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AMD FX-6200 CPU Review: A Small Bulldozer Refresh

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Conclusion

The build up for Bulldozer was tremendous. There was a lot of excitement for the architecture from enthusiasts and journalists alike. Here was an architecture that was unique in how it handled multi-threading, and seemingly promised a great leap forward in performance as compared to previous generation parts. The idea of two integer execution units sharing a single front end with a flexible and wide SSE/AVX/FP unit backing them up seemed like a recipe for success. Unfortunately, the actual implementation did not live up to expectations. Bulldozer was heavily delayed due to both process issues and design issues which resulted in poor performance. I had heard rumors from partners that these products could not even surpass last generation’s 45 nm parts well before the release. Once we finally got to see these parts in action, the rumors were confirmed, and AMD had underperforming parts based on this new architecture.

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The two chips are nearly identical, but that is not surprising as they fit in the same socket.

The idea of the FX-6200 was initially an interesting one. Here was a 3 module/6 core part that was clocked 200 MHz faster than the high end FX-8150. Expectations were that this particular part would show some real improvements in single threaded applications due to its aggressive 4.1 GHz Turbo speed, and being able to handle multi-threaded applications up to 6 threads much faster than the FX-8150. With at least one module disabled, power and thermals should be improved over those other parts. Well, it seems that these ideas were pretty wrong. Performance did not see a jump, thermals remained the same at 125 watts, and the part just is not terribly compelling from a price/performance standpoint. I was honestly disappointed. I thought that this particular part would actually deliver on the promise of the Bulldozer architecture. I also thought that this would be a minor revision of Bulldozer that would show a nice uptick in performance and power. This is obviously not the case.

Now, am I saying that this part is not worth a user’s time? Well, that is debatable. AMD is winding down production on 45 nm parts, and there are fewer and fewer of these CPUs available as time goes by. The 45 nm Athlon II processors are essentially all gone except for a few models out in the channel. AMD has seemingly stopped all orders on the Phenom II X6 processors, and only the 1045 looks to be currently available. The Phenom II X4 parts are well represented and probably could be viewed as the best bang for the buck from AMD when considering performance, power, and capabilities. But as production of those parts winds down, we are left with the latest 32 nm products from AMD. For $169 the FX-6200 is not a bad part, but neither is it compelling. It can overclock, but performance is not all that much improved over the X6 1100T. Let us not mention that the X6 1100T overclocked to speeds ranging from 3.8 GHz to 4.0 GHz simply runs away from the FX-6200. Oh wait, I just mentioned that.

If I were looking for a processor that could be a fun project in the $160 range, then the FX-6200 is in the running. Being fully unlocked it does make for some easy and fun overclocking. It is also $50 less expensive than the i5 2500K, Intel’s cheapest fully unlocked processor. Combined with the savings that user’s typically find with AMD based motherboards vs. Intel’s, it can mean an extra $100 to spend on other components that could significantly improve a user’s experience without sacrificing features on the motherboard side.

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Only when we get to the back do we see the extra pins on the AM3+ part (right).

The chip can easily overclock. It is just unfortunate that even when overclocked it barely gets past the performance of many current processors at stock speeds. Still, free performance is free. It is just an interesting part, but not always in a good way.

I do not hate this processor. Neither do I love it though. The Bulldozer concept looked great on paper. Implementing it is another story altogether. A popular theory behind why the processor acts as it does is that AMD simply does not have the manpower to hand tune large portions of the chip. There is extensive use of automatic place and route of transistors on the software side, but I have heard it said that this results in a design that is about 20% slower and about 20% larger than a largely hand tuned design. When we start thinking of these numbers, we can look at the size of Bulldozer cores vs. that of the Intel i7/i5 series of parts. The Intel parts are smaller and have a much higher IPC, yet are still clocked aggressively to be the fastest performers on the block.

Will Trinity and Vishera fix this? I guess that depends on the definition of “fix”. I think that these upcoming products based on the Piledriver core will in fact improve the architecture and some of the performance issues that we saw with Bulldozer. There should be a lot more hand tuning going on with these designs, and I believe a lot of work will go into improving cache latencies, increasing L1 data cache sizes, and increasing the throughput of the decoders on each module. Will this make the Piledriver as fast (or at least competitive) as the upcoming Intel Ivy Bridge processors? Keep dreaming. I believe we will see a performance jump much like we saw with the original Phenom to the Phenom II. It will make it a more competitive part, but at least with Trinity AMD will be pushing the graphics portion more than the CPU. It will be better, but it will not match Intel’s Ivy Bridge in CPU performance.

So in the end is the FX-6200 worth it? Yes and no. It fits the price/performance envelope for a product in its category. It overclocks easily. It is still a 3.8 GHz product that has fair performance across the board. It does not abduct your family or set your house on fire. It just is simply not the budget performer that we were expecting or hoping for. Better luck next time.

 

April 4, 2012 | 10:52 PM - Posted by trent (not verified)

Thanks Ryan for doing this i bet it wasn't that easy to get because i don't thank amd sent these out for people to review. thanks for the review just wish there was at least one intel cpu i the line up. but good job and i know it would lose to probably a i3 too.

April 5, 2012 | 01:50 AM - Posted by jewie27 (not verified)

Ryan didn't write this...

April 5, 2012 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

He didn't say Ryan wrote this, he said Ryan did this, as in making the decision to review this CPU.

April 5, 2012 | 04:02 AM - Posted by Nilbog

Great article, Josh! Thanks.

Its sad to see that AMD just can't seem to catch a break on the processor side. I was really hoping that AMD would be able to push back with this part.(I like to root for the little guy)
I also have to agree that it is pathetic that they cant beat out previous generations, even with a decent overclock. Those were the strangest results to me. If the new processors can't beat out previous generations, maybe don't release it.
If Trinity still can't beat out the X6 I'm going to suggest that they just give up on processors. Or re-release the Phenoms on the smaller process.

April 5, 2012 | 06:46 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Thanks Nil!

Yeah, I wonder what it would take to redo the Phenom IIs at 32 nm. Probably not really worth the effort since Bulldozer is in full production, and is finally yielding good enough to meet demand. Plus Piledriver is almost out.

On the positive side (at least we hope it will be positive), Trinity will be displayed to journalists next week, and I would imagine (though I don't know the timeline) that we will see initial reviews within a month or so. Definitely before Computex. The rumor is that desktop Trinity will be released after that time on the new(ish) FM2 platform.

Vishera is a big question mark as well. I have no clue on that particular timeline... but sooner would be better...

April 5, 2012 | 10:09 AM - Posted by Nilbog

I think it maybe worth it to redo the Phenoms. Judging by benchmarks by everyone, the Phenom architecture looks to be much more promising than what Bulldozer has to provide, and possibly more flexible. Also a die shrink would provide improved thermals, possibly more OC headroom, ect. I think like Intel, AMD needs a kind of fallback architecture similar to the Pentiums. You know something tried and true, so to speak. It maybe worth it.

I appreciate that AMD is trying to rethink everything we know about processors, and innovate again with new ideas like Bulldozer.
On the other hand if the new parts you were betting on aren't up to par, maybe they should think about re-releasing successful architectures, ALONG with the new ones.
I can't help but think of Bulldozer as a beta type architecture, maybe even alpha.

I have not heard of Vishera, is that another entirely new architecture or based off Bulldozer or Piledriver?

April 5, 2012 | 11:38 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Vishera is the AM3+ version of Piledriver. It will give up the integrated graphics portion and likely add L3 cache (Trinity does not have a L3).

June 1, 2012 | 09:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The 6100 and 6200 are six cores like the top phenom II's but they were not made to replace them and debuted at much lower cost that the Phenom six cores. They are one of the budget bulldozers (along with the FX 4XXX). Both do however now have higher passmark scores, and they are GREAT buys for the price.

April 5, 2012 | 05:53 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

Hey Josh, great review. I think the Euler 3D tests show quite clearly that in certain workloads the Bulldozer modules are simply choked when both cores/module are used. It probably is the scheduler and the FPU that probably are the main bottlenecks, though the high cache latency can't help. It seems the long integer pipe and the high clocks aren't the performance hindrance one may have thought (P4 style)

I'm not very sure the automatic design has anything to do with the lack of performance. Say the routing is 20% larger - this would reflect in die surface - so less profits and more power consumption, but the performance hit would be indirect at best. 20% less performance - this is debatable - I really doubt it means 20% less performance per clock. It probably means some level of common mode or crosstalk that the automatic routing can't detect but an engineer could given enough time - and this probably is translated in 20% less frequency headroom due to parasitic coupling or the chip hits the power ceiling at lower clocks. I just can't see how an under-performing FPU can be blamed on automatic routing tools unless their internal CPU simulators are rubbish (which can be blamed on being under-staffed).

So to conclude my little analysis I would say that even using manual routing the CPU would still have flopped due to starved cores, undersized schedulers and FPU, these are all design decisions. They may have reached 4GHz@95W on all cores, but performance per clock couldn't have been much different.

Can't wait for the Piledriver core, hope it gives the same boost as Deneb over Barcelona.

April 5, 2012 | 06:43 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Good points. I was just sorta going off that conversation another site had with an ex-AMDer who spoke up about the use of automation at AMD for processor design. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of "20% slower" not so much in clockspeed, but in IPC terms. I know that seems somewhat nebulous (and it really is), but when looking at these results... this is really pretty extreme. The FX series are disappointing. Seemingly a poor use of die space and transistor counts to achieve performance that is similar (in pretty much all ways) to the previous generation.

The one thing that I can't really get over is the fact that the Bobcat architecture came out so good. It really was a tremendous product for AMD in 2011. For Bulldozer to come out this way... that just seems really odd.

April 5, 2012 | 08:21 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

IT seems that AMD is where Intel was with its P4.

Bulldozer underperforming and overpowered (Watts) just as was the P4. Then Intel looked back at the architecture that worked the, p3, and the rest is history.

Now if AMD can look at their Bobcat architecture and see what it can do on the destkop side.. (ok wishing)... but it seems that history is repeating it self. I personaly would hope that AMD looked back at the Bobcat and not the Phenom II.

Still as you mentioned the chance is next to none since their production is in full swing with the Bulldozer and soon to be Piledriver. Even if then cam get a Sandy Bridge performance out of the Piledriver, I would then stick in the AMD camp.

However some "leaked" Trinity benchmarks are not that promissing. Still as Trinity is L3 deprived, there is still hope that Piledriver AM3+ CPU's can still bring something useful to the consumer table.

In the end, you and the entire PC Per team is amazing. Can't wait for the next Podcast (and here is to wishing that it gets a tad longer) ... Don't go there Josh :P

April 5, 2012 | 08:34 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Yes, it certainly is interesting to see that AMD is at nearly the same place as Intel was with the jump from Northwood to Prescott. Double the complexity, no real improvement in performance, thermals were not real good, and they were harder to make. It took a while for Intel to fix those things, I'm hoping it won't take AMD nearly as long.

Longer podcasts... you mean 1.5 hours of our drivel isn't enough? Yes, I went there...

April 6, 2012 | 04:00 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

No... not long enough ... lol....

April 5, 2012 | 04:21 PM - Posted by campdude (not verified)

I'm looking forward more so for "steamroller" for the AM3+ platform. Not official yet but possible.

April 5, 2012 | 04:57 PM - Posted by renosablast (not verified)

A lot of AMD forums talk about heat issues with these processors. One thing missing in the above review is its performance with a higer-end cooler installed. Some of the forum participants were able to significantly improve the performance and mitigate some of the increased power consumption via improved cooling of the CPU versus the stock cooler.

April 5, 2012 | 07:16 PM - Posted by Prestaeus (not verified)

I just wish you guys wouldn't trash AMD when they come out with parts that are comparable to Intel at the same price point. I know we all want AMD to really outperform Intel, but then we can't go badmouthing their products when they don't excel, but "merely" deliver.

I don't buy AMD because they are better than Intel, though I wish they were. I buy AMD because I know I'm getting a decent part and it specifically isn't an Intel part. My dislike of Intel goes back to the Pentium 90 I owned that couldn't even do math, we were later to find out. At the time I was fresh into college and my dad paid over $2000 for the total unit when these days thanks the AMD competing with Intel I can make a decent high end desktop at half that price.

Rooting for the underdog means you balance your expectations while understanding that they are an underdog and if they can get a decent part out then you congratulate them for keeping the big dog's nose to the grindstone. While Bulldozer is not stellar, it does compete more or less in it's price point. Bombing their products like this could cost them the place they hold in the market at the moment...

Excuse my negativity please, I am really hoping AMD stays in the market and worried that they may end up doing something else.

April 5, 2012 | 07:26 PM - Posted by Dream76 (not verified)

That is so true Prestaeus, only because if you install and new computer AMD or Intel parts your are going to have a speedy machine. That is light-years ahead of last gen. If it plays the games you want it to play or encode faster than your last rig, then you did alright! Modern CPUs are great at multitasking so you can do more than one thing at a time. Ive seen AMD products that were playing HD podcast, and encoding Blurays. Also while surfing the web, just as good as my i5. So I don't see any issues with today AMDs products...

April 5, 2012 | 08:10 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Don't get my wrong, I am rooting for AMD as well. Not because I am somehow in love with the company, but rather I feel we need a decent company that can stand (mostly) toe to toe with Intel. I remember back in the mid 90s that Intel's roadmap was amazingly conservative. They were planning in the 1998/99 timeframe of having a Katmai type processor running at 400 MHz max. AMD came along with the Athlon and suddenly we were pushing 800 MHz to 1 GHz in that time frame with much more aggressive parts (and pricing) from Intel.

My analysis and final determination of the product is based on the following factors. The FX-6200 is being offered at around the same price as the 1100T was when it was EOL. So, consumers are getting lower performance for the price as compared to last gen products. The die size of Bulldozer is approximately 315 mm square, which is not far from the 346 mm square of the 1100T. This is for a processor that is based on the 32 nm HKMG/SOI process, and not the older 45 nm that the 1100T is on. A full node die shrink is around 45%, so on 32 nm the 1100T would take up approximately 190 mm square. Bulldozer is obviously much bigger and more complex than that, but performs worse. Finally, the only time the FX-6200 really overcomes the 1100T is when overclocked to 4.5 GHz. At that point the FX product pulls 104 more watts at the wall than the 1100T it barely outpaces.

I want AMD to succeed. I do not expect them to pull a rabbit out of their hat with each generation of product, but I do at least expect them to be relatively competitive with what Intel has. The Phenom II was pretty comparable to what Intel had with the Core 2 Quad series and the later Nehalem based processors. They were very competitive (if not at an advantage to Intel) in price/performance. But Intel moved on with Sandy Bridge, and now the upcoming Ivy Bridge. AMD has frankly been stagnant in what it offers. So, while at $169 the FX-6200 is not a bad processor, when we compare it to the i3 and i5 processors in that price range, it just does not stack up in performance or power consumption. Also, going back to die size, the FX-6200 and FX-4170 dwarf the smaller, cooler, and more efficient Intel products. That is not good for AMD, and it is certainly not good for customers.

So, my point was not to be mean to AMD, or unjustly punish them. My point is that the truth of how it performs and what kind of tradeoffs AMD had to make to get these to market needed to be spotlighted. Yes, we now have more power in our computers that we barely tap into most of the time, but that does not give either AMD or Intel the right to just sell us any old dog. All technology moves forward, and in this case AMD essentially took a step backwards.

I am thinking that this is not news to AMD. The reason why we have seen so few FX based reviews past the original FX-8150 is because AMD just stopped sampling CPUs for review. We had to purchase this CPU ourselves to get the review out. AMD is not pushing AM3+ products, and they are saving their budget and energy for the upcoming Trinity. After next year, there will not be a standalone CPU type socket for AMD, it will all go to APU type products from here on out. AM3+ will get a Piledriver based update, but then it will be phased out next year.

AMD is in trouble, but its troubles are far more than little old me giving the FX-6200 an honest review.

May 27, 2012 | 06:29 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

but they arent as good at doing it as the i5 - they're using more power to do it.

April 5, 2012 | 07:16 PM - Posted by Dream76 (not verified)

Josh one day I will meet you irl and I will rub your bald head, and not in a gay way either... sorry

April 5, 2012 | 08:13 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I will be on the lookout for random head rubbers (not in a gay way).

April 5, 2012 | 08:09 PM - Posted by btdog

Excellent article, Josh! I had high hopes for this CPU, so I am a little disappointed with it's performance (I really thought the higher clock speed would give it an edge).

I had originally planned on making a budget computer with this proc at the center of it. Now I need to re-think my plan of action. I wanted to use AMD (not b/c I'm a fanboy, but because I fear AMD won't be making CPUs much longer if they don't get some support from the computer community). I may still make the 6200 the proc, but use it as a learning experience for OCing (something I've never done).

Love the podcast - keep up the great work.

April 5, 2012 | 08:15 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

The FX-6200 is not a terrible choice, and if you want to learn how to overclock it is a lot of fun that way.

I agree with you, AMD needs support and people buying their products. I'm hoping Vishera is a bigger leap forward for the company than what I am fearing will actually happen.

April 6, 2012 | 08:58 AM - Posted by btdog

I meant to ask previously...how were the temps, especially when you OC'd? Is the beefier CPU cooler sufficient or should I go with an after market cooler?

Thanks!

April 6, 2012 | 10:01 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

You know, even when overclocked the temps never really got above 50C. I use an older, but still really beefy, 80 mm unit from Thermalright. XP-80 I think? Regular temps were high 30s to mid 40s otherwise.

I would imagine the regular CPU cooler they include will be sufficient. If you really want to push the raggedy edge, then obviously something more expensive is going to be needed.

April 6, 2012 | 12:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I got to see an engineering sample of Trinity APU. The one I saw will represent the desktop A10-5800K model.

Compared to the A8-3870K, the Piledriver-based Trinity needs to be 800Mhz faster in order to just edge out against the Llano based APU.

Clock-for-clock, the K10.5-based Llano APU is better.

It appears AMD didn't really address the fundamental issues with the Bulldozer design in Piledriver. What they did was implement "clock mesh" in order to reduce the power footprint, so that they can aggressively clock up the speeds. (To compensate for the poor clock-for-clock performance!) ...AMD's Bulldozer is analogus to Intel's Pentium 4 in this regard.

On the iGPU side...
Trinity's IGP performance = Llano's IGP + discrete GPU in hybrid Crossfire.

The IGP side is much better. Its a pity the CPU side is still underwhelming.

I don't expect AMD to fix things until at least 2014 or 2015. (More likely the latter.)

I'm going to invest in Intel's Ivy Bridge (haven't upgraded since 2005!), and slap on a mid-range Geforce or Radeon GPU. The Intel IGP will be used if the video card dies! :)

April 6, 2012 | 12:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Forgot to add...

I checked AMD's financials. The only thing keeping this company alive is the success of their APU lines. OEMs can't get enough of them!

Bulldozer (FX or Opteron versions) didn't make any serious money for AMD.

April 9, 2012 | 08:04 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Well, at least in the case of Trinity vs. Llano, IPC is not the primary goal I think. The push is obviously better performance per watt. So, if they have improved Piledriver to a decent degree over Bulldozer, and have been able to decrease TDP per clock, then it could still end up being decent.

I saw some benchmarks and it looked like the Trinity product clocked at 3.8 GHz (dual module) was around 15% faster than the 2.9 GHz Llano. So, a 45% increase in clockspeed nets 15% performance increase. At first glance that does seem unappealing. Then again, when we see that 15% base CPU performance increase will likely come with a 35% to 50% increase in graphics performance, then things start looking a little better. Plus all of this is within the same 95w to 100w TDP.

If those numbers hold up, then it will be a nice improvement for AMD on both the CPU and GPU side of the APU as a whole. Sure, we could wish for a greater improvement in IPC then what we are getting, but the design allows for TDPs down to 17w. That is going to be very good for notebooks and ultra-thins.

March 11, 2014 | 03:36 PM - Posted by شارژ مستقیم ایرانسل (not verified)

Awesome blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I'm hoping to start my own website soon but I'm a little lost on everything.
Would you advise starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option?
There are so many choices out there that I'm completely overwhelmed ..
Any tips? Cheers!

April 8, 2012 | 06:05 PM - Posted by Brett from Oz (not verified)

Very good article Josh and it is indeed dissapointing that the FX series of CPU's cannot match or surpass the Phenom II's in your testing. There does however appear to be plenty of headroom for overclocking which can't all be bad. Vishera series not due until Q3 2012.

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