AMD released their highly anticipated Bulldozer CPUs last week (our review). The reception was not very warm, and a common thought was that Bulldozer didn't perform as well as expected. Especially in single-threaded tests, Intel was still miles ahead, and even in multithreaded tests AMD wasn't a clear winner.

The initial CPUs use B2 stepping, but an AMD BIOS and kernel document already shows reference to unreleased B3 stepping. A stepping update should bring improvements (usually minor) to performance and power consumption, as well as possible bug fixes. Stepping updates are a normal way to provide small upgrades in between bigger ones, such as die shrinks and microarchitecture changes. While B3 stepping may help Bulldozer a little bit, it's very unlikely that a stepping update would provide huge benefits and thus make Bulldozer significantly better than Intel's equivalent CPUs - so waiting for this update is not exactly a good idea.

No timeframe for the update is known but if the past has any meaning, it won't be anytime soon. For example C3 stepping came about 9 months after the original release of Phenom II X4 with C2 stepping. 

Source: AMD (page 27)

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  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link


    In 7-zip benches, BD is actually faster than 2600K. It faster in some and slower in others, hence I put "not a clear winner". I was only referring to performance, not taking power usage into account at all.
  • BenjiXVI - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I know man, was just pointing out that when you consider power consumption, your characterisation looks... charitable, to say the least.
  • wolrah - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I think the point was that the remark was based on the review, which was of a desktop processor. In most current desktop applications, performance per watt is still not a major concern. Mobile and more recently server environments, yes, but for the desktops and workstations the processor reviewed is intended for either raw performance or performance per dollar are the primary concerns.

    Thus, given that both raw and per dollar performance is good in some areas but disappointing in others, "Not a clear winner" is not unreasonable. Based on my read of the benchmarks I'd call that statement a little optimistic for BD, as someone who was waiting on this processor I now see little reason to bother versus a similarly Phenom II, but not unfair.
  • Targon - Saturday, October 22, 2011 - link

    For those with a desktop system, not server, not people who are worried about rack space in a co-locate, no one really gives a damn about performance per watt. People DO care about performance per dollar, and that is the primary reason for performance concerns.

    Now, initial BIOS versions that support BD may also be buggy, and we also don't know if there are some chipset issues that may be causing some performance issues. I am willing to wait and see, rather than just make declarations of the impending doom of AMD.

    How many people do you hear talking about SLI or Crossfire support, dual-GPU, and watercooling? Do you really think anyone with these types of setups care about performance per watt?
  • shabodah - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    Bulldozer's biggest issue, is that for the majority of users, Llano is a better product. If I were in AMD's shoes, and the performance of Bulldozer was being scrutinized pre-launch, I would have been looking at making more of the GPU less Llano processors and trying to find a way to get the clockspeed up on the ones with the GPU. No need to bother with the second product with similiar performance, and far less performance per watt.
  • twhittet - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    Waiting for Trinity! Hoping that will at least be profitable for them, and give good battery life for laptop users. I don't see how a bulldozer architecture can really be useful for anyone but servers, and even then I'm not sure until I see some VM benchmarks. Anyone seen any vsphere benchmarks yet?
  • fredgiblet - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    Exactly, I want a die-shrunk Phenom II with Thuban as the base-line, preferably running at 3.8Ghz or so as the top-end. I'd pay $200 for that. I'm not sure if I'm going to go BD or Thuban or even if I'm going to bother upgrading from what I have now.
  • GatorLord - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    Waiting on Trinity is right it seems. If one takes this whole Bulldozer issue and combines it with other, seemingly unrelated AMD activities, the bigger picture - at least to me - starts to emerge.

    Bulldozer it seems is the CPU beta for Trinity, et al... AMD is using this arch to run the CPU side of the next gen APUs, which by the way are the future of this niche and they know it. Everybody these days runs a beta ahead of the money launch.

    Think about these things in respect to BD: Why does this chip have a ginormous amount of cache, or 800M transistors dedicated to I/O...800M! A Sandy Bridge *only* has 995M total including it's GPU. This didn't just slip by the engineers...these guys have been building very good microprocessors for a very long time. There is a reason and it goes beyond simply saying 'its a server chip'. Its an APU and HPC server chip.

    The I/O and massive cache is to keep a GPU compute queue full because they have terrible memory latencies and the best way to get max throughput is to keep their much smaller, but more numerous caches pumped full of raw data to process. Doing that on a big scale 'on chip' is highly advantageous.

    Bulldozer it seems is a beta bug sponge for something much, much more interesting.
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    Yep. I haven't lost faith in AMD. I can see they are planning something bigger in the future. With stocks down, I plan to buy a few more shares in AMD. It's a great time to buy, they haven't been idiots over the years in competing with the mega giant Intel and now being highly competitive vs NVidia as well. I still see good things in their future. Hector Ruiz is long gone, but one man doesn't make an entire corporation. I may skip bulldozer, but that doesn't mean I'll be buying Intel either. I'm on old systems, and I plan on grabbing some Phenom II's when they hit bottom prices.
  • GatorLord - Friday, October 21, 2011 - link

    Couldn't agree more...and apparently the 'smart money' is with us as well. I'm way long AMD as its CHEAP right now with a P/E around 4. When it got below $5, I had to load up.

    Here's a little experiment: Pivot Chart the options open interest for calls and puts against the strike should see two humps with puts low and calls high...pessimists vs optimists...except with AMD, there is really just one big hump around $7 - $8...that means except for a handful of extremists, the huge majority on both sides are valuing the stock (correctly I think) somewhere around $7ish. There is almost no activity below $4, so you'll see this mass of puts get dumped soon and the stock will shoot up quick when they all rush to cover. At $4.54 like today, we may have already hit bottom.

    When the company's biggest problem is meeting demand and that is an inherently temporary issue and their balance sheets look're good to go. My thinking only...this is not investment advice.

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