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
POST A COMMENT

241 Comments

View All Comments

  • Spunjji - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Prognosis for the near future is that having that many threads will still not be a whole lot of use for gaming. See Amdahl's law for why. Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    It's safe to say all programs/games going forward will take advantage of four cores or more. Battlefield 3 released LAST year and basically requires 4 cores in order to be GPU-limited (as in the game is CPU limited with just about any videocard unless you have 4 cores. Reply
  • c0d1f1ed - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Prognosis for the near future is that having that many threads will still not be a whole lot of use for gaming. See Amdahl's law for why.

    Amdahl's Law is not a reason. There is plenty of task parallelism to exploit. The real issue is ROI, and there's two aspects to that. One is that multi-threaded development is freakishly hard. Unlike single-threaded development, you cannot know exactly what each thread is doing at any given time. You need to synchronised to make certain actions deterministic. But even then you can end up with race conditions if you're not careful. The current synchronization methods are just very primitive. Intel will fix that with Haswell. The TSX technology enables hardware lock elision and hardware transactional memory. Both will make the developer's life a lot easier, and also make synchronization more efficient.

    The second aspect isn't about the costs but about the gains. It has taken quite a while for more than two cores to become the norm. So it just wasn't worth it for developers to go through all the pain of scalable fine-grained multi-threaded development if the average CPU is still only a dual-core. Haswell's TSX technology will come right in time as quad-core becomes mainstream. Also, Haswell will have phenomenal Hyper-Threading performance thanks to two nearly symmetrical sets of two integer execution units.

    AMD needs to implement TSX and AVX2 sooner rather than later to stay in the market.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Nice post. Appreciate it.

    And ouch for amd once again.
    Reply
  • surt - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    No, gaming won't need that many threads in the near future either. Nobody is going to make a game demand more than 4 threads because that's what common gamer systems support. Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    I disagree. Say we have a hypothetical game that support 8 threads. The overhead of over-threading in a quad core system is frankly, not very much, while it may provide improvements on people with octocore or Intel processors with hyper-threading. Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    In fact, there are many games nowadays that split workload into many threads for economic simulation, background AI planning in user phase, physics, audio, graphics subthread, network management, preloading and resources management. It is just that even with the parallelism, there bound to be bottlenecks in single threading that a 8 core may not benefit at all compared to 4 cores.

    So I disagree, it is not about people not spending resources in making parallelism or not supporting it. It is the nature of the workload that is the determining factor.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, December 09, 2012 - link

    LOL- amd sucks period, did you look at the gaming page ?
    these visheras got literally stomped to death

    AMD fanboy = the imaginary, non existent, and never to exist future looks glorious for de furhor amd!
    Reply
  • redwarrior - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    What a one dimensional computer enthusiast you are. You spend hundreds to play games on a computer when you could do the same ona console for less?? I use my computer to gain knowledge, impart knowledge, do organizing work to liberate the working class from wage slavery, write leaflets, an documents. I occasionally play strategy games that are usually multi-threaded, like Galactic Civilizations II. . There is no greater value on the planet than the FX processors for what I do. They save me time for the work I do over the Intel processor in the $200 price class. Time and money that's important , frame rates of a 120 are useless but too the over-privileged who buy 120 mhz monitors for their gaming. What a waste of money and resources that could be used for the advancement of human kind. Reply
  • bennyg - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "Value" is more than just perf per purchase dollar, running costs also need to be included.

    E.g. a basic calculation based on the charts above the FX CPU I've saved $50 on would cost 2c extra per hour at full load in power. So 2500 hours at load would be my break even point. That's 7 hours a day at full load over a year, a heavy use scenario but quite possible.

    Multithreaded games are such a vast exception to the rule (that once you have "enough" CPU power you gain infinitessimal fps from more) they are not worth even mentioning.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now