Meet the Fitties
Retiring the 00s
All stepping B2 processors bear that nuisance of a bug, so now that AMD has a hardware fix, itís anxious to replace them. Enter the 50-series chips: Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz), Phenom X4 9750 (2.4 GHz), and Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz). Gone are the Phenom 9500 and 9600. These CPUs are the new hotness. When youíre shopping online or at Fryís for a new processor, you wonít need to ask if itís a B3 chip. AMDís new model numbers tell the whole tale.
Oh, right. And AMD is bringing back the X-factor, too. Just as Athlon X2 chips sport two processing cores, so too do the X4 models boast a quartet of processing resources. The model names are starting to get longer. But fortunately, it should be easy enough to remember that all Phenom model numbers ending in 50 are based on AMDís B3 stepping and X4s have four cores. Itíll make a lot more sense once the tri-core X3s start hitting the market. For now, theyíre going to be OEM-only parts. Once they make their way into the channel, AMDís pricing structure should solidify on those parts. Now, if youíll excuse me, I need to go brush my teeth after being reminded of BMWís hideous SUV.
Though designed for an AM2+ platform, the Phenom X4 9850 will also drop into an AM2 board
A Wish, Granted
In addition to a new stepping and a revised naming convention, AMD is unveiling a pair of fresh speed bins in the channel to help nudge Phenom forward in its fight against Intelís Core 2 Quad.
The Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition runs at 2.5 GHz out of the box. It naturally features an unlocked clock multiplier to help make overclocking easier. The higher frequency calls for a little more voltage (1.2-1.3V), which in turn causes power consumption to go up as well. The Phenom 9600 was a 95W part. The X4 9850 sports a 125W max TDP, as does the X4 9750. Donít worry though; AMDís reference heatsink still seems to do the trick for cooling.
Everything else about the processorsí architecture remains the same. The chips boast 64KB of instruction and 64KB of data L1 cache per core (512KB total per Phenom die) and 512KB of L2 per core, totaling 2MB per processor. A 2MB L3 cache is shared by all four cores. AMD manufacturers these Phenoms, like those before, on its 65nm SOI node over at Fab 36 in Dresden. They consist of somewhere around 450 million transistors on a die roughly 285 square millimeters.
The Phenomís integrated memory controller now consists of two 64-bit channels that can either be ganged together in a 128-bit configuration or operated independently. Officially, the controller supports unregistered DIMMs running at speeds as high as DDR2-1066, but weíve had rotten luck getting either of two 790FX boards running stably with DDR2-1066 memory installed. Until we figure out whatís going on there, weíll take rock-solid DDR2-800 modules, thank you.
We did discover one little surprise upon firing the Phenom X4 9780 up for the first time. Mainly, the processorís memory controller and HyperTransport link clocks have increased from 1.8 GHz to 2 GHz, yielding a small total processor bandwidth boost to 33.1 GBps. On an enthusiast platform with discrete graphics, the difference wonít be perceptible. However, the memory bandwidth increase might help a 780G-based board with an integrated graphics solution.