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AMD FX-8350 and FX-6300 Processor Review: Vishera Breaks Cover

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Bulldozer to Vishera

 

Bulldozer is the word.  Ok, perhaps it is not “the” word, but it is “a” word.  When AMD let that little codename slip some years back, AMD enthusiasts and tech journalists started to salivate about the possibilities.  Here was a unique and very new architecture that promised excellent single thread performance and outstanding multi-threaded performance all in a package that was easy to swallow and digest.  Probiotics for the PC.  Some could argue that the end product for Bulldozer and probiotics are the same, but I am not overly fond of writing articles containing four letter colorful metaphors.

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The long and short of Bulldozer is that it was a product that was pushed out too fast, it had specifications that were too aggressive for the time, and it never delivered on the promise of the architecture.  Logically there are some very good reasons behind the architecture, but implementing these ideas into a successful product is another story altogether.  The chip was never able to reach the GHz range it was supposed to and stay within reasonable TDP limits.  To get the chip out in a timely manner, timings had to be loosened internally so the chip could even run.  Performance per clock was pretty dismal, and the top end FX-8150 was only marginally faster than the previous top end Phenom II X6 1100T.  In some cases, the X6 was still faster and a more competent “all around” processor.

There really was not a whole lot for AMD to do about the situation.  It had to have a new product, and it just did not turn out as nicely as they had hoped.  The reasons for this are legion, but simply put AMD is competing with a company that is over ten times the size, with the resulting R&D budgets that such a size (and margins) can afford.  Engineers looking for work are a dime a dozen, and Intel can hire as many as they need.  So, instead of respinning Bulldozer ad nauseum and releasing new speed grades throughout the year by tweaking the process and metal layer design, AMD let the product line sit and stagnate at the top end for a year (though they did release higher TDP models based on the dual module FX-4000 and triple module FX-6000 series).  Engineers were pushed into more forward looking projects.  One of these is Vishera.

Click here to read the rest of the Vishera Review!

Bulldozer as it Should Have Been

Piledriver is the overall code name for the architecture behind Vishera.  We have previously seen Piledriver in the current Trinity APUs that were initially offered this past Spring/Summer.  We also finally were able to see Trinity on the desktop earlier this month.  On the Bulldozer side the desktop, four module plus 8 MB L3 cache product was code named Zambezi.  Vishera is essentially comprised of four Piledriver modules with 8 MB of L3 cache available to it at maximum.  Trinity on the other hand is a maximum of two Piledriver modules with no L3 cache, though it does prominently feature the VLIW4 based GPU.

Vishera is a heavy redesign of Zambezi.  It is not exactly a new chip, but the differences between it and Zambezi are significant.  Nearly every aspect of the design has been addressed, and a lot more time has been spent on layout and timings.  Looking at the image below, we see exactly how much has been added to Vishera to improve overall performance.  There are a lot of little additions throughout the entire design, and the hope is that all of these little changes will add up to a far better performing product.

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Not to oversimplify, but AMD had to make Zambezi a bit more leaky when it comes to transistors.  They did this to get the chip working close to the design specifications.  I believe the original target for the 4 module/8 core top end chip was 4GHz, but in the end the FX-8150 was released at 3.6 GHz with a 125 watt TDP rating.  So right off the bat relative performance of this part is going to be lower than original expectations.  Per clock performance again took a hit when AMD had to loosen up timings between different components and caches to again get the CPUs to work on a more consistent basis.  These two factors allowed AMD to improve overall yields and bins, but the price excised for these changes was performance and power consumption/heat production.

AMD essentially went over Zambezi with a fine toothed comb.  Not only did they implement the improvements as listed above, but they also fixed a lot of the timing issues.  On top of that they were able to reduce the overall leakage (though I am again being way too general here) by replacing soft-edge flip-flops (jitter tolerant designs which increased power consumption) with hard-edge flip-flops (more hand tuned designs which show improved power characteristics).  All indications point to the original Bulldozer being highly automated in design while Piledriver shows a greater amount of hand tuning.

The changes in Piledriver are not only designed around increased IPC, multi-core efficiency, and power consumption.  AMD added in support for FMA3 (Intel’s response to AMD’s FMA4) as well as F16C extensions (converts between 16 bit floating point and 32 bit floating point).  AMD now covers all of the major new extensions that are currently available.

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Looking over it all, I think we can view Vishera as what Zambezi should have been.  While Zambezi was not exactly stillborn, it was more than a tad under-cooked.  Vishera is a much more competent design, and it hits all of the original specifications set for Zambezi.  It is just unfortunate that it is essentially a year later than what many had hoped for.  As such, it now has to compete with the latest Intel Ivy Bridge products.  We could probably go on for ages with all of the changes that AMD did, but in the end we have a part that is much closer to expectations than what we have seen so far.

Each Piledriver module that is included in Vishera is comprised of four x86 decode units, two integer execution units, a single 2 x 128 bit shared floating point/MMX/SSE/AVX unit, and 2 MB of L2 cache.  In the fully functional Vishera CPU, there will be four modules and 8 MB of L2 cache available to the units.

October 22, 2012 | 10:24 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

" While Zambezi was not exactly stillborn, it was more than a tad under-cooked" Haha, oh Josh, I love your analogies.

Overall it was as expected, which is a shame because I never expected much from this. I don't think it's a big enough improvement for me to switch up from my zambezi but may pull some new people in with that price point.. Afterall, it's what AMD need if they want to have a financially viable business.

October 22, 2012 | 09:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Copious amounts of dust helps to simulate real world conditions."

LOL Josh is the best hardware reviewest on the interwebz.

October 22, 2012 | 09:53 PM - Posted by niteowler

No Cinebench R11.59 single core results? Move my 1100T up to 4 ghz just like the FX-8350 and it beats it in most situations easily. It's been two years and AMD can't even supply me with a worthy upgrade. Another year...... another dud.... sigh

October 22, 2012 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Move that 8350 up to 4.4 or 4.6 and then take another look.  Can't overclock one without the other.  Add in some NB/L3 overclocking and the processor really perks up.  Remember, these results were all stock clocks.

October 22, 2012 | 10:10 PM - Posted by niteowler

Their lack of performance gains is frustrating. Not trying to put a downer on your article but I've been AMD for a long time now and I'm tired of making excuses for them.... aren't you?

October 22, 2012 | 10:14 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I think my conclusion holds up well.  This is essentially a part that should have been released last year.  Only now do they have a competent next gen part that competes with what Intel has at that price range.  I do miss the days of competition where AMD had the original K7 and K8.  So, they have a good part that has finally reached market and will attract some buyers.  It doesn't beat up the competition in any meaningful way, but it is a good step forward for the company.  Hopefully Steamroller continues this trend.

October 22, 2012 | 10:32 PM - Posted by niteowler

With the money trouble that their in, Piledriver is not going to be the shot in the arm that they need. AMD could go away by Steamroller's arrival.

October 22, 2012 | 10:57 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Well, their financial situation is much more stable now and they actually have some money in the bank.  They will get through Steamroller, but beyond that is a big crap shoot.  While their ex-CFO did leave them in good financial shape, we have to wonder how much he undermined the foundation of the company with his policies.

October 22, 2012 | 11:08 PM - Posted by niteowler

Not to argue your point but AMD just announced quarter 3 results of a $157 million loss and well as hundreds of layoffs for employees planned. I wouldn't exactly call anything about that as "stable".

October 22, 2012 | 11:32 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Well, they consolidated debt, built up cash reserves, and paid down a lot of stuff all the while renegotiating contracts to be less financially binding.  They are in a better overall shape now then they have in years, and while this past quarter was a big negative... they are still ahead of where they were 2 years ago by a long shot.

October 29, 2012 | 04:03 PM - Posted by carinca (not verified)

1100T's limit is 4Ghz
8350's limit is 4.9-5Ghz
Let's compare them now.
And a 1100T at 4Ghz doesn't win in all scenarios against a 8350 a 4Ghz.

October 23, 2012 | 07:24 AM - Posted by brisa117

That's some fast "DDR-2" on the test page : P

Must have cost you an arm and a leg.

October 23, 2012 | 07:56 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Haha, you should see the hammer I had to use to get those damn DDR-2 modules to fit into the motherboard I used!

Thanks for the head's up... fixed.

October 23, 2012 | 07:40 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Lets see how it does at 5GHZ and nice NB speed....

October 23, 2012 | 07:57 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I'm requesting one of their LCS and will attempt to get there.

October 23, 2012 | 08:02 AM - Posted by Mr. Old School (not verified)

Perfect timing, i'm building a new rig and getting ready to purchase the mobo and CPU next month. I've been using AMD CPUs since 1994. I'll probably go with the 6300 and then upgrade further when they get around to releasing a new chipset, I also prefer sticking with the lower wattage parts.

October 23, 2012 | 11:03 AM - Posted by Nilbog

Great Article as always Josh!

Finally!
Its refreshing to see AMD with a competing part.
Unless i was reading wrong, it looks like they finally surpassed the X6. About damn time, way to go.
Geeze that i7 is freakin fast though.
Although it would be nice to see this vs an i5 to get a better idea of performance.
I am really happy for AMD.
Next CPU better have the 3.0s on the Mobo though. I want to see comparisons of Intels USB 3.0 and PCIE 3.0 vs AMDs

I am finally starting to understand where AMD is going with this architecture. I am really looking forward to seeing where they will go with this later on down the road.

October 23, 2012 | 11:38 AM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

It's funny because i always want AMD to make some big comeback, we need to keep that competition stiff with Intel so they don't get lazy.

I was thinking in my head - this FX6300 is priced low and games fine, maybe i'll try it in my next build.

Then i remembered i5-2500k is only $159.99 @ microcenter....why the heck would i even use an FX6300? The i5-2500k will still be faster, overclock higher, and do all of this while using less power and putting out less heat.

Cmon AMD!!! Step it up!

October 29, 2012 | 04:07 PM - Posted by carinca (not verified)

the i5 2500k doesn't cost 159$
stop lying.

October 30, 2012 | 10:33 PM - Posted by mctigue1973 (not verified)

I'm going on my 8th gaming rig and I'm sticking with AMD. Intel cpu's dont't hold up as good is AMD. With out over clocking i had a FX 6200 walk all over a Intel I7 2700k. and then replaced it with my friends I7 3770k and no diffrents at all. same boards, same ram, same SSD size and brand. Even same MSI GTX 580 video card. So don't beleave every thing you read. Most people are not testing cpu's right OR they are being pay to talk down AMD. I have been working on computers long enuff to know whats up.

November 2, 2012 | 09:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What a crock of shit! walk all over a 2700k! Blah Blah Blah.
there only just keeping up with the i5, are they not!. Would you be on you 8th gaming rig this year cos you keep blowing them up as you don`t have a clue what your doing?

January 23, 2013 | 06:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

FX 6300 "walk all over" a 2700k!!?? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA\\

KOoL sToRy BrO!!!!!

I especially like the part where you swapped out AMD processors and Intel Processors "Using all the same motherboard and Ram"....Which is impossible

Time to get real here

October 23, 2012 | 11:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Josh, did you bench at min rez for comparison? I would like to see it vs an i7 would be cool.

October 23, 2012 | 11:57 AM - Posted by Oskars (not verified)

Could there be multi gpu tests in a seperate review, with hd 7870 and 7970, maybe even 7770 series performance level cards? To see at what point FX Vishera crossfire or sli is adequate. Games with old and new engines could be differentiated...

October 23, 2012 | 06:50 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Might take a while to do it (to-do list is rather long these days), but I think this would be an interesting aspect to test.

October 23, 2012 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Let's see an Interlagos 16-core version of this part. AMD is behind at single-threaded performance so they should emphasize their strength which is multiprocessing.

Also let's see a dual-CPU capable version of Vishera, and some cheap desktop motherboards with dual sockets. Multi-threading is here to stay.

November 14, 2012 | 05:26 PM - Posted by Lou (not verified)

Cheap dual socket opteron boards are not available. Our best price for dual socket is about $500-$600. Single socket 16 core may be interesting in some tests though.

October 23, 2012 | 09:45 PM - Posted by Wolvenmoon (not verified)

How much is it going to cost me to stick 16 cores worth of piledriver on one motherboard?

October 24, 2012 | 02:16 PM - Posted by razor512

Please if possible do another round of benchmarking with the 8350 at 4.8GHz, and the 1100T at 4GHz

Almost every review I have seen so far, shows the 8350 hitting 4.8GHz before the heat overpowers what most heatsinks can handle.

The average overclock for the 1100T is 4GHz (though some users are able to hit 4.4GHz on liquid cooling)

anyway, most of the people who are reading this article are most likely overclocking their CPU. If I build my own system targeted at performance, I am going to overclock.

The newer FX chips run at a significantly higher clock speed and even at those high clock speeds, struggles to beat the 3.3GHz 1100t.

For the users overclocking their Phenom II x6's to 4GHz, how viable will the 8350 be when overclocked to 4.8GHz as compared to the 1100t?

Remember, the Phenom II has a higher IPC so a 700MHz overclock will do a lot more for it than an extra 800MHz will do for the 8350.

October 29, 2012 | 04:10 PM - Posted by carinca (not verified)

The 8350 beats the 1100T in every scenario just fine and the difference is more than obvious.
The 8350 is AMD's fastest cpu in everything by a good margin.

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