AMD FX-8350 review

Chris Finnamore
23 Oct 2012
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Amazing for serious multitasking, but eight cores is still too many for most applications



The FX-8350 is the first of AMD's 2012 range of performance processors. There's a clock speed boost and a new core design, which AMD hopes will start to close the performance gap between its chips and Intel's all-conquering Core range.

AMD FX-8350

The new processors aren’t that much different to the older versions. The top-of-the-range FX-8350 and FX-8320 have eight cores, while down the range you have a six-core FX-6300 and four-core FX-4300. They still use the AM3+ socket and need the AMD 970, 990X and 990FX chipsets.

AMD sent us the high-end FX-8350 processor to test. This has a huge eight cores, arranged in four modules of four cores each. Each module shares a 2MB block of level 2 cache, while all four modules share an 8MB pool of level 3 cache. This modular approach is meant to share cache more efficiently, as each of the two cores in each module can access more level 2 cache when necessary than if the cache was split evenly across all eight cores.

The cores themselves are updated, from last year's "Bulldozer" to this year's "Piledriver". The new core has the same 32nm process but a host of microarchitecture improvements, and the maximum clock speed for the high-end chip has jumped from 3.6GHz to 4GHz. The maximum speed the processor can reach in Boost mode, where the chip can dynamically overclock where there's enough thermal headroom, hasn’t changed, at 4.2GHz.

FX-8350 die

Four sets of two Piledriver cores in AMD's new performance chip

In our tests of last year's Bulldozer-equipped AMD FX-8150, our main criticisms revolved around the fact that few, if any, Windows programs are optimised to take advantage of so many cores. We found that even video-encoding, which traditionally works well with multiple cores, could only use around 50% of the processor. This put the FX-8150 at a disadvantage over Intel's processors, as each individual core was slower and the advantage of having more than four cores was all but nullified by software limitations.

Unfortunately, this is still the case with the new processor. The new chip is significantly faster than the old one, but most applications still don’t use it to its full potential. During our multi-threaded video encoding benchmark, for example, processor usage never got above 54%. Even during the multitasking test, which runs all our benchmarks together while playing back a high-definition video, processor usage never got above 70%. In comparison, Intel's quad-core Core i5-3570K ran at 100% usage in both video-encoding and multitasking tests, leading to superior scores.

Application benchmarks

AMD's new chip is as quick as last year's Intel equivalent, but this year's rival has pulled ahead (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

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