Last updated: May 2017
NOTE: AMD Ryzen is out now. This article does NOT apply to those processors.
Over the past five years, I've had quite a rollercoaster with AMD; I used to like their products, but, in due time, I saw their real (lack of) place in the market. I've done my research and, time and time again, it has become clearer than ever that their current products should be avoided.
"Is this an Intel fanboy article, or truth?", you ask. The answer is neither, for I'm a big Cryix fanboy.
What, you don't know about Cyrix? Okay, I'll be serious now. This is all about nothing but the truth, and I gain nothing from lying about this topic. I don't even own a Cyrix processor, after all! The reason why I write this is to warn others about the truth so that they don't make the wrong decisions with their purchases, like me and many others did.
Disclaimer: I'm inevitably going to be stepping on some peoples' toes with this article. No offense is intended to anybody with this article, it is simply about the truth that everyone should accept.
AMD's processors are a very popular choice of processor series for budget computers. They are said to be cheaper than Intel, offer more cores for the money, well-overclockable, and good for most general uses.
Here's where the problems lie, though; those are all wrong, to a certain extent. I will go over each individually.
First things first, the "cheaper than Intel" part. The cheapest popular processor option from Intel is the Pentium G3258, which goes for about $70. This is a surprisingly cheap offering, which undercuts even the lowest of the FX lineup, the $90 FX-4350. AMD's APUs exist, but these continue to suffer the same issues that all other AMD Bulldozer-based processors currently suffer, which shall be described in this article.
"Bulldozer was without a doubt an unmitigated failure. We know it." -- Andrew Feldman, AMD Vice President, 2013
AMD Bulldozer and its variants use a module design. Each module (pictured above) has one Floating Point Unit, and two integer clusters, which, in turn, have two Arithmetic Logic Units each. It's okay if you don't understand what this means, just keep skimming through.
Now, if you take a look at the FX-6300's specs at any website, you'll see that it has "3x2MB L2 Cache". Looking at the block diagram above, you see that each module contains 2MB of L2 cache.
Thus, in the case of the FX-6300, we get twelve ALUs and three FPUs. We've taken it for granted that our processors each have one FPU and two ALUs per core since Intel introduced this design with the Pentium in 1993.
Thus, this means that, for any of the past twenty years' x86 standards, the FX-6000 series has no more than three complete cores. All that's left is every other integer cluster, lonesome, with no FPU to accompany them.
Of course, something's better than nothing. There are programs that can make use of these extra ALUs, but, unfortunately, there aren't that many. Video editing, decoding, and encoding, as well as games, all tend to make use of floating point operations. It's the 486/SX vs the DX all over again.
We'll recap it all:
Now that all of that has been said, there is something very important I need to get out of the window. Maybe you've been thinking, "Very well then, how come AMD markets them as hexa-core processors?"
It's because it's a lie. It is absolutely nothing beyond stating the number of integer clusters, rather than the complete amount of actual cores they have implemented. Anyone insisting otherwise is essentially saying that your average car has eight tires.
Don't you think people would call out on Intel if they marketed their Core i7, non-Extreme edition processors as octa-core processors, even though they only have four cores, even if they have eight threads? It's not a good idea to compare AMD's Bulldozer module design to Intel's Hyper-Threading, but this is merely an example of marketing lies. Of course Intel would get in trouble, but the reason why AMD hasn't, is because of clever marketing deception. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though, it's time for the next thing on our list.
It's general knowledge that AMD's processors currently suffer from a lack of single-threaded performance when compared to Intel, but many people fight back with hollow claims of it not mattering, and that it only matters in archaic programs. Who are they to tell you what you see in performance? The fact is, lower single-threaded performance does matter, and as if there weren't enough losing factors involved, ruins AMD's architecture even further.
Many people also will say that you could overclock your AMD processor. While you could, this introduces more problems than it solves: not only are you stuck with more noise, heat, and power usage, but you don't solve the single-threaded problem. When people say that AMD's processors overclock well, they're just saying that they got their clock rate a lot higher, not even their actual performance. If they cared about performance, then they got the wrong processor!
Here is an analogy: you're racing in a car, but you're dragging two enormous HP LaserJet 5 printers behind you, tied to the car with cables. Since they're so heavy, your car struggles.
Push the gas pedal harder, right? Okay.
Unfortunately, in doing this, reality rears its ugly head in front of you, and while your car engine works a lot harder, you hardly notice any actual speed gain. Your disadvantage is too great to work around, you simply need to unhook those darn printers. There is simply no other fix.
The printers' weight are the disadvantage, the engine speed is the processor's clock rate, and the car's resulting speed is the resulting performance. The disadvantage's persistence outweighing the engine's persistence is the effect of diminishing returns.
The clock rate is how hard the processor tries, not how well it gets its work done.
Another thing is, you never know what you're going to get until it's too late. Every single processor, AMD, Intel, or even Cyrix, and even ones of the same model vary in terms of binning quality. You might get a golden chip, or you might get a dud. This is called the silicon lottery. To add insult to injury, we note the diminishing returns again. The higher you push, the harder you lose.
On top of all of that, a good processor shouldn't even require overclocking to perform well to start with. Ouch.
Think of these issues as the lighter fluid, and the other issues as coals, because that's exactly how this all works.
AMD's processors are hot-running energy hogs, and that's a fact that nobody can deny. Really,
all lots of AMD's products tend to do this.
The first problem is that the stock coolers included with AMD processors are pretty basic for being used on these hot-running things. They get very noisy when put under a heavy load, and it's beyond me why anyone who cares halfway about the noise their computer makes would use it.
One's natural reaction is to buy an aftermarket cooler.
Not only does this actually void your warranty (even if nobody cares), but this costs extra money. Worse yet, if you hadn't already surpassed it with the motherboard, an aftermarket cooler could easily take you past the equivalent money that it would have taken to get an Intel processor, which run a lot better on their stock coolers.
With that, yet another .357 Magnum bullet gets fired into the "cheaper" argument, which already looked like Swiss cheese. Maybe I'd eat it if it really were cheese instead of lies. Lies are unappetizing!
Once you get an air aftermarket cooler, you finally find yourself in the peace that you should have been given out of the box to start with. However, you find you want to push the processor harder, because of its bad performance. Whoops, looks like it gets too hot and still doesn't perform well enough!
At this point, you could either buy a better air cooler, or even go liquid, or you bail out and buy the right processor. Or, of course, live with the bad performance. I can practically hear the coins pouring out of your wallet as I type this...or maybe that's just my buckling springs making all of that racket.
Getting a big old cooler introduces even more problems than just the money. Will all of your RAM fit under it? Does the fan support PWM? Does your motherboard support PWM? Does your motherboard actually support PWM? Do you have any space for that 240mm radiator? The list goes on.
You finally manage to make good conclusions for each of these potential problems, and so, you purchase the cooler. It arrives, and...you still didn't manage to get that magic overclock you wanted...not that the overclock would have given you the performance you wanted, anyway, because of diminishing returns.
You have spent so much extra money on trying to get that AMD processor to perform the way you want it, all in the name of...saving money? What's next, you upgrade the motherboard? Then the power supply? Then the case?! Stoooooooooooooop!! You have ripped yourself off to no end with AMD's inferior products, all in the name of "saving money"! You would have seen better performance than all of this extra foolishness, had you bought the right processor to start with. That's what happens to you when you don't heed the word.
After all of the mess above, there's yet another problem with AMD's processors, or really, the platforms in general: Mini-ITX AM3+ motherboards don't exist, due to the power requirements of AMD's processors, so, if you're like me, and you value systems that save space, you'll be disappointed, and have to look into Micro ATX instead...only to find that Micro ATX AM3+ boards are in a minority, and aren't well-suited for the higher FX models, leaving you only with ATX.
Now, if you're of the opinion that you don't understand why people would make a computer out of a shoebox, c'mon now, you're readin' the website of a guy who did something even crazier than that. Clearly, it does seem that many people think today's computers should be the size of my 1997 Gateway 2000 G6-233M, even if these same dingbats want their phones to be as thin as possible, but to each their own. I just think, as a guy with over
25 30 computers, the computers might as well be small ones so that I can have some room to breathe.
Additionally, there tends to be less interesting offers for AMD motherboards in general. Where's our ASRock H97M-ITX/AC-esque boards? Where's our M.2? Where's our SATA Express? Heck, where's our PCIe 3.0? It seems the motherboard manufacturers are uninterested in these, probably in part because they know what's better, and yet the ones shopping for processors don't.
AMD's Bulldozer-based APUs all suffer from the same problems, except there's a little interesting, perhaps even entertaining extra truth to them: they're actually more GPU than CPU! You can also easily replace their onboard GPU solutions with a more powerful one, but you cannot replace the CPU portion without swapping the chip entirely, and the only way you'd fully resolve your performance problems would be by getting an Intel, anyway! This makes APUs a very poor choice, also destroying any chance, if there ever was any left, at being a good-value option. That's what you lose by not paying the extra few tens for a Pentium G3258 over a cheap-at-first APU.
At long, long last, I'll note something else silly. The FX-4000 series (which I deliberately refuse to refer to as a true quad-core) tends to hover only a couple of tens lower than the FX-6000 series (true triple-cores). What is the point!? I guess because we all know that people are stupid enough to buy them regardless, and that's right.
With all of that being said, I have a serious question for you:
Do you AMD fans really think that it's right to say that AMD is "cheaper than Intel", when the overclock-ability you people rave about depends entirely on a chance (likewise with Intel), and, even if you do manage to get a golden chip, once you're done, you've wasted a bunch of time, electricity, and effort, yet you still wind up behind Intel? How about we throw in the fact that they only have half as many cores as they say they do, hmm? How about the extra costs of the motherboard, cooler, and perhaps more?
If you seriously still cannot see that AMD's CPUs are an enormous fraud, you have been deceived and blinded, and you are thus in no rightful place to be making hardware recommendations for other people. Instead, you should be studying up the truth. The sheer, hard, and cold truth. Once you believe in the truth, that's when you'll understand why I wrote this article, and when you are in the right to be making hardware recommendations for others.
It's a truly depressing thought that AMD diehards not only continue to deny the truth, but to also fill others' heads up with misinformation, all in the name of justifying their poor purchase and everyone else's. Face it: you made a bad decision. Everyone makes mistakes in their life, and I did the very same mistake myself. However, I learned from my mistake. You must do so, too.
To those who haven't purchased one of these yet, I have five words for you:
Avoid them like the plague!
Take it from a guy well-educated at The School of Hard Knocks with a burning hole in his wallet, instead of from some meathead who knows nothing about this, blindly recommending AMD's Bulldozer-based processors regardless of the situation, denying the truth, even when proved wrong numerous times over.
These disadvantages that have been exposed are too strong and leave AMD's Bulldozer-based CPUs outside any true and good position in the market.
There are no valid market positions for AMD's Bulldozer-based CPUs. Never buy them, for they make no sense, and neither will your decision if you do so.
If you survived all of that nuclear warfare, you get another treat: even more problems with AMD's products. This time, we're covering their GPUs.
In my opinion, their GPUs deserve more respect than their CPUs. The CPUs are a laughing stock, while the GPUs are simply an annoyance. Still, their offerings don't make sense, because they are less efficient, featured, and by golly, the drivers. I'm honestly not sure whether I should laugh or facepalm every time I see someone pick a brand-new AMD card over a Nvidia, or, better yet, they could consider ceasing their couch-potato activities, give up on today's boring games, and use Intel graphics. "Ouch!" Huh, what? Oh, you'll have to excuse the huge boots I'm wearing, those are my rant boots...y'know, 'cause I'm stepping on a lot of toes.
Urrrrrrrgh. Shame on you, Catalyst, for you are the Catalyst of my graphics problems! I've encountered several people who've had trouble with the AMD Catalyst 14.12 driver package. For me and my former Radeon HD 7850, it wouldn't even install, while others experienced instability, stuttering, or outright non-functional games, whereas, for me, 14.9 had none of these problems.
Worse yet, here in late 2015, there are users reporting that the latest AMD "Crimson" drivers kill GPUs through overheating. Nvidia called, they want their 196.75 back. Tons of today's companies called, they want their awful lack of quality control back.
On top of that, one of my friends had a heck of a time with his ASUS Radeon R9 290. Ever since he got it in late 2015, it's always had black-screen issues. We tried so many display drivers, and even 14.9 didn't stop it. He even had the card RMA'd, only to wind up with the same problem.
Lo and behold, this is a common problem that's worked around by using MSI AfterBurner to slightly increase your Vcore, and disabling PowerPlay.
Despite this, airheads continue to recommend AMD's products.
What a pathetic joke.
"It's like AMD hardware is a curse; you're doomed to live with the disadvantages with it, until the day you spend your money on something better. That's why it's a terrible idea to buy it."