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AMD FX-8350, -8320, -6300 'Vishera' review: finally good enough?

A review of AMD’s new FX processors

If you plan on using a dedicated graphics card, the FX-8350, FX-8320 and FX-6300 aren't bad options. With Intel you get an integrated GPU that you pay for but don't use if you have a separate graphics card. In the AMD FX processors every single transistor is used by the CPU, which clearly has a positive effect with multi-threaded software. Don't get us wrong, Intel still makes the world's fastest processor and AMD can't even get close. But if you have a dedicated video card, then the new AMD FX processors give you a lot of bang for your buck.

The era when AMD competed in the high-end segment of computer processors has really come to an end, and the new FX processors are not intended to change this fact. AMD has chosen a different approach instead, and that is affordability.  The first generation FX processors based on AMD's Bulldozer architecture did not meet expectations, so AMD is making a second attempt today, with FX 2.0 or Vishera. The Piledriver cores are a refinement and further development of Bulldozer, that are supposed to address the shortcomings. Hardware.Info extensively tested the new processors to find out how successful AMD's second attempt is, and compared it to every other processor currently on the market.

We had to wait almost four years for the original FX processors, and when the chips finally arrived their performance was a real letdown. AMD failed to achieve the performance it had hoped for with its FX processors based on the Bulldozer architecture. The fastest processor in the series from AMD, the FX-8150, was comparable to the Core i5 2500. The Core i7 2600K and the Intel Core i7 1366 processors remained out of reach. When Intel launched its Ivy Bridge generation and it replaced the high-end segment with Socket 11 models, it seemed as if the fatal blow had been dealt to AMD. And despite the fact that AMD tried to attract consumers by significantly lowering prices, sales figures were poor.

The new FX processors are based on four Piledriver modules, which is the second version of AMD's Bulldozer processor architecture. With Piledriver AMD manage to remove the main bottlenecks, and it can be said that it became was Bulldozer was originally supposed to be from the start.

The foundation of the architecture is still the same. It consists of modules, which contain two integer CPU cores that share a floating point core. Each module has 2 MB of L2-cache. The Vishera has four such modules, for a total of eight cores. In the Windows task manager you will see eight virtual cores. There will also be versions in which one or two modules have been disabled, leaving two or four cores active.

The Vishera chip also contains a dual-channel DDR3 memory controller that supports speeds of up to DDR3-1866. For the link to the chipset the processor has a HyperTransport 3.0 controller. That means there is no integrated PCI-Express controller in the processor. The Vishera chip is manufactured with a 32nm production process (like its predecessor Zambezi) at Global Foundries in Dresden. AMD has not revealed the exact size of the chip.

AMD is releasing four new models in the FX series based on the new Vishera chip. The flagship model is the AMD FX-8350, with four Piledriver modules and eight cores. The processor normally runs at 4 GHz. When only half the cores are active, the built-in turbo mode speed up the processor to 4.2 GHz. The chip has a TDP of 125 watts, and a price of around £160.

For a little less you can buy the FX-8320. This is an eight-core model with a 125 watt TDP as well, but with lower clock frequencies. These are standard 3.5 GHz, with a turbo of 4.0 GHz. The price will be around £140.

The FX-6300 is a six-core model, with three enabled Piledriver modules. The L2-cache has been reduced to 3x 2 = 6 MB. The 8 MB L3-cache has been left intact. The clock frequencies are 3.5 GHz standard and 4.1 GHz turbo. The TDP is lower at 95 watts. It will cost around £115.

The FX-4300 is a quad-core model (same as Trinity) with 4 MB L3-cache. The clock frequencies are 3.8 GHz and 4.0 GHz. The chip has a 95 watt TDP and will be available for around £105.

All four FX processors have unlocked multipliers, for CPU clock frequencies, turbo clock frequencies and the memory clock frequencies. This grants overclockers the freedom to increase the various speeds. This concretely means that you can configure a FX-8320 as a FX-8350, even if AMD has indicated that it used the best chips for the latter.

All of the new processors utilise the same Socket AM3+ processor socket as the existing FX processors. So if you already have an AMD system, you don't need to buy a new motherboard. To find out whether AMD managed to improve the performance of the new FX processors, and whether it’s enough to provide a viable alternative to Intel Core i5 processors, read the full review on Hardware.Info.

AMD FX 8350

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