AMD Phenom Technology Demonstration
November 19th, 2007: AMD’s Phenom launch day. This is the day AMD enthusiasts have circled on their calendars; today is the day AMD finally gets redemption...or that’s the theory at least.
As most of you know by now, the Phenom launch was reportedly pushed back to the end of 2007 in order to ensure that Phenom would be able to launch at high clock speeds: while Barcelona launched in September at speeds as high as 2.0GHz, word on the street was that Phenom would launch at 2.6GHz. The appearance of RD790 motherboards at retail sites like Newegg
in the past few weeks has fueled further excitement around Phenom’s launch.
Unfortunately, we’ve got bad news for you folks. Today’s Phenom launch isn’t as rosy as AMD’s official press release would have you believe. Instead of launching at 2.6GHz, Phenom is actually launching at speeds of just 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz. Availability is also extremely limited; in fact, for all intents and purposes, a more appropriate name for Phenom right now would be Phantom. To illustrate why we say this, have a look at our Phenom CPU sample:
That dear readers, is a 1600x1200 image of a blank piece of printer paper. At this point, AMD doesn’t have enough Phenom CPUs available to send samples to members of the media. Not a single media outlet has their hands on a final Phenom processor -- not even the print media. (Some sites are also using Barcelona CPUs to simulate the performance of Phenom, but no one actually has their hands on a final chip.)
Instead members of the press were invited to benchmark Phenom at an AMD-sponsored event held last week (the day before the RV670 launch in fact) in Lake Tahoe. To AMD’s credit, they allowed us to configure and tweak their Phenom systems and run any benchmarks we wanted, but still, for a processor launch this is obviously not the way we do things around here at FiringSquad and as such this article is titled as a Phenom “Technology Demonstration” rather than a Phenom review or performance preview as that’s basically all it really was. So just what happened in Tahoe?
After breakfast, reviewers were guided into a large conference room with a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding mountains. In this room were 2.6GHz Phenom systems powered by a choice of two 790FX motherboards – either the ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe or MSI’s K9A2 Platinum, with dual Radeon HD 3850s running in CrossFire mode handling graphics duties on all systems. The test rig I sat in front of was powered by the ASUS motherboard.
Interestingly enough, all of AMD’s Phenom CPUs were running at 1.3V; that’s a little bit higher than AMD’s 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz Phenom CPUs, which run between 1.1-1.25V. I took a stab at overclocking my Phenom rig but got a BSOD before hitting 2.65GHz. For overclocking purposes AMD directed all of us towards one specific PC in the back of the room. Apparently all the other systems had very limited headroom for overclocking, as no one seemed to be able to push their system very far.
I had a little less than five hours to get my benchmarks installed and extract as many numbers as I could for this article before I had to head to the airport for my flight home. At the time, none of the media were given the actual launch frequencies, so the majority of the benchmarks I conducted were at 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz (assuming those were the launch speeds); in the final hour though I was given a tip from PC Perspective’s Ryan Shrout of an email he’d just received with the launch speeds of 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz.
As you can probably imagine, that last hour became quite frustrating as I was cursing to myself and Ryan that the systems had been clocked so much higher than the actual launch speeds, and we’d been given so little time for testing.
So how did Phenom perform? We’ll get into that, but first let’s discuss what AMD’s actually launching today, and what parts will be available in the near future. Intel even managed to sneak in a new CPU of their own to spoil AMD’s launch…