AMD Quad FX slaughtered by a single Intel CPU

AMD Quad FX slaughtered by a single Intel CPU

Summary: All the reviews are in for AMD's new "4x4" Quad FX dual CPU platform and it loses nearly every single real world benchmark to a single Intel CPU while consuming more than twice the electricity.  We basically see two FX-74 3.

TOPICS: Processors

All the reviews are in for AMD's new "4x4" Quad FX dual CPU platform and it loses nearly every single real world benchmark to a single Intel CPU while consuming more than twice the electricity.  We basically see two FX-74 3.0 GHz processors getting slaughtered by a single Intel QX6700 2.66 GHz quad core processor!  Ironically, three of the four benchmark sites I link to give such contradictory glowing conclusions for the Quad FX in spite of their own data showing AMD being slaughter that Baghdad Bob would be proud.  Here are the four reviews of which only TomsHardware had a realistic conclusion that matched their actual data.

From highly optimized multi-core applications like 3D rendering and Video encoding to single threaded applications like games the AMD Quad FX either lost by a little or it lost by a lot.  AMD had its best showing in 3D Studio Max by winning one of three rendering tests by a razor thin 1% margin though it still lost every other rendering test in 3D Studio Max.  The only victory the AMD Quad FX managed to squeeze out was a razor thin victory in the synthetic benchmark CineBench though this wasn't reflected in any real world applications.  On other benchmarks like Photoshop CS, video encoders, audio encoders, and games, AMD continued to get stomped by trailing 10 to 40 percent.  The only good news for AMD was that it managed to narrow the gap in multithreaded applications though it's far from caught up in over all performance.  [Update 12/1/2006 - Here are some Vista RC2 Ultimate edition benchmarks that fair better for AMD because of Vista's support for NUMA (Non-Unified Memory Architecture) that AMD uses.  It's still not enough to catch up to the Intel QX6700 quad core system]

If we factor in overclocking, the AMD FX-74 is basically at the end of the line.  TomsHardware said that there was "virtually no overclocking margins for the FX-74 top model" and HOT Hardware said that they managed to squeeze out a pathetic 7.1% increase.  AMD has hit a thermal brick wall with their 90 nm part while Intel's Core 2 overclocks like a dream.  The top of the line Intel QX6700 has an amazing 40% overclocking margin allowing the reining performance champ to gain an extra 40% performance.  Falcon Northwest for example sells a QX6700 factory overclocked and PC guaranteed at 3.73 GHz!  The fact that Intel QX6700 beats the Quad FX at a substantially lower clock rate and the fact that the QX6700 can clock significantly higher than Quad FX means that Intel QX6700 owners will enjoy a 40 to 80 percent performance advantage when they unleash their CPU.

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From a power consumption standpoint, every benchmark showed the Quad FX PC drawing more than double the power of an Intel-based PC with the QX6700 quad core CPU.  The difference on TomsHardware wasn't as bad for AMD but the results were seriously flawed since they used the same 1000 watt power supply for both Intel and AMD arguing that it was more fair.  Using the 1000 watt power supply was the wrong decision since no one should ever be putting in a 1000 watt power supply when an efficient Active PFC 360 watt power supply is already over kill for the Intel-based PC that peaks at 260 watts.  It's not Intel's fault that AMD forces you to use a massive power supply for their Quad FX platform so why would you force that decision on the Intel PC?

Using the same expensive 1000 watt power supply for an Intel single socket PC is grossly irresponsible because you'd be throwing away a lot of energy (and money) in the form of heat which requires you to use even more energy on your AC system.  TomsHardware did did the right thing by tweaking the power management features which allowed the AMD system to come closer to Intel on idle power consumption, but the power supply decision was stupid and unrealistic.  From a power consumption standpoint, the AMD Quad FX is a the Hummer of PCs without any of the performance benefits.  It just senselessly guzzles power while delivering inferior performance on every application. 

From a price standpoint, the Quad FX is priced competitively at $1000 for a pair of FX-74 dual core CPUs while a single Intel QX6700 quad core CPU costs $1000.  The QX6700 is in high demand so street prices are currently hovering around $1100.  The problem with the AMD Quad FX is that you'll need a significantly more expensive motherboard that supports two CPU sockets.  At present time, the only Quad FX motherboard available is the ASUS L1N64-SLI WS dual socket mother board which lists for $350 [UPDATE 12:50 AM - $480 is what most sites are quoting which probably sounds closer to what a dual socket motherboard costs].  The motherboard isn't too bad if it's actually $350 since it gives you 12 SATA ports, dual Gigabit LAN, 10 USB 2.0, and four PCI Express slots two of which are x16 graphics slots.  You'll have to ask yourself if you actually need 12 SATA hard drives and two graphics cards.  I should remind people that anyone who bought a thousand dollar SLI pair of graphics cards two months ago are kicking themselves now because a single NVIDIA 8800 GTX graphics adapter today offers superior performance while costing far less.  Sure you can go with two 8800 GTX controllers but the current games really won't deliver that much more bang and prices will only go down in the future while performance goes up.  There's also nothing to prevent you from getting two graphics cards with an Intel based system.  <next>

Two weeks ago AMD invited me to their San Francisco preview of the Quad FX platform though I couldn't get much on specifics on pricing, benchmarks, and other specifics.  When I asked AMD about the massive power consumption, they said that the enthusiast doesn't care about power consumption which seems kind of hypocritical every time I drive down the freeway and and I see the AMD sign criticizing Intel for wasting billions of dollars in energy.  I don't know a single PC enthusiast that likes extra heat and noise when they're not getting any performance advantage.  In response to my question if this is hypocritical or not, AMD told me that their mainstream lower end PCs have better idle performance specifications than Intel because of Cool'n'Quiet.

There is some evidence to suggest this is true though it's hard to compare fairly since you're comparing lower performing AMD CPUs to higher performance Core 2 Intel CPUs that have voltages set conservatively to high.  There's plenty of evidence to suggest that there is a lot more room to drop the voltage on Intel Core 2 CPUs when they're operating in the sub 2.4 GHz range while maintaining stability.  MacBook owners know they can under-volt their Intel-based MacBooks to prevent burning their legs if they rest their notebook on their laps and gain battery life.  There are PC motherboards that can dynamically adjust voltages up and down along with clock speeds and the Intel Core 2 CPUs just have that much more room to dynamically clock up or down.

I suspect the only reason Intel doesn't offer 45 watt 2.4 GHz desktop Core 2 parts is because they don't want to step on their successful mobile product line which uses the same Core 2 architecture.  While AMD has their "EE" (energy efficiency) line of processors that can go as low as 35 watt TDP, they are no where to be found in the retail or mail order channel so it's not really fair to compare something you can't actually acquire.

I spoke with AMD today by phone to ask them about the poor performance results on all of these different benchmarking sites and they tried to direct my attention to the platform.  AMD points out that this will usher in a new era of dual socket desktop PC computing though companies like Dell and Apple have been selling dual socket Intel PCs for months.  AMD points out that this is for the desktop market rather than the workstation or server market though I still don't understand what difference it makes other than the name we give it.

The one discernible difference is that the AMD dual socket Quad FX platform doesn't require you to buy server class fully buffered error correcting memory.  AMD also points out that Quad FX will be upgradeable to 8 cores by the middle of next year when AMD releases their Quad Core processor.  The problem for AMD is that you can go 8 core TODAY with a dual socket server/workstation Intel solution using Intel 5300 series quad core processors.  As for upgrading to eight cores, does anyone really want to throw away two FX-74 processors 7 months from now?  If you really want AMD's quad core CPU, you'll probably want a new motherboard with the new HyperTransport 3.0 with double the clock speed so I can't really see any upgrade advantage for the current Quad FX platform.

The bottom line is that AMD has delivered a Frankenstein of a solution that guzzles a ton of power while delivering inferior performance.  I just don't know of any other way to describe the AMD Quad FX platform.  While AMD has superficially (not on a clock-for-clock or overclocking potential basis) closed some of the performance gap, there is just no way for any sensible person other than diehard AMD fans to love the Quad FX.

Topic: Processors

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  • Intel keeps missing the boat with me

    In the past years, every time I've done a major upgrade, Intel has had the inferior offering. It started with my Athlon 750. At the time, the PIII didn't hold a candle to AMDs chip. My next major upgrade was an Athlon XP 2100, which I later upgraded to a 2800. By the time I upgraded from the 2100 to the 2800, Intel was besting AMD with their faster P4 chips, but I already had an AMD motherboard, so I stuck with AMD. For a short time there, Intel passed AMD by a signifigant margin with their P4s, but I wasn't in the market at that time. I didn't upgrade again until last spring, when I went with an Athlon64 X2 4400. At the time, the "Conroe" chips were still vaporware, so once again I went with AMD. If I was going to by a computer right now, I would certainly go with the core 2 duo. We have a couple of core 2 duo systems at work, and they are without a doubt the fastest chips you can get. My next upgrade will most likely by spring of 2008. We'll see if Intel still has the best offering then.
    • Intel is switching to a new architecture then

      Core 2 is going away in 2008.
      • The future...

        I used to buy (almost) the fastest new computer. For instance my third computer was a 486 DX33 when the DX66 was the fastest made.

        Now I have a different attitude.

        Computer CPU's are not the performance bottleneck that RAM or hard drives are. Increase the performance of those things and you get a much better bang for your buck.

        Really, other than games ( which you can buy a game machine for(X-box, Nintendo, Playstation) there are very few people who will see the speed difference, anyway.

        I prefer to spend my money on things that increase in value, rather than decrease as time goes by.

        For instance, when you look at new vehicles it is always much wiser to buy when they are a few years older rather than brand new. TCO is much less (to borrow MS's sales pitch. That is because almost all of them decrease in value. Real estate is a better gamble, as most homes climb in value over time. Your investment provides a place to live in and is worth more than when you bought it.

        Don't get me wrong, I like new and fast as much as anyone else. I just try to be realistic regarding the cost of the happiness that my money brings. John Travolta said he tends to buy used planes rather than brand new ones because the extra millions were not making him any happier. I see his point of view (even if I am operating at a sliver of his budget).

        AMD will release a faster CPU soon enough. Intel will then develop a faster one. The business system is built on this type of competition. It is good for us because computers are now less than a tenth of what they cost in the early 80's But who really cares about CPU performance now? It is hard to get emotionable about something that no longer has an appreciable effect on your life.
  • AMD likely playing catch-up for the next 10 yrs

    The writing is on the wall that AMD will be merely closeing the gap with Intel on each release. Then, Intel springs ahead. When you average that out of a period of time, intel will have the better offering.

    AMD's best defense is to deflect attention AWAY from the CPU and to the graphics where ATI has a good reputation. It's a great strategy, actually.
    • I expect AMD will do what Intel did...

      play catch up for some time... not 10 years however. My guess is more like 3 or 4. Then of course the situation will be reversed.... again. My next system will likely be an Intel, but after that who knows.
    • AMD has kicked Intel for the last 4-5 years

      AMD has been kicking Intel's nethers for the last 4-5 years. AMD is the only Reason Intel was forced to finally make a decent chip after all those years of overheating sloths they were producing.

      Who cares which is "faster"? Thanks to AMD's competition, we, the consumers are all winners.

      Now if only Microsoft could get some of that pressure. All they've managed in the last five years (an eternity in computing) is a resource-hog with annoying popups and no real new features over their last OS apart from being "prettier".
      • WOW!!! An intelligent post.

        I agree and yes you can bet AMD will come back with something better and they'll be playing the leap-frog game once again. But your best point is the fact that AMD is the one indirectly responsible for what Intel is producing today and even though their chips are faster, I will never buy one. My AMD comp. is fast enough for me and I'll just wait for AMDs 65nm chips.
        Yes we need competition and Intel hasn't had a challenger till AMD came along.
  • Exactly the HYPE I expected from George...

    As George has demonstrated beyond dispute, he couldn't buy a clue so it's no surprise that his misleading fanboy headline is another example of cluelessness. Since George and most of the online reviewers blasting AMD's 4 X 4 aren't the brightest light bulbs around, try reading the 4 X 4 article below and you'll see why the B.S. by George and other fools is typical worthless fanboyism. Comparing apples to oranges is pretty typical for the fanboys who can't buy a clue. It helps get those page hits up and generates more ad revenue however.

    SOS, DD.
    • Give the guy a bit of benefit...

      It looks like the benchmarks haven't born out the Inquirer article's speculation. Intel's still doing better on the synthetic, heavy-load, & memory benchmarks than AMD.

      (and a quibble with the article, larger Cache on chip is a heck of a lot more than a Band-aid to Memory bandwidth problems. It reduces utilization, so it's a bona fide fix. Chip Real-estate is expensive, and the decison to go cache or interconnect is a complicated one).

      That being said, a point that's missing from the article is that, (and check me if I'm wrong) is that the AMD offering is 90-nm, and the Intel 65-nm. Of course you're going to get trounced. It'll be interesting to see how the AMD scales (and if they'll get burned by power consumption). From a Comp. Arch standpoint, that's a very salient difference.

      However Ou is comparing what's on the market now from both companies, so from a consumer point of view, it's not that important
      • AMD is 90 to to 65, Intel is 65 going to 45

        "However Ou is comparing what's on the market now from both companies, so from a consumer point of view, it's not that important"

        It's important for consumers to know that AMD is NOT 65 nm yet. That doesn't help in AMD's defense, it hurts them. What's more significant is that as AMD is moving to 65 nm beginning of next year, Intel is already showing off samples with 45 nm and will be ready mid next year.
        • AMD might as well go from 90 to 45 nm.

          But I bet they have too much setup in the 65 already to abandon it. They are going to have to pull another Athlon trick out of the hat.
    • Hi, maybe you can check this link from Ptoo.
    • Yeah, all those testers had it wrong.


      Dude, I understand your wanting to cheer for the underdog, but this dog needs to be put to sleep...
    • Be Gone Fool!!!

      What was the point of your link in your post? Was it to show how a CPU/motherboard setup can look like a winner on the drawing board but end up a loser in real life? Perhaps it was to boost a sagging self esteem that comes from tying your self worth to your choice of a particular piece of computer hardware. I know that sounds sick but the evidence speaks for itself.

      I can?t even imagine what you hoped that link would establish? It certainly does not one single thing to alter the fact that the AMD CPU is a power hog that still can?t out perform the Intel unit. You know, there have been many engineers who are historians who looked back on similar historical engineering faux pas like the one AMD just cobbled together in their new 4x4 set up.

      I always remember reading about the technical analysis of the marvelous engineering that went into much of the military hardware that the Germans used in WWII. There is no question that on paper you could not question the advantages such high tech equipment could provide under certain circumstances. On the other hand such designs were not the best thing for a war of the type and length the Germans entered into and in fact were time consuming, difficult and expensive to maintain and fix. Bottom line was that it didn?t matter how good the equipment looked on paper, when it was put to the test it wasn?t good enough to win the war.

      So there is absolutely no point or reason to try and prop up AMD?s failure to catch up to Intel yet by trying to show us some explanation on paper why its still the better CPU, when once its off the paper and into an actual box that?s being used, it sucks up hydro electricity like an elephant drinks water and in the vast majority of cases it cant win a race.

      AMD loses this one, get used to it. Sometimes you win sometimes you lose. Its life. For me, when I purchase I could give a rats hind end if its Intel name or AMD on the processor. I know what I have to spend, I read the reviews analyze the information and purchase what?s best for me. I had an Intel processor when AMD started kicking Intel?s butt and I felt quite good about telling people they should be purchasing AMD if they want the best at that time. And now I tell people the best is Intel and it makes no difference to me because it?s the truth.
    • Yeah right, Keep up your wishful thinking.

      And here is the link you should have posted from the same website a few days later.

      Oh hell, I will give you the directly.,,30_118_609,00.html

      Those two FX cores are like the engines in a monster truck rally. Loud, hot and burning tons of fuel. The Intel is a twin turbo 959 Porsche. So, when are you going to go, fool? All of your posts are the rantings of a delusional fanboy.
    • Where was George when P4D was out?

      George, you have proven your bias again. You say nothing positive about QuadFX and only positives about Intel. Where were your comments about the P4D?
  • Weighing in on the QuadFX

    Since this is the big bad mother of all motherboards/CPU combos that I was waiting for to finally start putting nails into Intel's coffin, I figure I owe George my opinion on this.

    Wow, where to start... Basically I think AMD has made a misstep with this system. Don't get me wrong, I think they had a good idea, it just didn't live up to the pipe dream that we had for it.
    Here we have basically a desktop gaming system that performs and is built like a workstation at workstation prices that also performs like a workstation. Some one call Homer Simpson in because I think this deserves a big round of, "Doh!"

    This is a gaming system that does not play games as well. Gamers are going to be disappointed.

    Many of these gamers will try to remain loyal. Perhaps I will even attempt to do the same.

    With my next computer not coming out until Mid next year sometime, perhaps I will be in time to shove 8 cores of goodness into my Quad FX motherboard, hopefully with ATI Crossfire goodness. For now though, I am disappointed. With the 12 SATA ports, this could have easily been the last PC I build for server storage space, instead I want one for pure performance. Maybe after being an AMD fan since February 2000, I need to investigate the possibility of going to Intel.
    • Quad FX is built on NVIDIA chipset

      Quad FX is built on NVIDIA chipset. NVIDIA kills two ATI cards with a single 8800 GTX. Doesn't look good for AMD either way. The performance on Quad FX is a joke when you consider two AMD 3.0 GHz CPUs getting smoked by a single Intel 2.66 GHz CPU.
      • AMD smokes AMD too

        Actually if you look at the review posted on Anandtech, they showed that for certain benchmarks that are memory bound (like all the games they benchmarked), pulling one of the cpus out of the dual socket 4x4 board gives better results than using both dual core cpus. The issue is apparently with checking coherency of memory because there are 2 memory controllers with the 4x4 setup.

        So this looks like a major mistake on AMD's part. Seems like an act of desperation. I can't fault AMD for their inability to transition to a 65nm or 45nm process as quickly as Intel as that is largely driven by Intel's massive budget. But this latest product is just a bad technical decision.
        • AMD just starting to get to 65 nm

          Intel is going to 45 nm.