera, AMD took the additional power headroom and turned into a frequency advantage. The result is AMD's FX-8350 can operate in the same power envelope as the outgoing FX-8150, yet runs at an 11% higher base clock (turbo frequency remains the same). Through frequency and core level improvements, AMD was able to deliver a bit more than the 10 - 15% performance increased in promised.

If AMD is able to repeat these improvements again next year, I wondered whether or not it would get any closer to closing the gap with Intel - particularly when it came to single threaded performance. We already know from our Haswell investigations that Intel is expecting around a 5 - 15% increase in CPU performance from Haswell over Ivy Bridge. If we assume that Haswell delivers towards the 15% end of that spectrum, and if we assume that Steamroller delivers the same level of improvements that we saw from Piledriver/Vishera, we end up with some pretty interesting predictions for where things end up next year. I modeled the 2013 performance of high-end AMD and Intel platforms based on those two factors and plotted the curves in a few different benchmarks. For each generation I used the parts that AMD stacked up against one another (they are also fairly similarly priced). For 2011 I used the FX-8150 vs. Intel's Core i5 2500 and for 2012 I used the FX-8350 vs. Intel's Core i5 3570. The 2013 data is of course projected based on a 15% increase in performance from Haswell, and a repeat of the Vishera vs. Zambezi increase for AMD. This is mostly an interesting experiment so don't get too invested in the data.

We'll start with Cinebench, by far the most painful of the tests for AMD from a single-threaded performance perspective:

The Vishera gains here were decent but not enough to dramatically shrink the performance gap. Furthermore, Intel put a good amount of distance in place with Ivy Bridge and if it can continue that with Haswell I don't see much hope here.

The multithreaded Cinebench results begin in AMD's favor and remain so even with our projected performance data.

Mozilla's Kraken benchmark is another example of single threaded performance gone awry for AMD.

Thankfully, Vishera does close the gap by a decent amount and if AMD extends those gains it is on an intercept course with Intel. The bad news is, that intercept wouldn't be in 2013.

POV-Ray provides another point of view on single threaded performance, here the situation looks far less dire than under Cinebench:

Unfortunately the curves remain fairly distinct.

Once again, when we increase thread count we see AMD pull ahead.

SYSMark is a particularly telling benchmark as it is lightly threaded and does a good job of simulating all types of workloads:

The result here is AMD closing in, albeit slowly, on Intel's performance advantage. I suspect this is quite possibly the best case scenario for AMD, it doesn't necessarily want to surpass Intel in performance but it wants to get close enough where pricing and other factors (e.g. GPU performance in its APU parts) can make a bigger difference.

Our Visual Studio 2012 test is a good combination of single threaded and multithreaded workloads in one:

With Vishera, AMD did a lot to close the gap betwen itself and Intel. Another increase like this and we won't see AMD surpass Intel, but the two should remain fairly close.

These last two tests show us the other side of the coin. If both AMD and Intel continue on their present tracks, what will happen in a test where AMD already does well today?

In areas where AMD holds a significant advantage, Haswell would need to deliver more than a 15% gain in performance at the same price point to catch up.

None of the results here are all that surprising. AMD remaining on its current course isn't enough to dramatically change its standings vs. Intel in another year. Vishera definitely cut into the performance delta, but the 2013 follow-up will have to do even more to really have an impact. Steamroller is far more focused on increasing IPC, however without a new process node it'll be difficult to demonstrate another gain in frequency like we see today with Vishera. I suspect the real chance for AMD to approach parity in many of these workloads will be with its 20nm architecture, perhaps based on Excavator in 2014.

Power Consumption Overclocking
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  • Got my first AMD - Thursday, May 08, 2014 - link

    I OC my 8320 to 4.7 GHz and only have to raise the voltage .0125 from stock. Why is it that you think AMD is worthless. They are all for the consumer and I am grateful for it. I'm really sick of your ignorance. Really sick of it. Reply
  • cbrown - Thursday, June 12, 2014 - link

    What everyone will get "sick" of in a hurry is if AMD falls on its face with its "crap" cpu manufacturing... Intel will double their pricing on cpus again, same as they were during the time period AMD released it's "crap" slot athlon 500. AMD also has a decent gpu to fall back on since they bought ATI which was a smart move.

    *AMD released Slot A Athlon 500 Intel slashed it's prices in half same day to match.

    *If ATI hadn't stepped up to the plate and suceeded when nVidia bought 3dfx Everyone would be crying about the prices of gaming cards

    *Sure AMD is lagging behind right now but never underestimate the importance of competition and the effect it has on affordable upgrades for everyone...

    I love AMD for the pricing they have brought to us this day and time... with cpu's AND gpu's
    I am fixing to build my FIRST intel platform since the since amd released the slot a athlon simply because I want a hackentosh... there is simply too much heartache building one on a AMD CPU/MOBO combo for the simple fact apple does not support them. I dont know if you would call me a amd fanboy or not, your opinion, I simply have supported a company that brought affordability to everyone.... I am either MAC (intel, no choice really) or AMD for the windows platform...

    Anyone that cannot see the reasoning behind this, now I would say they are a intel fanboy though.... Everyone has the right to choose.....
    Reply
  • sleekz - Thursday, May 02, 2013 - link

    Priced cheaply, but they don't match price/performance wise. Price is not a valid argument against intel. Reply
  • Abdussamad - Monday, August 12, 2013 - link

    Do the math on electricity consumption and you find it is not priced decently at all. Let's say you run a system with an idle FX 8350 for 8 hours a day everyday for 5 years and electricity costs you $0.16 per kwh:

    (( 8 hours * (74.2 - 57.5) * 365 days * 5 years ) / 1000) * 0.16 = $39

    (74.2 - 57.5 is the difference in idle power consumption between an fx-8350 and i5-3570)

    So add $40 to the price of the FX 8350 before you do a comparison. More if you run your system 24/7.
    Reply
  • lostinspacex - Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - link

    duuude its 40 dollars in 5 years, you spend more going to a restaurant once , and u are multiplying watts with kilowatts xD, basic math mistake Reply
  • chekk42 - Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - link

    Look closer. The math is correct. However, yes, $40 over 5 years is not really a concern. Reply
  • ninza228248 - Monday, April 14, 2014 - link

    After 5 years add $40 to AMD and you will get mind blowing processor compared to Intel Core i5-3570 or any intel processor after 5 years in that price bracket... Reply
  • Operandi - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Looks like Piledriver delivered. Granted the bar was set pretty low with Bulldozer but this at least has a use case, highly threaded applications but considering this is a process node behind Intel I’d say its pretty good. If they can keep this pace up and hit IPC a bit harder AMD could be back in a pretty good position. Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    At least now they can say they beat Intel in a lot of multithreaded situations. Losing to Intel AND using more power was unpalatable. I'd like to see an undervolted 8350, perhaps AMD's conservative side is rearing its ugly head again.

    I'm a bit concerned that, even with hard-edge flops and the RCM, the clock speed difference is about 11% for the same power. I'd have thought that even the former would shave off a decent amount, unless RCM doesn't work so well at higher speeds. Still, there's one disadvantage to be had - overclocking won't work so well due to the flop change.

    If AMD can beat Intel now in multithreading in most circumstances, Steamroller is just going to let them pull away. Single-threaded workloads are the worry, though. Still, at least they can say that they finally beat Nehalem even in single-threaded work. I did lament the lack of an appearance of Phenom II, but looking at the results, they've buried that particular ghost.
    Reply
  • Finally - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Undervolting, you said?
    Here you go: http://www.computerbase.de/artikel/prozessoren/201...
    Reply

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