AMD FX-8150 review
There’s been plenty of confusion surrounding Bulldozer since we first heard about the new CPU microarchitecture back in July 2007 – we were told it was a modular CPU design that would incorporate a GPU. And that there would be only two flavours of Fusion processor – one based around Bulldozer for high-performance CPUs and another Bobcat design for low-power systems.
Most of that has turned out to be true, though there’s no graphics unit in a Bulldozer CPU and we have the Llano processor design to bridge the gap between Bobcat and Bulldozer.
More confusing was whether Bulldozer was ever meant for home use. In a briefing in August 2010 we were told explicitly that, ‘[Bulldozer] delivers 33 per cent more cores and an estimated 50 per cent increase in throughput in the same power envelope as Magny-Cours’, AMD’s current top-end Opteron design.
There was also talk that Bulldozer processors should drop into G34 motherboards with a BIOS update, and that a new Llano processor was intended for desktop use. Soon after, Bulldozer was confirmed as a desktop as well as server and workstation CPU design; after a delay of several months, it’s finally on sale.
Now that we have a Bulldozer CPU to test (plus the attendant reviewers’ guides, interviews and all the rest), we can clear away all the myths and rumours that have surrounded it. The FX-8150 is the first processor we’ve seen that’s based on the Bulldozer CPU architecture, and it’s the daddy of the new lineup with a nominal frequency of 3.6GHz (boosting up to 4.2GHz).
The FX-8150 is joined by three other FX-branded processors at launch, with another three models due to arrive at some point after today. Here’s a table to summarise the models we know about, before we go on and talk about them some more.
Before delving into the specs, it’s worth noting that all FX processors are fully unlocked, meaning that there’s no need for the Black Edition branding we’ve become used to. None of the FX range has an integrated graphics unit, which in understandable on one hand, as AMD has already released two new processor designs this year with integrated graphics, while the much larger Intel has only given us one. To deliver three radically new APUs in one year would be astonishing. Even more so when you look into the Bulldozer CPU design, as there’s plenty of radical new design work that has gone into it.
As with the A-series and and E-series APUs, there’s no branding other than the letter – AMD has been planning to kill as many of its brand names as possible (including ATI) for a while, and the company has done just that with this launch. As far as real brands go, AMD now only has Vision, Radeon, FirePro and Opteron.
AMD is calling the FX-8150 the world’s first eight-core desktop processor, though to some controversy – we discuss what’s in a core? later, but will stick to an overview of the CPU design here. Bulldozer CPUs are comprised of Modules, each of which has two execution units and some shared resources, such as the Fetch, Decode, floating point unit and 2MB of Level 2 cache. These Modules can then be bolted together to form 4-, 6- or 8-core CPUs – Bulldozer is a very modular design, just as Intel CPUs have been modular in their construction for a while now too (since the Nehalem-based Core i7-900 series in November 2008).
A Module isn’t just made of a pair of stripped down K10 execution cores squabbling over some shared units, though, Bulldozer is a completely new design (and design philosophy) from AMD. As such, this article is rather long.
AMD FX-8150 specifications
Turbo Frequency up to 4.2GHz
Manufacturing process 32nm
Number of cores eight physical
Memory controller Dual-channel DDR3
Cache 8 x 16KB L1 data, 4 x 64KB L1 instruction, 4 x 2MB L2, 4 x 2MB L3
Packaging Socket AM3+
Thermal Design Power (TDP 125W
Features SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4a, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, 256-bit AVX, AESNI, PCLMULQDQ, AMD64, Cool’n’Quiet 3.0, AMD-V, MMX, FMA4, XOP
On the next page: AMD Bulldozer - what's a module, what's a core?