to remember … / Processors and memory

Frankly speaking, the AMD FX series of processors has not looked like alive for a long time and at least somehow developing. All points to the fact that AMD has shifted its main efforts to the promotion of hybrid processors, annually developing new architectures and platforms for them, while the FX family has not received any fundamental updates for two years already. The lack of interest in AMD’s own processors for the FX series is very clearly illustrated by the fact that the representatives of this family sold today are based on the design of the Vishera model of 2012, and, therefore, they continue to be manufactured according to the technological process with a scary 32 nm standards. It does not blow freshness from the entire Socket AM3 + platform, for which AMD offers a set of 990FX logic coming from 2011. In other words, until recently, it all looked as if AMD intended to quietly turn off its FX series in its current form and to expand the range of much more successful hybrid Kaveri by removing these processors from the market.

The official plans of the company that demonstrated the absence of any changes in the processors of the AMD FX line in this and, probably, in the next year also indicated the same.

However, AMD is not among the manufacturers, clearly following their plans, and therefore it is able to surprise sudden announcements of new products. So, in early September, the company unexpectedly released three fresh FX processors. However, we are not talking about the introduction of modern microarchitecture Steamroller into AMD’s productive processors. Novelties continue to be based on the design of Vishera and the old microarchitecture Piledriver. But improving the 32-nm process technology allowed AMD to make next evolutionary steps: on the one hand, to improve the frequency potential, and on the other – to reduce power consumption. So on the market there were eight-novelties FX-8370, FX-8370E and FX-8320E. The first processor from this trinity is a conventionally flagship model with a 125-watt thermal package, and the CPU pair with the letter E in the model number is the newly announced 95-watt eight-core AMD FX series.

The reduced power consumption for the FX series processors with eight processing cores is not a very interesting innovation. Such CPUs still remain seriously more gluttonous than Intel’s competing offerings, the thermal package of which is limited to 88- or 84-watt frames. But the new FX-8370 is a much more interesting newcomer. The fact is that in recent time AMD has managed to significantly lower prices, and thanks to this, the FX-8370 processor can be opposed to the average Intel quad-core series Core i5, which, given its overclocking capabilities, makes this chip very attractive, at first glance, option. Therefore, for carrying out detailed testing, we chose this model.

⇡ # More information about AMD FX-8370

The line of AMD FX processors in its today’s form is crowned with two different variants of flagship eight-core processors. The most flagship of them – the FX-9590 and FX-9370 processors – differ in operating frequencies approaching the 5-gigahertz level, but at the same time have a terrifying heat package of 220 watts. Unfortunately, such processors have a very narrow sphere of application and they use rather limited demand. Even in spite of the fact that AMD has seriously lowered their prices in recent months, transferring these processors from the category of image products with a completely unprofitable combination of cost and performance to the rivals of older Intel Core i5, the purchase of FX-9590 or FX-9370 is possible can only be described as an adventurous solution. The fact is that such 220-watt processors require specialized motherboards and highly efficient cooling systems, that is, they are forced to start up large additional expenses to create a suitable environment for them.

Therefore, the fans of AMD products are much more in demand flagship processors with a standard package for the Socket AM3 + platform with a thermal package of 125 W. Such eight-core, related to the FX-8000 series, offer only slightly operating frequencies for 4-gigahertz boundary. But they are compatible with almost any motherboards equipped with Socket AM3 +, and do not require expensive coolers. Moreover, since any representatives of the AMD FX series belong to the category of Black Edition, they have fully unlocked multipliers and with certain luck can be dispersed to frequencies of FX-9370 or even higher.

Generally speaking, the long-available FX-8350 processors coped with the role of the 125-watt flagship in the AMD product line to the best of their ability. However, with FX processors and Socket AM3 + platform, we, apparently, will have to live at least another year and the whole next year, so the marketing department of the company decided to create the visibility of the movement forward and initiated the release of the updated versions of the eight-core. But given the fact that AMD does not conduct any engineering work to improve its current high-performance microarchitecture, while betting on the remote and foggy Zen microarchitecture, today it would be too optimistic to expect any obvious progress. Therefore, the new FX-8370 processor replacing the FX-8350 is just a little overclocking Vishera, legalized within the passport characteristics.

Thus, the announcement of the new FX-8370 processor primarily plays the role of an emotional message. AMD seems to show us that the Socket AM3 + platform is still alive and the company continues to seriously consider it as an actual alternative to productive Intel systems based on Haswell processors. But if you drop all this subjectivity and soberly look at the technical specifications, the FX-8370 is unlikely to impress even the most dedicated fans of AMD. In the past since the release of the FX-8350, the company was able to only increase the frequency in turbo mode by 100 MHz, and the nominal frequency of the FX-8370 remained at the same 4-gigahertz level as its predecessor. At the same time, the price of the FX-8370 is set at $ 20 higher than that of the FX-8350, and this puts the novelty in demand for some doubt – provided that the supply of the FX-8350 is not terminated in the near future.

However, we should not forget that between the FX-8370 and FX-8350 there is a two-year gap, during which AMD together with its technology partner GlobalFoundries could easily achieve the improvement of the characteristics of 32 nm semiconductor crystals coming off the pipeline. And this is, perhaps, the most interesting today’s novelty. I would like to believe that the FX-8370, despite its modest specifications, will be able to please both with lower practical power consumption and better frequency potential during overclocking – all this we will carefully check during testing.

However, one must understand that it is still impossible to make a candy from an unsuitable source material. And FX-8370 is just such a case. First of all, the technological process used in the production of AMD FX processors with the norm of 32 nm is, by the standards of microelectronics, not even yesterday, but the day before yesterday. The same Intel used such production standards in 2011, and now it is completing the transition to a 14-nm technology with three-dimensional transistors. Secondly, the underlying basis of the Vishera derivative of Bulldozer microarchitecture Piledriver proved its inefficiency in most commonly used tasks, and it was already recognized even in AMD itself. And thirdly, the Socket AM3 + platform as a whole is deprived of many modern features. For example, it does not support the protocol PCI Express 3.0, USB 3.0 bus and SATA Express and M.2 interfaces. Does it make sense to take into account all this when building a modern personal computer to bet on processors like FX-8370?

If you allow yourself a positive answer to this question, then let’s look at the comparative characteristics of all eight-core processors in the arsenal of AMD, the list of which, given the release of new models, has significantly increased.

FX-9590 FX-9370 FX-8370 FX-8350 FX-8320 FX-8370E FX-8320E
Microarchitecture Piledriver
Design of the Vishera
The technical process 32nm SOI HKMG
The number of nuclei 8 (4 modules)
The clock frequency 4.7 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.3 GHz 3,2 GHz
The turbo mode 5.0 GHz 4.7 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.0 GHz
Cache L2 4×2 MB
Cache L3 8 MB
Support for DDR3 DDR3-1600 / 1866
TDP 220 W 125 W 95 W
The processor socket Socket AM3 +
The price is $ 220 $ 204 $ 194 $ 173 $ 142 $ 194 $ 142

In terms of formal specifications, the new FX-8370 is really very similar to its predecessor, the FX-8350. This is also the testimony of the diagnostic utility CPU-Z.

Here, first of all, you need to pay attention to the version of the processor core, which in the new FX-8370 remained exactly the same as the previous Vishera processors two years ago. And this means that the new processor is actually only a small overclocking of past models, and it can not offer anything other than a slightly higher frequency in turbo mode.

Judging by how our FX-8370 instance behaved, the basic principles of Turbo Core technology functioning in novelty compared to FX-8350 did not change either. But the work stresses seem to have become slightly different. At full load on all processor cores, when the FX-8370 clock frequency is set at 4.0 GHz, its power voltage is in the region of 1.2 V, which is about 0.05-0.1 V less than the voltage operating under similar conditions FX-8350. In the turbo mode, when less than half of the processor cores are under load and the processor generates not too high electric power, the frequency of the FX-8370 can rise to 4.3 GHz with a simultaneous increase in voltage up to 1.39 V. And this is even more than the maximum operating voltage in the turbo mode FX-8350. Thus, the voltage spread of the FX-8370 became stronger than that of the previous processors.

However, such subtleties are unlikely to have any serious practical value. And if you are accustomed to operating processors in nominal, then the transition from FX-8350 to FX-8370 will not give much, except, perhaps, a small saving in power consumption. But wait, maybe the newcomer will be able to offer some obvious advantages in overclocking?

⇡ # Dispersal

Two years is quite a long time, for which the technological semiconductor process could seriously change both the percentage yield of suitable crystals and their qualitative characteristics. That’s exactly what we hoped for when we started the overclocking experiments for AMD FX-8370. Earlier we managed to overclock the processors with the Vishera design without using any special extreme cooling methods up to 4.7-4.9 GHz. The appearance of the novelty again aroused the hope for the possibility of obtaining a system with a 5-gigahertz processor, capable of stable daily work. To conquer this psychologically important milestone, we decided to use the maintenance-free liquid cooling system Corsair Hydro Series H110, which is capable of removing heat more effectively than most air coolers.

Vishera processors, produced by 32-nm technology, always showed rectilinear behavior during overclocking. The whole procedure of their overclocking consisted of a few simple steps. It was enough to raise the voltage to 1.4-1.55 V (depending on the performance of the existing cooling system) and turn on Loadline Calibration. After that, without forgetting to disable the Turbo Core technology and the APM Master function, the user could easily increase the multiplier.

But the AMD FX-8370 that got into our lab turned out to be an instance with a very capricious character. It turned out that he is very poorly tolerated by the increase in voltage – his temperatures quickly go beyond acceptable limits even at relatively low voltage levels. Even when installed on a 1.425 V processor, we encountered overheating and throttling, which occurred at a high load, created by the LinX 0.6.5 utility with support for AVX and FMA instructions. And this is in spite of the fact that the FX-8350 processors, which had been before in our laboratory, could be overclocked without any problems increasing their voltage to 1.5-1.55 V. Frankly, there was even an assumption that AMD , similar to Intel, changed the thermal interface under the processor cover, which led to a stronger, than before, heating of the modern FX-8370.

However, even with a small increase in voltage to 1.4 V, the FX-8370 unexpectedly demonstrated the ability of stable operation at a relatively good clock speed. He certainly did not take a five-gigawatz bar, but functioning at a typical frequency of 4.7 GHz for 125-watt representatives of the Vishera family was not a problem for him.

In other words, that instance of FX-8370, which we received for tests, in terms of the frequency potential remained similar to the past flagship, FX-8350. However, the conditions under which such a frequency is achieved have changed. Now, a serious increase in the supply voltage is not required, and the 4.7 GHz frequency is quite affordable with only 0.1 V over rated voltage. It’s only a pity that attempts to increase the voltage more seriously remained unsuccessful – our FX-8370 overheated even at the nominal frequency despite the use of a productive liquid cooler in the test system.

It turns out that the new FX-8370 is poorly suited for building overclocking systems, where the processor operates at striking frequencies. We achieved 4.7 GHz – it’s not even better than the nominal mode of the 220-watt FX-9590 flagship. Therefore, if you are seriously aimed at conquering the 5-gigahertz mark, then a much better acquisition will be FX-9370 or FX-9590. For such “elite” processors, AMD selects the most successful semiconductor crystals, and they on average accelerate significantly better than the FX-8370 or FX-8350.

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