AMD's Bulldozer processor
architecture has been in the works for many years and has been delayed many times, causing all sorts of speculations. The "Zambezi" FX processor is one part of the Scorpius platform which combines the "world's first consumer 8-Core desktop processor" with already available 9-Series motherboard chipsets accompanied by Radeon HD 6000 graphics processors.
AMD heavily stresses pairing the right graphics card with the right CPU to obtain the proper balance of computing strength depending on the task you are trying to accomplish. In many cases, having a powerful GPU will improve application performance in ways that a CPU simply cannot do alone. Having a powerful CPU though is no doubt necessary in order to support the GPU in graphically intensive applications. Bear in mind that we're not talking just about games now, since even majority of contemporary Internet browsers are now GPU accelerated, thanks to HTML5, WebGL and Adobe Flash 11.0. AMD is claiming that this new CPU will offer a new level of performance at a price point that is attractive.
Today we will be reviewing whether or not the FX Series Processors and Platform deliver on that value proposition and how they hold up to the rest of the processors out there.FX Series Processor Details
AMD has redesigned they way that they build their processors, which meant that the Bulldozer modules of each processor were redesigned in order to make them friendlier towards future use. These improvements include the decision to share the share the fetch, decode and floating point pipelines and as mentioned before L2 Cache.
AMD's Zambezi/Orochi die consists out of four Bulldozer modules, 16MB cache and four HyperTransport Links. Dual-Channel Memory controller is on the right
AMD redesigned the floating point units inside of the chip so that it can support new instruction sets which allows for more sharing between the two cores. There are two 128-bit FMAC (Fused Multiply Accumulate)
units shared per module which amounts to two 128-bit instructions per core (in theory) or one 256-bit instruction per dual core module. The primary instruction sets that AMD has enabled over the Phenom II series of processors are the addition of 128-bit and 256-bit AVX executions as well as SSSE3, SSE4.1 and SSE4.2. All of these instruction sets have already been available on Intel's latest Sandy Bridge architecture, so in that sense AMD is finally catching up to Intel.
AMD originally had planned to include the full SSE5 instruction set, but the company cut down the proposed 170-instruction set to increase the compatibility with Intel's AVX
. On top of those instruction sets AMD has added FMA4
and XOP instruction sets to improve performance in High Performance Computing
(for the Opteron core) and multimedia encoding/decoding. These are forward thinking instruction sets considering the fact that Intel likely won't include FMA3 until they release their Haswell processors in 2013. The XOP instruction set
is unique to AMD and is a revision of the SSE5 instruction set and is actually complemented by FMA4.
All of this means only one thing - Zambezi's die is quite big. By using 32nm SOI process by GlobalFoundries, Zambezi is a 1.2 billion transistor chip which occupies 315mm2 of silicon real estate. By comparison, Intel's Sandy Bridge is a 995 million transistor chip measuring 216mm2. However, Zambezi comes with 16MB of cache, while Sandy Bridge only packs 9MB (1MB L2 + 8MB L3).
The FX line of processors will initially launch with four models, followed by two more. These models will consist of two 8-core variants and one 6-core variant and one 4-core variant. The clock speeds will be 3.6GHz for the FX-8150 and 3.1GHz for the FX-8120 with the 6-core FX-6100 model coming in at 3.3GHz. Regardless of the actual processor, each core of the FX series processors will be accompanied by 1MB of L2 cache as well as 1MB of L3 cache. See the graph below to see the breakdown of the different models excluding the 4-core variant.The Asterisk mentions Water cooling option. It is currently being trialed in Japan, and North America will also come soon
On the next page, we'll dig into the characteristics of our Scorpius testing platform.
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