AMD FX-8350 Review: Does Piledriver Fix Bulldozer's Flaws?

FX-8350: Still Not The FX Us Old-Timers Remember…

We ran her through the twisties. We did the drag racing. We measured her mileage. We even popped her hood to figure out what makes this little speedster tick. In every way, today’s FX-8350 is better than the FX-8150 that preceded it. Faster. More efficient. Cheaper. And, when you look at the fairly minor improvements Intel made to its Ivy Bridge architecture, FX-8350 competes more readily against higher-end competition.

I’m going to have to resign myself to forgetting what the FX brand once meant, though. Almost a decade ago, an FX was something that made Intel scramble to respond. It represented cutting-edge. And it set you back more than $700 bucks. Today, we have to ooh and aah over performance victories against the middle of Intel’s desktop line-up—its Core i5-3470 and -3570K—all the while shrugging off fairly severe discrepancies in energy efficiency. There. I’m done. Back to 2012.

As I was saying, with my barometer of success recalibrated, FX-8350 is a much stronger contender than FX-8150 was. It reclaims ground that AMD’s Bulldozer architecture gave up. The Piledriver architecture doesn’t cure all that afflicted Bulldozer, but subtle design and process tweaks adjust power use down, allowing the company to nudge its flagship’s clock rate up without violating a 125 W TDP. The changes aren’t dramatic, but they’re substantial enough to create a good comparison against Intel’s highest-end Core i5. So there’s that.

Of course, if AMD had excitedly recognized good progress and tried to charge the same $245 it thought FX-8150 was worth a year ago, I’d be setting FX-8350 aside as quickly as I did with last year’s model.  Instead, the company is asking for less than $200. That puts the FX-8350 on par with Intel’s Core i5-3470—a multiplier-locked part that it outperforms in a great many demanding desktop apps. In those same applications, the FX is usually able to beat the $230 Core i5-3570K, too. It’s only when you look back at the single-threaded stuff that AMD continues to get creamed.

But then there’s power to consider. In the United States, we’re blessed to have relatively inexpensive energy. We tend not to flip out over 50 W unless dissipating that heat requires a noisy fan. But if you’re in Denmark paying $.40/kWh, just the 10 W difference between Core i5 and FX-8350 at idle costs you several bucks per month. Under load, you’re looking at up to a $15-a-month difference for a system running 24/7. Advantage: Intel.

So, let’s try to distill all of this down into a recommendation. Recognizing that the power user community gives AMD more latitude than Intel, I anticipate a greater number of enthusiasts getting excited about FX-8350 than any of the Bulldozer-based CPUs, and rightly so. More speed, significantly improved efficiency, and a sensible price tag are exactly what I was hoping to see, and AMD delivers them all. Are you asked to make compromises? Yeah. Single-threaded performance still isn’t impressive, and power consumption remains a sore subject. But for less than $200, I can certainly see FX-8350 at the heart of a budget-oriented workstation.

Would FX-8350 be my first choice in a new build, though? Probably not. Although I’m impressed by the work AMD’s architects have done in the last year, performance remains too workload-dependent. And, inexpensive energy aside, I’m going to go with the more efficient implementation when all else is close to equal.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • amuffin
    Looks like AMD did pretty well with the 8350.

    I now really don't see people purchasing it though....people will be buying the 8320.
  • kracker
    Interesting, nice improvement over BD, it spars very closely or beats the i5-3570K sometimes, It really can't compete with intel's high end, but nevertheless good job AMD!
  • sixdegree
    AMD is doing good with the pricing this time. This is what AMD should be: aggressively priced CPU with added features.
  • esrever
    The price is actually nice this time. Hopefully AMD sticks around and gives good deals like this for years to come.
  • Nice job AMD. It just kept itself afloat! Not performance killer, but good enough to get a chunk of desktop sales just in time for the holiday season. Probably wouldn't buy it over an Intel system because most apps are still quite single threaded, but I would certainly consider it. Welcome back to the race AMD. Keep up the good work!
  • najirion
    so... amd will still keep my local electric provider happy. Good job AMD but I think FM2 APUs are more promising. The fact that APUs alone can win against intel processors if discrete graphics is not involved. Perhaps AMD should focus in their APU line like integrating better gpus in those apus that will allow dual 7xxx graphics and not just dual 6xxx hybrid graphics. The entire FX architecture seems to have the issue with its high power consumption and poor single-thread performance. Better move on AMD...
  • dscudella
    I would have liked to see more Intel offerings in the Benchmarks. Say an i3-2120 & i3-3220 for comparisons sake as they'll be cheaper than the new Piledrivers.

    If more games / daily use apps start using more cores these new AMD's could really take off.
  • EzioAs
    Interesting. Probably not a gamers first choice but for users who regularly use multi-threaded programs, the 8350 should be very compelling. About $30 cheaper than a 3570K and can be overclock as well, video/photo editors should really consider this. It doesn't beat current Intel CPUs in power efficiency but at least it's significantly more efficient than Bulldozer.

    Thanks for the review.
    Btw Chris, how many cups of joe did you had to take for the overclocking testing? ;)
  • sorry just not overly impressed.
    5-12% performance increase 12% less power - sound familiar?
    the only difference this time was less hype before the release. (lesson well learned AMD!)
  • gorz
    I think the fx-4300 is going to be the new recommended budget gaming processor. Good price that is only going to get lower, and it has overclocking.