The Octacore PileDriver based FX 8350 processor from AMD does what was expected of it, and that's increase performance, albeit relatively little. The Vishera architecture and thus the PileDriver cores in particular will bump up performance another 10% maybe 15% and all considering that's not heaps or a massive step forwards. It is what it is though, I do find it interesting how much better this relatively small performance bump changes my view on the processor as honestly we are not disappointed.
We explained already with the previous generation Zambezi / Bulldozer release (FX 8150) that AMD has been really keen on producing more cores instead of more per core performance, and that decision to date still haunts them. It really is a sound architecture though, if we lived in a world where all games and application would make use of massive multi-threading then AMD would be competing very well with the competition. And though things slowly change most often applications use up-to four cores, and that's why Intel with its higher per core performance will win time after time.
AMD has set the strategy to pursue processors with as many CPU cores as possible. I'll state this though, the architecture is scalable. The benefit here is that massively threaded applications really like that very much. Look at the Handbrake (multi-threaded video transcoding application) results and content creation with MAXON's animation software CINEMA 4D.
I'll fall back to a line I have written many times, the hardware needs the software in order to shine. However, the problem remains that most software anno 2012 certainly doesn't multi-thread as well as we all would have hoped. But times are changing though, I mean we had the single core to dual-core revolution, quickly followed by four, six and thus now eight cores. So where multi-threaded applications are programmed right AMD really starts to shine with the FX series.
Real World Usage
So the opposite effect of AMDs offering is that with applications that prefer say one or two CPU threads and thus utilize only one or two cores, that's where the FX series have a really hard time as the per core performance starts to hinder AMD very much.
I've been using the FX 8350 processor for a couple of days now though and granted the overall experience with this processor is great. The OS responds really fast and for you everyday usage you'll have a hard time noticing any difference to say a Core i5 2500 processor.
Once you start up applications that allow for it, multithreading kicks in really nicely performance will quickly rise and you'll see Core i7 2600/3770 level performance.
In games we see similar behaviour but the FX remains relatively weak on most games thanks to its average per core performance. We specifically took two titles to show you that difference. The older title, Far Cry 2, is where we can see a performance hit, in fact CPU limitation kicks in as the per core performance of the FX 8350 can't keep up with the graphics card (CPU bottleneck). A Core i7 CPU like the 2500, 2600 or 3570/3770K, though with four cores will have far better per core performance, hence you'll see better overall performance.
In the extremely high resolutions the AMD platform will gain a little ground thanks to a better PCIe lane infrastructure. Intel offers 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes, AMD 16 PCIe Gen 2 lanes. We had hoped for PCIe Gen 3 support on the 900 / FX series as well, but that again is future stuff apparently.
So the other game title we used is Crysis 2, it's multi-threaded and more GPU limited than CPU limited. We did lower the image quality settings a little too loosen up things and give the CPUs a better delta to perform visibly in. It scales very nicely with several threads but here again the per core performance of AMD's rival really flexes its muscles. Gaming performance differences remain trivial though, if you play at 1920x1080 the GPU matters so much more than the CPU.
Video encoding and Decoding
For the ones that use their PC for content creation and video transcoding, well this processor kicks in very nicely, and for a reasonable price you get impressive multi-threaded performance. Considering that the FX 8350 will cost merely 195 USD we can state that the processor offering great value, under the condition that you use multi-threaded encoders. Video playback is not an issue, the per core performance is fast enough to deal with any Blu-ray or 1080P content stream.
Power consumption wise we are a little reserved in judgement, the platform with this processor uses just over 100W in idle yet when we stress the CPU cores all at once, we peak well over 200W. That's not bad, but it certainly isn't excellent either. Overclocking wise we think the FX series will offer a lot of fun but power consumption there rises quickly when you apply CPU voltage tweaks. With a decent air cooler, 4.5~4.6 GHz should be a viable target to achieve, 4.7 to 5 GHz on proper liquid cooling should be achievable as well but will require a lot of CPU voltage.
We mentioned pricing a couple of times already, the FX-8150 when it was released it costed around 244 USD/EUR at launch. The new FX 8350 will be introduced at 195 USD. Honestly that is great value. Here is a quick overview of the models released and their introduction prices in MSRP (so expect even lower prices in (r)etail.
FX-8350 costs around 195 USD
FX-8320costs around 169 USD
FX-6300 costs around 132 USD
FX-4300 costs around 122 USD
Concluding then. I'll keep saying this, personally I would have preferred a faster per core performing AMD quad-core processor rather then an eight-core processor with reduced nice per core performance. However we do have to be clear here, we have been working with the FX 8350 processor for a while now and it simply is a great experience overall. Your system is very fast, feels snazzy and responsive. The Achilles heel simply remain single threaded applications. The problem here is that it effects game performance quite a bit, especially with high-end dedicated graphics cards and that's why in it's current form the FX series simply is not that popular amongst the gaming community.
However when multi-threading kicks in wheter that is a game or application ... that loss is turned around in a gain.
Overall the AMD FX 8350 is a processor we can recommend for the upper segment of mid-range computer. The FX 8350 is very hip in a PC desktop environment with the many threads you can fire off at it, and if you love to compress, transcode or use your PC as a workstation, well it will bring heaps of performance and value. Even though today's release is merely a step forward we do say the FX processors deserve a lot more credit then they have gotten thus far. At a price of 195 USD the AMD FX 8350 is a really fun 8-core mainstream segment processor to work with.
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