The 8-core AMD Bulldozer has arrived, but is it worth the money?

It seems like I have been hearing the name “Bulldozer” from AMD for decades. And, while 6 months can seem like 10 years in computer time, the Bulldozer has finally been confirmed in Q4 2011. If you haven’t been following this topic, the Bulldozer core is used in AMD’s new line of high performance FX-series processors. The FX series harkens back to a time when AMD had the fastest processors available, and with this new series they hoped to regain some of their old fame.

Unfortunately for AMD, it would seem that they missed the mark.

The new FX Series processors are being shipped in a few different models. In the 8-core flavor, AMD is offering the 3.6 GHz FX-8150, 3.1 GHz FX-8120, and 2.8 GHz FX-8100. They also have the FX-6100, which is a 6-core CPU running a 3.3 GHz, and three 4-core models, the FX-4170, FX-4150, and FX-4100, running at 4.2 GHz, 3.8 GHz, and 3.6 GHz respectively. Currently, the only available models are the FX-8150, FX-8130, and FX-6100.

All eyes were on the flagship 8150 to see how it would stack up against similarly priced Intel solutions. At about $250 on, the FX-8150 fits in the price between the Intel i5-2500k ($219) and Intel 2600k ($314). Depending on what stats you look at and the intended purpose of your computer, this processor would fare between “OK” to “disappointing”.

While the unprecedented 8 cores offered decent numbers in multithreaded applications, it only occasionally could surpass the power of Intel’s 2600k. In single-threaded applications, it lagged far behind even the cheaper Intel 2500k.

Another selling aspect of the new FX series is the high overclock headroom as a result of the CPUs coming unlocked out of the box. I have watched videos of successful overclocks of up to 4.8 GHz on air cooling which could be a good selling point for the enthusiast group.

I’ve always been an AMD fan, and with each new chip I hope to see them get back to the competitive spot they once enjoyed with the original FX line. It would seem that with the addition of 2 cores and a cheap price tag they could be moving in the right direction (especially with newer software taking better advantage of more cores), but they have still fallen short of being the competitor they once were. While I could see the 8-core FX-8150 being a viable option for a computer primarily used for multithreaded applications, I can’t endorse spending the money on it as a gaming solution when the cheaper Intel i5-2500k will do just as well and in many cases better. We will have to wait and see where this new chip architecture takes AMD.