AMD Phenom II X4 940
Almost a year to the day after Intel made the move from a 65nm manufacturing process to 45nm – allowing it to pack more transistors into a piece of silicon and thus ramp up clock speeds – AMD finally joins in the fun.Scott Bartley | Tuesday, February 24 2009
Almost a year to the day after Intel made the move from a 65nm manufacturing process to 45nm – allowing it to pack more transistors into a piece of silicon and thus ramp up clock speeds – AMD finally joins in the fun. For AMD it’s the same old story of playing catch-up with Intel, a game AMD has been playing since the latter released their all-conquering line of Core 2 processors a couple of years ago.
From AMD’s point of view, they must curse the recent release of Intel’s Core i7 range of CPUs, for while Phenom II compares favourably to Intel Core 2 Quad, PCW testing reveals that Core i7 remain the chips for gamers and enthusiasts lusting after superior performance (but hampered somewhat by a costly upgrade path).
Despite the performance crown remaining well entrenched in the Intel camp, Phenom II compares well with similarly-positioned Intel chips. AMD has made some smart decisions when laying out the specifications for the Phenom II platform which should see it competing well within its market space. For example, AMD has stuck to the existing AM2+ socket design which means any existing AM2+ motherboard will happily accept these brand new CPUs with little more than a BIOS update needed to get things up and running. Also, AMD has stuck with DDR2 memory for these first editions of the Phenom II meaning one less thing for prospective customers to fork out for after they make the decision to upgrade. Core i7, on the other hand, requires a new motherboard and new memory, making the upgrade process entirely more difficult and expensive. Additionally, the “Black Edition” Phenom II CPUs come with the core clock multiplier unlocked – making them an enticing purchase for those who like to overclock. Indeed, early online reports indicate the 3GHz Phenom II may be pushed as high as 6GHz – a staggeringly high figure that, unsurprisingly, required some rather serious liquid nitrogen cooling to stop the whole rig from melting into the test bench. While your average garden variety overclocker has no chance of reaching such high clock speeds (successfully at least), AMD has ensured there’s plenty of scope for squeezing some “free” clock cycles out of a shiny new Phenom II, and that’s what counts in the eyes of many budding system builders out there.
So, even though the Phenom II may not be able to compete spec for spec with Intel’s latest and greatest, we don’t think that’ll matter too much in the long run. What matters is that right now, AMD has a true quad core offering in the market that is competitive with similar product from Intel. The Phenom II X4 Black Edition costs around $670, placing it on par, both in terms of specifications and price, with the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550. PC WorldBench 6 testing reiterated this point perfectly with little to differentiate the two processors when it comes to outright speed.
The release of the Phenom II is good news for consumers who now have a legitimate choice when shopping for a performance CPU in the $600-$700 price range, though AMD will need to lift their game if they ever want to take on Intel’s mighty Core i7.
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