AMD FX-8150 8-Core Bulldozer Processor

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AMD FX-8150 8-Core Bulldozer Processor

October 19, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
AMD FX-8150
AM3+ Processor
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$245

AMD has always been the CPU underdog, with Intel holding a substantial lead in performance except in the days of the Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 X2. Once Intel countered with Core 2 Duo line, they took the reigns and never looked back. We've been waiting for AMD to at least reach parity ever since.

AMD's latest processor is Bulldozer, a revamped architecture, the first major redesign since Phenom II was released in 2009. Bulldozer has a restructured layout that AMD claims reduces some redundancies in traditional multi-core designs, creating a more efficient chip. Bulldozer uses a smaller 32 nm manufacturing process, allowing more cores to fit on the die. The desktop models (codename "Zambezi") have up to eight cores and over two billion transistors, more than double that of the fastest Phenom II's.

AMD Zambezi Lineup
Model
CPU Base
Turbo Core
Max Turbo
TDP
Cores
L2 Cache
Price
FX-8150
3.6 GHz
3.9 GHz
4.2 GHz
125W
8
8MB
$245
FX-8120
3.1 GHz
3.4 GHz
4.0 GHz
95W / 125W
8
8MB
$205
FX-8100
2.8 GHz
3.1 GHz
3.7 GHz
95W
8
8MB
N/A
FX-6100
3.3 GHz
3.6 GHz
3.9 GHz
95W
6
6MB
$165
FX-4170
4.2 GHz
-
4.3 GHz
125W
4
4MB
N/A
FX-B4150
3.8 GHz
3.9 GHz
4.0 GHz
95W
4
4MB
N/A
FX-4100
3.6 GHz
3.7 GHz
3.8 GHz
95W
4
4MB
$115
Note: all CPUs have 8MB L3 cache

AMD is launching four Zambezi chips, the quad core FX-4100, the six core FX-6100, and the eight core FX-8120 and FX-8150. These CPUs use AMD's latest AM3+ socket, an updated version of AM3 with the same pin count. An AM3+ motherboard or an AM3 model with listed AM3+ support is required; see your motherboard manufacturer website for details. If you have an AM3 chip, they are forwards-compatible — if for some reason you would like a new motherboard but do not wish to upgrade your processor at this time.

AMD provided us with one sample just paltry couple days before the embargo date, the top-of-the-line FX-8150 which will sell for US$245, putting in somewhere between the Intel Core i5-2500K and i7-2600K in pricing. AMD managed to keep the TDP at a reasonable 125W despite the eight cores and higher clock speeds. The FX-8150 is rated as a 3.6 GHz processor, but like Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, always runs slightly faster on load due to its dynamic overclocking feature (Turbo Core for AMD, TurboBoost for Intel).


Die layout.

The FX-8150 isn't a "true" octa core processor but rather has four Bulldozer modules packed with a pair of processing cores each — this is the biggest change from the older Phenom II architecture. The CPU has plenty of cache, 8MB of L2 (2MB per core) and 8MB of L3 (2MB per module). Bulldozer has also been updated with FMA, XOP, AES, AVX, and SSE 4.2 instruction sets giving it a boost in applications that support them. The total package has an amazing 2+ billion transistors, more than twice that of latest Phenom II X4/X6's, fit on a ~315 mm2 die.


CPU-Z screenshot: idle.

The lowest CPU state has a clock speed of 1400 MHz, up from 800 MHz, primarily to speed up the time it takes to reach the 3.6+ GHz performance states offered by the FX-8150. While the idle frequency has been increased, the core voltage is noticeably lower at 0.864V according to CPU-Z; Phenom II X4/X6's typically idle at around ~1.000V.


CPU-Z screenshot: two core load.

Turbo Core is more aggressive on the FX-8150 than the Phenom II X6 line, with a maximum clock speed of 4.2 GHz. On load, idle cores are put into sleep states while active cores get pumped up clock speeds and voltages depending on how many cores are stressed, provided it does not exceed the 125W TDP. When all eight cores are stressed, they should all run at 3.6 GHz in optimal conditions.


Absurdly overpackaged sample set.

As usual, our review kit was a bulbous, well-padded package containing a high-end motherboard, in this case, the Asus Crosshair V Formula. However, we didn't expect the unnecessary tin box holding the CPU and a ridiculously oversized AMD FX belt buckle. It seems that AMD has taken some really odd steps to make reviewers pay attention to Bulldozer; even teens couldn't be much impressed with the package.



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