Bulldozer has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, so in an apparent effort to clarify some performance issues, the company revised Bulldozer’s transistor count, only to see the move backfire quite badly.
AMD told extremetech.com that its Bulldozer core does not feature 2 billion transistors as previously reported, but rather 1.2 billion. The die size remained unchanged, at 315 square millimeters, so it turns out AMD is only counting transistors actually used by the chip. It seems the other 800 million are looking for work on craigslist and dreaming of moving out of their mom's basement. AMD attributed the whole issue to a simple error, but the move raised more questions than it answered.
On one hand, it means AMD’s new architecture doesn’t really need 2 billion transistors to attain decent performance, on par with mid range Intel chips. However, the chip’s die size and transistor density indicate that it does have shedloads of unused transistors. Exactly how and why a few hundred million unused transistors ended up on the chip is another question. Extremetech believes they are the result of a fully automated design process gone amok, resulting in an “unusually high degree of overhead.”
The difference is quite significant and the site worked out that each of Bulldozer’s eight cores consists of 60 million transistors rather than 91 million. AMD did not comment the issue which is already proving somewhat awkward.
However, we believe it is essentially a positive development for AMD, as it shows Bulldozer still has a lot of room for improvement, 800 million transistors more to be exact. Future iterations could feature a lot more efficient design on the same die size, provided AMD irons out its design process. Yes, we are looking at you Piledriver.