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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  • scottwilkins - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    No, they haven't broken it down much. Just added only new features with smaller instructions. The original x86 architecture is pretty much still quite CISC in nature. And why Intel/x86 can still take performance crowns in many applications.
  • Zink - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    If you will not allow it to be said that IBM was first to 5 GHz then I don't think you should allow AMD to say they have "the world’s first commercially available 5 GHz processor.”
  • shadab47 - Thursday, June 20, 2013 - link

  • xvart - Friday, July 5, 2013 - link

    You may find you as in a normal person can't buy a 5 GHz power chip so it's not technically commercially available. You can disassemble your mainframe to get one but makes it an expensive chip.
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    This is ridiculous. If they say "We have the first CPU" they must be compared to other CPUs. If they said "We have the first x86 CPU" or "We have the first AMD CPU" then comparing to IBM Power 6 would indeed be invalid.
  • woogitboogity - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    CISC or RISC is splitting hairs considering that AMD's claim was "first commercially available 5GHz CPU” with no mention of complex or reduced instruction set architecture. I, too, call shenanigans on AMD.
  • Howlingmoon - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    There was never a need for AMD to "mention" that their product was only to be compared to other x86 chips. Who in the world would actually THINK that AMD would be developing anything BUT a x86?? It goes without saying. To put it plainly...the IBM Power6 RISC chips could be compared to a weed whacker engine...all torque, extremely fast, and absolutely amazing at doing it's one thing...whack weeds with the greatest of speed and efficiency . The 9590 is the workhorse V-8 in a F-150 in comparison. Nobody would ever make any but the vaguest of comparisons to those two.
  • danrien - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    whoa... have to disagree with you there. RISC is known for being much more efficient than CISC. In fact, modern CISC processors run RISC under the hood and translate their old crusty complex algorithms to RISC-like instructions on the fly.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    Except we have things like AVX, SSE, AES-NI, etc. that are basically CISC-like extensions to do certain functions faster. The idea of RISC back in the day was to have a core set of instructions that were extremely simple and build a small and efficient architecture around those. Today, with billions of transistors in modern CPUs, there's little need to be purely RISC, and we now have all sorts of floating point and vector instruction sets available, with more added every generation -- simply because we can. That's why ARM has stuff like THUMB. You can get better code density with CISC and better performance with RISC, and the difference is almost entirely in the decode stage of the pipeline.

    Anand talked about this five years ago ( AMD's Fred Weber said the cost of x86 decode was 10% of the CPU core (not cache!) in the days of the the original Clawhammer/Sledgehammer parts -- roughly 4-5 million transistors is what I've heard tossed about. With Haswell GT2 at 1.4B and Vishera at 1.2B, we're now talking about less than 2% of the total transistor budget being spent on x86 compatibility (because we have 4/8 cores to worry about, not just one). The amount of transistors being spent on caches that bring diminishing performance gains is ballooning, simply because we have "transistors to spare"!
  • JlHADJOE - Saturday, June 15, 2013 - link

    You're implying that Power6 can't be used for general-purpose tasks. I'm pretty sure it can.

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