AMD Updates the FX Line: Some Thoughts on Future Moves for AMD

Subject: Processors | February 28, 2012 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: trinity, FX-8120, FX-6200, FX-4170, FX, FM3, bulldozer, amd, am3+

Since AMD held their Analysts’ Day, we have not heard a whole bunch from their CPU division.  The graphics side has been in full gear launching the HD 7000 series of products, and soon we will see the final pieces of that particular puzzle fall into place.  What about the CPU group?  We have heard about Trinity for ages now, but that particular launch is still months away.  The last CPU update detailed the “K” series of unlocked Llano chips.  What about Bulldozer?  Is there a new stepping?  How is GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 32 nm SOI/HKMG progressing?

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I don’t have all those answers, unfortunately.  Since AMD proceeded to sack most of the PR team, our contacts have all but disappeared.  Questions emailed to AMD are often not returned.  Requests for CPU information (or samples) are ignored.  Are these people just simply overworked, or is AMD clamping down on information?  Hard to say.  My guess here is that they are taking the philosophy of, “No news is good news.”  If a company does not send out review samples, they do not have to deal with products receiving bad reviews.  I am not saying that the FX processors are necessarily bad, but they do not match up well against Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge parts.  At least AMD parts are priced appropriately overall for their level of performance.  If we look at overall results, the FX-8150 does match up fairly well with the i5-2500K, and they both exist very close to each other in price points.

What we do know is that AMD has released two new processors into the market with the FX-4170 and the FX-6200.  The FX-4170 is a new dual module (four core) 125 watt TDP part that is clocked at an amazing 4.2 GHz stock speed, and a turbo that goes to 4.3 GHz.  This is the fastest consumer grade processor in terms of clockspeed, but it obviously is not the fastest processor on Earth.  The original FX-4100 is a 95 watt TDP part at 3.6 GHz stock/3.8 GHz turbo, 4 MB L2 cache, and 8 MB of L3.  The FX-6200 is perhaps the more interesting of the two.  It has a base clock of 3.8 GHz and a max turbo speed of 4.1 GHz.  This is a pretty hefty increase from the FX-6100 with its base 3.3 GHz and 3.9 GHz turbo.  The 6100 is a 95 watt TDP part while the new 6200 is 125 watt TDP.  The 6200 is a three module (six core) part with 6 MB of L2 cache and 8 MB of L3.

The last bit of news is that the FX-8120 is getting a price cut to put it more in line against the competition.  The email that we received about this and the previous announcements was amazingly generic and fairly uninformative.  We do not know the prices, we do not know the rollout schedule, and we have no idea how much the FX-8120 is going to be chopped.  We have seen the retail market already cut the prices down on the FX-8xxx series.  The high end FX-8150 was introduced around $289 but now it can be readily available for $259.  Now that demand has dropped in the PC sector and AMD’s supply has caught up, it is no wonder we are seeing new SKUs and the lowering of prices.

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My goal is to try to get a hold of some of these parts, as they do look interesting from a value standpoint.  The FX-6200 is of great interest for many users due to the nice provisioning of cores, L3 caches, and speeds.  Throw in a decent price for this particular product, and it could be a favorite for budget enthusiasts who want to stick with AMD products.  The area where it does fall down is that of TDP when compared to Intel’s Sandy Bridge parts at that price point.  The jump to 3.8 GHz base speed and 4.1 GHz turbo should make it very comparable in stock clocked performance to anything Intel has in that price range.

Overclocking could be interesting here, but since it is already a 125 watt TDP part I do not know how much headroom these products have.  4.8 GHz is very likely, but on air cooling I would not expect overclocked speeds to reach much more above that.  Still, these are interesting parts and give plenty of bang for their price.  Add in pretty mature support for AM3+ motherboards, and AMD still has a chance with enthusiasts.  The only real issue that is looming is PCI-E 3.0 support for the AM3+ ecosystem.  We have not heard anything about the upcoming (or is it cancelled?) 1090FX chipset, other than it is based on 890FX/990FX and should not support PCI-E 3.0.  With AMD’s push for APUs, I would expect the upcoming Trinity parts to introduce PCI-E 3.0.  AMD also looks like they will start funneling the enthusiasts towards FM2 platforms and Trinity based parts.  While AMD looks to support AM3+ with Piledriver based cores, my best guess here is that AM3+ will be phased out sooner rather than later.

The next 6 months will be critical for AMD and their path moving forwards.  At the very least we will have a better idea of where the company is going under the new management.  I am still expecting some big changes from AMD, and if Trinity can give Intel a run for its money in terms of per clock CPU performance, then they could have a winner on their hands and adjust their roadmap to further exploit that particular product release.

Source: AMD

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February 28, 2012 | 01:23 PM - Posted by (not verified)

The internet mainly knows about the 1090 chipset due to some leaked slides describing the platform archecture roadmap. Since then nothing more as come from that.

One cans ummise that further information on platforms will be avalible once CPU/APU release timeframes rear

AMD are using a single chipset for Hudon (A55/75) however thats only becuase of the APU. Unless their enthusiast parts get more logic integrted on die then AMD may linger with their prehistoric two piece chipset design for some time yet.

This takes extra power, PCB space,cost and increases complexity for mobos where the end user expects ultimate overclocking

Additionally no concrete info is avalibile on APU socket either. Some people make reference FM2, Some slides reference FS2 but the logical answer would be a backwards compatible socket. However AMD history has shown us in the past they have used stopgap sockets so its flip a coin right now really.

APU platforms do not really need extra PCIE lanes unlike enthusiast platforms and power requirements should be similar so these aspects reduce the need for more complexity and the need for a different socket.

February 28, 2012 | 02:13 PM - Posted by cortexodus

All arguments about power consumption and sub-par performance based on expectation aside;, I really like the FX8120 I have in my main machine right now.

I'll qualify that statement though, by noting that there is a MicroCenter in my area and acquiring an 8 core CPU + SLI capable mainboard for under $280 is a steal. Buying a comparable setup for Intel would have run me over $100 more at the bare minimum.

There's no delusion on my part that the system I'm running is superior in any regard outside of initial purchase cost but, I'm looking forward to the possibility of dropping in a Piledriver CPU later on without having to buy yet another motherboard as I have had to do with every Intel box I've built since 2004...

"the end user expects ultimate overclocking"

Not all end users care about overclocking. Some don't care about it at all.

February 28, 2012 | 11:01 PM - Posted by (not verified)

"Not all end users care about overclocking. Some don't care about it at all.

FX is not for thos users, APU, i3 and some i5s are. Intel have a very good diagram showing how their segmentation is drawn up

Note the tiers

FX series is about enthusiast and performance. FX series are all unlocked.

Highest FX series is twice price of highest Black edition APU

Rumours were AMD was to introduced Locked Phenom/Athlon versions of FX series but these have not come to frution so the comment made that some users don't care does no apply.

Person who just wants a 'good' PC is not going to go out of their way to choose a FX8150

Also with turbo in the mix, people have overclocking wether they like it or not.

The whole corporate marketing campaign behind FX was you have 8 cores you can push to high levels

February 28, 2012 | 05:38 PM - Posted by lcarsos (not verified)

I think it's interesting that AMD is in the position that Intel was in just a few years ago.
1. The competition is dominating them in almost every processor category.
2. Their high end processors are slow, hot, and suck down power like there's no tomorrow.
3. Their mobile processor line is actually turning out to be an interesting dark horse in terms of power usage per clock.

I really hope AMD capitalizes on this and refocuses to have Trinity and future versions explode into the market and start dominating again, just like Intel did with Yonah back in 2006/2007.

I like where the intention is with the Bulldozer line, but, geez, to release your new line of processors which only matches up with second/third best of your competitor at the middle-end of their release cycle.

February 28, 2012 | 10:48 PM - Posted by cortexodus

"Their high end processors are slow, hot, and suck down power like there's no tomorrow."

I dunno about slow but definitely slower than the competition at the same pricing scale. The rest seems pretty accurate, really.

My Kill 'o watt is telling me this 8120 is sucking out roughly 160-200W when there's really not much going on. The core i5-750 that was in here before was pulling about 114-150W doing the same stuff (lots of browser windows across three displays, word and excel docs, music player, code::blocks)

"I really hope AMD capitalizes on this and refocuses to have Trinity and future versions explode into the market and start dominating again, just like Intel did with Yonah back in 2006/2007"

Man.. I sure do hope so. Having Intel sitting at performance supremacy sucks for competition. It would be sweet to see that sort of turnabout happen again on the opposite side of the coin.

February 28, 2012 | 06:12 PM - Posted by Brett (not verified)

Thanks for your post Josh, I am somewhat confused about what's going on with AMD as are many people and there needs to be clarification on the future roadmap for CPU releases. I will be building a new AMD system thinking about using an AM3+ board with an FX-6100 6 core CPU but after reading your article may hold off until these new CPU's come through and updated mainboards. Look forward to further updates.

February 28, 2012 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I don't think we are going to see any updated AM3+ motherboards for a while. I could be wrong, but it really does seem like AMD is going to put all their eggs into the Trinity basket. We *might* see the AM3+ this summer, but I just have not heard anything from AMD or the motherboard partners about it. The FX-6200 does look interesting though. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will actually get a review out about it.

February 28, 2012 | 11:06 PM - Posted by (not verified)

Avalibilty and pricing of the FX-6200 will be an issue, the base clock is signficantly higher than the 6100 so I will be suprised if its only $10

FX-6100 has taken severe price cuts, $15 every few weeks over the past month and a bit. It is down to $158 now from almost $200. Such is unheard of especially when looking at Intel price cup

Due to the 6200 being delayed I ended up getting a 6100 for review purposes out of my own pocket as samples of AMD chips have dried up down here, let alone sales stock of non black edition A6 and A8. Black editions are avalible for the same price as the regular A6 and A8 here now.

February 29, 2012 | 02:35 AM - Posted by Operandi

They might as well go that route, a socket that supporst APUs just makes more sense.

And there isn't anything to stop them from putting out CPUs with disabled GPU sections or no GPU at all to save on TDP. They could also put a higher-end platform based on the same socket just with more PCI-E resources no?

Of course the holy grail is to put those GPU resources to uses other than just graphics in which case we'd all want them even if we are running discrete GPUs.

I sure hope AMD can pull it off.

February 28, 2012 | 11:06 PM - Posted by tbone (not verified)

all those transistors for sub par performance. hopefully piledriver finds good use for all those transistors.

where are the 4170 and 6200? when will they be released?

having only 4 FX processors in the channel is really hurting AMD.

glofo better step it up.

May 1, 2012 | 01:47 AM - Posted by vbb1964 (not verified)

If you have a Phenom II 955 or 965 or higher you won't see any performance boost from the new FX8120 with gaming. I didn't see any additional heat from the FX8120 by comparison because when the system idles or the demand lowers the CPU clock drops by more than 50%. The turbo bursts up to 35% faster.

If your running a system with DDR2 with a 920 for example then this might be a good entry point to upgrade considering the low cost of these CPUs, motherboards and ram.

I picked up a FX8120 and a ASUS ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 motherboard for $140 off craigslist. Some of the older motherboards support these processors with a bios upgrade.

Lets be honest, for the purpose of gaming you would get a huge performance boost from investing the cost savings in either a better video card or a second video card. The CPU and motherboards are much cheaper for the same features. I know too many people, mostly teenages, that are struggling to put together a good gaming rig. Because of the bias on the AMD CPUs they seem to be focused on Intel and can't put together the funds or compromise on other parts.

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