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Power, Performance and Cost Analysis
We derived our average system power consumption numbers to consider both heavy and light usage. Heavy usage is defined as using the system running 75% of the time on high load (an average of the power consumption of our five measured benchmarks), while low usage is defined as running 75% of the time on light load (an average of the power consumption when sitting idle and playing H.264 video).
The standings of each processor do not vary depending on the usage pattern, but the relative differences are significant. The FX-8150 for example uses 45% more power than the i7-2600K in our light load scenario but this figure jumps to 67% on heavy load.
We arrive at our performance per watt scores by dividing the overall CPU performance by the average power consumption and adjusting the results so the best CPU scores 100 points. With better overall performance and superior energy efficiency, Sandy Bridge is firmly on top for both light and heavy usage systems. The AMD processors (the FX-8150 in particular) do slightly better on light load as the power consumption differences are lower.
Note: Motherboard pricing data was collected from Newegg's catalog with the following criteria: retail versions, US$0~$250 after rebates if applicable, Asus/Intel/Gigabyte/MSI branded, microATX/ATX form factor, SATA 6 Gbps and USB controller. H61/H67/Z68 chipset for Core i3-2100, P67/Z68 chipset for Core i5/i7's, AM3/AM3+ socket for Phenom II's, AM3+ socket for FX-8150.
AMD has always had one advantage in its battle against Intel: Lower CPU and motherboard prices. The FX-8150 breaks this trend as its US$245 price is $35 more than the Core i5-2500K, and AM3+ motherboards also carry a slight premium over the older AM3 stock. Even with a more expensive P67/Z68 motherboard, the average i5-2500K system comes in slightly cheaper.
Focusing on performance:price alone, the FX-8150 falls short once again. The only way it reaches parity with Sandy Bridge is if only highly threaded applications are used.
Based on the tests we've conducted, the only end-users who could benefit from the new AMD chip are PC professionals that deal with sophisticated audio and video encoding, rendering, virtualization, and/or heavy workstation/server loads which max out CPU cores and system memory on a regular basis. If your needs are that demanding, you'll probably want to run the system for longer durations than the average home user; undoubtedly this will drive up your electricity costs considerably. Already behind Intel in energy efficiency, Zambezi, or at least the eight core version, delivers no improvement in this regard.
For lighter usage patterns, the argument for the FX-8150 is fragile. High power consumption, albeit to a lesser degree is still a major factor and performance is lukewarm. We noted some improvements in a couple of simpler non-threaded benchmarks but in another two, the FX-8150 turned out to be slower than the X6 1100T. As the FX-8150 has a 300 MHz advantage, it seems that as a result of restructuring the chip architecture and/or splitting resources between cores/modules, per clock cycle, Bulldozer seems slower than its predecessor.
It is unfortunate for AMD that the chip lives up to its name. "Bulldozer" appears to be a big, lumbering beast that takes a lot of power to run and is only great at a few specific things. The FX-8150 excels mainly in multithreaded applications so you could argue it's the CPU of the future, but with AMD playing catch-up they needed a hit today, not something that might outperform Sandy Bridge in a couple of years when more programs are coded to use multiple cores. Currently an Intel Core i5-2500K based system offers better, more well-rounded performance and far superior power efficiency at a slight discount compared to the FX-8150, so even AMD's price advantage has evaporated. The less expensive FX processors may fare better, but only time will tell. Still struggling to fight in the desktop space, AMD faces further pressure as Intel's newer, faster Sandy Bridge-E chips will debut in a month's time.
Our thanks to AMD
and Asus for the FX-8150 and Crosshair V Formula samples used in this review.
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Articles of Related Interest
AMD A8-3850 Quad Core Desktop APU (updated July 10)
Intel Core i3-2100T & Core i5-2400S Low Power CPUs
Intel Core i3-2100 vs. AMD Phenom II X2 565
Asus E35M1-M Pro: AMD Fusion Motherboard
Core i5-2400, i5-2500K and i7-2600K CPUs
AMD Athlon II X3: Affordable Compromise
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this article in the SPCR forums.
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