AMD’s FX-8350 is the latest desktop processor from AMD and the first eight-core CPU based on the company’s “Piledriver” design. AMD is smarting after a weak global economy and strong demand for Intel products hit its profit margins and sales this past quarter, and the FX-8350 is meant to change that. The new AMD FX-8350 is a 4GHz CPU with a 4.2GHz Turbo clock. That’s a bit more than 10% faster than AMD’s previous top-end CPU, the AMD FX-8150 . The FX-8350 isn’t just faster, it incorporates a number of design improvements to cut execution times in both single and multi-threaded environments.
It’s also priced to move. Unlike the FX-8150, which debuted 12 months ago at $279, AMD has priced the FX-8350 at just $190. This positions the new CPU against Intel’s Core i5-3550 , a quad-core CPU sans Hyper-Threading at 3.3GHz, with a Turbo speed of 3.7GHz.
Like the older AMD FX-8150, the FX-8350 is designed to share certain assets to reduce the CPU’s size, manufacturing complexity, and production costs. While this has allowed AMD to pack more cores into the same space, it’s also impacted the performance of each particular core. As a result, AMD and Intel CPUs are no longer strictly comparable on a core-to-core level. Intel CPUs have fewer cores, but the performance of each individual core tends to be higher.
The FX-8350 retains the same AM3+ socket that AMD launched last year with Bulldozer; any motherboard that supported the earlier FX processors will support the new chips as well, provided the manufacturer releases a BIOS update. The AM3+ platform supports up to DDR3-1866 and the FX-8350 CPU has an unlocked multiplier. That’s an option that could appeal to enthusiasts who want to try their hand at squeezing more performance out of the CPU. Intel’s first unlocked CPU, the Core i7-3570K , is $30 more expensive.
The FX-8350′s increased clock speed and improved efficiency make it faster than the old FX-8150 across the board. The size of the increase depends on the test in question; in Cinebench 11.5′s multi-threaded test, the FX-8350 turns in a score of 6.93 compared to the FX-8150′s 6.01. Single-threaded performance is also up to 1.11 as opposed to the FX-8150′s 1.03. In POV-RAY’s rendering benchmark, the FX-8350 takes 49.5 seconds to complete the test, compared to 57 seconds for the FX-8150. Other tests show similar differences; the FX-8350 is roughly 10 percent faster than the CPU it replaces.
Against Intel’s Core i5-3550, the news is more mixed. AMD’s FX-8350′s eight-core configuration made it significantly faster than the Intel Core i5-3550 in rendering tests; it took 275 seconds to render our test scene in Maxwell Render 2.5.0 as compared to the i5-3550′s 357 seconds. It’s also faster than the Intel i5-3550 in Cinebench; with a score of 6.93 compared to the i5-3550′s 5.95. The AMD FX-8350 is a bit behind the Intel i5-3550 in general application work, with a PCMark 7 score of 4922 compared to the i5-3550′s 5210, but the gap is small enough that you wouldn’t likely notice.
Gaming performance, however, generally favors Intel. In The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, the Core i5-3550 managed an average 102 fps (frames per second), while the FX-8350 came in at 75 fps and the FX-8150 at 69 fps. Batman: Arkham City also showed the Intel Core i5-3550 well ahead of the AMD FX-8350, with a score of 85 fps compared with 72 fps, respectively. The one exception to the rule was Battlefield 3, which tends to stress graphics cards more than CPUs. Here, the Core i5-3550, AMD FX-8350, and FX-8150 essentially tied, at 86, 85, and 84 FPS respectively.
Power consumption is another area where Intel’s Core i5-3550 is on stronger footing than AMD. At idle, the difference between the FX-8350 and Core i5-3550 isn’t that large; the Intel chip draws 58W while the AMD CPU draws 74W. Under load, this changes—the Intel CPU tops out at 126W, while AMD’s FX-8350 pulls 230W.
How much this matters depends on what sort of workloads are run and how active the CPU typically is. Computers tend to spend the majority of their time idling, where the small difference between the two chips would have virtually no impact on the power bill. For heavy workloads, however, Intel’s Ivy Bridge is going to draw significantly less power over time.
The FX-8350 is a decent chip for users who want a midrange CPU for productivity tasks, or who know their software can take full advantage of the chip’s eight cores. It’s a better CPU than the FX-8150 it replaces, and AMD has done a good job of fixing some of the problems of last year’s FX-8150. Its value proposition is improved if the end-user is planning to purchase or already owns a separate, discrete GPU—the integrated graphics processors in AMD’s APUs and Intel’s Ivy Bridge chips aren’t power houses, but they’re more than capable of handling basic gaming and other tasks.
Compare the AMD FX-8350 with several other chipsets & processors side by side.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc