In the consumer CPU market Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.’s (AMD) Zambezi replacement, Vishera was officially launched today. The announced chips, which bear the FX designation, swap out the 32 nm Bulldozer cores for refined 32 nm Piledriver cores, offers quad-, hexa-, and octa-core configurations.
I. Meet Vishera, a 32 nm Piledriver-core Product
The die shrink war is over and Intel Corp. (INTC) has won, but AMD is still trying to stay competitive in the consumer PC market with its high-core-count, inexpensive second-generation processors on the 32 nm node.
Intel has not brought hexa- or octa-core Ivy Bridge (22 nm) chips to bear yet (though it does enjoy a large and diverse lineup), so AMD has the good fortune of having its second-generation 32 nm architecture compete with Intel’s quad-core 22 nm parts.
As one might expect AMD chips earn wins in heavily threaded benchmarks, according to Anandtech, who tested the new Vishera–FX Series chips. In single-thread loads, though, even the lowly Core-i3 Ivy Bridge parts beat up on the cream of the Vishera crop. That means that gaming — which is mostly GPU bound and lightly threaded — tends to wind up in Intel’s favor.
Note, the maximum frequencies are for half-load; the maximum frequency for full load is 100 MHz slower in all cases except the FX-8320, where full-load is 200 MHz slower.
II. The Bad
Let’s consider the bad news first. Looking at the price, that you get worse performance in single-core loads than an $130 USD i3-3220 (Ivy Bridge; dual-core; 3.3 GHz).
AMD did deliver on its promise of faster single-threaded execution; Vishera-FX is approximately 20 percent faster in Anandtech‘s testing than Zambezi-FX. That said, the new core architecture only closed approximately half the gap in single-thread execution time — the Core-i3 (Ivy Bridge) is still roughly 20 percent faster than Vishera-FX in single-threaded loads.
Vishera only halfway closes the single-thread performance gap w. Intel’s Ivy Bridge (pictured).
[Image Source: BBC News]
The other bad news is that while power consumption has actually dipped slightly since Zambezi-FX, it’s still far higher than Ivy Bridge parts.
So to recap, in single threaded performance and power consumption, Piledriver is better than Bulldozer, but worse than Ivy Bridge.
III. The Good
But there’s also a fair amount of good news.
Where Bulldozer shone brightest (multi-threaded performance), Piledriver does even better, beating out Ivy Bridge parts. Price-wise it’s compelling to see the FX-8350 (Piledriver, octa-core; 4.2 GHz)– a roughly $195 USD part — beating the $330 USD i7-3770K (Ivy Bridge; quad-core; 3.9 GHz Turbo).
The comparison is fair, as the cost of LGA-1155 motherboards (for Ivy Bridge) and Socket-AM3+ motherboards (for Vishera) is about the same — starting at around $30 USD for the cheapst boards. Both chipmakers kindly opted to stick with their current socket design with their latest core generation, so many consumers will be able to upgrade without replacing the board.
An interesting observation by Anandtech is that overall while AMD still suffers the same weaknesses that it did 2 years ago, that its latest releases have pushed it closer to closing the single-threaded performance gap, while widening the multi-threaded performance gap. In other words, if AMD is able to keep up this trend, it could find itself beating Intel in both single-threaded and multi-threaded performance in a couple of years.
The new AMD parts are highly overclockable. [Image Source: Zazzle]
More good news comes regarding the overclockability. The quad-core FX-4300 was clocked up to 5 GHz (a 28.2% overclock) in Anandtech‘s testing (using AMD’s stock closed-loop liquid cooling solution), which placed it on par with the hexa-core FX-6300 in multi-threaded loads. The octa-core FX-8350 clocked up to 4.8 GHz (a 14.3% overclock), earning the best scores in heavily-threaded loads. Beware, though — a 4.8 GHz FX-8350 part consumes an epic 294.3 watts under heavy load.
IV. To Buy or Not to Buy?
So is Vishera-FX and the new Piledriver core worth a purchase? That depends a lot on the consumer. As single-core performance generally dictates the consumer experience, one could argue that the answer is generally “no”.
That said, the overclockability and great multi-threaded performance of the 32 nm part make it hard to overlook entirely, particularly when it’s priced reasonably competitively. Ivy Bridge is probably the better solution for most, but if you do bu a Vishera chip, you won’t be getting a bad deal.
Vishera (left) is a significant improvement from Zambezi (right). [Image Source: AMD]
The real potential for Vishera likely lies in its sister-series, aimed at enterprise users. We should have some details on that in the near future to share with you.
In the mean time think of how the Piledriver core gains might be amplified by a highly-thread dependent load, such as hosting virtual environments for a thin-client deployment. We’ll say this — if AMD keeps the pedal to the metal on the enterprise parts side, it may have a more clear-cut winner for many applications.
(For those interested, AMD’s core gets its name from the titular piece of heavy machinery, which drives “piles” into the ground, pillars which support buildings. Vishera is named after a river in Russia.)
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