Overclocking, Pricing, and System Setup
Overclocking the 9850 Black Edtion
Before we received our Phenom X4 9850 sample, we were made to understand that the new stepping was not intended to stretch the chip’s scalability and that, if anything, it’d be interesting to see how far the processor would overclock.
With that news, we weren’t hoping for much since the furthest our Phenom 9600 Black Edition would go was 2.5 GHz—the stock clock on AMD’s 9850. Nevertheless, we fired up a newer board to our labs, Gigabyte’s MA790FX-DQ6, and started tweaking around with multiplier settings. Conspicuously missing, by the way, was the option disable the TLB patch implemented in Gigabyte’s latest BIOS files.
We used Gigabyte's MA790FX-DQ6 for testing, perhaps the most feature-laden 790FX board available
We shot first for 2.7 GHz—a 200 MHz overclock, and exactly what we were able to bilk out of the 9600. The system fired up without a problem and ran through a complete set of benchmarks stably. We added some more voltage, shot for 2.8 GHz and again saw success. From there, 2.9 GHz just wasn’t happening. Even still, a 300 MHz bump is respectable.
As mentioned at the start of this piece, AMD and Intel are constantly jockeying for position when it comes to relative performance and pricing. When we looked at the Phenom 9600 Black Edition, the chip was listed at $250 and it underperformed Intel’s similarly priced Core 2 Quad Q6600 based on the Kentsfield core.
Now, the 9600 is being bested by AMD’s new Phenom X4 9750 at a $215 price point. The X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz) is even less expensive than the 9600 used to be at a $235 price point. If you’re willing to drop down to 2.2 GHz, the door to quad-core is open at under $200 with the 9550.
|X3s and X4s|
|Processor||Speed||Cores||Power||Price in 1KU|
|Phenom X4 9850||2.5 GHz||4||125W||$235|
|Phenom X4 9750||2.4 GHz||4||125W||$215|
|Phenom X4 9650||2.3 GHz||4||95W|
|Phenom X4 9550||2.2 GHz||4||95W||$195|
|Phenom X3 8600||2.3 GHz||3||95W||~$175|
|Phenom X3 8400||2.1 GHz||3||95W||~$150|
|Phenom X4 9100e||1.8 GHz||4||65W||~$200|
|Note that the X4 9650/9100e and X3 8600/8400 will be OEM-only parts at launch|
Suddenly, AMD’s position versus Intel’s comparably-priced chips looks much better. You’ll still find faster chips at the high-end of Intel’s lineup. However, knowing what we know about how the Phenom 9600 performed at 2.3 GHz, enthusiasts in the market between $200 and $300 are going to be much more impressed by a cheaper Phenom at 2.5 GHz.
One last thing—notice in the table above that the X4 9100e, X3 8600, and X3 8400 don’t bear the xx50 suffix. They’re still B2 silicon, so keep that in mind as you plan an upgrade path (or consider an inexpensive home system). It’s worth stepping up to an X4 9550 for less than $200.
AMD Phenom 9850 Black Edition (2.5 GHz)
AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition (2.3 GHz)
AMD Phenom 9500 (2.2 GHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz)
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 (3.16 GHz)
Gigabyte MA790FX-DQ6 Motherboard
ASUS P5E-VM HDMI Motherboard
2GB OCZ Technology DDR2-1066 CAS5 Memory (2x1GB)
Gigabyte GV-RX387512H Radeon HD 3870 512MB
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA 3 Gbps Hard Drive
Windows Vista x32, current as of March 13th, 2008 with Windows Update
Desktop resolution 1600x1200, 32-bit color, 85Hz refresh
We disable Vista’s UAC and generate an image using Norton Ghost 11 to create the same basic benchmark platform for each test bed. The image is frozen with the latest Windows Updates and deployed to each system. The appropriate drivers are then loaded to the machines.
Unreal Tournament III
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Company of Heroes
Call of Duty 4
Windows Media Encoder