Lab Tested: AMD's Bulldozer Packs Plenty Of Cores, But Not Enough Power

Testing: Synthetic Benchmarks

We’ll start with some synthetic benchmarks. These are all theoretical measures of performance: They stress the hardware in ways that simulate real-world performance, but they aren’t necessarily an accurate representation of how you’d actually use your PC. Still, they give us an idea of a system's capabilities, and give us a level playing field to compare products against one another.

Cinebench

Cinebench from Maxon is a rather straightforward synthetic benchmark that's useful in evaluating a PC’s processing prowess. Cinebench offers two tests: one that stresses the GPU, and one that stresses the CPU. We’re only interested in the processor benchmark in this case. Cinebench is useful because it scales well across multi-core CPUs--up to 64 processor threads--so we can test the capabilities of all eight cores in the FX-8150, and the 4 cores--8 virtual cores, care of Hyperthreading--in the Core i5-2500K.

The processor performance test consists of rendering a complex scene, with points being assigned based on how quickly the task is completed. The FX-8150 earned 6.01 points, while the Core i5-2500K earned 6.17 points in this higher-is-better benchmark. If might seem like a fairly minor difference, and it is. But it does offer the first instance of the performance gap--however minor--between AMD’s latest and Intel’s mid-range platform.

PCMark 7

Futuremark’s PCMark 7 is an industry-standard benchmark that crunches through a series of workloads and gauges everything from video playback to Web browsing. And in all cases, Intel’s Sandy Bridge architecture proved to be the victor. The FX-8150 earned a PCMark 7 score of 2807, as compared to the Core i5-2500K’s score of 3450.

Unigine Heaven

On to Unigine Heaven: This synthetic benchmark is a bit more interesting, if only for the gorgeous visuals it serves up. This benchmark is a technical demonstration of a high-end 3D game engine that’s currently in development. It’s designed to tax a PC with a strenuous, DirectX 11-based workload. As there’s no actual game based on the engine available yet it won’t replace proper real-world gaming tests. But it still gives us some idea of how the pair of processors stack up.

And stack up they do. The differences are once again largely inconsequential: the Core i5-2500K maintains a slight lead for most of the tests, but it’s often barely greater than a tenth of a frame per second. We’ll need to turn to “real” games to get a better idea of where the differences lie.

Next: Gaming tests...

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