The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
For the gaming tests, we're using our latency-focused testing methods. If you're unfamiliar with what we're doing, you might want to check out our recent CPU gaming performance article, which has a subset of the data here and explains our methods reasonably well.
You can see from the plots that the FX-8350 improves upon the FX-8510 and the Phenom II X6, with more frames generated during the test run and fewer, shorter latency spikes during its duration. (For frame time plots from all of the CPUs tested, go here.)
Although the FX-8350 has the highest FPS average of any AMD processor we've tested, the Phenom II X4 980 still edges it out in our latency-focused metric, the 99th percentile frame time. By either measure, the FX-8350 is one of AMD's fastest gaming chips—but you can easily see the problem with that statement, compared to the recent Intel processors. Even the lowly Pentium G2120 is faster in this Skyrim test scenario.
We suspect the Bulldozer architecture's trouble with gaming comes down to relatively low per-thread performance in lightly threaded workloads. In many games, a single, branchy control thread tends to be the performance limiter. The FX-8150's frame latencies spike upward for the last 5% or so of frames, which prove to be difficult for it. The FX-8350 doesn't really change that dynamic—the spike in the last 5% is still present—but its frame times are lower across the board. The improvement is enough to push the FX-8350 slightly ahead of the Phenom II X6 1100T in the last few percentage points. That's progress. Unfortunately, AMD has a much longer way to go in order to catch Intel's current processors.
Before anyone panics over the gap between Intel and AMD in this latency-sensitive gaming test, we'll want to ground our analysis in reality by considering the amount of time spent on truly long-latency frames. Once we do so, some of the practical concerns about FX-8350 performance dissipate. Virtually none of the processors spend any time working on frames for more than 50 milliseconds, our usual threshold for "badness." That means you're looking at reasonably fluid animation with most of these CPUs, including the FX-8350. In fact, we have to ratchet the threshold past our customary next stop, 33 milliseconds or 30 FPS, and down to 16.7 milliseconds—equivalent to 60 FPS—to see meaningful differences between the CPUs.