Overclocking, Pricing, and System Setup
Overclocking the 9850 Black Edtion
Months into its young life-cycle, the Phenom processor family is already known for a few things. Overclocking headroom is not one of them. The revision B2 chips were generally good for a couple hundred megahertz. Revision B3 processors might be slightly better on average, though our Phenom X4 9850 sample did a meager 300 MHz (that’s meager in comparison to Intel’s 45nm Core 2 Duo E8500, which cranked out an extra 1 GHz).
We consequently weren’t expecting much from the Phenom X3 8750 AMD sent over. Could it possibly be, though, that the elimination of a single core could help improve our overclocking results? That’s a significant chunk of circuitry turned off, after all—several million transistors that wouldn’t be holding us back.
Stable at 2.8 GHz
On the other hand, without the unlocked multiplier of our Black Edition chips, we’d be relying solely on bumps to the reference clock for our speed increases. We started off conservatively with a 10 MHz increment, then 20 MHz. We ended up at 33 MHz, though the system would boot with a 40 MHz increase, peeking into 2.9 GHz territory.
At 2.8 GHz, the three-core Phenom was perfectly stable, beating Intel’s quad-core Core 2 Quad Q6600 in 3DMark06 with a score of 12111 and tying the Core 2 Quad in our WME9 encoding test at 105 seconds.
So the Phenom X3 overclocks fairly well—at least our sample did; your mileage will vary of course. We’re also about to see that it performs fairly well in relation to the rest of AMD’s processor lineup. The company seems most enthusiastic about pricing, though.
The X3 8750 costs $195. The 2.3 GHz 8650 clocks in at $165. And AMD’s entry-level Phenom X3 8450 runs $145.
|The Phenom X3s|
|More Mainstream Offerings From AMD|
|Clock Speed||L1 Cache||L2 Cache||L3 Cache||HT Speed||Max TDP||Price|
|Phenom X3 8750||2.4 GHz||128KB/core||512KB/core||2MB Shared||1.8 GHz||95W||$195|
|Phenom X3 8650||2.3 GHz||128KB/core||512KB/core||2MB Shared||1.8 GHz||95W||$165|
|Phenom X3 8450||2.1 GHz||128KB/core||512KB/core||2MB Shared||1.8 GHz||95W||$145|
|All models based on Rev. B3 silicon|
At those prices, you’ll notice a bit of overlap with AMD’s seldom-discussed dual-core lineup. The thinking is that it’d be better to sport three processing cores than the extra frequency afforded by a less complex dual-core chip—at least for the folks who find themselves multi-tasking. The fastest triple-core X3 is also about $15 less than the slowest quad-core X4.
And then there’s the comparison to Intel’s lineup. Intel doesn’t have any three-core CPUs, so we look up to the Core 2 Quad Q6600 as the cheapest quad-core contender (though still more expensive at $224 in quantities of 1,000) and down to the Core 2 Duo E8400 as the most comparable in price (though hardly down, since Intel’s 45nm Wolfdale architecture absolutely screams).
AMD Phenom X4 9550 (2.2 GHz)
AMD Phenom X3 8750 (2.4 GHz)
AMD Phenom X3 8650 (2.3 GHz)
AMD Phenom X3 8450 (2.1 GHz)
AMD Athlon X2 4850e (2.5 GHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz)
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (3 GHz)
Gigabyte MA790FX-DQ6 790FX Motherboard
ASUS Striker II Forumula 780i Motherboard
2GB OCZ Technology DDR2-1066 CAS5 Memory (2x1GB)
2GB Corsair DDR2-800 CAS5 Memory (2x1GB)
EVGA e-GeForce 8800 GT Akimbo SC Graphics Card
Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA 3 Gbps Hard Drive
Windows Vista x32, current as of April 17th, 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