AMD FX-8150 Review - Where to Buy

By on October 27, 2011

A decent performing, but overhyped CPU.

AMD FX-8150 Review

The AMD FX series CPUs have been talked about since longer than I care to imagine, with a lot of excitement surrounding the new architecture coming in from their Opteron, server based CPU, lines. Eight cores with eight threads on a CPU running at 3.6GHz on stock and the ability to turbo up to 3.9GHz on all eight cores or 4.2GHz on four cores, the AMD FX-8150 had a lot of promise. And what with the world record breaking 8.429GHz overclock on liquid helium, the hype for the Bulldozer CPUs was higher than ever.

Instead what we got was something of a mixed bag: a CPU that on paper is powerful enough to outshine any mainstream LGA1155 offering from Intel, but in reality isn’t. With the launch of the FX series, AMD plans to bring back their historical moniker of their previous FX branded CPUs which were the flagship offerings from the company at the time; now the FX brand is fragmented into four, six and eight core CPUs with different speeds and prices.

The specs of the FX-8150, their flagship FX series processor is pretty impressive. Made on a 32nm die with 2 million transistors and compatible with all AM3+ motherboards, the eight cores run at 3.6GHz, supported by 256 KB of L1 Instruction Cache, 8 MB of L2 and L3 Cache. As with the FM1 chips, the new FX CPUs also support DDR3-1866MHz natively.

To test out the FX-8150, AMD provided us with an ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard, plus an Asetek water cooling solution that is reported to be released for $100. On its own, the FX-8150 will be selling for $245 (AED 950), which is a bit more than the Core i7-2500K. And at the time of this review, the price for the FX-8150 is already hiked up by many retailers to around $280, bringing it closer to the $315 Core i7-2600K. The addition of the water based cooling solution brings up the total to a suggested retail price of $345 (AED 1250).

For testing the FX-8150 we have used the following setup:

-          Motherboard: ASUS Crosshair V Formula

-          CPU: AMD FX-8150 (8 cores/ 8 threads)

-          RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR3-2133MHz

-          GPU: Zotac GTX 580 AMP! Edition

-          PSU: Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold

-          SSD: Kingston HyperX 240GB

Next up is the previous generation AMD 1100T Black Edition 6 core CPU:

-          Motherboard: MSI Z68A-GD80 (B3)

-          CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K (4 cores/ 8 threads)

-          RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR3-2133MHz

-          GPU: Zotac GTX 580 AMP! Edition

-          PSU: Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold

-          SSD: Kingston HyperX 240GB

And finally we have our resident testebed against which the FX-8150 will mainly go against:

-          Motherboard: ASUS M5-A96-EVO

-          CPU: AMD 1100T Black Edition (6 cores/ 6 threads)

-          RAM: Kingston 4GB DDR3-2133MHz

-          GPU: Zotac GTX 580 AMP! Edition

-          PSU: Cooler Master 1200W Silent Pro Gold

-          SSD: Kingston HyperX 240GB

For the initial testing, I have set all processors at their stock speeds, so:

FX-8150: 3.6GHz stock; 3.9GHz turbo (8 cores); 4.2GHz turbo (4 cores)

1100T BE: 3.3GHz stock; 3.7GHz turbo (6 cores)

Core i7-2600K: 3.4GHz stock; 3.8GHz turbo (4 cores)

Apart from the multi-threaded WinRAR and 7-Zip, pretty much everything is topped by the Core i7-2600K which has lower clock speeds, but the same number of threads.

On stock, the FX-8150 leaves much to be desired when compared to the i7-2600K, but users of the 6 core 1100T will see immediate gains across all fronts as the higher clock speeds, and in some cases like PCMark 7, the extra cores help improve the overall performance.

Now this is where I expected great things from the FX-8150, especially with the water cooling solution. While I wasn’t expecting anything remotely close to the fabled 8.4GHz overclock, I did think that achieving 5GHz on water should be a big deal. Indeed I have heard some others achieving a stable overclock of 5GHz and even 5.2GHz with the Asetek water cooler. But no matter what variations of numbers I tried, the most stable overclock I got in the end was 4942 MHZ using a CPU BUS frequency of 229MHz and a multiplier of 21.5 and setting the voltage to 1.43v. Auto turbo boosting was disabled in the BIOS, so effectively all 8 cores were running at 4.9GHz. Using this setup, CoreTemp reported the lowest temperature of 18°C and highest of 78°C. Comparatively stock speeds gave lowest reported temperature of 16°C and highest of 41°C.

For the Intel Core i7-2600K, I achieved an overclock of 4694 MHz by setting the CPU BUS frequency to 100MHZ and a multiplier of 47. Voltage was increased to 1.45v. Mind you, this overclock was achieved on the Intel XTS 100H air cooler, which costs $42; bringing the price of the entire setup to $361 compared to $345 of the FX-8150, a 4% price increase.

While there are quite a lot of variations, the overclocked i7-2600K @ 4.7GHz is roughly 36% faster than the FX-8150 @ 4.8GHz. Keep in mind that the FX-8150 can also use an air cooler, bringing the price down further, but I doubt you’ll be able to achieve 4.9GHz, and even then the noise from the fan would be unbearable.

So what does this leave us with in the end? The FX-8150 is surely the fastest chip AMD has made to date, but it’s still not fast enough. Would I recommend a Core i7-2600K over the FX-8150? Looking purely at the numbers, I would certainly say yes.

However, once you consider the cost of the whole setup, things start to change a bit. For anyone who already has an AM3+ motherboard, the FX-8150 is a no-brainer upgrade no matter what CPU you currently have. However, if you’re building a new rig to play Battlefield 3 with ease, I’d definitely recommend the Core i7-2600K. The Sandy Bridge platform is now mature enough that older P67 based motherboards, and even the new Z68 based boards are cheap enough for a decently fast setup.

And upgradability brings me to the next problem, because with the new Sandy Bridge E processors, Intel will also introduce the LGA2011 platform. Sure, Ivy Bridge processors are supposed to be backwards compatible with LGA1155, but let’s not depend on Intel to not fragment their user base.

The final issue that sort of works against the FX-8150 is that there are barely any software developers out there who will take advantage of 8 cores for consumer software. So what’s my conclusion?

If you have a 6 core 1100T BE or 4 core 970 BE AMD CPU already and are wanting to upgrade, just wait until Q1 next year. You existing CPUs will easily handle Battlefield 3 and any other game coming out, provided you have a decent enough GPU.

[caption id="attachment_47754" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Worth it, but not in it's current setup."][/caption]

If you’re building a new system and just have to have a modern CPU, get the Intel Core i7-2600K. However, even then I’ll say just wait for a few more months. The reason being that not only will the new Sandy Bridge socket LGA2011 processor will be launching soon, but two very exciting Bulldozer CPUs will be coming in Q1 2012. Specifically the FX-4170 which runs at 4.2GHz on stock, turbo up to 4.3GHz on two cores. And then there’s the FX-8170 which runs at 3.9GHz on stock, turbo up to 4.5GHz on two cores.

Right now the FX-8150 does not provide the performance we were promised. Forget dethroning Intel’s flagship Extreme Series CPUs, the FX-8150 is barely able to catch up to the competitively priced i7-2600K, even with overclocking into consideration. So for the time being, just wait…

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