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On paper, AMD’s Bulldozer microarchitecture always sounded like a mean, green machine. When it landed last year, though, in the form of the Zambezi processor (aka FX-8150), it actually went about as fast as a bulldozer.
AMD didn’t just give up and curl into a ball. The company went back to work polishing the FX chip into the new AMD FX-8350 “Vishera.” The chip might look like a Zambezi, but it features an improved branch predictor, improved scheduler, larger L1 translate lookaside buffer, new FMA3 and F16C instructions, L2 improvements, among many other changes.
Vishera looks the same externally and the good news: it’ll use the same AM3+ socket too.
The best feature of Zambezi though is its backwards compatibility. Zambezi should work with most if not all AM3+ boards with a BIOS update and AMD is promising future chips will work with it as well.
To see how Zambezi stacks up, we used the same Asus Crosshair V board that we tested Bulldozer with more than a year ago and outfitted it with a GeForce GTX 580, 8GB of dual-channel DDR3/1600, OCZ Vertex 3 SSD and Windows 8. Why Windows 8? One issue that cropped up with the original Bulldozer chip was Windows 7’s scheduler didn’t know how to deal with the Bulldozer’s shared multi-cores.
For a comparison chip, we dusted off our old FX-8150 and set up a near identical Intel system using Intel’s Core i5-3570K on an Asus P8Z77-V Premium motherboard and Windows 8 as well. Why the 3570K? It’s the chip AMD uses as the benchmark for the FX-8350 and, frankly, our recommendation for the sweet spot of computing today.
The result? First, FX-8150 is still slow. It could barely compete with the Core i5-2500K last year and takes it on the chin in just about every test here from the Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3570K. In fact, it was so slow in our Premiere Pro CS6 encode that we had to rerun the tests on both the Intel and FX-8150 because we couldn’t believe it.
You can’t deny the power of the individual Ivy Bridge cores though. We ran Cinebench 10 on a single core and the Ivy Bridge slaughtered both FX CPUs. In several of the gaming benchmarks, Intel’s more efficient cores also put it on top although we did see the FX parts unexpectedly pull ahead in the graphics department which are usually all the same when the same GPU is used.How about the FX-8350? Far better. In fact, we’d dare say the FX-8350 is very competitive with the 3570K in some heavily multi-threaded tasks and offers significant performance improvements over the FX-8150. Take for example, our Premiere Pro CS6 benchmark. It doesn’t trounce the 3570K, but it cuts the encode time in half over the FX-8150 part. In other tests it aces the Ivy Bridge part.
What do we recommend? If your chores are mostly limited to gaming and tasks that can’t exploit all eight cores, the Intel part has the advantage. If, however, you are rendering 3D, transcoding or rendering video (except in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CS6), the new FX-8350 should be your pick. It offers a longer socket roadmap and gives you better performance in multi-threaded apps. We do have to add though, that the performance gap probably isn’t as good as AMD fans would have hoped for considering the clock and core count difference between the FX-8350 and Core i5-3570K. Still, these days for AMD, a tie is probably good news considering its up against Intel’s best cores to date.
For a deeper dive on how well Vishera performs, click on for our individual benchmark highlights.