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
Release Date April
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
$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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  • NeatOman - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    I have a FX-8320 @4.5Ghz, and never goes over 75c. I got it because it was $215 for both the CPU and a very good motherboard, and paired it with two HD 7850's. With that said, an overclocked i5@4.4Ghz is better then anything AMD can do over clocked even @5Ghz (for the most part) and at times far out classes it. But, an i5 and good motherboard will cost about $350 and $400+ for i7.. Almost twice. FYI, I live in Illinois and the electricity here is very very cheap.
  • colinstu - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    a $300+ AMD chip?! LOL. Who the heck would buy this? It's not efficient, it's definitely not fast compared to $100 cheaper intel offerings (or similarly priced offerings in some of the other benches).
  • swizeus - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Second your opinion... It has been 3rd generation (or more ?) since FX gone out the door and AMD should have a solution to at least match Intel's performance by now, but why this ? It is pointless to have a power hungry beast that lost in the match with a processor that is halved in TDP in an Unzipping archive operation, not to mention electricity bill and the noise to cool down 220Watt TDP Processor... Not worth it
  • RussianSensation - Sunday, August 10, 2014 - link

    The amount of generations or the time span doesn't have any correlation with AMD catching up. Take an i7 4790K and manufacture it in 28-32nm node and see how awful it is. In other words, unless AMD can manufacture chips on the same node as Intel, it has no chance of competing whatsoever even if by magic their CPUs had identical IPC and clocks to Intel's. The delta in performance and performance/watt will only grow once Intel launches Skylake on 14nm next year.
  • Budburnicus - Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - link

    Umm a 4790K even at 32nm would still spank this chip across the board. How "awful" indeed...

    I mean forget the 4790K for a second, the 2600K at STOCK will beat this CPU out in nearly everything. and basically any i7-2600k on any board that supports overclocking WILL easily hit 4.2-4.4 - hell I had mine at 4.4 with a STOCK POS Intel Heatsink (POS in terms of its ability to cool, it is actually more than effective enough with how little heat the CPUs generate) - And at those speeds the 2600K beats out any and every AMD consumer CPU at almost everything, and what few benchmarks it will be behind in, it will not be by too much. And those benchmarks would include only VERY highly multithreaded applications of computational power - basically, server-type stuff. Certainly not in gaming!

    Then there's the NEWER Intel CPUs like the i7-5930K (which I also own) which aren't too much more expensive than this flop, and will beat it out in absolutely anything and everything - at stock clocks again! With the exact same CoolerMaster Hyper 212 EVO I have on my i7-2600K machine (AWESOME cooler for the money, though I will probably replace the one currently on the 5930, as it does not provide the maximum OC headroom possible like it does on my 2600 machine) - with dual fans, I have all cores running totally stable at 4.4 GHz with 105.7 Bclock!

    AMD really needs to dump this architecture for the consumer class entirely (though I admittedly am not too familiar with Server-class CPU benchmarks, from what I have read the newer Intel Xeon are spanking the current Opterons, but IIRC they still represent good value for money in the high end workstation and server classes - though Enthusiasts generally seem to stick with the Xeons as they like to be able to game at insane speeds and resolutions as well as do encoding, editing, CAD, etc. As I have seen quite a few "ULTIMATE Rig builds" where money is no issue, by people like NCIX, Linus Tech tips, PCper, and others on YouTube, but I have yet to see an ultimate Opteron machine)

    So, yeah... All that speaks volumes to people who look at information objectively and without bias. IF AMD were to come out with a new chip tomorrow which not only spanked everything Intel has ever made, but also made it cheap like the original SandyBridge parts - and therefore changed the game, DAMNED right I would be coveting a brand new AMD rig, and would likely sell off my 2600K machine, despite my deep love for it (and the fact that it games slightly better than the 5930 due to higher core speeds by a decent bit) to try to fund such a build ASAP!

    But as it is? You would have to be a blind fanboy to buy a CPU like this for a brand new build, as it does not perform well and eats power like crazy, requiring AMD to bundle a friggen AIO water-block with it! And even with the best of the best, it will BARELY overclock! So the stock speed benchmarks will never be too far from a sustainable, stable, overclock - a FAR different story from the i5-i7 2000-5000 K series CPUs - as I said, a pretty average overclock on an i7-2600K is 4.2 GHz, a full 1 GHz above stock speeds, as the 3.8 GHz turbo only works when a single core is under load, and even then it will still beat out tthis 5950 in most ways!
  • lurker22 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    Is AMD even trying anymore? That power draw is PATHETIC in the year 2014
  • xdrol - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    I think the fact that this very processor is still 'the' flagship shows that no, they are not even trying.
  • TiGr1982 - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    No, they actually don't. This is just cherry-picked and overclocked FX-8350 from October 2012 with all the associated power draw and heat growing superlinearly because of the much higher operating voltage.

    However, AMD does develop their CPU side of the business, but since Kaveri this January the results go only into APUs (same will happen with Carrizo coming next year).

    AMD APUs are actually very fine in their class, they are just in a shy situation regarding these factory overclocked 220W FXes. The rest of their lineup is fine.
  • StrangerGuy - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    300W alone for a CPU, holy mother of god. An entire Haswell gaming rig with 750 Ti would probably draw less power.

    BTW $250 is insane for any motherboard let alone an AMD one. That's an i5 4590 and a budget mobo right there already.
  • Daniel Egger - Saturday, August 9, 2014 - link

    > 300W alone for a CPU, holy mother of god. An entire Haswell gaming rig with 750 Ti would probably draw less power.

    Don't know where you got that 300W from but yes, a decent Haswell system with 750 TI will not just probably but definitely draw less power than 300W. Mine takes around 35W idle and up to 120W in games.

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