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Review: AMD Bulldozer FX-8150

by Tarinder Sandhu on 12 October 2011, 05:00 3.0


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What we think

We've waited a long time for AMD to release a next-generation CPU architecture to take the place of the venerable Athlon and Phenom chips. Eight years on from the first Athlons, the grounds-up Bulldozer microarchitecture is now ready to roll. You'll know it as the FX line.

Initially built as CPU-only processors on a 32nm process - no integrated graphics at the outset - FX chips use a modular approach, where two cores and L1/L2 cache is contained within each module. But optimising for space means each core isn't fully independent; they share front-end and FP resources with one another. Modules can be joined to create four-, six-, and eight-core Bulldozer chips, and all have access to 8MB of L3 cache, controlled by the northbridge.

Improved power regulation and Turbo CORE functions along with a modern instruction-set means FX chips take a leaf out of Intel's Sandy Bridge playbook, and high launch frequencies - 3.6GHz for the eight-core FX-8150 - make Bulldozer teasingly attractive on paper.

But the devil is in the details. The FX is a balancing act, giving up genuine per-core processing, present on Phenom II, and, due to architecture decisions, FX, in many cases, reduces just how much work can be accomplished by each core. Take into account non-independent cores and a lower IPC and there exist situations where the eight-core FX-8150 (£190) is taken to task by the six-core 1100T (£140): something you wouldn't expect.

And while AMD, across a range of old and new applications, can claim solid performance with the FX, Intel's incumbent Sandy Bridge processors remain a more elegant solution. They're strong in every area, offer 'free' integrated graphics and have considerably better power-draw credentials to boot, thus making a compelling, persuasive argument as the mainstream/premium chips of choice.

AMD's gone down a path with Bulldozer from which there is no turning back, so while there's nothing intrinsically horrible with the FX line of chips, given the price, we feel as if the balancing act of die size, modules, cores, speeds, IPC and power-draw - the facets that define a modern processor - aren't nearly as impressive as we'd hoped for. This line of thinking is underscored by genuinely sub-par performance in older apps.

We think Bulldozer will improve as updated benchmarks and compilers begin extracting more performance from the architecture. Honestly, though, that's a dangerous argument on which to base a current purchasing decision. We'd recommend readers carefully weigh up all the options before laying down cold, hard cash.

The Good

Modern design, elegant modular architecture
Attractive pricing
AM3+ socket is backwards compatible

The Bad

Not as fast as Thuban (1100T) in light-load apps
Under-load power-draw not ideal
Arguably still behind Intel's SB as an all-round chip

HEXUS Rating

AMD FX-8150 (Bulldozer) CPU

HEXUS Where2Buy


HEXUS Right2Reply

At HEXUS, we invite the companies whose products we test to comment on our articles. If any company representatives for the products reviewed choose to respond, we'll publish their commentary here verbatim.

HEXUS Forums :: 91 Comments

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bugger :(
Hexus and Bit-tech both giving around 60%. SB it is then, sorry AMD but I want the best performance for my money. Possibly in 6-12 months we'll find that BD is competitive, but right now it isn't.
This looks like a very positive move by AMD. If they continue to improve their product as they have done so, it only takes one stumble from Intel and they'll be back in there. I'm not going to get hung up on comparing vs Intel, because AMD are in the right ball park, and have released the first OctaCore porcessor which is competitive with i7 first gen, not SandyBridge.

I feel somewhat relieved with my 2 SandyCrack rigs now, but am eagerly looking forward to seeing how this pans out - after all, this is the first gen, and intels First Gen were the 860's and 920's - depends on how far down the line AMD are with their successor.

HEXUS: Please can we have some folding performance figures as well as overclocking?

This is the first in a line of CPU releases from AMD. While disappointing, the subsequent releases and their potential for overclocking could well give AMD an advantage in the non-extreme CPU market. I mean - a £100 chip that overclocks well could very well succeed in the market - please remember folks, that these are launch day prices, and that there is much more to come…. While the top of the pile may not trade blows quite as succesfully as some might like with Intels latest and greatest, there will be others and most of the Intel chips CANNOT be overclocked significantly….
Looks like il be sticking with my phenom for a while
i can't stop picturing a stage with loads of fireworks and band music building up to a big reveal, only for the curtain to part and a loan man be stood there with a trumpet, who plays that wam-wooooowm sound of disappointment

it was kind of inevitable though, intel just have far too much experience and skill in building processors, while AMD have been doing the “even if it's broke let's not fix it” routine