AMD Announces FX-9590 and FX-9370: Return of the GHz Race

Today at E3 AMD announced their latest CPUs, the FX-9590 and FX-9370. Similar to what we’re seeing with Richland vs. Trinity, AMD is incrementing the series number to 9000 while sticking with the existing Piledriver Vishera architecture. These chips are the result of tuning and binning on GlobalFoundries’ 32nm SOI process, though the latest jump from the existing FX-8350 is nonetheless quite impressive.

The FX-8350 had a base clock of 4.0GHz with a maximum Turbo Core clock of 4.2GHz; the FX-9590 in contrast has a maximum Turbo clock of 5GHz and the FX-9370 tops out at 4.7GHz. We’ve asked AMD for details on the base clocks for the new parts, but so far have not yet received a response; we're also missing details on TDP, cache size, etc. but those will likely be the same as the FX-8350/8320 (at least for everything but TDP).

6/13/2013 Update: We have now received the most important pieces of information from AMD regarding the new parts. The base clock on the FX-9590 will be 4.7GHz and the base clock of the FX-9370 will be 4.4GHz, so in both cases it will be 300MHz below the maximum Turbo Core speed. The more critical factor is also the more alarming aspect: the rumors of a 220W TDP have proven true. That explains why these parts will target system integrators first, and the FX-9000 series also earns the distinction of having a higher TDP, but it also raises some serious concerns. With proper cooling, there's little doubt that you can run a Vishera core at 5.0GHz for extended periods of time, but 220W is a massive amount of power to draw for just a CPU.

To put things in perspective, the highest TDP part ever released by AMD prior to the FX-9000 series is the 140W TDP Phenom II X4 965 BE. For Intel, the vast majority of their chips have been under 130W, but a few  chips (e.g. Core 2 Extreme QX9775, Core i7-3970X, and most of the Xeon 7100 series PPGA604 parts back at the end of the NetBurst era) managed to go above and beyond and hit 150W TDPs. So we're basically looking at a 76% increase in TDP relative to the FX-8350 to get a 19% increase in maximum clock speed. It's difficult to imagine the target market for such a chip, but perhaps a few of the system integrators expressed interest in a manufacturer-overclocked CPU.

For those who remember the halcyon days of the NetBurst vs. Sledgehammer Wars, the irony of AMD pimping the “first commercially available 5GHz CPU” can be a bit hard to take. Yes, all other things being equal (cache sizes, latency, pipeline depth, power use, etc., etc…), having a higher core clock will result in better performance. The stark reality is that all other things are almost never “equal”, however, which means pushing clocks to 5GHz will improve performance over the existing FX-8000 parts but clock speed alone isn’t enough. AMD continues to work on their next generation architecture, Steamroller, which will debut later this year in the Kaveri APUs as a 28nm part, but in the interim we have to make do with the existing parts.

As we covered extensively last week, Intel has just launched their latest Haswell processors, and on the desktop we’re seeing relatively small performance gains. That’s somewhat interesting as this is a “Tock” in Intel’s Tick-Tock cadence, which means a new architecture and that usually means improved performance. However, similar to the last Tock (Sandy Bridge), Haswell is more of a mobile-focused architecture, which means performance gains on the CPU are minor but power and battery life gains can be significant, especially in lighter workloads. Also similar to the “Tock” when we moved from Clarkdale to Sandy Bridge, the jump in graphics performance with the HD 5000 series parts (and even more so with the Iris and Iris Pro parts) can be quite large relative to Ivy Bridge.

So Intel has been relatively tame on the CPU performance increases this time around and for they’ve focused on reducing typical power use and improving graphics. Meanwhile AMD’s answer on their high-end desktop platforms is…more clock speed. We’ll have full reviews of the new parts in the future, as the new CPUs are not yet available, but given the ability of Vishera to overclock quite easily to the 4.8-5.2GHz range on air-cooling (and 8GHz+ with exotic overclocking methods!) the higher Turbo Core speeds were inevitable.

We could also talk model numbers and question the need to increment from the 8000 series to the 9000 series when nothing has really changed this time around—the more sensible time to make that jump should have been when Vishera first launched, at least from the technology side of things. It would also be nice to see more of a unification of model numbers in AMD’s product stack, as we currently have FX-4000, FX-6000, FX-8000, and now FX-9000 parts all built on the Zambezi/Bulldozer and Vishera/Piledriver architectures. FX-4000 (two modules/four cores), FX-6000 (three modules/six cores), and FX-8000 (four modules/eight cores) made sense, but FX-9000 breaks that pattern. At present there are no updates being announced for the FX-4000 and FX-6000 families, but those will likely come. Will they be FX-5000 and FX-7000 parts now, or will they remain 4000/6000? If AMD were to use an Intel-style naming convention, Bulldozer was 1st Generation, Piledriver is 2nd Generation, and ahead we still have Steamroller (3rd Generation) and Excavator (4th Generation), but they’ve chosen a different route.

Whatever the name of the part, more than ever it’s important to know what you’re actually getting in terms of hardware before making a purchase—that holds true for AMD CPUs, APUs, and GPUs, but it also applies to Intel’s CPUs and NVIDIA’s GPUs, never mind the variety of ARM SoCs out there. The FX-9000 series is now AMD’s highest performance four module/eight core processor for their AM3+ platform, but it’s an incremental improvement from the FX-8000 series in the same way that the Radeon HD 8000 series is an incremental improvement on the HD 7000 GCN offerings. At least on the AMD CPU side of things we can generally go by the “higher numbers are better” idea, but that won’t always be the case.

AMD did not reveal pricing details on the new parts, and the press release says these new CPUs will “be available initially in PCs through system integrators”. They may replace the existing FX-8350 and FX-8320 eventually, but they will initially launch at a higher price depending on how AMD and their partners feel they stack up against the competition.

Source: AMD Press Release

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  • silverblue - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    I think they're relying on the high density libraries to bring down Excavator's power usage in line with another die shrink. It would help immeasurably if they brought that particular idea forward to Steamroller, really.
  • JDG1980 - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    Global Foundries can be blamed for some of AMD's woes, but not all. Intel manufactured Sandy Bridge on 32nm; if AMD had anything that good, I think there would be a lot less dissatisfaction with their offerings. The problem is that Bulldozer/Piledriver just has atrociously low IPC and power efficiency compared to Intel's last couple of generations.
  • woogitboogity - Monday, July 8, 2013 - link

    The funny part is that Intel could never afford to have AMD go under. The industry has been free of anti-trust lawsuits mainly because Intel busts out their "gimp" (AMD) as a counter-example.

    The cool thing about that though is that AMD will always have the resources to make use of chip design talent (especially something revolutionary). After all Intel's Core2 chips came out of nowhere and caught AMD flat-footed.

    As much as we complain about it, business-wise AMD relies heavily on the APPEARANCE of being neck and neck with Intel. Intel can generally manage to outdo them in almost every way but I wonder whether they deliberately allow these sorts of moments to happen so that AMD does not get marginalized completely and put out of business.
  • glugglug - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    At 220W, I doubt the OEM solutions are air-cooled! Understandable that these are going to system integrators only --- that is just nuts! I'm thinking the only possibilities here for who is buying them is Alienware and VoodooPC.
  • Quindor - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    Maybe they integrated a crazy strong GPU after their experience designing the SOC for both the PS4 and XboxOne? If OEM's build a proper box with closed loop cooling in it, it could enable some very interesting designs which would be harder if the heat was coming from two chips.

    Since the new console announcements I've actually been hoping to see some way to convert them back to 'normal pc' usage because they would make awesome cheap gaming rigs. And historically seen, all consoles ever released have had some alternative way of using them. ;)
  • JDG1980 - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    The FX series are plain CPUs with no integrated graphics. What you're looking for is Kaveri, which is coming later this year and is supposed to integrate a reasonably good GPU and have a homogenous memory architecture similar to what is on the new consoles.
  • dragonsqrrl - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    "So we're basically looking at a 76% increase in TDP relative to the FX-8350 to get a 19% increase in maximum clock speed. It's difficult to imagine the target market for such a chip"

    ... my thoughts exactly.
  • silverblue - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    Well... there's always those who think it'll overclock better than previous chips, but I can't imagine that being a particularly large market. Kind of leaves a bitter taste.

    I wonder what amount of power AMD expects this to use on average.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    well, the 125 watt 8350 uses about 213 watts under maximum load with turbo enabled. thats a....58 percent increase. if the same applies for the 9000 series, that would be...347.6 watts.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    however, if amd uses slightly lower voltages, and more controlled turbos, uses higher binned chips, bet is about 300 watts.

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