When we looked at the Piledriver CPU, we ran it with our standard CPU review HD 6970. However, our CPU review game and 3D benchmark suite is a bit long in the tooth. In an effort to keep our readers more well-informed, we went back to the drawing board to run our much more modern gaming suite (which we use in all GPU reviews) on a more modern, powerful GPU – the ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP to be precise.
This is a good thing for you, our faithful readers, because you get to see more relavent performance and, more importantly, it allows us the opportunity to update the suite and GPU for future CPU reviews!
In addition to the head-to-head, we also check out how the recent improvements to AMD’s Catalyst driver played out on a Piledriver system.
Our head-to-head competition pits each company’s top of the line against each other.
|System||AMD Piledriver||AMD Price||Intel Ivy bridge||Intel Price|
|CPU||AMD FX-8350||$219.99||Intel i7 3770K @ 4.0 GHz||$319.99|
|MB||ASUS Crosshair V Formula||$229.99||ASUS Maximus V Extreme||$369.99|
|GPU||ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP||$434.99||ASUS HD 7970 DirectCU II TOP||$434.99|
|OS||Windows 7 x64||$139.99||Windows 7 x64||$139.99|
Price difference: $220, or 16.7%
Astute readers will point out that the motherboard is a big thing leading to the price difference. You don’t have to have the top of the line MVE for an Intel system. That is true, no question. You also don’t need a CVF for an AMD system. If you take all other variables out of the equation, the processors are exactly $100 apart, so the FX-8350 itself is 31.3% cheaper than the 3770K.
Moving straight on to the benching, we check out the synthetic part of our GPU testing, 3DMark03, 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 11 & HWBot Heaven (Xtreme). The first two are more CPU bound than the latter two, so 03 & Vantage rest pretty squarely in the 3770K’s corner.
However, when you get to 3DMark 11, things are looking much better, with the overclocked FX-8350 closing in on the 3770K. When you use the latest Catalyst, it even jumps ahead of the 3770K with the older driver version. That same story repeats with HWBot Heaven.
So, the FX-8350 can be close to directly competitive when benchmarking more GPU-bound benches. It’s not as strong as the 3770K, but that’s pretty obvious and it’s not marketed (or priced) to be as strong.
Now we get to the gaming suite. You can see all settings in our video card testing procedure article, but long story short: everything is run at 1080P with all eye candy maxed out.
Looking at the first three games in our suite, things aren’t looking too bad at all. Aliens vs. Predator is the best looking of the bunch, with the FX-8350 coming in just one FPS short of the 3770K.
The FX-8350 takes a little hit in Batman, with a 9 FPS loss, but overclocking it regains some of that to cut the deficit to only 5 FPS.
Battlefield 3 is very close at stock. The FPS actually lost a little bit overclocked. I’m not quite sure why it did that, but I ran the test a few times and came up with nearly identical results. In any case, a close race in these games.
Civilization V is CPU bound. If ever there was any doubt, this proves it. Personally, I would disregard the overclocked Catalyst 12.11 result. I have no clue why it came out the way it did, but I ran the test three times with results within one FPS of each other. In any case, the 3770K comes out well ahead in Civ V.
Dirt 3 is another game where the FX-8350 is very-close-to-as-good-as the 3770K. It’s not quite as strong, but close enough that the driver improvements make up for the difference.
Metro is always very GPU bound, so there is a very slim difference between the two tests here. Much like other GPU-intensive benchmarks, the two CPUs are very close and a driver improvement can make up the difference.
Please note that obviously the 3770K would see similar improvements with the Catalyst 12.11 driver; we’re certainly not trying to hide that, we just haven’t had time to do the testing.
Overall Relative Performance
Now we’ll look at how the FX-8350 looks when compared relatively to the 3770K. In these graphs, the FX-8350 always equals 100%. So, if the FX-8350 gets 10 FPS and the 3770K gets 11 FPS, the 3770K’s relative performance would be 110%, or 10% better than the FX-8350. Clear as mud? Good.
I’ll graph these for ease of reading. As the FX-8350 didn’t out-perform the 3770K in any scenario, the easiest way to describe the numbers in the chart is that the FX-8350’s performance is X percentage worse than the 3770K.
FX-8350 Relative Difference – Benchmarks
|Scenario||Average @ Stock||Average Overclocked|
|DirectX 11 Only||4.9%||2.5%|
Games are going to show one big anomaly – Civilization V, so we’ll show two scenarios again. With and without Civ V.
FX-8350 Relative Difference – Games
|Scenario||Average @ Stock||Average Overclocked|
|Without Civ V||3.9%||2.6%|
Taking Civilization V out of there really narrows the gap significantly, that’s for sure.
Catalyst 12.8 vs. Catalyst 12.11 on Vishera
Lastly, we have a bonus graph showing how much of a difference the driver improvement made when used on a Vishera system. Not much more to say about that!
With one small 0.1% exception (3DMark03), everything increased with the new driver. The overall average increase ended up being 5.0%. AMD said Battlefield 3 would show the best increase when these were released and indeed they were right, with FPS improving an impressive 10.2%.
So, what have we learned? Objectively, when looking at our entire benchmarking and gaming suite, the FX-8350 is priced right where it should be. Let’s start with a reminder of price. As configured, the two systems here are $220 apart, or 16.7%. As mentioned, taking all other variables out, the processors are exactly $100 apart, so the FX-8350 is 31.3% cheaper than the 3770K.
Getting the bad news out of the way, the FX-8350 does not out-perform the 3770K. Stock or overclocked, it cannot get scores or FPS above the 4.0 GHz 3770K’s level, period. On the whole, including older benchmarks and Civilization V, the average difference between the two processors at stock is 15.4% (overclocked is reduced to only 10.1%). Both stock and overclocked, the FX-8350 does well, keeping its performance over the price difference.
When you take out the old benchmarks (03 & Vantage) and the anomalous game (Civilization V), the picture improves dramatically for the FX-8350. In that scenario, the FX-8350’s deficit drops to an average of only 4.4% at stock (2.6% overclocked). When you look through those semi-rose-tinted glasses, the FX-8350 is actually quite the value.
What muddies the water here is the 3570K, which is the same price as the FX-8350. I didn’t have one to test for this article and the one I just received is going into a project that literally can’t even fit the massive 7970 DirectCU II. I can tell you that the 3570K loses out on the productivity side (assuming integer calculations) thanks to the FX-8350’s eight integer cores. Taking that into consideration and the fact that the 3570K wouldn’t fare quite as well as the 3770K in the 3D department, I’d wager the two would be a pretty equal proposition.
Wrapping up, if you play DirectX 11 games that are not Civilization V, an FX-8350 system could be a good buy. Taking all the numbers out and parsing all of this data down to one paragraph isn’t too hard either: The FX-8350 will never be as good as the i7 3770K, but it’s not supposed to be. It isn’t priced at the same level, coming in significantly cheaper. Instead, it’s priced right where it should be, with performance to match. If you’re looking to save some cash, the FX-8350 will serve you well.