Articles: CPU

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Over the past few years AMD’s situation in the desktop processor market has been in decline. In the beginning the lack of progressive microarchitectures forced the company to slash the prices on their processors more and more, so that at some point they were completely gone from the top price segment featuring high-performance processors. After that they were in for a truly epic fail, when new processors on Bulldozer microarchitecture came out, which were the beacon of hope for the many. The Bulldozer was expected to become a product capable of competing against the top LGA 1155 and LGA 2011 Intel CPUs, but in reality the new microarchitecture turned out slow and power-hungry. As a result, Bulldozer became a niche product, capable of at least some resistance against the mainstream Intel processors only due to twice as many physical cores. Moreover, the performance could only be considered comparable during multi-threaded load and only if we disregarded the gigantic power consumption. In other words, Bulldozer launch didn’t really help AMD strengthen their positions in the desktop processor market.

Luckily, a chain of market failures combined with management issues, difficult financial situation, layoffs and search for new strategy didn’t interfere with the company engineers, and a year after Bulldozer launch we welcomed a second enhanced version of this microarchitecture called Piledriver. Our review of the top member of Vishera desktop processor family, FX-8350, showed that they didn’t waste any time over the past twelve months. FX-8350 managed to significantly improve the performance of AMD’s flagship platform. The benchmark results have increased by 15% on average, which is more than the performance boost Intel got upon transitioning from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. Trying to amplify the effect from their successful platform refresh, AMD chose to pursue very democratic pricing policy, so that Socket AM3+ platform became much more appealing than before. Vishera processors received a very warm welcome, and we also had absolutely no doubts that the new AMD offering would win a lot of users.

At the same time, if we dug a little deeper, we would see that processors with Piledriver microarchitecture are not that progressive after all. In fact, all the improvements are more of a superficial nature, and the advantage of the new FX-8350 over the FX-8150 can be explained by a combination of factors, most important ones being not the microarchitectural improvements, but the 400 MHz higher clock frequency and more aggressive Turbo mode. Of course, in the end the origin of the performance boost doesn’t matter that much for the end-users, but on the other hand, you should keep in mind that the advantage of the top Vishera processor model over the top Zambezi processor cannot be automatically projected onto other members of the corresponding families. AMD tried to push the clock frequency to the maximum in their FX-8350 processor, to make the best possible impression on the users, but simpler and less expensive FX processor modifications on the new microarchitecture, may fail to deliver a remarkable performance boost like that. Especially, taking into account that the new FX processor family also includes models with smaller L3 cache.

Therefore, we decided to investigate the performance of the junior Vishera processors, which were not part of our first review. Today we will try to determine if all FX processors on Piledriver microarchitecture can be considered a successful refresh of the family, or if only the new FX-8350 deserves the good words.

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