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

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Is Bulldozer right for you?

Bulldozer has been a long time coming. And now that it’s here, it’s kind of hard to make case for it. I hesitate to use the word “disappointment,” but these testing results are clear. An extra $45 over Intel’s existing hardware gets you comparable performance, at a significant power cost.

AMD has bragged about the FX platform’s overclocking potential — Intel’s unlocked, K-series processors do come at a price premium over their standard, locked variants. But if you are a member of the enthusiast community that pushes their machines beyond stock settings, Intel’s processors will still offer superior performance.

If you’re currently running on recent AMD hardware then an upgrade could be inexpensive, as some motherboard manufacturers profess support for AM3+ CPUs in their AM3 socket motherboards, after a BIOS update. But the use of AM3+ CPUs in AM3 boards isn’t support officially supported by AMD, so you’ll be on your own if something goes amiss.

If you’re looking to pick up a new machine, things don’t really bode well for AMD. Aggressive pricing could be AMD’s saving grace here. If pressed I could argue that the Bulldozer chips further down the line could make for a nice, inexpensive gaming rig — the six-core FX-6100 could be a nice deal at $165, particularly if its overclocking potential approached my experience on the FX-8150. But that makes for quite a few caveats, ifs, and maybes.

I’ll be blunt: this is a commendable server processor, likely holding up well when tackling complex computational tasks in an environment where power consumption is irrelevant. But think twice before sliding it into your desktop.

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At a Glance
  • AMD FX (Bulldozer) CPU Family

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