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AMD FX-8150 Review

ccokeman    -   October 11, 2011
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Conclusion:

With all the hype surrounding what seems like the launch of every new product, it's difficult to see when they don't all live up to the hype. But "living up" to expectations of the masses is a tough job when you can't seem to please everyone. What looks like a win to one person may always look like a loss to another. This brings us to the AMD FX-8150, with which I have spent a few up close and personal moments. The FX series is no longer meant to be just the CPU, but a platform. There's no reason against this, when, as a company, you can leverage all of your assets to provide an all-in-one performance solution to anyone who steps up to the plate for a piece of the action. The Scorpius platform combines a 9-Series chipset-equipped board like the Crosshair V Formula or the MSI 990FXA-GD80, an AMD FX processor like the FX-8150, and a 6000-Series discrete graphics card. To get the most from the FX Scorpius platform, you can also add video cards as your needs increase or step up to an Eyefinity SLS setup. The platform concept works, but there are some who wouldn't want to put all their eggs in one basket. While AMD has got the concept down, it falls a bit short in places as the next latest and greatest thing. Sure, you have a whole new architecture with new instruction sets that potentially yield performance above that of the competition, but not everyone has gotten optimized coding to show off the strength of the architecture. In single-threaded applications, the FX-8150 scores lower than expected, by comparison. An example would be the Cinebench 10 single-threaded testing, where it took a 600+MHz bump in clock speed to deliver higher scores than the 1090T and 980BE. It seems more like a sideways step until the process matures and "Piledriver" arrives to gain back the current losses in clock-per-clock performance. Make the move to multi-threaded applications and the FX-8150 steps up on the performance ladder. In real life tests such as ProShow, Bibble 5, and Handbrake, the FX-8150 shows promise by virtue of the programs being able to effectively utilize all eight physical cores. The multi-threaded tests show the FX-8150 performing better than the six core 1090T and four core 980BE, but not by much.  Memory performance has also increased over the previous generation processors, as seen in the Sandra testing. That, however, is tempered by the increased inter-core latency. Running the FX-8150 at 3.2GHz (1866MHz memory) with two cores disabled against a 1090T at 3.2GHz (1600Mhz memory) for a direct six-on-six core processor comparison, the FX-8150 ran roughly 10% (at least) slower, based on our benchmarks. Even with the negatives, the architecture shows some promise. More and more applications are using multiple cores to get the work done – they run the gamut from content creation suites to PC games.

After seeing AMD break the world record for CPU speed at the Bulldozer tech day, the expectation was set that this chip would overclock well. That it did, which drove performance up another notch. To reach above 4.5GHz, you will need a good cooling system to maximize the clock speeds. Good air cooling should be considered mandatory, such as the Corsair H80 or the Antec 920-based pre-filled liquid cooling system offered in select markets for purchase with the AMD FX processor. A custom loop will be needed to really push the clock speeds above 4.5 GHz, as the FX-8150 starts to throttle down its clock speed once the temperature reaches the 81°C threshold. That being said, I was able to get an overclock of 4.94GHz out of this processor, fully-benchmarked and game stable. I could even push over 5.0GHz for some of the less intensive benchmarks. The FX-8150 wanted to scale with voltage, but the thermal load must be kept in check – hence the bundling of a pre-filled liquid cooling solution. Benchmark stable is one thing, but full-time stability is an entirely different animal. This FX-8150 was Prime95 stable at just over 4.6GHz, with temperatures in the high 70s Celsius. The reference clock could be cycled up at will, with 235Mhz just as easy as 200MHz. As a Black Edition processor, the FX-8150 is built for overclocking and comes fully unlocked. This means that you get the best of both worlds when overclocking, tweaking both the multiplier and reference clock.

Priced at $245 for launch, the FX-8150 appears to cost a bit much for the price/performance tag that it delivers initially. Comparing clock-to-clock, the 1090 and 1100T offer a better value when core-count is not a factor. The new feature sets will help drive performance in applications that use them, but keep in mind that the current state is not the future state – future state looks brighter than the current picture. Throughout the launch presentations, gaming performance was touted as a way to add value to the buy-in of a new system. When testing at common gaming resolutions, however, we see the GPU as more of a limitation than the CPU in most cases. The future state will allow games to take advantage of the additional cores and drive performance, but it really is not something I currently see in my testing – a 1.5 to 2 FPS difference is really not going to be felt or seen during gameplay. For the same $245, you can get equivalent performance in games as Intel's high-end 2600K and 980(990) Extreme processors. While the Extreme edition is a far-out comparison, the 2600K can be had for only $40 more than the entry price for the FX-8150, making cost concerns a little tighter when pushing the buy button. Going through the testing process, we see the FX-8150 have both performance positives and shortcomings to address. All things considered, it does well in its market envelope, regardless of how narrow that may be.

 

Pros:

  • Overclocking potential
  • 8 physical cores
  • New architecture
  • Platform build
  • Pricing
  • 1866MHz memory support
  • New Instruction sets

 

Cons:

  • Relatively lower clock-per-clock performance
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