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Last year's launch of AMD's FX processors was honestly disappointing. The Bulldozer CPU cores that were bundled into each Zambezi chip were hardly power efficient and in many areas couldn't significantly outperform AMD's previous generation platform. Look beyond the direct AMD comparison and the situation looked even worse. In our conclusion to last year's FX-8150 review I wrote the following:

"Single threaded performance is my biggest concern, and compared to Sandy Bridge there's a good 40-50% advantage the i5 2500K enjoys over the FX-8150. My hope is that future derivatives of the FX processor (perhaps based on Piledriver) will boast much more aggressive Turbo Core frequencies, which would do wonders at eating into that advantage."

The performance advantage that Intel enjoyed at the time was beyond what could be erased by a single generation. To make matters worse, before AMD could rev Bulldozer, Intel already began shipping Ivy Bridge - a part that not only increased performance but decreased power consumption as well. It's been a rough road for AMD over these past few years, but you have to give credit where it's due: we haven't seen AMD executing this consistently in quite a while. As promised we've now had multiple generations of each platform ship from AMD. Brazos had a mild update, Llano paved the way for Trinity which is now shipping, and around a year after Zambezi's launch we have Vishera: the Piledriver based AMD FX successor.

At a high level, Vishera swaps out the Bulldozer cores from Zambezi and replaces them with Piledriver. This is the same CPU core that is used in Trinity, but it's optimized for a very different purpose here in Vishera. While Trinity had to worry about working nicely in a laptop, Vishera is strictly a high-end desktop/workstation part. There's no on-die graphics for starters. Clock speeds and TDPs are also up compared to Trinity.

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Vishera 8C 32nm 8 1.2B 315mm2
AMD Zambezi 8C 32nm 8 1.2B 315mm2
Intel Ivy Bridge 4C 22nm 4 1.4B 160mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge E (6C) 32nm 6 2.27B 435mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge E (4C) 32nm 4 1.27B 294mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 4C 32nm 4 1.16B 216mm2
Intel Lynnfield 4C 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT1) 32nm 2 504M 131mm2
Intel Sandy Bridge 2C (GT2) 32nm 2 624M 149mm2

Vishera is still built on the same 32nm GlobalFoundries SOI process as Zambezi, which means there isn't much room for additional architectural complexity without ballooning die area, and not a whole lot of hope for significantly decreasing power consumption. As a fabless semiconductor manufacturer, AMD is now at GF's mercy when it comes to moving process technology forward. It simply has to make 32nm work for now. Piledriver is a light evolution over Bulldozer, so there's actually no substantial increase in die area compared to the previous generation. Cache sizes remain the same as well, which keeps everything roughly the same. These chips are obviously much larger than Intel's 22nm Ivy Bridge parts, but Intel has a full node advantage there which enables that.

Piledriver is a bit more power efficient than Bulldozer, which enables AMD to drive Vishera's frequency up while remaining in the same thermal envelope as Zambezi. The new lineup is in the table below:

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Codename Cores Clock Speed Max Turbo L2/L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD FX-8350 Vishera 8 4.0GHz 4.2GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $199
AMD FX-8150 Zambezi 8 3.6GHz 4.2GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $183
AMD FX-8320 Vishera 8 3.5GHz 4.0GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $169
AMD FX-8120 Zambezi 8 3.1GHz 4.0GHz 8MB/8MB 125W $153
AMD FX-6300 Vishera 6 3.5GHz 4.1GHz 6MB/8MB 95W $132
AMD FX-6100 Zambezi 6 3.3GHz 3.9GHz 6MB/8MB 95W $112
AMD FX-4300 Vishera 4 3.8GHz 4.0GHz 4MB/4MB 95W $122
AMD FX-4100 Zambezi 4 3.6GHz 3.8GHz 4MB/4MB 95W $101

The table above says it all. TDPs haven't changed, cache sizes haven't changed and neither have core counts. Across the board Vishera ships at higher base frequencies than the equivalent Zambezi part, but without increasing max turbo frequency (in the case of the 8-core parts). The 6 and 4 core versions get boosts to both sides, without increasing TDP. In our Trinity notebook review I called the new CPU core Bulldozed Tuned. The table above supports that characterization.

It's also important to note that AMD's pricing this time around is far more sensible. While the FX-8150 debuted at $245, the 8350 drops that price to $199 putting it around $40 less than the Core i5 3570K. The chart below shows where AMD expects all of these CPUs to do battle:

AMD's targets are similar to what they were last time: Intel's Core i5 and below. All of the FX processors remain unlocked and ship fully featured with hardware AES acceleration enabled. Most Socket-AM3+ motherboards on the market today should support the new parts with nothing more than a BIOS update. In fact, I used the same ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard I used last year (with a much newer BIOS) for today's review:

The Test

For more comparisons be sure to check out our performance database: Bench.

Motherboard: ASUS Maximus V Gene (Intel Z77)
ASUS Crosshair V Formula (AMD 990FX)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Crucial RealSSD C300
OCZ Agility 3 (240GB)
Samsung SSD 830 (512GB)
Memory: 4 x 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3-1600 9-9-9-20
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (Windows 8)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64/Windows 8 Pro x64

General Performance
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  • redwarrior - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    You know NOT what you speak. Battlefield 3 is multithreaderd and look at AMD FX-8350 on Battlefield III - right up near the top, better than I 5 3570 and close to I7 3770. You guys are ignoring the facts and ignoring the trends in software. the move to parallelism is unstoppable and will accelerate. Multithreading is a growing presence and ONLY BAD programmers and software designers ignore it. The turning point will come when steamroller ships in a year and it will compete nicely with Hasbeen. At 28nm it will be almost as efficient as Hasbeen
    Performance wise it will be as good.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    LOL why am i not surprised, massive amd fanboy with chips on the shoulder, and a fantasy brain.
    " o organizing work to liberate the working class from wage slavery"
    LOL - perfect, just like the rest of the amd fruitballs. Have fun at the OWS protests, though it would have been decent to join up with Tea Party, instead of coming on a year plus late after all the complaining. (you brought up politics fanboy)

    Anyway back to your fanboy fantasy. As I said, you can look all day long at the pileofcrap amd releases and tell yourself it's the greatest ball of cheese for you, but no one has to believe your bs. One big reason why.
    SB 2500K oc's to 4500 like butter on stock everything, all 4 cores, all day and all night with zero hiccups, and blows the amd crap away period.

    You actually have to be very stupid to not choose it. Very stupid.
    Be aware fanboy, you're looking at stock 2500K in all the charts, and a clear +50% increase in instantly available with it, FOR FREE.

    There is no way any amd fanboy made the correct decision after 2500K was released. And it's not occurring now either. You're living a lie, so please stop sharing it with us, and by the way - I don't think it's your place to tell others WHAT they can use their computer systems for.

    THEY OWN THEM, not you. They are theirs, not yours, and you shouldn't be tooting your virgin purity hippy love angel wing CRAP here, and then also have the obnoxious insolence to tell others they are wasting their computer power.

    There are plenty of people who will tell you flat out you are wasting your life and wrecking the nation with the crap you are doing, no doubt about it, so keep it to yourself, won't you ?

    Now let's hear how your crapdirver amd can possibly match a 2500K in the real world...
    LOL
    ain't happening mister

    Reply
  • Evilwake - Saturday, November 17, 2012 - link

    lol that funny calling a spade a spade look at yourself i my self have your 2500k and have the piledriver dont see any difference in them in the real world in fact whats funny is i can run many programs in the back ground and still play aion without any frame loose or any shuttering problems cant do that with my 2500k it drops in frame rates and shutters like hell so keep telling peeps how much u dont know about cpu's we really like hearing from u. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, December 09, 2012 - link

    another liar, another amd fanboy, another evil person Reply
  • iceman34572 - Wednesday, January 02, 2013 - link

    Who gives a crap who has the better processor? Honestly......do you work for Intel? Then why care what other people like? I have an FX series processor, as well as several Intel machines. I like them both. Going online and getting into a pi$$ing contest over which company makes a better processor and resorting to making fun of people (google "Internet tough guy and you'll see what a majority of people think about that) is non constructive, gains you nothing except negative attention, and makes you look less intelligent than you probably are. I could give a $hit what you like, or which processor you run. Neither AMD nor Intel pays me any money to give a d@mn, and whether I think you are wasting your money or spending it wisely doesn't impact me in the least bit. People, just buy what you personally like, and screw all the fanboyism that seems to be rampant ON BOTH SIDES. Reply
  • pmartin - Thursday, January 03, 2013 - link

    You hope it performs as well as Hasbeen. My guess is it won't. If you want top of the range performance, buy Intel, simple as that. Reply
  • pl1n1 - Saturday, October 27, 2012 - link

    The technical arguments have some merits, the political ones are per-digested socialist propaganda. I almost threw up at the end of the post.
    Must be nice to be able to advance the cause of the class struggle from a cozy living room somewhere in a free market country where your freedom of speech is protected by some freely elected capitalistic pig.

    Useful idiots from around the world unite!
    Reply
  • pmartin - Thursday, January 03, 2013 - link

    Please shut the hell up. Reply
  • captg - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    What about someone with an AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition at stock speeds? Reply
  • Wisenos - Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - link

    i run my 965 @ 4ghz... 1.48v 20x200mhz Reply

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