Typically, by the time writing the conclusion comes around, I know exactly how to sum things up. Not this time. The FX-9590 is an impressive tour de force from AMD but one which ultimately caused an epic battle between my enthusiast mindset and the side of me that appreciates efficiency. In the end, the little red speed demon won out over the halo-totting tree hugger. What AMD has created may not be the best processor around and it isnít unassailable in every situation but it is pure, unadulterated fun for anyone who appreciates technological achievements.
The FX-9590 is a CPU that says ďwhy the hell not?Ē to those who question its existence and keeps with an FX-series tradition first charted years ago. It brings us back to the glory days of AMDís FX lineup when the FX-60 and its ilk were the fastest things around. Back then, power consumption was routinely pushed aside in an effort to cater to enthusiastsí need for leading edge performance and significant overclocking headroom. While this latest iteration doesnít quite beat Intelís high end offerings in every benchmark, it sure makes things interesting. On the other hand, seeing AMD go back to their enthusiast roots is nothing short of priceless.
What AMD did here was push their current architecture to its absolute limit and that deserves some credit. However this quest for the highest possible out-of-box frequencies brings forth a number of issues as well. Power consumption was nothing short of stratospheric and the amount of heat produced by the chip will leave all but the best heatsinks begging for mercy.
The extreme levels of thermal output put a damper on overclocking unless you opt for exotic cooling methods like a TEC cold plate, dry ice or LN2. We achieved a constant speed of 5GHz (with Turbo disabled) in multi-threaded applications which represents a 300MHz increase over reference frequencies. For air cooling this isn't all that bad. But then again, the FX-9590 is all about out-of-box performance since there are plenty of other FX options which overclockers can tweak to their heartís content.
Is a 4.7 / 5GHz AMD processor ultimately enough to compete against Intelís high-end offerings? The answer to that is multi-faceted. In properly optimized applications, the FX-9590 is a dominating presence which often runs just neck and neck with Intelís comparatively priced Sandy Bridge-E processors. However, due to the disappointing single thread performance of the Piledriver architecture, in-game framerates in some titles tend to lag behind. Thereís also just no looking past Intelís ability to achieve similar or better performance without pushing their architecture to its absolute limit.
While actual retail pricing is a bit of an unknown at this point, if a $750 to $850 bracket remains in place AMD may have a hard time moving the few FX-9590ís they produce. You can buy a 4770K along with a fairly high end motherboard for the price of a single 5GHz processor and still achieve better gaming performance than AMD can offer.
The FX-9590 certainly isnít for everyone, nor is it a practical solution for current AM3+ users since quite a few FX-8350 processors can reach this level of performance with some judicious overclocking. Rather, this is an achievement catering directly to the AMD enthusiasts who will appreciate the FX-9590 for what it is: a successful attempt by AMD to throw caution into the wind by building the fastest processor they possibly can.
For daring to be different and injecting some much-needed excitement into a stagnant CPU market, AMD may not have broken any performance barriers but they have certainly earned my respect.