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AMD FX-6200 CPU Review: A Small Bulldozer Refresh

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

More MHz for the Masses

AMD has had a rough time of it lately when it comes to CPUs. Early last year when we saw the performance of the low power Bobcat architecture, we thought 2011 would be a breakout year for AMD. Bulldozer was on the horizon and it promised performance a step above what Intel could offer. This harkened back to the heady days of the original Athlon and Athlon 64 where AMD held a performance advantage over all of Intel’s parts. On the graphics side AMD had just released the 6000 series of chips, all of which came close in performance to NVIDIA’s Fermi architecture, but had a decided advantage in terms of die size and power consumption. Then the doubts started to roll in around the April timeframe. Whispers hinted that Bulldozer was delayed, and not only was it delayed it was not meeting performance expectations.

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The introduction of the first Llano products did not help things. The “improved” CPU performance was less than expected, even though the GPU portion was class leading. The manufacturing issues we saw with Llano did not bode well for AMD or the upcoming Bulldozer products. GLOBALFOUNDRIES was simply not able to achieve good yields on these new 32 nm products. Then of course the hammer struck. Bulldozer was released, well behind schedule, and with performance that barely rose above that of the previous Phenom II series of chips. The top end FX-8150 was competitive with the previous Phenom II X6 1100T, but it paled in comparison to the Intel i7 2600 which was right around the same price range.

Read the entire review here.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for many users was the launch of the FX-6100. This chip originally sparked a lot of interest as it was a 3 module/6 core product with a 95 watt TDP for under $200 that promised to be something of a budget enthusiast’s dream. When performance figures came out, the chip did not hold up to the lofty expectations held by users. At a stock 3.3 GHz, it was simply outclassed by products such as the i5 2500 and 2500K variants, which were again in the same price range. Even though the processor had a maximum Turbo Core of 3.9 GHz, it just could not keep up in most applications with the smaller and less power hungry Intel Sandy Bridge based products.

Hope springs eternal though, and when news leaked out that AMD would be introducing refreshes for the FX-4000 and FX-6000 chips people were expecting there to be an improvement in thermals and perhaps even a minor revision update to the design. The chatter turned to potential per clock improvements, better overclocking headroom, and a couple of products under $200 that could hold their own against Intel’s mighty Sandy Bridge. Then the actual details came out. These chips were of the same revision as the previous parts, and the speed increase they saw was due to the TDP ceiling being raised from 95 watts up to 125 watts. Still, there was hope that these products could more than hold its own against the i3 and i5 in the same price range. Does the FX-6200 succeed? I guess we are about to find out.

The FX-6200

Ryan and I have covered the Bulldozer architecture in previous articles, so I will not go over the finer details here. I will discuss some of the basics of the chip and the architecture.

The FX-6200 is based off of the same Bulldozer revision as the previous FX series of parts that was released last October. There may have been some minor changes along the way, but they would have more to do with manufacturing rather than any kind of base silicon or extreme metal layer change. The product is still built by GLOBALFOUNDRIES on their 32 nm HKMG SOI process. The chip is a native 4 module/8 core product, but one of the modules has been fused off and is unavailable for unlocking. This leaves 3 modules/6 cores for the processor to work with. Each module features 2 MB of L2 cache to be shared between the two integer units and the single FPU/MMX/SSE/AVX unit, for a total of 6 MB of L2 for the entire CPU. The L3 features the full 8 MB of cache that is available on fully enabled CPUs.

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The full meal deal of a retail/boxed processor.  The 3 year warranty and heatsink/fan are likely worth it to most users.

The base clock is now set at 3.8 GHz, which is faster than the 3.6 GHz stock clock for the FX-8150. To achieve this clock AMD raised the TDP to 125 watts, which is up from the 95 watts of the FX-6100. The max Turbo Core speed of the FX-6200 is 4.1 GHz. AMD did raise the Northbridge/L3 cache speed on the FX-6200, and it runs at 2.2 GHz rather than the 2.0 GHz that the FX-6100 was set to. The memory controller is heavily revised from the previous Phenom II generation of parts, and it can handle official speeds up to DDR-3 1866 MHz.

The retail package comes with a pretty hefty heatsink and fan combination that should be able to handle the extra thermal load that the 125 watt CPU provides. The CPU has a standard 3 year warranty for the boxed version, while a tray chip has a 30 day warranty. The boxed product retails for $169 US, but can often be found cheaper with instant rebates and sales.

The FX processors are all unlocked so it makes them very easy to overclock. Most retail motherboards cover all of the settings needed to increase the multipliers on the CPU and overclock the chip. Success of any overclock is not guaranteed and the choice of motherboard will also directly affect the ability of the chip to reach higher speeds.

 

April 9, 2012 | 11:09 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Thanks for reading. This was one of those articles that seemed to flow out pretty easily. The results were fascinating for me when I was running all of the tests. I finally was able to grasp where some of the bottlenecks were for Bulldozer and what some of its issues are.

The CPU can clock quite nicely. It was dead simple for me to go to 4.5 GHz with a small voltage increase. I do have good cooling on it, and I probably should jump it up a few notches to see where it peters out. Those are some seriously leaky transistors though.

April 11, 2012 | 03:03 PM - Posted by BaronMatix (not verified)

I think we need to step back and really look at Bulldozer. Intel made a real mess with AVX and FMAC jumping back and forth from three to four operands. Also, I just bought an Opteron 6234 (12 core 2.4GHz) and I had to turn off AVX because it isn't supported by HyperV. If it had come out sooner it would be even worse.

But when you use AVX or XOP, you get MUCH better numbers so it just looks like Intel played fast and loose so AMD would have an incomplete ISA for Win7. It may even take until PD and Win8 to get "real" numbers where the OS is optimized for the CPU.

Bulldozer has things like core parking for Win8 and Win7 doesn't understand the module because it's NOT HyperThreading.

I'm really PO'd that no one is using FMAC yet because Intel changed it several times. It's a shame when a company acts like they do.

April 12, 2012 | 10:57 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Obviously I will be very interested to see the performance of Bulldozer on a fully optimized software platform, but I still think that it has too many bottlenecks in the design overall to really be that good of a performer in most apps. Sure, AVX and FMAC support would show a nice jump, but how nice as compared to Ivy Bridge running the same software? I honestly do not have an answer for you there.

May 5, 2012 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I just purchased this processor and it really is a good processor currently OCed at 4.18 ghz i have this dumb acrylc clear case i thought would be cool just a pain but regardless to air flow is good but with the stock CPU heatsink trying to OC anymore was giving me heat problems so went out yesterday got this nice Heatsink installed everything running cool when i get a chance tonight i will see what this bad boy can do my goal is 4.5-4.7ghz maybe MAYBE try 5.0ghz see if its stable. For the price this Processor is amazing i spent 160$ on it and i can promise you it would keep up with the intel i5 2500k thats prices around 220 for the price its a beast. Runs everything perfect games are clean New betas running amazing Counter-Strike:GO runs perfect same with Diablo 3 BF3 and while i play those games im streaming live, downloading torrents, encoding blurays, web surfing. doing it all and this processor still has alot to give. This is my first AMD processor ever always been an Intel guy nvidia GPU and Intel CPU were always my setups. Saw this deal and couldnt look away and im happy I didnt. Benchmarks yes they do show performace this and that but get youre hands on it and really test it out and you will fall inlove

September 6, 2012 | 11:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This is a good cheap alternative now against a i5.
Get a 6100 for 120$ 7.3 WEI, compare at 7.5 I5 2500k.
Over clock @ 4.6Ghz on air and you have an i5 performance for cheap. Spend the difference on a better gfx card and stronger case.

September 6, 2012 | 11:25 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a 4170 with a 7970x sli and have had absolutely no issues with gaming at ultra with dual 52'' led tvs. I run @5.2GHZ no issues. H80 Cooler (Runs ok at 6ghz passmark score beats all ivy bridge i5s and i7 2700k at 6ghz)

WEI 7.9 cpu, 7.9 Ram OC 2133, GFX 7.9, HDD 5.9

The high GHZ rating will allow better performance than I7 stock in games. This cpu is easier to overclock and somewhere to start for beginners. However if you spend the money to buy an i5 then a good heat stink odviously that would be better. (just a waste of $)

October 12, 2012 | 11:56 AM - Posted by coroi alexandru (not verified)

Of course some hopped to see a much better CPU from AMD, but also some users didn't care very much. Improvements came at last.
I think this is a good step from FX-6100. It achieves higher frequencies but the power consumption at stock speed remains in some limits.
I look behind and I see that Phenom was distilled for about 3 years until the chip Phenom II became very competitive.
I like electronics, and if they pay me, I would like to help AMD with this issue and innovative ideas.

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