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The Story of Steamroller, CPU Benchmark, and FX

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Posted March 18, 2014 by Josh Jackson in CPU & Motherboards

A terrible cry of despair could be heard around the world when AMD announced they would not be developing their steamroller cores into the FX CPU line up. If that wasn’t bad enough, leaked road maps showed us no future for the flagship series making it very hard to believe that AMD cares about high end at all. This is a dark time in the CPU world in that AMD fans have lost all hope and Intel can have a monopoly on the high end. But maybe there’s a glimmer of hope which might bring vibrant competition in the future. If you haven’t heard of cpubenchmark.net, go there, and let’s take a stab at what the future might hold for hardware enthusiasts.

If you ever plan to purchase a new processor and know you have a limited budget, CPU Benchmark should be the first place you go to. They have performance graphs of almost every chip on the market showing overall performance, overclocking, single thread performance and even power to performance ratio. While the website does its own testing, they also pull their benchmarks from thousands of users who buy the software to bench their own systems giving a convenient average score to help users decide on a chip. This will help you find a good range of chips to sort through, then you can look at more specific reviews to make the best decision.

It was from these charts that something interesting appeared about the new Steamroller chips, specifically the A10-7850K. When compared to the previous flagship APU, (the A10-6800K), a few things stand out. The overall score was a bit over 10% of the previous chip, which isn’t too bad. Overclocking performance was substantially better showing around another 10% gain, while the 6800K barely nudges the score in the overclocking chart. On average, it seams Steamroller is better and has more headroom than its predecessor. Unfortunately, single thread performance is barely any better and neither APU even makes it on the Power Performance chart that is dominated by Intel chips. Looking at this from a very broad view, there seems to be a very good reason why these cores are not showing up in an FX chip.

Zambezi was a huge let down from AMD. They ditched single thread performance for the idea that applications would begin using their more superior multi-threaded performance. Unfortunately, gaming hasn’t adopted that philosophy soon enough and Intel gained massive leads in performance with power efficiency. Vishera gave their audience a glimmer of hope, improving on Zambezi to make it what it should have been, but it was a day late and a dollar short. Now, AMD is solidly in the budget market with little hope to crawl back out. Steamroller, while improving APU performance, doesn’t have a lot to offer the flagship Vishera chips due to the massive lead Intel has in that market. But this doesn’t mean the end of their high end.

I believe the reason why the FX series road map came to an abrupt end (or at least showed no changes in the future) is because AMD needs to completely overhaul architecture in order to get back in the game. The hard cold reality is power efficiency and lower heat generation is attacking them on both fronts. Intel has been doing it for years with CPUs and now, NVIDIA is becoming the GPU threat with Maxwell. Steamroller doesn’t have what it takes to enter the modern day high-end market. Fortunately, AMD has the consoles, bit coin miners and APUs to help pick up the slack. There is no better time to try and overhaul the future of CPUs than right now.

The FX series CPUs and chipsets may need to die out in order make way for something fresh and exciting. AMD has been hit hard by the competition, but they still have some great things going for them. If they can come up with something that closes that gap with Intel while showing NVIDIA that they can also play in the power efficiency ring, I believe they can make the market a very interesting, competitive place again. So for all you AMD fans out there, don’t totally give up on AMD yet. At the same time, don’t hold your breath either. It could be a while before AMD is ready to start teasing the public again with high end processors.

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