So, AMD has just announced its prices and release dates for the newest CPUs. They can be purchased in 6 core and 8 core versions… (i.e. 6 unique processor chips (or 8) in the central processing unit).
What’s really sad (and I wouldn’t buy one if I was able to actually build my new PC) is that the newest AMD chips aren’t that great.
First, let’s look at the price. In those terms, AMD wins, hands down. Intel has the i5 4-core 3.3 GHz for about $219. AMD’s FX-8120 will be $205 for 8 cores, each running at 3.1 GHz. That’s nearly twice the muscle for the same price… in theory. And we all know the difference between theory and practice right?
First, the AMD CPU uses 30 watts more power than the i5. That doesn’t sound like much, but we’re talking (at load) your laptop would lose a big chunk of battery life (if these were in laptops). In fact, one person figured that you would spend an extra $100 in electricity over 3 years using the AMD CPU.
Second, and this is really interesting, the performance isn’t that much better. Take a look at the specs in the article I linked to above. Compared to the i5, the performance increase ranges from 0 to about 50% better. With twice as many chips, you get minimal performance increase. Why?
Well, the reason is that very few software packages can take advantage of an 8-core CPU.
Now, head over here and look at actual performance data for the i5 (not the strangely reported, marketing-style performance data as shown in the Engadget link). Notice anything interesting?
The performance tests aren’t the same. Sure, everyone tends to cherry-pick every now and again, especially for advertising purposes. But the real key is what is going to happen when AMD and Intel match up on the same (other than motherboard) hardware and perform the exact same tasks. That will be the real test and I’m willing to bet that the FX-8120 cannot beat the i5 in any real-world task by a significant margin (like 20% or more).
This is similar to an episode of Top Gear. The hosts were comparing a v-8 powered Ferrari, a V-10 powered Lamborghini, and a v-12 powered Aston Martin. The Aston had more cylinders, but was the slowest from 0-60, had the lowest top speed, and the least horsepower and torque. (It also cost twice as much, but that’s beside the point.)
More is not always better. It’s performance that counts. If the performance isn’t up to snuff, then AMD has just saddled itself with a marketing gimmick and that’s pretty much all it has. Intel will gain all the customers that understand computer performance.