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While AMD’s FX-9590 CPU has been in systems for over a year, it suddenly comes to market as a retail package for end-users to buy with a bundled liquid cooling system. This 220W CPU that has a turbo speed of 5.0 GHz still sits at the top of AMD’s performance stack, despite subsequent improvements in the architecture since. We have decided to grab ASRock’s 990FX Extreme9 and an FX-9590 for a review to see if it still is the AMD performance CPU champion.

Spot the CPU

The story behind AMD’s fastest ever x86 CPUs is slightly odd. Two models, the FX-9590 and FX-9370, were both launched into OEM channels in June 2013. Being an OEM component, the only way to get one was in a pre-built system through a retailer, or through a bulk system integrator that had a model around one of these CPUs. Typically this is a process that is only exhibited with server class processors: from a range of CPUs being produced, only several will be available for end-users at retail because server CPUs usually go through a system builder. At the time, it seemed that AMD concerned that the high TDP of this CPU, at 220W listed, is too much for most cooling setups within a home user system and the best way to get it to consumers would be if a system builder chose the appropriate cooling for them.

As a result of this orientation of sales, AMD did not sample the media with review units. We review an AMD product typically though an AMD sourced sample. It was also noted that the OEM price for the CPU was near $900 for the FX-9590, which seemed like an excruciating amount for what was essentially a good overclocking version of the FX-8350. Several media websites were able to collaborate with system builders in order to get a chance to review the CPU, and AMD was confident in their promotion and handling of the new CPU.

Anecdotally, in my field of vision, the promotion of this CPU was relatively limited. The price was the main factor, resulting in comparative AMD/Intel systems being more power hungry on the AMD side, and substantially more expensive when put up against the latest mainstream i7 at the time. As a result, while some retailers were selling the OEM CPU at full price, some retailers decided to sell their OEM stock with a severe price cut directly to consumers, down from $900 to $390, in order to get rid of units (this is when I picked up our sample).

Due to the OEM nature of these sales to end-users, each CPU had either no warranty with AMD or a limited warranty. For the user interested in a 3-year system cycle without the fear of a bad egg, the OEM route is never a positive one.

AMD subsequently released, relatively silently, a proper package and retail version of the FX processors. It was apparent that this was in response to the OEM sales, with the retailers list ‘heatsink and fan not included’ alongside the specifications.

AMD FX CPU Comparison
  FX-
4350
FX-
6350
FX-
8320
FX-
8350
FX-
9370
FX-
9590
Release Date April
2013
October 2012 October 2012 October 2012 June 2013 June 2013
Modules 2 3 4
L1 Cache (Code) 128 KB 192 KB 256 KB
L1 Cache (Data) 64 KB 96 KB 128 KB
L2 Cache 4 MB 6 MB 8 MB
L3 Cache 8 MB
TDP 125W 220 W
Base Frequency 4200 3900 3500 4000 4400 4700
Turbo Frequency 4300 4200 4000 4200 4700 5000
Core Name Vishera
Microarchitecture Piledriver
Socket AM3+
Memory Support DDR3-1866
Price (US) $140 $140 $160 $190 $230 
$300 CLC
$300 
$370 CLC

Since that release, AMD has not upgraded their enthusiast processor line with the latest architecture. The FX line has stayed where it is, perhaps for a number of reasons. One could speculate that releasing the next generation of FX-85xx might put them behind the FX-9590 in performance, or that the fabrication process was not suitable for a quad-module CPU with the new architecture improvements. The FX line for desktops, as far as we know, is staying at 32nm with no improvements.

Now Available

Fast forward twelve months to June 20th 2014 and Roy Taylor, AMD’s VP of Global Channel Sales tweets this innocuous picture:

Speculation was rife as to what this was. Here is a large box for an FX processor with the words ‘with Liquid Cooling System’ underneath. AMD supplied liquid cooling to the media when we reviewed the FX-8350 CPUs, the main CPU that sits underneath the FX-9590 and FX-9370, so there was an expectation that was something new.

On June 26th, the @AMDFX twitter account posted the following, confirming that this was the older FX-9590 but in a retail box with retail cooling:

The AMD FX Processor page has been updated accordingly, showing the same render of the new box. Here we see that the liquid cooler is supplied by Cooler Master, and uses a wide range PWM fan as part of the package.

Of course, this leaves several questions unanswered: how much, when is it on sale, where is it on sale, and is it still any good?  Well for the US at least, it is on sale today from Newegg at $370 with the water cooling kit, or $330 without. NCIX has it listed for CAD$500, although this is currently in ‘back stock’ mode.

The SKU to look for is the FD9590FHHKWOX, which in the UK does not seem to be on the shelves as of yet. Amusingly, when this is typed in to Google, the search engine asked me if I meant FD9590FHHKWOF, the non-CLC version.

This Review

Back when the FX-9590 was originally released alongside the FX-9370, we were unable to secure a sample from AMD and the limited availability made us feel the CPU had a fairly limited scope for testing. However, now the landscape has changed. There has been no new FX CPUs on the market from AMD, and this subsequent release of a retail version piques the interest as to how relevant AMD still sees their high-frequency part. Because I now have a FX-9590 all of my own to test from when the OEM stock was sold, I felt it was worth revisiting to see if it can be considered an investment.

Alongside testing this CPU, the 220W TDP requires a substantial motherboard to match. Due to the age of the platform, the AM3+ socket and the old 990FX chipset, finding a motherboard can be rather tricky. Many of the AM3+ motherboards that were launched were only suited for the FX-8350 processors, which had a 125W TDP. This is yet another reason that AMD wanted the FX-9590 in the hands of system builders who would chose high end motherboards that could cope.

Two of the newest motherboards to be released for 990FX were the ASRock 990FX Killer and the ASRock 990FX Extreme9. We reported the release of the Killer in December 2013, but the Killer is unsuitable here as the specification sheet lists processors up to 125W only. The Extreme9 is ASRock’s high-end AM3+ motherboard, and more suited to the task. Luckily I had requested a sample almost a year ago for some regression testing, so we will be reviewing this motherboard as part of this article. 

ASRock 990FX Extreme9 Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features
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  • thejshep - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    But even if you more than double the wattage of an i7, you're still not approaching the wattage this cpu takes Reply
  • Skillztech - Friday, September 12, 2014 - link

    Cause it is totally intel biased Reply
  • Skillztech - Friday, September 12, 2014 - link

    No need to over clock this chip at all, totally powerful. intel and the low voltage low power chips just suck at the same price range. Reply
  • TiGr1982 - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    This FX-9590 is actually the last year's product. E.g., in Canadian Canada Computers this SKU (in the version without any cooler) lays on the shelves for months and almost nobody buys it. At the same time, they have a big turnaround of Haswell Intel i7's, which speaks for itself.

    "Re-release" of this SKU happens because AMD has nothing better to offer, so they hope to get some public attention which it better than zero public attention :)

    I'm not an old man (age 32 now), but I remember the times (2005) when even Alienware top laptops were based on AMD Turions (rebranded Athlons 64) - simply because these were better than Intel's Pentium M at the time.

    And, in contrast, in around last three years since Bulldozer release AMD CPU business looks poorly.

    Yes, I know, APUs, OpenCL, HSA. But the CPU side of things at AMD is sad.
    Reply
  • Da W - Monday, August 11, 2014 - link

    AMD should just drop Bulldozer. That's probably what they're doing. Reply
  • Skillztech - Friday, September 12, 2014 - link

    8 cores high multi tasking and usage with high end core hungry software leaving intel in the dust. Plus the ability to game awesome. A real CPU. Reply
  • SlowSpyder - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    For those who are running their CPU's at 100% load 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, this isn't the right CPU. That's likely a quite small population of people. There are cons to the FX 9xxx CPU's to be sure, but I don't think what are often over-blown energy usage costs are one of them. Reply
  • MatthiasP - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    The real problem is, there is not a single pro for this processor. Reply
  • SlowSpyder - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    For someone looking to build a new system, probably not a lot of pros. For AM3+ owners looking for an upgrade from a lower part and guaranteed clocks, there could be some value in this processor. Reply
  • Flunk - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    The likelyhood of an existing AM3+ owner having a board that can support a 250watt CPU is pretty low, there really aren't many options. This CPU is a real turkey and people are not buying them. Reply

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