|AMD FX-8350 Vishera Desktop Processor|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Processors|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Tuesday, 23 October 2012|
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Piledriver Final Thoughts
I think that many people judge the AMD FX series processors from a flawed premise: that since these are the top-end AMD CPUs, they should be compared against the top-end Intel CPUs. This might have been a valid criterion last year, when the newly-introduced FX-8150 was more expensive than Intel's competing processors, but since then AMD has wised up and priced the FX-8350 very attractively. Of course, Intel could erase this advantage overnight by lowering the price on their CPUs, but they haven't done so when the price of the FX-8150 dropped, and I don't think they'll do it now.
AMD's new Vishera CPUs, represented by this top-of-the-line FX-8350, offer incremental performance and overclocking improvements over the previous generation. The Piledriver cores have some IPC improvements and the fabrication process has been refined, making higher overclocks possible. There's something kinda cool about running your octo-core desktop machine at 5GHz.
AMD's using clock speed and cores to compete in performance with Intel's superior IPC, and to some degree it's working. Let's compare the FX-8350's benchmark scores with the Intel Core i5-2500K.
In Benchmark Reviews' previous test of the FX-8150, it scored overall 2.2% slower than the Core i5-2500K. With this particular mix of benchmarks, the FX-8350 scores an overall 3.5% higher, so that's progress, albeit of the incremental variety. But remember this is testing against the Core i5-2500K, rather than its successor Core i5-3750K, which is doubtless faster. I'll spare you another giant chart and tell you that across the benchmarks I ran, the FX-8350 was, on average, just over 10% faster than the FX-8150. Again, this is in line with the performance improvement we saw when Intel moved from its Sandy Bridge architecture to Ivy Bridge.
What makes the FX-8350 more competitive than the FX-8150 is its introductory MSRP. When the FX-8150 was introduced, its MSRP was $269.99, which was a good $50 more than the Core i5-2500K was selling for at the time. And many e-tailers were selling the FX-8150 for significant markups-- I saw prices over $300 in the first weeks after its introduction. Now we have the FX-8350 offering better performance and overclocking, but at an MSRP of only $199.00. So the top-end FX CPU goes from being slightly slower but significantly more expensive than the 2500K to being slightly faster and $20 cheaper.
AMD touts their position as the sole eight-core desktop processor, and rightly so. While having eight cores on your desktop is possible with an Intel Xeon CPU, some of which will work in consumer motherboards, you'll pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. However, you should think about what benefits having eight cores will really bring. The big win is for applications that perform easily parallelizable tasks, such as video or audio transcoding or advanced rendering applications, whose work can be divided into an arbitrary number of threads and processed in parallel. Note the big wins the FX-8350 had in x264Bench HD, SPECapc rendering, Handbrake, and CINEBENCH multi-core rendering. To match or exceed the performance of the FX-8350 in these benchmarks would require a much more expensive Intel Core i7-2700K or 3770K CPU.
The other advantage of multiple cores is simply to let your system perform more tasks without bogging down. Here the benefit (once you get past four or so cores) is less evident. For example, a modern game might have separate threads for main game logic, AI, and preparing scenes for the video card to render, but since each thread only runs on one core, each thread is still constrained by AMD's lower core performance. And developer tools haven't been quick to incorporate support for AMD's new instructions, which is a pity since their use can substantially increase performance.
Of course, it's not all about CPU performance. For one thing, computers are fast enough now. As a reviewer for Benchmark Reviews, I maintain top-end Intel and AMD systems for test beds. By any benchmark my Intel Core i7-3960 six-core Sandy Bridge Extreme based system is much faster than my AMD FX-8350 system. But I can honestly say that I never notice any performance difference when using the AMD system...nothing I do, including gaming, is noticeably slower on the AMD box. Of course anyone who buys a Sandy Bridge Extreme system for gaming is simply throwing money away, but the point remains.
And there are advantages to the 990FX platform over Intel's LGA1155 platform, most notably the 42 (38 available, 4 used for communications with the SB950) PCI-E lanes you get as compared to the paltry 24 available on a Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge system. Intel's using PCI-E lanes as a product differentiator between its very expensive LGA2011 systems and its mainstream LGA1155 systems, and this means that unless you buy an expensive LGA1155 motherboard with a PLX chip, you may discover that not all of your USB 3 and SATA 6 ports are available at the same time.
But even these rationalizations don't need to be made right now, because although the FX-8350 certainly doesn't threaten Intel's performance lead, it does offer a very competitive price/performance ratio in the mid-range CPU market. The FX-8350 is more than enough CPU for any consumer or even hard core gamer. There's no longer any need to "make excuses" for AMD.