You've probably gathered that the FX-8350 improves on its Bulldozer-based precursor pretty handily for a chip that's neither a die shrink nor an all-new architecture.
The final verdict on the FX-8350 isn't terribly difficult to render, but it does have several moving parts. As usual, our value scatter plots will help us sort out the key issues. I've created a couple of them for your viewing pleasure. The first one shows overall performance from our entire CPU test suite (a geometric mean), with the exception of the synthetic benchmarks back on page three. Our gaming tests are a component of this overall performance metric. The second scatter plot isolates gaming performance by itself, with our latency-focused 99th percentile frame time results converted to FPS for easy readability. On both plots, the best values will be closer to the top left corner, where prices are low and performance is high.
The overall performance scatter offers some good news for AMD fans: the FX-8350 outperforms both the Core i5-3470 and the 3570K in our nicely multithreaded test suite. As a result, the FX-8350 will give you more performance for your dollar than the Core i5-3570K, and it at least rivals our value favorite from Intel, the Core i5-3470.
Pop over to the gaming scatter, though, and the picture changes dramatically. There, the FX-8350 is the highest-performance AMD desktop processor to date for gaming, finally toppling the venerable Phenom II X4 980. Yet the FX-8350's gaming performance almost exactly matches that of the Core i3-3225, a $134 Ivy Bridge-based processor. Meanwhile, the Core i5-3470 delivers markedly superior gaming performance for less money than the FX-8350. The FX-8350 isn't exactly bad for video games—its performance was generally acceptable in our tests. But it is relatively weak compared to the competition.
This strange divergence between the two performance pictures isn't just confined to gaming, of course. The FX-8350 is also relatively pokey in image processing applications, in SunSpider, and in the less widely multithreaded portions of our video encoding tests. Many of these scenarios rely on one or several threads, and the FX-8350 suffers compared to recent Intel chips in such cases. Still, the contrast between the FX-8350 and the Sandy/Ivy Bridge chips isn't nearly as acute as it was with the older FX processors. Piledriver's IPC gains and that 4GHz base clock have taken the edge off of our objections.
The other major consideration here is power consumption, and really, the FX-8350 isn't even the same class of product as the Ivy Bridge Core i5 processors on this front. There's a 48W gap between the TDP ratings of the Core i5 parts and the FX-8350, but in our tests, the actual difference at the wall socket between two similarly configured systems under load was over 100W. That gap is large enough to force the potential buyer to think deeply about the class of power supply, case, and CPU cooler he needs for his build. One could definitely get away with less expensive components for a Core i5 system.
That's likely why AMD has offered some inducements to buy the FX-8350, including a very generous $195 price tag and an unlocked multiplier. If you're willing to tolerate more heat and noise from your system, if you're not particularly concerned about the occasional hitch or slowdown while gaming, if what you really want is maximum multithreaded performance for your dollar... well, then the FX-8350 may just be your next CPU. I can't say I would go there, personally. I've gotten too picky about heat and noise over time, and gaming performance matters a lot to me. Still, with the FX-8350, AMD has returned to a formula that has endeared it to PC enthusiasts time and time again: offering more performance per dollar than you'd get with the other guys, right in that sub-$200 sweet spot. That's the sort of progress we can endorse.
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