AMD Bulldozer Review: FX-8150 Gets Tested

Overclocking FX-8150 (On Air)

During its press briefing in Austin, AMD’s architects suggested that Bulldozer was designed to hold IPC steady and facilitate significantly higher clock rates. Regardless of the IPC story, we're still expecting solid overclocking headroom.

AMD gave us a guide on what to expect, based on its own experiences, mitigating our suspense. On air, its team had seen a sustainable 4.6 GHz across all cores. Liquid cooling pushed that ceiling up to about 4.9 GHz. Nitrogen and helium—both for the sake of exhibition on an architecture with no cold bug—achieved 7.7 and 8 GHz, respectively, with all cores enabled.

The FX-8150’s base frequency is 3.6 GHz. Its intermediate Turbo Core setting (the clock at which all eight cores can operate simultaneously) is 3.9 GHz. With at least four cores (two modules) idle, Turbo Core is able to push up to 4.2 GHz. Now, using 1.4125 V, I was able to achieve stability at 4.5 GHz on all cores. That frequency was good enough to bring down our SolidWorks 2010 workload from 3:24 to 2:57. But that was also right at the brink (I’m not used to seeing >66°C from an AMD chip; check out the screen capture below).

A more granular approach would be to set a lower base clock rate in AMD’s Overdrive software, and then configure aggressive P1 and P0 states for Turbo Core as modules fall idle. Your threaded apps won't realize as much benefit, but you also stand a better chance of hitting higher clocks at lower voltages in programs like iTunes and WinZip, which only tax one core.

Memory Scaling

Thanks to the changes made to Socket AM3+, Bulldozer enables a much more flexible memory controller than its predecessor. Officially, AMD supports data rates of up to 1866 MT/s. However, you can push even higher than that using the right motherboard.

At 1600 MT/s, the FX-8150 is able to match Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture. That’s an impressive feat, given the bandwidth Phenom II X6 extracted from two channels of DDR3 memory.

Is there a reason to buy higher-end memory kits for an FX-oriented build? I yanked the high-density kit out of our test bench and installed a smaller (2 x 2 GB) DDR-2133 kit from Kingston to measure scaling in WinRAR, which we’ve seen exhibit sensitivity to memory performance in the past.

SiSoft Sandra 2011 shows that bandwidth continues scaling right up to the processor’s official ceiling, while WinRAR demonstrates that seemingly big throughput gains don’t always translate to the same real-world advantage. Even still, it’s good to see that there is additional performance available if you’re willing to tweak your memory subsystem.

Stay Cool, My Friends

At launch, AMD plans to ship its FX CPUs with the same heat sinks you find in a Phenom II X4 or X6 Black Edition processor-in-box package.

Perhaps you’ve also heard rumors that AMD might sell certain models with water cooling kits. This is, in fact, going to happen. However, they’ll be limited to specific markets, starting with Japan. The information we have from AMD right now suggests that the US should see its own closed-loop water cooling kits at some point. But the “when” hasn’t been determined yet.

AMD let us know it shipped samples of this kit to our offices just before launch. However, as of this writing, they haven't arrived.

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    Top Comments
  • Homeboy2
    killerclickAs I said before, it won't come close to beating Intel in performance or price. Now let's hear the fanboys whine.


    Everyone should cry, even the Intel fanboys, this is bad news for everyone, now Intel has absolutely no incentive to lower prices or accelerate Ivy Bridge.
    55
  • jdwii
    Been so long and i'm kinda sad.
    52
  • gmcizzle
    What I learned: the 2.5 year old i7-920 is still a beast.
    48
  • Other Comments
  • btto
    yeah finaly, now i'll read it
    -25
  • ghnader hsmithot
    nOT Bad AMd!
    -35
  • jdwii
    Been so long and i'm kinda sad.
    52
  • compton
    Not many surprises but I've been waiting for a long, long time for this. I hope this is just the first step to a more competitive AMD.
    43
  • ghnader hsmithot
    At least its almost as good as Nehalem.
    29
  • gamerk316
    Dissapointing. Predicted it ages ago though. PII X6 is a better value.
    40
  • Anonymous
    As I expected - failure.
    26
  • AbdullahG
    I see the guys from the BD Rumors are here. As many others are, I'm disappointed.
    25
  • iam2thecrowe
    for the gaming community this is a FLOP.
    33
  • phump
    FX-4100 looks like a good alternative to the 955BE. Same price, higher clock, and lower power profile.
    25
  • phatbuddha79
    Why bring back the FX brand for something like this?
    40
  • gmcizzle
    What I learned: the 2.5 year old i7-920 is still a beast.
    48
  • jdwii
    This is sad, I'm still getting it as its my only option i'm getting a 8120 Toms why did you only review a 8150 when they have all of them on other sites?
    -25
  • ern88
    What I've learned is...AMD=FAIL!!!!!
    -31
  • killerclick
    As I said before, it won't come close to beating Intel in performance or price. Now let's hear the fanboys whine.

    Buh-bye AMD, buh-bye!
    -35
  • Ragnar-Kon
    Looks like solid chips, but I'll admit that the price point isn't low enough to compete in the gaming world with Intel.

    I am rather curious how the FX-4100 will stack up against the current Phenom II X4 chips.

    And even though the FX is a slight disappointment, I am rather impressed by the Windows 8 benchmarks. Having said that, by the time Windows 8 is ready for release I'm sure Intel will have an even better solution.
    25
  • Tamz_msc
    So Bulldozer is AMD's version of NetBurst?
    25
  • Homeboy2
    killerclickAs I said before, it won't come close to beating Intel in performance or price. Now let's hear the fanboys whine.


    Everyone should cry, even the Intel fanboys, this is bad news for everyone, now Intel has absolutely no incentive to lower prices or accelerate Ivy Bridge.
    55
  • killerclick
    homeboy2Everyone should cry, even the Intel fanboys, this is bad news for everyone, now Intel has absolutely no incentive to lower prices or accelerate Ivy Bridge.


    Intel shouldn't lower prices, they should raise them. I'll gladly pay more to reward competent product development and nothing would please me more than AMD going down in flames for all their flops in the past 5 years. Intel doesn't need AMD to push them forward.
    -36
  • the associate
    killerclickAs I said before, it won't come close to beating Intel in performance or price. Now let's hear the fanboys whine.


    Waaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

    Bah, well, been with AMD since my first pc like 8 years ago...Guess I'll be going intel for the first time ever especially since I can get an overkill cpu for just 300 bucks. Hell that's how much I payed for my phenom II 955...
    11