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AMD FX series chart (click to enlarge)
Eight-core Zambezi flagship to challenge Intel's Core i7

AMD has launched its much anticipated FX series of desktop CPUs using the Bulldozer architecture. Codenamed Zambezi, the 32nm chips represent the company's top offerings for enthusiasts. Bulldozer is the first complete redesign of AMD’s processor architecture since the K7 Athlon was launched in 1999, and features significant improvements in manufacturing, design, and cost reduction.
 
The drive for efficiency and greater instructions per clock (IPC) was the original impetus for Bulldozer. Long gone are the days of simply increasing clock speed for easy performance gains. AMD and Intel have been increasing the number of CPU cores, but that takes up a lot of die space. Intel has been pushing HyperThreading as its way of maximizing efficiency, and is pretty good when a CPU stalls due to a cache miss, branch misprediction, or data dependency. However, AMD has decided to go a markedly different route.
 
Each Bulldozer module provides an independent, dedicated integer and scheduler unit for each core. A single floating point unit is shared between the two cores in a Bulldozer module, along with the fetch and decode units and a 2MB L2 cache. There is a 16KB L1 data cache per core, as well as a 64KB L1 instruction cache per module. This adds up to an impressive 128KB L1 data cache, 256KB L1 instruction cache, and 8MB L2 cache for an eight-core FX processor.
 
Theoretically, this should provide much better performance than HyperThreading, which functions best when there are a lot of CPU stalls because all threads must compete for available execution resources. HyperThreading increases performance by approximately 30% at a cost of 5% extra die space, but the second integer core in Bulldozer could almost double integer performance at a die cost of only 12%.
 
The Bulldozer architecture was originally supposed to debut in the first half of 2009, and would've enabled AMD to compete toe-to-toe with Intel on pure performance, rather than on pricing alone. However, various financial difficulties and a major recession led to delays, while the divestment of its manufacturing capacity into GlobalFoundries led to some technical delays. Almost three years late, the design has been updated significantly in order to accommodate the latest technologies and manufacturing processes.
 
FX chips are built by GlobalFoundries on its 32nm Silicon on insulator (SOI) process. The eight core Zambezi chips have around two billion transistors and a die size of approximately 315mm2. An integrated northbridge unit supplies an 8MB L3 cache, four 16-bit HyperTransport 3.0 links, and the integrated memory controller. Depending on the model, it runs at either 2.2Ghz or 2.0GHz. The most significant update to the integrated dual-channel memory controller is native support for DDR3 memory at 1866MHz (DDR3-1866/PC3-14900). ECC memory is still supported; a welcome relief to those who are planning on FX-based workstations, as Intel only supports ECC memory on its much more expensive Xeon workstations.
 
There are instruction sets aplenty: SSE3, SSE4.1/4.2, AES, and AVX. AMD is also introducing support for FMA4 and XOP. FMA4 can be thought of as specific instructions designed to speed up Fused Multiply–Add (FMA) operations. XOP is a revision of the SSE5 instruction set, redesigned to be more compatible with Intel's AVX.
 
The four new FX chips being launched today will require motherboards with socket AM3+, but the good news is that enthusiasts will be able to upgrade to a top of the line FX-8150 for $245. The FX-8120 will be available for $205, while the six-core FX-6100 will be priced at $165. The four-core FX-4100 with a 95W TDP is available for only $115. All FX chips are unlocked, and AMD has already set the Guinness World Record for the “Highest Frequency of a Computer Processor” by overclocking a Zambezi chip to 8.429 GHz.

Several speed bumps are already planned for Q1 and Q2 of 2012 as GlobalFoundries 32nm process matures. However, Bulldozer won't move into into the mainstream until the Piledriver refresh next year. Trinity cores featuring DirectX 11 Fusion technology will replace Llano chips, while the 10-core Komodo processor will supplant Zambezi as the FX flagship.


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RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By bug77 on 10/12/2011 2:56:41 PM , Rating: 0
It's actually worse than Pentium4.

Pentium4 was the top performing chip before and after AthlonXP came to be. Only AthlonXP 3200+ matched top intel chips in performance.
Plus, Pentium4 came at a time when intel was the top dog and people still bought P4 because that's what they were used to. Bulldozer comes at a time when intel is the top dog and people buy i3/i5/i7 because that's what they are used to.

Oh well, at least Fusion is a decent GPU...


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By ICBM on 10/12/2011 5:05:35 PM , Rating: 3
Actually Pentium 4 was a dud on arrival, with QuakeIII being the only thing to really run well on it. Athlon XP did extremely well against it until the Northwood core was released. The 3200+ was never competitive. Northwood is what the Pentium 4 was meant to have been from the start.


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By AnnihilatorX on 10/12/2011 5:51:14 PM , Rating: 3
Bug77 you have false memory implanted by some Intel men in black

First gen Pentium 4 Willamette and Northwood were much more expensive, ran hotter, slower clock-to-clock by some 20-40%, compared to AMD Thunderbirds when it came out.


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By bug77 on 10/13/2011 3:14:55 AM , Rating: 1
I do not have false memory.

Yes, they were more expensive, yes they ran hotter and were slower clock-to-clock. Yet they were running at 2.4GHz at launch and up to 3.7GHz (or so) in the end. AMD launched at around 1GHz and stopped at 2.2. While AMD was the better deal overall (I owned both an XP 1600+ and a 2500+), P4 was the faster chip for some time and people still bought them like crazy.

Later, AMD crushed intel with Athlon64 while intel came up with PresHOT, but that's another story.


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By Kef71 on 10/13/2011 3:47:55 AM , Rating: 3
On November 20, 2000, Intel released the Willamette-based Pentium 4 clocked at 1.4 and 1.5 GHz

In January 2001, a still slower 1.3 GHz model was added to the range.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_4


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By bug77 on 10/13/2011 8:58:13 AM , Rating: 2
What the hell does that have to do with anything?

I was talking about performance, top speed models. Yes there were slower models, does that lower the top chip performance at that time?


RE: Sounds Awesome,...
By tecknurd on 10/13/2011 6:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
Sure you can say Bulldozer core has similar failed characteristics to the Pentium 4, but I would not say it is worst. The Bulldozer is a little better than Thuban, but not enough for anybody to buy. Though Bulldozer and the Thuban is not any better than Deneb and Propus or Regor.

During when Pentium 4, Intel was not really top dog. AMD did have a processor such as the Athlon or K7 that competed against the Pentium III. The Athlon provided Xeon capabilities and better performance than the Xeon at a fraction of the cost of a Pentium III. You are wrong that Pentium 4 was the top performance chip before and after AthlonXP came out. FYI, the Athon came out in 1999 which is before the Pentium 4. AMD's poor marketing skills did not make the Athlon succeeded at being the top dog, so Intel took it by making sure they gave rebates to companies that sold more computers with Intel processors. Heck, do not forget about those entertaining ads with a musical group. AMD could have done the same thing, but lacked the balls to do it. AMD did the same thing with the K8 processor which was the best AMD had for their company image, but still blew it with marketing it.

Pentium 4 only looked good when it moved to Northwood, the clock speed is at least 2600 MHz or faster and the memory bandwidth using dual channel DDR memory or RAMBUS. This is the only way that Intel can compete against AMD K7 or Athlon processors at the time. Then came K8 processors two years later and again AMD beat Pentium 4 on performance and with lower power consumption.

The Fusion or Llano processors are some what good for people that care for graphics. Besides that, not good processors to buy. Propus or Regor are better processors to buy and in some cases for over clockers is the Callisto from AMD.


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