AMD Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition Review
Itís here. After pressing the Phenom 9850 and 9950 Black Edition CPUs into service to take on Intelís highly popular Core 2 Quad Q6600, AMDís now got a bona fide competitor to quad-core Penryn. AMDís answer? Phenom II. Thanks to a new manufacturing process, AMD is able to ratchet up the clock speeds while still drawing less power than their previous CPU offerings. The smaller process also allows AMD to cram in more L3 cache (three times more L3 cache than Phenom in fact) while still sporting a smaller die than Agena-based Phenom. AMD then finishes Phenom II off with IPC tweaks, delivering performance improvements on a clock-for-clock basis when compared to first-generation Phenom.
Thatís the Cliff Notes summary of what AMD has accomplished with Phenom II. Normally weíd save that for the end, but based on emails weíve received since publishing our AMD roadmap story
we know that some of you die-hard AMD enthusiasts have been holding on dearly to your overclocked Socket 939 Athlon 64 3500+ and Athlon X2 3800+ for years now in the hopes that AMD would one day release a CPU worthy of upgrading for, so we figure youíve waited long enough by now. (Weíve also heard from a decent number of X2 5000+ Black Edition users, but you guys havenít had to wait nearly as long!)
Letís face it, Phenom didnít cut it for most of the hardcore AMD crowd at launch. The Phenom 9850 Black Edition finally became somewhat tempting for these users as a result of the latest price cuts last summer. But nothing AMD has offered lately has dominated the market like the legendary 3500+ and X2 3800+ did for the budget-minded enthusiast a few years ago.
Before we get AMD enthusiasts hopes up too much though, a little reality check: Phenom II is not
a Core i7-killer. Core i7 is still the worldís fastest CPU.
But AMD isnít going after the bleeding edge sacrifice-your-first-born-child-in-order-to-afford-it crowd anymore. Instead theyíre focusing on the value-conscious consumer who wants good performance, but at the same time also wants something affordable. Think of the guy who buys the Camaro SS instead of the Corvette, or the BMW 135i instead of the M3. You get the idea, ~80-90% of the performance of the high-end model, but at a significantly lower price.
This is the space where AMD hopes to make some money nowadays.
So now that you know how AMD is positioning their CPUs, itís time to found out if Phenom II hits the mark or not. As the rumors have suggested for the past few months, AMD has prepped two CPUs for launch, a 3.0GHz model (the Phenom II X4 940) and a 2.8GHz part (the Phenom II X4 920). Both CPUs feature sub-$300 price tags and support AMDís AM2+ socket, and are both backward-compatible with AMDís existing AM2 Phenom/Athlon X2 infrastructure of motherboards. AMD has also disclosed the performance we can expect from DDR3-based AM3, as you can see in the following slide:
As you can see, AMD projects a 20% improvement in clock-for-clock performance over Phenom 9950, due largely to the increase in clock speed, which buys Phenom II 940 an additional 12% in performance. AMD estimates an additional 3% comes from instructions per clock (IPC) enhancements included in the new core, while another 5% comes from the CPUís larger L3 cache. Finally, AMD projects a performance improvement of nearly 5% from DDR3-1333 when it becomes available.
This is the high-level overview of Phenom II though. Letís take a closer look under the hood of the new CPU, and see how far the new chip overclocks.