HD 7970: Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge vs. Nehalem

HD 7970: Bulldozer vs. Sandy Bridge vs. Nehalem

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Introduction

Just one week ago AMD released their new Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards which introduced a new shader architecture and a new manufacturing process. The company's new flagship is the fastest single GPU graphics card in the world, and reviews across the Internet were generally favourable. Today, we test the Radeon HD 7970's CPU scaling, pitting AMD's recently released Bulldozer-based FX-8150 CPU against two formidable Intel opponents.

According to the reviews online, AMD's latest processor architecture delivers surprisingly underwhelming performance, which quickly made it one of the biggest disappointments of the year according to some users. Loyal fanboys despise terms like "Faildozer" and have kept faith in AMD's promise to deliver a competitive high-end gaming capable processor.

Despite disappointing reviews, Bulldozer has gone on to sell quite well and has amassed a certain cult following with enthusiasts who would like to own this CPU regardless of benchmarks. Their purchasing reasons range from supporting the underdog, to setting records with its impressive overclocking abilities (8 GHz+ on LN2) and everything in-between. This has led some of these enthusiasts to clamour for a review of AMD's best in GPUs (Radeon HD 7970) and CPUs (FX-8150) to be compared working together against the Intel CPU competition to see just how well they do, as this seems to present an unknown variable in many end-users' buying decision.

In this review we will pit three CPUs from the popular ~$250 segment against each other using the Radeon HD 7970:
  • AMD FX-8150: This is the company's current flagship Bulldozer processor. It features four execution units that show up as eight cores in Windows, its Turbo clocks up to 4.2 GHz and it has plenty of cache, the processor is priced competitively at $270.
  • Intel Core i5-2500K: The processor most gamers and overclockers use. Thanks to its "K" suffix it enables significant overclocking unlike the cheaper Sandy Bridge processors, yet comes at an affordable price of $220. Actually this makes it the cheapest processor in today's test group.
  • Intel Core i7-920: While it does not use a sexy 32 nm production process and is based on Intel's last generation Nehalem architecture, it still packs a punch especially when overclocked. It is also an affordable choice if you are looking to run a multi-GPU gaming rig at full 2x PCIe x16 without breaking the bank (LGA 2011).


Market Segment Analysis
 AMD FX-8150Intel Core i7-920Intel Core i5-2500K
Number of Cores84 (8 threads)4
Core CodenameZambeziBloomfieldSandy Bridge
SocketAM3+LGA 1366LGA 1155
Core Speed3.6 GHz2.67 GHz3.30 GHz
Turbo Boostup to 4.2 GHzup to 2.93 GHzup to 3.7 GHz
L2 Cache4x 2048 KB4x 256 KB4x 256 KB
L3 Cache8 MB8 MB6 MB
Process Size32 nm45 nm32 nm
Die size315 mm²263 mm²216 mm²
TDP125 W130 W95 W
Price$270$270$220
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