AMD CPU Final Thoughts
There is no “fastest processor”. When planning your rig, you’ll need to make a choice between core count and clock speed. Up until now, the argument for choosing more cores has boiled down to whether or not you regularly perform tasks that spawn lots of threads, like video and audio transcoding, or perhaps if you just like to keep a whole lot of programs running at the same time. Few games use more than a couple of cores, so performance at high graphics settings devolves to the graphics cards.
CPUs have become fast enough that per-core performance differences are less important than they ever were. Although my benchmarks show that the Core i3-4360 is faster than the FX-8320E in virtually every test on a per-core basis, you’re probably never going to see this differential unless you spend quite a lot of time in benchmark-land. Benchmark-land is fun, kind of like taking your car to the drag strip to see what it will do. But, like your quarter-mile time, it often doesn’t have that much correlation with real-world performance.
So the gaming performance of these two CPUs is virtually identical at the graphics settings enthusiasts will run. But there’s something to consider: DX12. What? Oh, that’s Microsoft’s next iteration of the DX graphics API, and it will be introduced in a few months with the release of Windows 10. The biggest single change in DX12 over DX11? Multi-threading! AMD has already demonstrated the dramatic advantages multi-threaded graphics layers can bring with their Mantle API, and Microsoft isn’t one to be left behind for long. So the expectation if that multi-core CPUs will offer significant performance advantages in DX12-based gaming.
Of course, at this point the performance advantages are just speculation…
The takeaway here is that if you’re planning for the future…make that the near future…you’re going to want a multi-core CPU. The release of DX-12 could really change the way enthusiasts view AMD CPUs.
AMD is promoting the FX-8320E/MSI 970 Gaming combination as a budget gaming system. At a combined MSRP of less than $250, it’s certainly one of the least expensive platforms you can build on, freeing up money for memory and GPUs that will have more of an effect on your gaming performance than a faster processor. And all those cores are about to become a real competitive advantage any day now…
AMD FX-8320E Conclusion
AMD’s cancellation of the Steamroller CPU disappointed enthusiasts who were hoping for them to close the core-performance gap. But AMD’s doing well in the low end, where their CPUs are popular in tablets and other mobile devices, and their GPUs power things like the Xbox One.
As software evolves, having more cores will become more important than just having fast cores. Of course, having both is even better, and if you have deep pockets, feel free to spend $1500 on a Core i7-5960X and high-end X99 motherboard. It won’t play your games much faster than a CPU/motherboard combination that costs 1/6th as much, but you will have bragging rights.
Intel does have another significant advantage with their support chipsets: although AMD’s 9-series chipsets were the first to go “full SATA 6”, they’ve made no progress since then, and the lack of native USB 3.0, PCI-E 3.0, SATA Express, and the like simply look bad, even if right now there’s little real-world impact (USB 3.0 is supplied via third-party controllers; no GPU is saturating PCI-E 2.0 even now, and SATA Express devices are as common as unicorns).
All that said, I do worry about the future of AMD’s desktop CPU line. For the last couple of years, all we’ve seen has been clock- and power-tweaked releases of the original 2011-era FX architecture. Intel’s gone through three major CPU upgrades in the same time period (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, and Haswell). AMD’s been driving prices ever downwards with new iterations of the FX line, and that’s good, but I’d hoped for more. If Intel feels threatened enough, all they have to do is drop the prices on their existing quad-core CPUs.
Still, right now, I have to agree with AMD: the combination of the FX-8320E CPU and the MSI 970 Gaming motherboard makes an excellent platform for a budget gaming system. Spending only $139.99 (Amazon | Newegg) to get this kind of multi-core goodness frees up cash for a GPU upgrade and provides performance that punches way about its weight class. And when Windows 10 and DX12 come out? Well…we’ll see.
+ 8 cores for not much cash
+ Strong performance in heavily threaded workloads
+ Potential performance win with DX12
+ No real reason to spend more for an FX-9590
– Far behind Intel on a per-core basis
– Power-hungry even at stock clock speeds
– Aggressively throttles when overclocked via turbo multiplier