This week AMD released their Vishera cored processor, the third try at the FX lineup. Now if you have not read my opinion of the first try at the FX I would direct you there so you can understand why I was skeptical about this try. Now before I get the deluge of comments and emails reminding me, yes I know this is only the SECOND chip set for the FX. The reason I say this is the third try is that AMD did try to fix the FX performance with a software based solution after the original release. Okay maybe this would be better called 2.5 and give AMD only half credit for the software attempt.
For our testing AMD sent us the FX 8350, the high end 8 core chip of the FX lineup. Priced at around $200 this chip is fully AM3+ compatible and can be a direct plug in replacement for any of the 1st generation FX chips. In fact this is how I did my testing, replacing the 8150 my wife has been using.
As with the original 8150 test I started at looking at the base single core to see how it measured up. I was interested in looking here first as this was the weak spot of the 8150 and was curious how much of an improvement they achieved. For our testing I also went back to the original tests with the Phenom II 1100 and fired up some single threaded action.
In our briefings from AMD we were told we would see about a 15% boost in performance over the original FX release. The results were not quite to 15%, my testing showing a bump of about 12% at the same clock speed. This is a nice improvement over the initial design. Compared to the Phenom II this resulted in a bump however of only around 4%, nice exactly the boost we were hoping for.
Now in fairness the chip is meant for heavy multi-threaded action so a single core test is not a real indicator of performance but I wanted to see what, if any real improvements to the actual core was made.
Throwing this system into my wife’s machine with a 6950 for video I began working through various programs and benchmarks to get a better feel. I also let her play with it a few days and then replaced the chip with again with the 8150.
From a computing experience there was no difference that could be seen. Both chips delivered great gaming experiences and overall computing was smooth and fast.
When I moved to comparisons with the Intel i5 chips the results were along the lines I expected. The Intel and AMD chip deliver nearly identical experiences in computing, it is all but impossible to really tell the difference. In more quantitative testing the new FX lineup fairs much better than the first run, with numbers actually close to Intel a lot of the time. Intel maintained an overall lead but the difference was slimmer and made this chip competitive with Intel.
The true test of this chip is what it does when the threads are flying and this thing is pushing all 8 cores, it is a beast. In super heavy threaded applications the FX shines, not as much as we hoped but still it rocks through those types of jobs with little effort.
This chip is aimed squarely at the hard core DIY builder, with it’s easy to overclock, unlocked design. From a general gamer or builder point of view I think the chip is a solid choice but still not the first choice with a few exceptions.
The one area this chip takes a nice lead in is pricing, with the 8350 coming in under the i5 3570K, Intel’s unlocked solution. However as with the last generation I do not think the 8350 is the star of this lineup.
The FX 8320 is selling right now for about $180 and the 6300 for around $140. This makes both chips very attractive when you add in the fact they are both unlocked. The 8320 is still 8 cores and with only a mild overclock that it should hit easily the chip will match the more costly 8350. The 6300 is a six core processor but again can match the higher speeds of the 8350 and give gamers similar performance for less money.
This time around I think AMD gimped themselves with the 4300, a solid quad chip no doubt but it is the same CPU core as the A10 processor except it lacks the onboard GPU. From a pure budget build the A10, which is also unlocked, is just a more versatile chip and in my opinion a better value.
AMD has made some definite improvements in the FX lineup but the improvements made are still below the expectations they built up for the original FX chips. This still feels a little like a let down overall. However that does not mean we should despair. This round of FX chips are more competitive with Intel than the previous, even after Intel’s recent releases. When you take into account platform price and general computing experience Intel has some solid competition in the mainstream lineup.
Well it has taken most of the year but nVidia has finally given us the complete Kepler lineup of GPUs with the release of the GTX 650Ti. Our look at the GTX650TI is a reference card provided by nVidia, this is the baseline that various companies will work from to release their models of this video card. The base design comes with a very simple cooler, 1 gig of memory and 2xDVI and an HDMI connection. This is a basic budget gaming card, the target price for this series is around $140. This places it squarely between the GTX 650 and the GTX 660 cards.
The original target for this card was aimed to be in direct competition with the HD 7770 but recent price drops have put that card at a slightly lower price. Further price cuts have moved the 7850 to within striking distance of that price point and has changed the dynamic of this cards launch.
The $140 price point places the GTX 650Ti squarely in the mainstream card segment and at the upper end of the budget gaming card range. This is shown in the breakdown of the nVidia GTX 600 series cards. In our review of the GTX 650 we referred to that card as a gateway gaming card. The GTX 650Ti is a step up in gaming performance that is aimed at people wanting to taking their gaming a bit farther or for the budget gaming DIY build.
In the briefing we got from nVidia the 650Ti was referred to as the 650 turbo charged, the naming may also give this impression. This impression however is not correct, the 650Ti is built on the same chip as the 660 and then toned down a bit. The result is a pretty solid chip for the price point.
For purposes of our testing we put this board on our test rig with an Intel i5 3450 and 8 Gigs of Kingston HyperX. This build represents a solid build for a lower cost, mainstream gaming rig; a likely target for someone looking at this card. For our testing we used some of todays popular games such as Borderlands 2, Skyrim, Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, Mechwarrior Online and Civilization V. All tests were run with the goal of achieving great playback with the modest detail we could add. From a frame rate point of view we shot for 60 FPS with the settings as high as we could get. We tested at resolutions of 1920×1080, 1600×900 and 1280×720. Nvidia made clear the goal of this card was to attain 1080 resolutions with medium to high settings and some AA enabled.
The performance difference over the GTX 650 was obvious from the start. With the straight 650 we had been forced to lower settings quite a bit to get good playback at 1080, with the 650Ti the settings were able to give much more detail and still be very playable. In fact our testing showed a nice frame rate boost, on average from all our testing we got about 75% above the lower priced 650.
When we compared to the competition with the 7770 we again see the 650Ti offering a nice boost in performance. However there was little difference in the actual gaming experience, that is until we started turning on features. When a game makes use of nVidia PhysX the 650Ti steps up and the game experience is improved over that of the 7770 from a visual perspective.
With the price drop of the 7850 we felt that we needed to compare it to the 650Ti as well. The 7850 has an obvious advantage in the case of raw horsepower but again the actual gaming experience did not change drastically until you turn on various nVidia features in games.
As we lowered the resolution the 650Ti was able to max out details and deliver some really exceptional play performance, pegging our vsynced setup at 60 FPS. At 1080 this was not always the case but we did see some very smooth playback, even with high settings.
The 650Ti is a strong card for the price point but hit the market with a bit of a limp. If AMD had not done the price cuts they did then this card would rule the price point, as it stands it is just a strong contender. Also it’s price point represents an in-between area that can create some confusion for the new gamer.
The straight 650 comes in for less money and IF you are going to run your gaming at lower than 1080 resolution, is a strong buy for the price. The 650Ti allows the ability to bump to that 1080 resolution for a price jump with a nice performance boost but for another $50 to $60 you can jump to the 660 and get a nice jump again over the 650Ti.
The 650Ti delivers on the target nVidia claimed to be aiming for, giving a solid card that delivers a GOOD 1080 experience at under $200. When put against the original target, the 7770, the 650Ti is a clear win but the recent price cuts have muddy the water. When put up against the new prices of the 7850 there is no clear winner but instead a very competitive setup were you can choose between raw horsepower or features in some specific game titles.
At the end of the day the 650Ti is a solid card and worth the cost. It is a worth candidate for the new gamers or budget DIYers to consider.
Show segment as aired live 13 October 2012
AMD has had a rough go this year with their FX processor falling well below everyone’s expectations on performance. With the FX not reaching the level they wanted AMD has put a lot of focus on their Fusion design and the Trinity APU is the newest entry. AMD sent us the A10 5800K to take a look at.
The new Fusion processor takes the Bulldozer basic design, with some tweaking and adds a more powerful parallel co-processor over the original Fusion chips. The result is a more powerful APU design that is also more efficient.
The particular model we have in house, the A10 5800K is the top end of the new Fusion APU lineup. As you can see from the chart the line up includes 4 quad core chips, 2 of them setup for lower TDP along with 2 dual core chips. The 5800, 5600 and 5400 are K branded chips which means they are unlocked for easier overclocking. The A10 chips have the higher end of the onboard graphic options. The 5800 is priced at around $130 and the other chips will work down the price line accordingly.
The new chip brings with it a new socket and thus new motherboards. To allow us to test the chip AMD sent an Asus F2A85-M Pro board. This is one of the higher end boards for the new FM2 socket and is designed to provide a solid mainstream priced board with some good features for overclocking. Like the previous APUs we looked at, the A10 will make use of faster RAM and so for our testing we used Hyper-X DDR3 1866 RAM courtesy of Kingston.
For purposes of our testing I did my testing with a lot of basic work as well as video play back. For gaming I focused at 720 resolution settings but also pushed the testing to the 1080 resolution based on our briefing from AMD. For the basic work testing we did batch runs of photo resizing as well as well as used a number of benchmarks designed to work in Word and Excel. For gaming we chose from some of todays popular games; Borderlands 2, Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, Mechwarrior Online (now that the NDAS is lifted) and Civilization V.
Using just the onboard graphics the chip was able to deliver on everyday use with ease. There we no functions we threw at the chip that resulted in a performance hit that was noticeable, even when compared head to head with faster processors. The video playback using HD video was smooth and looked great. Gaming produced some really surprising results when you realize it was purely onboard graphics. I found most game ran okay at 1080 with a medium detail setting and at 720 the detail level could crank up and the performance was still very playable.
As with the first APU release, this chip allows a hybrid crossfire using the 6670 and 6570 to boost the gaming horsepower. As with that release the results were solid when the game supported it. The good news is more games today come with multi-card support out of the box. These means you can get a solid lower cost gaming system if needed.
When we move into the CPU side of this APU the results are still very close to the first APU releases. The move to the “Bulldozer” style core shows off when it is mutli-tasking hard but in single threaded apps it still falls on it’s face when compared to older chips. However more software is moving to a multi-threaded setup so the chip is not being hurt as much as it might have been a year or two ago.
When you take this chip as a whole and do not segregate the two components, the chips shines. When compared to the i3 processors from Intel, the ones that match the price point, the A10 is a solid choice. When the thread count rises the A10 takes a good lead in performance and the onboard graphics blows away Intel’s offering. This makes this chip a great choice for a low cost build, HTPC or an entry level gaming PC.
The key here however is that this is meant for entry level. As you raise the cost of your PC you begin to get options open that offer a more powerful solution. So it brings AMD back to the game when it comes to the entry and budget level builds due to being more versatile that the competition with solid performance and way over the top video capabilities.
However the place this chip will really shine is in cookie cutter (OEM) machines. If you are going into a store and looking to buy that basic $600 PC then look for a system using an A10 or A8, these are the best choice by far. They deliver a more complete package then the competition and have some nice low cost upgrade options built into the design.
For most of this year AMD has struggled to hang on to the entry level with some decent offerings but nothing that gave them a clear edge. It is nice to see AMD finally climb up and not have to hold on by it’s finger tips, but rather stand tall and again take command of this market segment.
Segment as aired live 6 October 2012