In many ways, AMD's FX processor series seems to have fallen by the wayside lately. While A-series APUs were refreshed with new Kaveri silicon this past January, the FX family has been trucking along with the same Vishera silicon since 2012. The accompanying 990FX chipset is a year older and begging for a replacement. At this point, one might have expected AMD to let the FX family die a dignified death—then fill in the gaps with high-octane Kaveri APUs.
But that's not what the company did.
Instead, AMD has just shaken up the FX series with a trio of new models. The additions are based on the same Vishera silicon as before, but the magic of binning has yielded a faster 125W top-of-the-line part as well as two eight-core offerings with 95W thermal envelopes. One of them, the FX-8370E, will be the subject of our review this morning.
Today's shakeup also involves a round of price cuts, the biggest one of which will send the family's 220W flagship, the FX-9590, into the same waters as Intel's Core i5-4690K. Other price cuts apply to the FX-9370 and FX-8320, which are both getting a tad cheaper.
Put together, these are without a doubt the biggest changes AMD's FX line has seen in well over a year. Let's look at them one by one before we fire off our benchmarks.
When it came out in June 2013, the FX-9590 could be found only inside select pre-built PCs from system integrators. It took a couple of months for the chip to hit e-tail listings, where it initially sold for a daunting $880. By October 2013, the FX-9590 had fallen to $350; and just prior to today's price cut, Newegg had it on sale for $299.99.
As of today, the FX-9590 should be available at e-tail for only $229.99. This price pits the FX flagship against Intel's cheapest Devil's Canyon processor, the Core i5-4690K, which is available for $239.99. The Core i5 admittedly consumes a fraction of the power, at 88W, and comes with a bundled heatsink and fan, which the FX-9590 does not. (AMD offers a version of the FX-9590 with a liquid cooler in the box, but that kit will set you back $290 after these cuts come into effect.) Still, the FX-9590 is in a more competitive position now than ever.
For users intimidated by the FX-9590's 220W power envelope, AMD has introduced the FX-8370, its fastest 125W processor yet. Aside from a 100MHz increase in peak Turbo headroom, the FX-8370 has basically the same specs as the FX-8350. Since the new model is $20 more expensive, some may be tempted simply to buy the slower, cheaper chip and overclock it. All members of the FX series, past and present, still have fully unlocked upper multipliers. The FX-8370 is AMD's first new top-of-the-line FX-8000-series processor since October 2012, though, which has got to count for something.
The most interesting additions to the lineup are these FX "E" chips. They offer up the same eight-core recipe as the aforementioned 125W parts, but in a more reasonable 95W power envelope.
95W FX processors with eight cores have been available before, but these days, the only ones still around are four- and six-core parts. AMD says it intends the "E" chips to serve as upgrades to those models inside systems that "don't really have the infrastructure" to support a 125W CPU. Simply put, someone with a quad-core FX chip could replace it with an FX-8370E and enjoy a sizeable performance boost without needing a new motherboard, cooler, or power supply. Not even a BIOS update would be necessary, apparently. AMD says "lots" of its users have requested an upgrade path like this, and it was happy to oblige.
In new builds, the "E" chips will vie for supremacy with Core i3 and i5 processors from Intel's Haswell Refresh series. AMD mentioned the Core i5-4430 and i5-4460 as likely competitors, but the FX-8370E's most direct opponent will probably be the i5-4590, which carries the same $199.99 asking price at e-tail.
Here's a full list of specs and prices for the updated FX lineup. "Old" prices were grabbed from Newegg this past weekend, while new prices are the suggested e-tail figures given to us by AMD.
As you can see, AMD has reduced base clock speeds quite a bit to give the "E" chips their lower TDPs. The Turbo Core peaks are the same as for the non-E models, however.
The FX-8370E, for example, can clock itself as high as the FX-8370 via Turbo. That means it has the potential to be a very strong performer in the lightly threaded workloads that dominate day-to-day PC use—all the while sipping less power than a 125W CPU. The FX-8370E's lower base speed will probably hinder it in heavily multithreaded tasks, but thanks to its eight hardware threads, it may still put up a decent fight against Intel's quad-core offerings.
That's the theory, anyhow. AMD sent us an FX-8370E to test, and we put it through our suite to see if the theory matches the reality. Keep reading for the results.