New Architecture, New Turbo ModesAMD's new architecture brings a host of changes and enhanced features to the firm's FX-series processors. For starters, the FX-8150 has no less than eight cores—a first on the consumer market—with four 'Bulldozer' modules each containing two cores. Each module then shares part of the cache between its two cores.
Each Bulldozer module has two cores
AMD's Turbo Core technology has been updated too. The basic principle is still the same—the clock speed of the two cores varies in relation to workload, so long as the processor remains within the limits of its total power (Thermal Design Power).
Here, there are two different levels of Turbo to choose from. The first mode, 'Turbo Core', lets you push up the frequency of all the cores to a first level. This kicks in when all the cores are in use but when the processor's workload hasn't reached 100% capacity, so there's still room for the CPU to push up its clock rate. The second mode, 'Max Turbo', offers an even higher clock frequency but is only used when unused cores are available—a situation that occurs when encoding audio in iTunes, for example (a 'single-thread' app), or when installing software.
Turbo modes: each level boosts the clock frequency by 300 MHz.
AMD promises improvements to power consumption and processing efficiency too. All in all, at an equivalent clock speed and with an equivalent number of cores, an AMD FX processor should prove faster than one of the firm's previous-generation Phenom II CPUs ... on paper, at least.
The AMD FX-8150 in PracticeThe FX-8150 has four Bulldozer modules which, as outlined above, make this an eight-core processor. The default clock speed of the cores is 3.6 GHz and the Turbo modes can be used to automatically up the frequency to 3.9 GHz (Turbo Core) or 4.2 GHz (Max Turbo)—that's a record-breaking clock speed for a consumer CPU!
Power ConsumptionWe were really disappointed with this processor's power consumption. While Intel's Sandy Bridge processors impressed in this field, AMD seems to have really missed a trick here. When idle, the FX-8150 uses 20 watts more than the Core i5 2500K and about 4 watts less than AMD's old-generation Phenom II X6 1100T.
When in action, the FX-8150 gets a bit too power-hungry for our liking, guzzling 262 watts in our test machine! That's 100 watts more than the i5 2500K, a four-core processor which, as we'll see below, delivers near-identical performances.
Performance: ApplicationsAfter hanging around in the middle and lower end of our performance index table for a while now, AMD has climbed its way back up into Intel territory with this new processor. However, it hasn't managed to beat Intel's CPUs outright. With an average performance index of 193, the AMD FX-8150 falls just below the Intel Core i5 2500K and just above the Core i7 960. However, the FX-8150 only shows a 10% gain in performance compared with the Phenom II X6 1100T.
Ultimately, performances are good, as this processor is very fast at carrying out the required tasks. However, it's a bit disappointing to see that AMD hasn't managed to outdo Intel's Core i7 2600K, which hit the market a whole eight months before the FX series. Plus, it's still a long way off the Core i7 980X, released in March 2010, even if the two models clearly aren't in the same league price-wise.
Performance: GamingWe also had mixed feelings about the processor's performance in games. While the results obtained clearly outstrip the Phenom II X6 1100T and performance levels won't hold back a top-of-the-range graphics card, the absolute performance level still falls below Intel's Core i7 Sandy Bridge CPU.
|View Performance Index Table
- Performance in applications - makes effective use of multiple cores
- Two Turbo modes
- Power consumption
- Performances should be higher compared with competitors' CPUs and AMD's older models
Ultimately, the AMD FX-8150 is a good CPU in every field apart from power consumption. AMD has finally climbed back up to the performance levels of Intel, but we were expecting more, as the next generation of Intel CPUs risks leaving AMD trailing behind once again. Although the clock speeds have been seriously boosted and extra cores have been added, there's not a huge difference in performance compared with AMD's previous generation of processors.