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PC Specialist FX-8150 HD review

£1099 inc VAT

Manufacturer: PC Specialist

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The PC Specialist FX-8150 HD is the first Windows PC we've reviewed using AMD's new Bulldozer processor.

While AMD failed to step up to the mark for mobile computing, even more so than Intel, its desktop multi-core processors are still popular in workstations, servers and fire-breathing enthusiast PCs.

In these areas, where power consumption problems can be more easily overcome, the IBM x86 processor is still in demand.

The PC Specialist FX-8150 HD is one of the first PCs we've seen to take an AMD Bulldozer processor, one of AMD’s new ‘8-core’ chips. It's somewhat like Intel's quad-core chips with two virtual 'Hyper-Thread' cores to every physical one, that create an 8-core-like processor for the OS. AMD's new architecture is instead based on 'modules', with two effective cores, each with dedicated integer cores but sharing cache. 

So the AMD FX-8150 is a 3.6GHz four-module processor, that here has been overclocked to 4.4GHz.

Memory is from Corsair, its HyperX high-performance RAM. And for extra responsiveness, the boot drive is an Intel SSD, just 80GB capacity, but supplemented by a 1TB SATA disk from Western Digital.

These are based around an Asus M5A99X Pro motherboard, good for SATA 6Gbps use.

The system we tested was built into a macho Cooler Master case with red glowing coals seemingly visible through the front grill. It's a tough-looking case fitted with three fans, although the largest top fan was disconnected; probably rendered less vital by the presence of a chunky Fenrir cooler over the CPU. 

Graphics are driven by a PowerColor card, an AMD Radeon HD 6970, while system power is sourced from a Corsair TX750 power supply.

The combination of two case fans and another four from the ensemble of CPU, GPU and PSU doesn't entirely drive you to distraction, but it is far from beinf a silent or even quiet system.

Idle power draw is a not-inconsiderable 140W, rising to 330W at times during our testing. That’s a third of a kilowatt to keep your electric utility company cheerful.

As with a CyberPower Ultra 6 Core Silent Edition system in our recent family PC group test, we had trouble benchmarking this PC due to some issues between the chipset and WorldBench.

Specifically, the Nero component would not complete, leaving a final score of 132 points. If it had finished, we’d estimate a score of no more that 150 points, which would place this hungry CPU below the kind of result we see from PCs using the Intel Core i5-2500, a favourite chip in sub-£500 PCs.

Gaming results were good from the combination of AMD CPU and discrete GPU. Our standard ‘high’ test (1680x1050, Very High detail) in Crysis drew an average framerate score of 50fps, while Stalker: Call of Pripyat flew by at 143fps (720, Medium detail) and 104fps (1080, Ultra).

Also included with the system is a proper Blu-ray optical drive that can record to blank BD media, where most BD-capable PCs are fitted with just BD-ROM drives.

Compared to most UK vendor PCs, packing and presentation of the PC was to a very high standard. Standard warranty terms are only for one-year, but with three year’s labour costs covered.

PC Specialist FX-8150 HD Expert Verdict »

3.6GHz AMD FX-8150 processor overclocked to 4.4GHz
8MB L2 cache
8MB L3 cache
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Asus M5A99X Pro motherboard
8GB (2 x 4GB) Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM
PowerColor AMD Radeon HD 6970 with 2GB memory
80GB Intel SATA 3Gbps SSD
1TB Western Digital SATA HDD
Lite-On BD-RE/DVD±RW optical drive
Fenrir cooler
Corsair TX750 PSU
Cooler Master HAF 912 Plus case
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 7 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 6 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 7 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to get some serious performance through many processor cores, a cheaper and faster Intel Core i5 PC may be a better investment, without even going to the trouble of any overclocking. AMD’s new Bulldozer chips do not seem to present much threat to Intel’s x86/x64 monopoly just yet. But PC Specialist’s FX-8150 HD is a solidly made PC, and reasonably fast too, even if we suspect that enthusiasts shopping at this price would prefer something they could call ‘really fast’.

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