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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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  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Except that it requires nearly double the power of a Ivy Bridge to squeak out a few wins in those multi-threaded apps... Only when a company is this close to obscurity can we say this is a win. Especially in light of ARM competition with x86... AMD continues with insanely power hungry chips?? Not good.

    At $200 it still is a tough sell. Double the power of i5-3570K and 80W more than i7-3770K. No way. The chip looks dated. cough cough Pentium 4 Prescott anyone?

    What market is AMD aiming at here?!? Intel produces 2 IVB per 1 of these. And IVB is an APU of all things.. This thing is AMD's non-iGPU part. Imagine if Intel released an 6-8 core IVB without the iGPU. Same die size as the IVB APU.

    Bleak does not even begin to describe AMD. The fact that AMD sits at $1.5B market cap and no one is talking about buying the company says a lot.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    Thank you for the proficient monitoring, although I disagree with at least the characterization of calling it a win based upon amd being on it's way out, or whatever.

    It gets called and referred to as a win, because honesty is now CRAP, and fanboy fruittard is "in". That's all.

    When there is some bare win for amd in some game, then of course it's a massive killing and total destruction, and sometimes when it's a tie or a lose it gets called and manipulated and talking pointed and spun into a win.

    Personally, I believe that's why amd is a freaking failure. They coddled and produced a large raging fanboy base, with their PR hits against nVidia and Intel, all of it lies that the fruiters totally believed, and went on a continuous rampage with.
    That emotional battery allowed AMD to produce crap, not support their crap properly, feel good about their little warm and "not evil" hearts they pretended to "live by", and thus go down the frikkin tubes while bathing themselves in glory.

    The very few times the massive collective of lockstep fanboy parrots broke out of their idiot mind chains and actually criticized AMD, and it only occurred several times mind you, after much ignoring and glossing over, why then AMD, shocked and stunned - WOKE THE HECK UP... got off their coddled PR fanboy based BUTTS - and did something about their huge problem...

    I must say the results those few times were extraordinary for AMD, and quite exemplary in any overall comparison across the board to other companies in the mix. A few examples of that should not be hard to bring to mind.

    That's why I don't like the fanboy crap. I certainly don't believe it's good for amd, nor good for my bottom line, as I suffer under the constant coddling and lying, too.
    We all do.

    Now it's likely too late, but I'm still hoping for a bailout for amd. Lots of oil sheiks out there.
    Reply
  • Yoda's apprentice - Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - link

    It kind of bothers me how you ignore that you're exactly the same fanboy too. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Yeah! I'm really impressed how much better these are...the fact that they're beating Intel again in ANYTHING is awesome!

    We need AMD for the competition, and anymore with Intel pushing their worthless video so hard, it gives AMD a competitive advantage both because they can skip video and have more transistors on CPU, OR they can put in a massively better GPU.

    I wish they had an 8 core notebook part though for the mid range with no integrated GPU....it seems like that ought to be a solid enough choice for a system, combined with a high end Nvidia or AMD GPU.

    Seriously thinking of making my next notebook AMD, both to support them, and to avoid switchable graphics... (well, still have AMD's switchable graphics, but hopefully since they make the whole thing they'll do better).

    I used to be scared off by AMD as I got burnt twice on horrible 3rd party chipsets, but I bought a c50 based notebook last year for the kitchen, and it's been 100% rock solid stable and non-weird...like Intel's always been known for. Makes me feel a lot better about buying an A series notebook this year or an FX desktop.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    FYI - Anandtech is suffering server issues at the time of this post...

    What many reviewers and fanbois tend to miss over and over is that AMD is delivering the best performance-for-the dollar and that ANY current model desktop CPU will run ANY software just fine. Unless you have some enterprise level software that brings a modern CPU to it's knees, ANY of the currently avialable desktop CPUs will run Windoze or Linux based software just fine. In fact Linux apps do even better in many cases than Windoze bloatware.

    I have no idea if AMD will ever offer a discrete CPU to equal Intel's top of the line, over-priced models nor do I care. I buy what delivers the best performance for the price. I have yet to purchase any AMD desktop CPU that would not run ALL software as well as an Intel CPU, without any isses what so ever.

    If all you do is benchmark all day long and you have money to burn, blow it on an Intel CPU, unless of course you are opposed to evil, chronic, law violating corporations looking to eliminate consumer choice. You could always vote your conscience, if you have one.

    I am always amazed that people actually falsely believe that AMD processors are some how "inadequate". Even with tainted benches, AMD processors deliver all the performance and good value that most consumers desire. It's tough however getting people to look at the data objectively. All most people think of is that "more" is better, when in fact that's the sucker play when you look at performance vs. cost and actual needs.

    Considering that Intel got a whopping ~5% performance gain from a 32nm to 22nm node drop and Tri-gate tansistors with Ivy Bridge, (along with over-heating and poor overclocability...), AMD did quite well to deliver a ~10-15% improvement with Vishera. With AMD's pricing Vishera should sell well because of it's excellent performance and cost.
    Reply
  • zappb - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Hear Hear!

    Good to see AMD back in the saddle again, and with stellar performance in multi threaded stuff...
    Reply
  • ET - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I'm sorry, but I can't take seriously anything where the writer uses "Windoze". Any such text is obviously written by a heavily biased individual and therefore any "analysis" in it is flawed. Reply
  • Finally - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I'm sorry, but I can't take seriously anything where the writer uses the screen name "ET"... Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    X2 this guy is one of those "Linux Zealots" Pretty sad that there are still people out there that feel that way. Reply
  • andrewaggb - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    It would be interesting to see some linux benchmarks considering this chip's only future may be running servers or bargain machines.

    Some linux webserver and sql database benchmarks would be interesting. I didn't see any desktop use case for this processor at all. In every benchmarked case I'd rather have an intel chip. Even when Intel lost it wasn't by much. And the conclusion basically said the same thing, if you are 100% sure you are running heavily threaded code all the time, then this MIGHT be the chip for you if you don't mind a bigger power bill. That's just not great.

    But as for the windows remark, windows is fine. Linux has some strong points, particularly with servers, and it's kernel->user mode transitions, but everything is a trade off. I use linux for many of my servers and have for years, but I mostly agree with this http://linuxfonts.narod.ru/why.linux.is.not.ready.... as to the problems with linux. If you've genuinely used linux alot, you'll know most of these things are true to one degree or another. Basically once you get X audio and video involved, it's not awesome and you'll appreciate windows more :-)
    Reply

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