Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bulldozer: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It's been a good long while (my apologies) but we recently had a major new processor launch (though not a chipset launch, AM3+ boards of varying feature sets and expense levels have been available from most vendors for months now) so I thought I'd toss out some thoughts.

To be brief, so far Bulldozer really doesn't seem to be worth your time or money, especially for those of you poised to purchase something in the 2500K area.

To give it the long treatment, I'll start by saying that I wasn't too keen on Bulldozer.  The 8-core approach (at least for the "high-end" SKUs), while certainly ideal for those of us who really love heavily threaded applications, really doesn't do much for the vast majority of us who are building gaming PCs.  Without per core performance closer to that of Intel's Sandy Bridge chips (and many benchmarks indicate that, on a per core basis, Bulldozer fails to significantly outperform AMD's own Phenom II lineup) the reality is that Bulldozer wasn't going to be a compelling choice over Intel's 1155 lineup without a serious price advantage.

Unfortunately, that price advantage has failed to materialize.  For users with heavily threaded applications (which does not include the vast, vast majority of games, or most standard consumer productivity apps) the 8150 might represent a relatively inexpensive way to get 8 real cores, but a Phenom II X6 will likely provide you with the majority of that performance at lesser cost.

Bulldozer does emerge victorious in instances of really heavily threaded workloads, but most users really don't experience those kind of workloads with enough regularity to make it worthwhile, especially when Sandy Bridge offers such compelling per-core performance advantages.  Newer iterations of AM3+ based CPUs may offer the kind of competition we'd like to see from AMD, but for now Bulldozer is a product destined for niche users and those who absolutely refuse to be parted from their AMD products.