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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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  • dave1231 - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    Running this chip at load 24/7 at 18p per kWh for a year would cost about £525 although you might be able to turn your heating down a bit. Should be consigned to history. Reply
  • tech6 - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    +1: Such abysmal efficiency makes no sense at all. If this is supposed to be a 2014 product then I fear for the future of AMD. Reply
  • shabby - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    Efficiency goes out the door once you start overclocking. Reply
  • Flunk - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    That's not true at all, a lot of Intel CPUs will take a supstantial overclock with no or very slight voltage adjustments and then not exceed TDP by more than 25%. Overclocking THIS processor throws efficiency out the door but there are gains to be made at reasonable costs with Intel's Core processors. Reply
  • shabby - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    An extra 1ghz on an i7-4770k increases wattage by 60%
    http://www.pcper.com/files/imagecache/article_max_...
    Which article is showing a 25% increase?
    Reply
  • SmokingCrop - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    This one does: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/2013/06/01/intel-...
    Intel Core i7-4770K
    3.5GHz -> 137 Watt
    4.7GHz -> 171 Watt
    Reply
  • shabby - Saturday, August 09, 2014 - link

    One article shows a 25% increase with a 1.2ghz oc while another shows 60% increase with a 1ghz oc ... so which ones right? Reply
  • tuxRoller - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    Possibly both. Depends on where these tests are done (the line voltage), components used, and, most importantly, the binning. Reply
  • basroil - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    Both can be correct, depends on the test. Chips aren't as easy as pipeline clock increases, memory limited applications are still fairly common, as are cache limited ones (L1 cache should increase in speed but L2 and L3 won't in most cases), and there are still others that are unstable and can see huge jumps depending on how in sync components are.

    That said, seeing a performance increase larger than the clock increase (all in %) is rare at best, downright lying in most cases though. Usually a 50% increase will give you a 25-50% increase in non-memory limited applications.
    Reply
  • basroil - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    Strike the above, misread the comment!

    But actually very close, just replace everything with mobo, cooling, and lot. Some chips overclock better than others, and some motherboards and cooling help achieve that at lower voltages (and therefore power) than others. Your CPU might need 1.2V to hit 4.5gh while another needs 1.25V just to hit 4, it's just the luck of the draw.
    Reply

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