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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  • woogitboogity - Monday, July 8, 2013 - link

    You are not following me. My point is that all kinds of tricks can be used to jack up the clock speed without actually making any real improvements.

    Also, all x86 chips are not created equal in terms of architecture. Pentium 4 presided over an era where things were the opposite of what they were now. P4 clock speed was under-performing compared to AMD chips of the same GHz to the point that AMD had to market their chips by naming them after the P4 equivalent clock speed they out-performed. This was because P4 had an absurdly long pipeline relative to its design and no real scheduling/branch-prediction compared to today.

    Again the fact that all they have to talk about here is clock speed makes the whole thing stink.
  • Klinky1984 - Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - link

    Could you actually buy a POWER6 CPU on it's own? Wouldn't you have to buy a full solution from IBM to get access to POWER6? I think AMD would have been better to state it was "the first commercially produced 5Ghz processor available to consumers", which someone could spin better than what they wrote.
  • Voldenuit - Thursday, June 13, 2013 - link

    You can't buy the FX 9xxx either. It's only available to system integrators, presumably to stop DIY builders from setting their houses on fire...
  • lwatcdr - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    But companies that are not AMD can buy the part. With the Power 6 it was an IBM only part. Doesn't really matter over all unless the FX 9xxx offers an advantage in price vs performance over the i7 4xxx. It maybe a good solution for people that need single threaded performance over multi threaded but until benchmarks are run who knows?
  • samlebon2306 - Monday, June 24, 2013 - link

    Actually they bundle them with a fire extinguisher.
  • JlHADJOE - Saturday, June 15, 2013 - link

    You mean like this?
  • patrickjchase - Monday, June 17, 2013 - link

    IBM has hit 5+ GHz with z196 and zEC12 as well, and those implement the (very CISC-y) 360/370/390/zArchitecture instruction sets. I would also note that in a modern Tomasulo-based OoO processor the distinction between CISC and RISC comes down to a few extra decode stages. The OoO backend ends up looking pretty similar either way.

    AMD's specific marketing claim is "first commercially available 5 GHz CPU", so they appear to be drawing a distinction based on the fact that IBM doesn't sell POWER or zSeries processors individually or through retail channels. I imagine they had some fun negotiating that one with the legal department...
  • JDG1980 - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    In context, it's obvious that AMD's claims only refer to x86 CPUs. No one cares who did what with some weird RISC architecture.
  • FaaR - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    In context it's clear that the press release is factually incorrect, and that you're trolling. That "weird" RISC architecture is a very well known big iron mainframe CPU, which quite a few people cares about. Even more people care about companies not lying about their accomplishments.
  • bji - Tuesday, June 11, 2013 - link

    "Nobody cares", "some weird RISC architecture". Yeah you're right, the world of computing just doesn't exist outside of the narrow realm of Intel processors released since 2010 and used by you and your teenage friends.

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