SPECIAL REPORT: AMD flagship CPU gets reviewed

AMD ‘Bulldozer’ FX-8150 disappoints

AMD has released the FX-8150 ‘Bulldozer’ processor, the first in a new line offering a major architecture update over AMD Phenom II processors.

The high-end AMD FX-8150 is billed as an 8-core device although Bulldozer’s novel CPU architecture design shares floating-point units across pairs of cores. Based on the latest 32nm process technology, Bulldozer contains around 2 billion transistors, far greater than Intel equivalents.

Code-named Zambezi, AMD has also resurrected the firm’s enthusiast FX-brand for the top-of-the-line unlocked FX-8150 processor. With the embargo lifted, a number of reviews appeared for the FX-8150 which inevitably compared the processor with Intel’s flagship Core i7 2600k processor.

A common theme in reviews is disappointment that the FX-8150 performed well only in certain circumstances and often failed to outpace the existing Phenom II X6 1100T. However reviewers did hail the performance boost that occasionally was competitive with Intel’s Core i5 2500k.

"Given the right workload, Bulldozer is actually able to hang with Intel’s fastest Sandy Bridge parts," said Anandtech’s Anand Lal Shimpi.

Tweaktown pointed out that the ultimate buying decision would likely come down to the cost of an upgrade. Existing owners of AMD AMD3+ motherboards could upgrade at a reasonable cost while moving to a high-end Intel motherboard would be much more expensive.

Tech Report chose to illustrate the new CPU landscape with a scatterplot of price to performance which again showed the FX-8150 as competitive but failing to deliver a decisive blow, particularly compared to the slightly cheaper and slightly faster Core i5 2500k.

Tweaktown’s blog was critical of the decision of AMD to launch the high end FX-8150 as the launch of Bulldozer. "The FX-8150 doesn’t represent AMD well; it doesn’t do what AMD are great at, offering well priced products that can take on the competition at that price point," they said.

Overall across the number of Bulldozer reviews that have appeared, one can’t help but pick up a collective sense of disappointment that Bulldozer has failed to deliver more. Curiously AMD have also claimed that Windows 7 is poorly optimised for Bulldozer’s architecture.

Anandtech ran some quick game benchmarks on the Windows 8 preview and even now, a year away from release, some performance gains could be seen. However Anandtech also pointed out that by the time Windows 8 arrives, AMD will itself have shipped another CPU generation ‘Piledriver’.

"The good news is AMD has a very aggressive roadmap ahead of itself," concluded Lal Shimpi. "We all need AMD to succeed. We’ve seen what happens without a strong AMD as a competitor," he concluded.

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