AMD has announced that processors based on its much-anticipated Piledriver architecture are now available to the public, in a move that marks the company's competitive return to the world of high-end desktop PCs.
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The four new models -- numbered FX-8350, FX 8320, FX-6300 and FX-4200 -- are the first to use the updated Piledriver architecture, which attempts to correct the problems found in the previous generation of AMD processors, dubbed Bulldozer.
Bulldozer suffered from a poor implementation of hyperthreading, which led to inefficiencies and underwhelming performance, particularly when compared with Intel's Sandy Bridge designs. Essentially, only those applications specifically designed to work well with Bulldozer's high core counts were able to take full advantage of the architecture -- absent special optimization, performance dropped substantially. As a consequence, Intel has had the PC enthusiast market more or less to itself of late.
AMD, however, says Piledriver provides a 15% performance boost compared to Bulldozer, while keeping prices below $200 for even the eight-core FX-8350 flagship.
"After introducing the industry's first and only eight-core desktop processor last year, we now have even faster stock frequencies and an all-new, high-performance x86 core architecture to satisfy power-users," said AMD Vice President of Desktop and Component Products Leslie Sobon in a statement.
However, initial reviews have been cautious -- while most agree that Piledriver represents a major advance over the disappointing Bulldozer standard, AMD still hasn't caught up to Intel in terms of performance and efficiency. Tom's Hardware says that, while the FX-8350 outperforms latest-generation mid-market products like the Core i5-3570K and undercuts them on price, it still doesn't stack up well against top Intel offerings. Hot Hardware concurs, saying that "it is not ... a threat to Intel's high-end CPU line-up."
It is, nevertheless, a step in the right direction for struggling AMD -- the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company recently announced that it would have to fire 15% of its workforce after posting an operating loss of $131 million in the third quarter of 2012. While Piledriver won't fix AMD's problems single-handedly, its release is still good news for a company that badly needed some.