Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

HardOCP Readers Ask AMD Bulldozer Questions

AMD came to HardOCP after the lackluster Bulldozer desktop launch and wanted to reach out to the hardware enthusiast community by answering questions that many of us had. We posted a HardForum thread and allowed [H] readers to ask their questions. AMD culled through the questions and AMD staffers answered 10 of the questions.

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5. Is anything being done from AMD's side to a.) promote the development of more true multithreaded code and b.) give guidance to developers on how to approach multithreaded code to give as good results as possible?

Gabe Gravning, Senior Product Marketing Manager, AMD - We are working with developers and ISVs to encourage the development of multi-threaded applications and code. This is a major focus for AMD and others in the industry. And this was the driving force for us to host our own developer summit in 2011 so we could have a conversation with developers about parallelism and heterogeneous computing. So yes, we are promoting new tools that make it easier for developers to take full advantage of an increasing number of cores on the CPU, GPU or both.

6. It has been stated that Bulldozer will see improvements in performance with the Windows 8 scheduler. Would you elaborate?

Gabe Gravning, Senior Product Marketing Manager, AMD - We worked with Microsoft to improve the way threads are scheduled with the "Bulldozer" architecture in Windows 8آ®. In Windows 7, workloads are simply executed sequentially across the cores. The Windows 8 scheduler is optimized for the "Bulldozer" architecture and will distribute the workload across each core pair first and then each core resulting in better threaded performance.

For example, in testing by AMD with the AMD FX-8150, we are seeing up to 10% uplift on a number of games with the Windows 8 Developer Preview compared to Windowsآ® 7. Of course, results do vary.

We are also working with Microsoft on a scheduler update for Windows 7 that will be available soon.

7. Why would I buy a $275 Bulldozer cpu when the $170 1090t seems to equal its performance or actually do better at every benchmark and game we've seen?

Adam Kozak, Product Marketing Manager, AMD - We understand our customers make purchase decisions based on how they use their PCs, and in many cases our AMD Phenomآ™ II processors are a great (purchase).

For those ready for a more modern architecture, who want a desktop for high resolution gaming and to tackle time intensive tasks with newer multi-threaded applications, the AMD FX processor is a great upgrade.

8. What specific or general computing roles do you see BD excelling in? For instance virtualization, Windows 8, solitaire, etc?

Adam Kozak, Product Marketing Manager, AMD - We’re seeing great results at stock frequencies with HD content creation, file processing, image processing, and high resolution gaming environments. Most of these applications are multi-core aware, and some have even begun to use new instructions to further enhance performance on AMD FX processor systems.

9. Why did you make such design decisions as increasing the length of the pipeline in order to achieve higher clocks as opposed to going for efficiency? Were architecture choices that resulted in better IPC offsetting the gains from sharing parts within the CPU?

Mike Butler, Senior Fellow Design Engineer, AMD - The latest architectural advancements from both AMD and our competitors have incorporated advancements from deeper pipelines. The pipeline within our latest "Bulldozer" microarchitecture is approximately 25 percent deeper than that of the previous generation architectures. That deeper pipeline is a key technology advancement, providing record breaking frequencies and performance improvements.

Additionally, the "Bulldozer" design inherently runs at a higher frequency for a given voltage than an alternative design would, and is thus a more power-efficient way of delivering performance آ– and we expect that performance will scale over time and as process maturity gains are realized.

For example, on parallel DirectX 11 gaming titles like Civilization V and Metro 2033, the AMD FX-8150 outperforms the Core i7-2600 (both with a AMD Radeonآ™ HD 6970 graphics card) by up to 18 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Based on design decision like this, the AMD FX-8150 maximum Turbo frequency is 4.2GHz, a 15 percent increase over the AMD Phenomآ™ II X6 1100T (3.7GHz).

10. We have seen in some benchmarks that this cpu can be a multithreaded beast. I understand that Battlefield 3 and future games will use multithreaded DirectX11 drivers. Do you believe that Zambezi will have any performance advantages over the competition in this area given the extreme multithreaded nature of the chip? And are you working with Dice and or other Developers on similar optimizations for future game and multimedia titles?

Gabe Gravning, Senior Product Marketing Manager, AMD - The question is not "will this transition to multithreaded applications happen" but rather "how soon?" AMD drove this same type of inflection point in the industry with 64-bit computing and APU platforms.

It’s clear that application multithreading, including the multithreading advancements in DirectX 11 are the future, and the "Bulldozer" architecture is the bridge to that future. We see a great opportunity for AMD to lead the industry to a multi-threaded future, just as we have in the past. That will most definitely require tight collaboration with the software developer community.

You can read more about DirectX 11 multithreading here.

We want to thank AMD for giving us this opportunity.

From a "reviewer" stance, the answers have not done much to give me any hope that there are any immediate Bulldozer performance remedies we will see any time soon. The mention of an updated Windows 7 scheduler to be released is certainly nice to hear though. We know where Bulldozer sits on the desktop in terms of performance today, and that is firmly behind the processors from Intel's strongly competitive lineup. This is of course not to say it is a "bad" product, far from it, but certainly it is still a letdown in the eyes of the enthusiast. While some of the marketing talk here is fairly thick it will be interesting to see where Bulldozer lands as true multithreaded applications evolve along with the newer operating systems.

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