The Bulldozer Review: AMD FX-8150 Testedby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 12, 2011 1:27 AM EST
AMD clearly states in its reviewer's guide that CPU bound gaming performance isn't going to be a strong point of the FX architecture, likely due to its poor single threaded performance. However it is useful to look at both CPU and GPU bound scenarios to paint an accurate picture of how well a CPU handles game workloads, as well as what sort of performance you can expect in present day titles.
Civ V's lateGameView benchmark presents us with two separate scores: average frame rate for the entire test as well as a no-render score that only looks at CPU performance.
While we're GPU bound in the full render score, AMD's platform appears to have a bit of an advantage here. We've seen this in the past where one platform will hold an advantage over another in a GPU bound scenario and it's always tough to explain. Within each family however there is no advantage to a faster CPU, everything is just GPU bound.
Looking at the no render score, the CPU standings are pretty much as we'd expect. The FX-8150 is thankfully a bit faster than its predecessors, but it still falls behind Sandy Bridge.
In CPU bound environments in Crysis Warhead, the FX-8150 is actually slower than the old Phenom II. Sandy Bridge continues to be far ahead.
Dawn of War II
We see similar results under Dawn of War II. Lightly threaded performance is simply not a strength of AMD's FX series, and as a result even the old Phenom II X6 pulls ahead.
We ran two DiRT 3 benchmarks to get an idea for CPU bound and GPU bound performance. First the CPU bound settings:
The FX-8150 doesn't do so well here, again falling behind the Phenom IIs. Under more real world GPU bound settings however, Bulldozer looks just fine:
Dragon Age is another CPU bound title, here the FX-8150 falls behind once again.
Metro 2033 is pretty rough even at lower resolutions, but with more of a GPU bottleneck the FX-8150 equals the performance of the 2500K:
While id's long awaited Rage title doesn't exactly have the best benchmarking abilities, there is one unique aspect of the game that we can test: Megatexture. Megatexture works by dynamically taking texture data from disk and constructing texture tiles for the engine to use, a major component for allowing id's developers to uniquely texture the game world. However because of the heavy use of unique textures (id says the original game assets are over 1TB), id needed to get creative on compressing the game's textures to make them fit within the roughly 20GB the game was allotted.
The result is that Rage doesn't store textures in a GPU-usable format such as DXTC/S3TC, instead storing them in an even more compressed format (JPEG XR) as S3TC maxes out at a 6:1 compression ratio. As a consequence whenever you load a texture, Rage needs to transcode the texture from its storage codec to S3TC on the fly. This is a constant process throughout the entire game and this transcoding is a significant burden on the CPU.
The Benchmark: vt_benchmark flushes the transcoded texture cache and then times how long it takes to transcode all the textures needed for the current scene, from 1 thread to X threads. Thus when you run vt_benchmark 8, for example, it will benchmark from 1 to 8 threads (the default appears to depend on the CPU you have). Since transcoding is done by the CPU this is a pure CPU benchmark. I present the best case transcode time at the maximum number of concurrent threads each CPU can handle:
The FX-8150 does very well here, but so does the Phenom II X6 1100T. Both are faster than Intel's 2500K, but not quite as good as the 2600K. If you want to see how performance scales with thread count, check out the chart below:
Starcraft 2 has traditionally done very well on Intel architectures and Bulldozer is no exception to that rule.
World of Warcraft
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B3an - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkYep this really is extremely disappointing. I'm actually going to call this AMD's Pentium 4. Thats how bad this is.
2 billion transistors - thats a massive increase over the Phenom II X6 and what do we get? Nothing. The Phenom II is atleast as good with WAY less transistors and lower power consumption under load. I'm pretty shocked at how bad Bulldozer is. I wasn't expecting performance clock for clock to be as good as Nehalem, let alone Sandy Bridge, but this is just... appalling. When Ivy Bridge is out the performance difference is going to be MASSIVE.
Intel are surely going to implement more restrictions and hold there clocks speeds back even further. Theres just no competition anymore. Sad day for consumers.
bennyg - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkAMD's Prescott to be exact... ironically that's one thing they seemed to shoot for in deepening pipeline and hoping that process would be better... hopefully this is just immature and soon there will be a GF110-style refresh that does it properly...
Otherwise the whole next gen of AMD CPUs will continue to fight for scraps at the bottom of the heap... and their laptop CPUs will not even succeed there.
TekDemon - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkI don't even know if it's just the process since those power consumption figures seem to suggest that they're being limited by the sheer amount of power it's using and the heat being generated from that. Intel had planned to take the P4 to 10Ghz but the fact that it was a power hog prevented that from realistically happening and it seems like you have the same issue here. The clockspeed potential is clearly there since it can hit 7Ghz under liquid nitrogen but for a normal air heatsink setup this is a recipe for failure. It's just way too power hungry and not fast enough to justify it. Why would anybody choose to use an extra 100 watts for largely the same or worse performance vs an i5 2500K?
Thermalzeal - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkI agree, 2 billion transistors are doing what exactly?
The worst thing is that the water cooler isn't included with the FX-8150. At the performance levels they are providing, they should have just upped the price 30-50 bucks and provided the cooler gratis. Who's gonna need an AMD branded cooler if their not going to buy bulldozer?
The other point of these review is that there is no availability of any of the parts. So what a wonderful paper launch we have here. Seems like AMD isn't betting on anyone being interested enough to buy one of these things.
eanazag - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkYou can find them on Newegg today. The price is jacked up though. Newegg must not read AT.
jleach1 - Friday, October 21, 2011 - linkSigh...it's quite sad. There must be actual people buying these...either that or the supply is terrible. Because there's no way in hell i'd pay those prices for an AMD processor.
defacer - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkLike most people here, I 'm disappointed with BD performance -- even though I have never owned an AMD CPU after my 386DX/40 myself, competition in the performance segment would be nice for a change.
I won't argue against "it's not 8 core", but calling it a 4-core is IMHO just as inappropriate (if not more).
yankeeDDL - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkOk, how about 4 modules, with 8 integer EU, 4 fetch, 4 decode, 4 L2 caches ...
Point being, they are 4 modules, not 8 cores, and from many aspects, they are more similar to a 4-core CPU than to an 8-core CPU, being neither one (somewhere in between).
The fact of the matter remains: the IPC is bad. In multi-threaded, Integer-intensive tasks, BD should crunch the PhenomII X6 (2 more cores, higher clock speed), but it seems you can hardly see the difference. (ref: Excel 2007 SP! MonteCarlo sims).
AMD now is left with Llano as the only compelling reason to buy AMD over Intel (for netbooks and small notebooks, where Atom is the contender).
Against Core, either the FX-8150 goes down to $200 or less, or the i5-2500 is just a better buy for the money.
The advantage is I don't need a new MoBo (huge advantage for me, but not very compelling, in general).
yankeeDDL - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkForgot to mention, regarding the integer-intensive test: the core-i5 is slower by about 9% slower with 9% slower clock, but only 4 execution units (8 logical, with hyperthreading, but hyperthreading should be nearly irrelevant in this test).
What a blow.
Ratman6161 - Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - linkWe can argue about weather its really a 4 core or an 8 core, and the argument is interesting from a technical standpoint. But the proof is in the real world benchmarks. From a practical standpoint, if the benchmarks are not there (and they aren't) then the rest really doesn't matter.
I looked on Microcenter where you can get a 2600K for $279 and a 2500K for $179. An i5-2400 is only $149. So AMD is going to be right back to having to cut prices and have its top end CPU go up against $149 - $179 Intel parts. Worse yet, it will, at least initially, be competing against its own previous generation parts.
There is one point of interest though and that is the fact that all the FX's are unlocked (according to the story). So it's pretty likely that an FX 8100 will probably overclock about as high as an 8150 once the process is mature. But there again, among overclockers, AMD could find its highest end 8150 competing against its own lower priced 8100.
Back in the day, I loved my Athlon 64's and 64 x2's and even though I have switched to an Intel Q6600 and then a 2600K, I still really want AMD to succeed...but its not looking good.