Did Bulldozer just get better?


Remember the lacklustre performance of AMD's much vaunted new Bulldozer CPU architecture? Turns out the difficult launch and grilling the chip got in reviews may not have been entirely down to the limits of the hardware.

Launched as the AMD FX brand a month or so ago, Bulldozer performance was behind what most pundits were hoping for. Apparently, some of that is due to Windows not supporting new features that Bulldozer introduced. And now there's a patch that should help.

According to the patch release notes (opens in new tab) , the Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) scheduling feature of Bulldozer isn't compatible with Windows threading logic. Which may have been hampering AMD's comparative performance in multithreaded tasks.

Bulldozer differs significantly from previous CPU designs in that it shares more resources between processing pipelines than traditional chips. For example, each 'core' of a Bulldozer chip has two integer processing units, and a single floating point unit. Thanks to this, AMD counts each 'Bulldozer module' as two traditional cores, so a three module chip is marketed as six core, four as eight and so on. Clearly things are a bit more complex than that both in terms of software as well as the hardware design.

In order to get hold of the patch, you'll have to apply it manually from here (opens in new tab) – it won't be appearing in Windows' auto-update for the time being. It actually appeared on Friday evening (UK time) after the office shut up – so if anyone's had chance to use it and discovered favourable results, please do let me know about it in the comments below. For various reasons, we've still not been able to get hold of a Bulldozer sample to review in the labs, so can't honestly report on what difference this patch makes. I'm not sure that improved scheduling will help many game frates, but it might well help.