It has been nearly eight months since AMD originally launched their line of Phenom CPUs. In that time, they’ve resolved the infamous TLB erratum that plagued B2 stepping processors, released faster CPUs like the Phenom 9850 Black Edition, and less than three months ago they introduced the world’s first triple core processors. All these achievements – along with extremely aggressive pricing – have significantly improved Phenom’s position in the market in comparison to Intel’s Core 2 Quad, however, AMD still doesn’t have a higher-end offering to compete with the middle of Intel’s Core 2 lineup, much less the Extreme Edition CPUs at the very top, but as we all know, the bulk of sales occur in the value and midrange segments, and here AMD has a boatload of products ranging from single-core Athlon/Sempron all the way up to today’s latest quad-core Phenom CPUs.
For all their accomplishments though, one item has stubbornly remained on AMD’s To-Do list: release a 2.6GHz Phenom.
With Phenom originally launching at speeds up to 2.3GHz, you’d think that hitting an additional 300MHz in clock speed wouldn’t be much of a challenge for AMD. Obviously they felt the same way to, as their Phenom roadmap at launch called for a 2.6GHz part by the end of Q1’08.
Clearly we can now see how those projections turned out.
Introducing the Phenom 9950 Black Edition
With today’s arrival of the Phenom 9950 Black Edition, AMD has finally delivered a 2.6GHz part. And since it’s a Black Edition CPU, it features an unlocked multiplier. This particular feature makes it appealing for enthusiasts who like to dabble in overclocking.
One aspect enthusiasts might not find appealing about the Phenom 9950 Black though is its TDP. Officially AMD rates it as a 140W part. Now don’t get too alarmed, we ran our standard power consumption tests with 3DMark Vantage and found that its power consumption isn’t all that different from a 125W TDP Phenom 9850 Black Edition. This isn’t too surprising considering there’s only a 100MHz difference between the two CPUs; nominal voltage is only up slightly: 1.05V-1.25V in Phenom 9850 versus 1.05V-1.3 in Phenom 9950. The chip should run fine on AMD’s stock cooling, although we test all our Phenom and Athlon X2 CPUs with Zalman CNPS 9500 or 9700 cooling.
The rest of the Phenom 9950’s specs are pretty similar to AMD’s other Phenom CPUs. The chip features 2MB of L2 cache and L3 cache. For the L2, each processing core has its own dedicated 512K of cache, while the L3 is shared amongst the processing cores. Like the 9850, the Phenom 9950’s memory controller runs at 2.0GHz, with a full duplex (2.0GHz x 2) HyperTransport 3 link. Of course, as the “50” suffix at the end of the 9950 model number denotes, the 9950 is based on AMD’s TLB errata free B3 stepping.
Like previous Phenom CPUs, the Phenom 9950 resides in AMD’s 940-pin AM2+ socket, making it fully compatible with today’s existing AM2+ motherboards. With its 140W TDP, the CPU may consume too much power for some 780G motherboards, but high-end motherboards based on AMD’s 790FX chipset and NVIDIA’s nForce 780a shouldn’t have any problems. For these boards, all you’ll need is a BIOS update to properly support the processor. As always, the best way to know for sure if your motherboard is compatible with an AMD Phenom processor is to check AMD’s website for the latest list of recommended motherboards.
The Phenom 9950 Black Edition isn’t the only new CPU AMD is unveiling this week though. Joining the 9950 are AMD’s first retail-ready Energy Efficient Phenom CPUs, AMD’s previous EE CPU, the Phenom 9100e, was limited to OEM customers only…