Review Index:

AMD FX-8150 Processor Review - Can Bulldozer Unearth an AMD Victory?

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Closing Thoughts


This is the first of many important, yet delicate discussions on the aspects of performance for the AMD FX processor and the Bulldozer architecture.  With the IPC decreases we saw in the the FX-8150 clocked at the same speed as the Phenom II X6 processor it makes sense that AMD needed to increase the clock rate of each core pretty dramatically in order to meet performance expectations.  It would appear that AMD wasn't able to get frequencies as high as they wanted though and the performance of the FX-8150 in our series of benchmarks pretty clearly demonstrates that.  It seems doubtful that years ago when starting development the CPU team at AMD would have targeted the $245 price range for their highest end desktop processor.  

In applications that are very lightly threaded the FX-8150 does the poorest as you can see in our LAME MP3 encoding, Valve synthetic tests and more.  Even with a clock rate as high as 4.2 GHz in those cases, the FX-8150 was unable to to keep up with the likes of the Core i7-2600k and even the Core i5-2500k.  Even VirtualDub, used by many for video capture and transcoding, didn't really see the benefits of 8-cores like we might have thought.

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Some of our testing did show some potential for Bulldozer, in particular our highly threaded application workloads like CineBench, POV-Ray and Handbrake.  Programs like that can fully utilize the worlds first 8-core processor though even then the FX-8150 didn't beat out the Core i7-2600k that is a quad-core Sandy Bridge processor with HyperTheading enabled.  Obviously the module design with 2 cores per module has helped AMD compress processing capability into a smaller die size but the truth is that 1 module does not TRULY equal 2 cores.  

AMD iterated over and over that many of the tests we are showing you today are "old benchmarks" and that instead we should focus on "new tests" like high-resolution gaming, media transcoding and even things like the new WinRAR 4.  The truth is that high-resolution gaming doesn't see enough of a difference between platforms to really warrant it as a deciding point in my book and in several places of AMD's "reviewer guide" they contradict themselves on that point.  Still, I feel that our collection of tests and analysis is fair enough to be a complete evaluation of CPU performance.  Just because it turns out to not be good for them all the time doesn't mean it is wrong.  

Platform Considerations

Even though the processor might not have impressed us as we had hoped, there are some advantages the AMD platform has over Intel releases including a fairly static platform.  When the 990FX motherboards were first released in June we knew that most would support the upcoming Bulldozer processor even if we didn't know exactly what performance would turn out to be.  AMD is hoping that many users bought compatible and FX-ready motherboards and will continue to take that path, buying up AMD FX parts to upgrade their rigs.

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Also, because many of the new 990FX chipset motherboards support SLI as well as CrossFire options, they can be claimed as more than adequate gaming configurations for at least the next couple of years. 

Pricing and Availability

We mentioned and discussed on previous pages, but the cost of the AMD FX processor is another big selling point for them and was forced upon AMD by the performance numbers we reported today as well.

  • AMD FX-8150 - $245
  • AMD FX-8120 - $205
  • AMD FX-6100 - $165
  • AMD FX-4100 - $115

Compare that to the Sandy Bridge CPU prices on the Core i7-2600k ($314), Core i5-2500k ($219) and the Core i5-2400 ($189) and some interesting things take place.

In the best case, the FX-8150 is competitive with the i7-2600k and better than the i5-2500k, so the pricing is almost justified.  However, in many other cases, the FX-8150 has problems keeping up with the i5-2500k as well as the i5-2400.  In those instances, the price of the AMD FX part seems quite a bit higher than it has the right to be.

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Just as we saw with the release of AMD's Llano A-series APU, AMD is pricing its processors based on best case scenarios rather than the average or median.  The A8-3850 was priced in a way that expected consumers to put more value on the intergrated GPU than on the CPU performance.  The FX-8150 is priced in a way that expects consumers to put more value on highly threaded applications like Handbrake than on lightly threaded ones like iTunes or gaming.

How will consumers respond is the real question? 

Final Thoughts

The allure of having the "world's first destop 8-core processor" is more than slightly muted by the performance results we saw in our review today.  Obviously the Bulldozer design team had to make some decisions years ago that couldn't be easily rolled back but it appears obvious to me at this point that the "2 cores per module" design didn't bring with it the benefits AMD expected.  And with the inability for the processors to scale to higher frequencies, the FX series from AMD is left holding promises that it couldn't keep for consumers. 

The AMD FX processor release really comes down to the one thought: are you willing to give up performance on lightly-threaded everyday applications in hopes of better performance per dollar on highly threaded programs like Handbrake?  Even if the answer to that question is yes, Intel's Core i7/i5 line of processors based on Sandy Bridge have competitive solutions that don't require you to give up performance in either direction.  Will a system based on the new FX-8150 be competent and competitive while also making for a great gaming machine?  It definitely will but is that enough to pull consumers away from the Intel platforms that offer better performance in many areas for similar prices?  It is hard to see how it could be. 

Be sure to read Josh's final thoughts on AMD's latest release.

October 12, 2011 | 01:07 AM - Posted by ZackJ (not verified)

Another great article Mr Shrout. I really appreciate the honesty you provide in your assessment of this processor. Hearing different things on the web I was very interested in this processor. Great new design for the future but it just doesnt seem to compete as well as I would like. I currently have a AMD Phenom II X4 965 and this review has me not really wanting to upgrade to it. I plan to get a new mobo and ddr3 ram so looks like that and a new vid card will be my only purchase in the near future. Although given this review would u recommend the FX-8150 or Phenom X6 1090T/1100T?

October 12, 2011 | 10:24 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

It is hard to deny the value of the X6 processors now based on their price. If money is kind of tight, I have no qualms recommend the 1100T.

November 8, 2011 | 07:55 AM - Posted by drbaltazar (not verified)

Ryan and his crew please stop doing bogus article on fx 8150.unless amd or someone at ms or linux has some benchmark that test with fx feature in mind all test will be irelevent.fma4 alone isnt supported and you try to compare actual fma proc .intel. vs fx.comparing a cpugpu vs a cpu?core parking activated?threading issue in window?mobo bios issue that wont be fixed in w8.come on just stop benchmarking this cpu give a call to then when they have fixes you can revisit[about6 month worth]some silly test seams to forget one fact very important here in 2 year intel will have fma4.2 year.amd isso far ahead they cant even speak to any one for fear of isnt they dont want to.the techno is just plain further ahead then all expected.people wonder why fx is selling like hotcake.when was the last time you had a 2 year in the futurtechno avail today?it rarelly happen .this is huge new for corp in the software business be it gaming or anything else.i bet a lot are hard at work opimising .or trying.for fma4 and all other lessb highlighted feature.but like i mention this proc was released 6 month too early

October 12, 2011 | 01:18 AM - Posted by dreamer77dd

I wonder what Trinity will be like. hmmm

October 12, 2011 | 02:18 AM - Posted by player-x

Nice article only the tables are hard to readout :(

I understand the dilemma of sorting by name or rank.

But personally i really prefer ordering by rank, but that's me.

A great solution would be to have mouse-over change the ordering so everyone can pick whats best for them.

Next to that some color coding would be nice of competing products
Light Blue for i5 2400 blue for 2500K and dark blue for 2600K
next to that dark green for the FX green for the X6 light green for the X4.

To just suggest something.

Like a said, good read, so so tables

October 12, 2011 | 10:26 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yeah, that's fair. We'll see what we can do to improve that in the future!

October 12, 2011 | 02:27 AM - Posted by Yangorang (not verified)

It's interesting to note that you guys came to a rather different conclusion than Anandtech did with regards to gaming performance with Bulldozer.

I'd definitely like to see some more testing done on this.

October 12, 2011 | 10:30 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Notice they ran their games at resolutions like 1024x768 and at the highest, 1680x1050 while I ran my tests at 1080p. In truth, the higher the resolution the less important the CPU performance tends to be.

To some people, they just want to know the raw gaming power of the CPU so running at low resolutions, sometimes even lower than is likely to be run by the gamer (who plays games at 1024x768 anymore??) will show the biggest differences.

In my case I thought it more pertinent to show the most "real world" cases and 1080p seemed to be the way to go.

October 12, 2011 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

You can't argue the Civ V findings, but [H]ard|OCP used similar resolutions and found similar results to Ryan's.

October 12, 2011 | 03:36 AM - Posted by Bamstick (not verified)

I would to see more gaming benchmarks. Having only 2 games on there seems lazy to me. Where is Starcraft 2, Bad Company 2, Rage, The Witcher 2, and heck put World of Warcraft on there, you know games that people actually play. I don't anyone who plays Lost Planet 2.

October 12, 2011 | 03:37 AM - Posted by Bamstick (not verified)

Oh and of course Crysis, Crysis Warhead, Crysis 2. Come on!

October 12, 2011 | 08:28 AM - Posted by gwaland (not verified)

Did I miss in the article where you explained why you used a 1090t instead of the top of the line 1100t for most of your benchmarks?

October 12, 2011 | 10:34 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Ah, good point. We used the 1090T results from a previous article (Llano I think) and didn't have time to get in the 1100T to run the full allotment of tests before publication. Instead, with our time we had, I was able to run the 1100T through some our architectural analysis tests (core scaling, etc) and gaming.

October 12, 2011 | 08:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So... how well does this CPU FOLD????

WOndering if it can handle bigadv folding...

October 12, 2011 | 10:09 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

You ain't the only one! I suggested it to Ryan but he hasn't done it since the PS3. Mind you I'm a BOINCer myself.

October 12, 2011 | 09:24 AM - Posted by krankycheese

Based on this review, it's hard to justify upgrading from my Phenom II 955 especially when my PC is used mostly for gaming. I was hoping for better power consumption numbers when compared to what Sandybridge has.

The architecture is intriguing and has potential. It will be interesting to see what AMD comes out with the next iteration.

October 12, 2011 | 09:33 AM - Posted by bjv2370

ill wait for piledriver for improvements...

October 12, 2011 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I just finished reading all 3 reviews( Anand, Toms and PCPER) and just like Yangorang said, WTF?!

The test show some consistencies but there is still a rather big difference in attitude and benches towards the 8150FX.

I think there is a bit of Fanboy-ism being implemeneted by ANAND and TOMS ( you can see by the comments as well) review. Granted it may not be a 2600k but its gets pretty close between a i5 and the i7 so I feel that those 2 reviews excerted much more biased in their writing towards the intel chip, even when the BD came close.

There are some crazy things like the power usage, but really? Most of the people posting dont really care about their lightbill( multi gpu, plethora of fans and 1100watt PSUs) so why are people complaining that much?

I already bought me ASUS CH-V 990fx mobo yesterday, and my AMDHD5970 (2gb) so I think I will just push on through with the BD. My last build was a core 2 duo so I thing I will be good non the less.

October 12, 2011 | 10:37 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I don't think it is a BAD processor necessarily, but I find it hard to recommend the FX-8150 over the Core i5-2500k or even the i7-2600k if you are building a new system from scratch.

You have a 990FX Bulldozer-ready motherboard and want to get rid of that older CPU? Sure, the AMD FX will improve your system somewhat.

As I mentioned in my conclusion page, the primary issue is AMD thinks its processors are worth more money they probably are for MOST work loads.

October 12, 2011 | 12:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the review Ryan. I bought a Core i5-2500K and z68 mobo 2 weeks ago, and I'm not regretting my purchase one bit. We'll have to see if that sentiment persists thru to when Ivy Bridge comes out. :P

October 12, 2011 | 10:44 AM - Posted by Rion (not verified)

No wonder AMD is attempting to get pile-driver out as soon as possible, they probably knew bulldozer wasn't going to light the world on fire. Now the question is do you wait for Trinity/pile-driver and FM2. Somehow I think most people will wait, unless they already bought the AM3+ board. Isn't Pile-driver and FM2 by Q2 2012?

October 12, 2011 | 10:47 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

OH Dear,
Doesn't even look as if its worth updating from an X6.
Hope the 7000 cards are good cause AMD could be in trouble.

October 12, 2011 | 10:57 AM - Posted by Nebulis01


Thanks for including an older intel proc (the Q9650) I have a QX9650 and I've been looking to upgrade and was hoping to head back to AMD with this Bulldozer release. Sadly I see a i7-2600 in my future.

Thank you as always for the great review!

October 12, 2011 | 12:46 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks for reading!

October 12, 2011 | 11:58 AM - Posted by pdjblum

Thorough, comprehensive, objective, and very informative review. Well done.

October 12, 2011 | 12:51 PM - Posted by Steven (not verified)

Well this make me wish I hadn't already bought it, since I have an 1100t... So much anticipation, and I suppose I'm about to be let down.

October 12, 2011 | 01:47 PM - Posted by Bill (not verified)

I couldn't care less where AMD goes from here in their lineup. I'm done waiting for their next "fast" cpu, which is only going to be a pathetic 10-15% improvement anyway. I'll have a 2500k under my hood now, and AMD will unfortunately be in my rear view, broken down on the side of the road overheating.

October 12, 2011 | 02:16 PM - Posted by Oskars (not verified)

What is the deal with the performance?
Doesn't it look strange that a 2 billion transistor chip (fx-1850) is a tad slower than a 0.9 billion chip (i7 2600k) of witch 1/4 is a gpu.
There are a few major improvements, but still.
Is that just an unpopular code or a task sheduler comunication mishap? Some people speak of imprvements in windows 8.
Could that be it? That Bulldozer is a year early, and not late at all?

October 12, 2011 | 03:19 PM - Posted by hechacker1 (not verified)

Indeed. It seems ridiculous that 2 billion transistors nets them a slightly slower chip than even their last generation.

It doesn't make sense. I think AMD needs hyper threading bolted on to extract more performance or something. All those transistors are going wasted, or it's just insanely inefficient.

October 12, 2011 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The module design was to be AMD's take on HyperThreading but better.

Yes, Windows 8 will help some, but even in AMD's best case scenarios we are talking 4-10% improvement there.

In reality, we are just as confused how 2 billion transistors loses to 1.16 billion transistors this regularly.

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