AMD FX processor brings eight cores to battle, we go eyes-on (video)

AMD fans have endured a long wait for this, while being reduced to spectators as Intel spews out an ever-increasing horde of Sandy Bridge variants and builds up the hype around its next-gen Ivy Bridge architecture. But the new FX series of processors is finally here and will be available to buy in the next few days, with the top-end FX-8150 priced at $245 in exchange for eight cores, a 3.6GHz base clock speed and easy over-clocking to 4.8GHz using the packaged Overdrive software. Your AM3+ motherboard is crying out for the upgrade, but don't succumb until you've clicked past the break -- we've got details of the full range and pricing, our initial impressions and an eyes-on video that includes a detailed chat with the guys from AMD.

Firstly, let's take a look at the full range of FX variants. Only the eight- and six-core models will be available straightaway, with the four-core options coming at some undisclosed point in the future.

Now obviously we're just talking about paper specs at this point, and these gloss over some key concerns. In particular, having eight cores might not be much of an advantage in most real-world tasks -- at least not until games and other software starts to adapt to the new architecture. Then there's also the fact that the Bulldozer cores are clumped into pairs which share certain resources -- so they're not entirely independent like traditional cores are, and they might not scale up processing speeds in the way adding traditional cores would.

Nevertheless, when you factor in the bang-back ratio, the FX range does look impressive. The FX-8150 undercuts the Core i7-2600 by a good $55, while AMD's own benchmarks suggest it delivers roughly equivalent performance -- at least in certain multithreaded tasks.

It's interesting that the two rivals are so neck-and-neck, despite the fact that the FX-8150 has twice as many cores, 200MHz extra base clock speed and a 100-400MHz faster turbo mode (depending on how many cores are utilized). It just serves to reiterate our cautionary note that broad-brush specs don't necessarily translate into real-world performance in the way you might expect.

Above you'll see the suggested US retail prices for the three different processor variants that will be available at launch. PC builders on a budget can opt for the FX-8120, which looks designed to tackle the Core i5-2500 (currently around $210), or the six-core FX-6100 at $175, which could also prove to be a sensible middle-ground depending on your needs. Ultimately, our PC upgrade dilemmas have just became a whole lot more complicated, and we love it.