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Zambezi CPU Line-Up

The launch of Zambezi processors completes AMD’s processor line-up update. Desktop CPUs based on the new Bulldozer microarchitecture will be the new flagship product, which will quickly oust from the market all Phenom II models.

In order to stress the innovative nature of their new microarchitecture, AMD will use a difference marketing name for their Zambezi processors – FX. On the one hand, it fit perfectly into the new naming system that implies the use of letters for CPU marking, but on the other hand, it reminds of the legendary Athlon 64 FX processors, which were the fastest desktop CPUs 6-7 years ago. However, those times are long gone, so let’s take a closer look at what we are being offered today.

There will very soon be four FX processor models available in the market:

Although Zambezi processor models differ not only by the clock speeds, but also by the number of active computational cores, they will all be built from the same unified semiconductor die. Here it is:

In order to build processors with fewer cores than eight, AMD will disable some of them on the semiconductor die. It is still a question, whether they can be unlocked the same way we did with processors on K10 microarchitecture. Nevertheless, we saw all the corresponding options in the BIOS Setup of several mainboards built around the new 900-series chipsets, so there is definitely hope for the positive outcome.

The production of six-core and quad-core processors will imply the per-module core locking. It means that they will lock the entire dual-core module rather than a second core in two modules like that, although the latter approach could be much more efficient from the performance perspective. However, six- and quad-core Bulldozer processors are merely the way to utilize the defective dies, which may be quite numerous since they are going to use the new production process and the die is pretty large in size.

Although AMD optimized the new microarchitecture for operation at high clock speeds, we can’t say that they have reached any impressive break-through. The 4 GHz threshold is still unreached and the nominal frequency of the top FX processor is even lower than that of Phenom II X4 980. We hope that as they master the production process, Zambezi frequencies will continue to grow rapidly. Although according to the current AMD roadmap, the new processor family should start speeding up no sooner than in Q1 2012.

We don’t see any dramatic victories in terms of power consumption and heat dissipation either. AMD have been promising us for a long time that the new Bulldozer would be more energy-efficient than predecessors, but in reality the top eight-core models have the same TDP as the top Phenom II CPUs. Although very soon they should add a 95 W FX-8120 model as well as an FX-8100 with the same TDP to their lineup.

On the other hand, the prices of the new FX processors seem to be more than attractive. AMD doesn’t want to deviate from their plan to continue offering platforms at a lower price than competition, that is why the top eight-core Zambezi processors are positioned against the top Core i5 CPUs. Overall, AMD is going to stick to the following positioning plan:

In other words, AMD has no intention whatsoever to compete against six-core Intel CPUs and the upcoming LGA2011 and intends to focus on the mainstream segment.

Great news for enthusiasts is that all FX processors will come with unlocked multipliers. All Zambezi CPUs can easily be overclocked not only by simply adjusting the base clock multiplier, but also by reconfiguring their Turbo Core technology. You can also overclock the memory sub-system and the frequency of the North Bridge integrated into the processor.

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