AMD FX-8150 Processor Review - Can Bulldozer Unearth an AMD Victory?
AMD FX Retail Lineup, Coolers and Motherboard Support
AMD FX Processors
The new AMD FX processors launching today include a host of options for a variety of price ranges, all of which fall UNDER $245. While that is great news for users that want to see some high core counts for an entry cost, it should indicate to us where the performance will fall as well.
The FX-8000 series are all processors with 4 modules and 8 cores enabled starting with the high-end model we are reviewing today, the FX-8150 with a base clock of 3.6 GHz and a top Turbo Core speed of 4.2 GHz. The FX-6000 series (currently including only the FX-6100) are 3 module / 6 core entries and then obviously the FX-4000 series is a quad-core offering.
The lowest TDP on the available parts is 95 watts which is really pretty high for the FX-4000 parts that are technically using just over half of the die space.
Only the parts in the table above are going to be available today on the initial FX processor roll out with the addition of the FX-4100 that will be priced at $115. Also, the FX-6100 will in fact start at $165, not the $175 indicated above.
So, with prices of $245 and $205 for 8-core CPUs and $165 for a 6-core, that pits the new FX lineup against Intel's Core i7-2600K ($314), i5-2500K ($219) and the i5-2400 ($189).
The AMD FX processors are 942-pin CPUs that require the new AM3+ motherboard socket found on the 990FX motherboards. You will still need to check with your board vendor for official support for the Bulldozer-based parts though and update the BIOS before hand if you can! The die size of a full 4 module / 8-core AMD FX processor is 315 mm2 and the transistor count is up to an
incredible 2 billion! Much of that is thanks to the large L2 cache, a total of 8MB, 2MB dedicated to each of the four modules, and the 8MB of shared L3 cache as well.
Update 12/2/11: An interesting bit of information came to us from AMD stating that in fact the transistor count of a full Bulldozer processor was not the 2 billion listed above (and in AMD's material sheets used by the press) but instead was ~1.2 billion. The difference between these two calculations is HUGE (66%) and AMD's response of why (simple miscalculation) leaves us scratching our head as to how they could be SO WRONG. Regardless I guess, this seems to be the new answer and with a transistor count of 1.2B the Bulldozer efficiency seems a bit more in-line with expectations.
For those of you interested in overclocking, you should know that the AMD FX parts are all completely unlocked and allow for full multiplier control in the BIOS. More on that in our overclocking section!
What's with the cooler?
There has been a lot of discussion about what cooler will or will not ship with the AMD FX processors. I can tell you for certain now that all retail box versions of the processor will ship with a cooler of some kind. Most will come with your standard PIB AMD-style cooler that will adequately work for most standard use cases (but not for overclocking). For users that want a little more for their setup, AMD is going to offer a water cooled package as well:
Built by Asetek, the self-containted water cooler is very similar to others we have seen on the market in the past year or so from Corsair, CoolIt, etc. We didn't get the new cooler in time to actually test using it (our overclocking was done with the Corsair H100) but I imagine the results will be similar to what you have seen otherwise.
It is an interesting discussion point here: did AMD decide to include this to be unique or do they really NEED this type of cooling to allow for overclocking past the 4.2 GHz Turbo Core clock speed? I'll discuss later in the review on my overclocking results.
Motherboard Support - You May Already Own One
Another selling point for Bulldozer and the AMD FX brand of processors in the lead up to release was that current selling AMD 990FX based motherboards were likely to be compatible with the new CPUs released today. We have seen 990FX motherboards on the market since the May/June time frame and as far as we can tell, many of them support Bulldozer out of the gate.
Our testing for this review was done on an ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard based on this very same chipset and platform design. Josh should have a full review of that board up very soon!