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AMD Phenom With B3 Stepping: First Look

AMD Phenom With B3 Stepping: First Look
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The new Phenom CPUs with the bug-free B3 stepping will soon be available.

What a sobering year it's been for AMD. Its ray of hope, the Phenom processor with its four CPU cores, dynamic speed and power management and shared L3 cache, was not only released far too late, it also nearly became a flop despite its outstanding architecture. For one thing, AMD is still unable to ship CPUs running at more than 2.4 GHz. Also, the CPU maker had to completely halt shipments of Opteron processors based on the same core, since a bug in the translation lookaside buffer (TLB, also known as Erratum 298) for the L3 cache could cause data corruption under some circumstances. While this isn't overly critical for home users, such an error or even the risk of it occurring are completely unacceptable in the business segment - and it proved to be nothing short of a fiasco for AMD.

(Compare Prices on AMD Phenom Processors)

Now various rumors about a possible bug in the Phenom's third core are making the rounds on the Internet. This topic has motivated many heated and very detailed discussions on message boards and forums on the Web, including ours. It seems like a plausible explanation for AMD's dilemma and would also explain AMD's plans to begin shipping tri-core Phenoms in the very near future. AMD curtly dismissed these rumors as completely unfounded. On the other hand, we weren't able to reproduce the reported problems either, so maybe this is not just the company's attempt at damage control. In the end, the cause doesn't really matter that much anymore as far as we're concerned; what AMD needs to do is fix the problem, pronto.

Apparently, AMD's fix seems only a few days away. We just received a new Phenom CPU whose launch is still a few weeks away with only minimal advance notice. According to our tests, this CPU is based on the highly anticipated B3 stepping that users are apparently expecting to be something of a small miracle. It is meant to be error-free, allow higher clock speeds and still consume less power than the Phenom 9300 and 9400 models (2.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz, respectively) released last November. At any rate, the new CPU worked without a hitch in the test system we used a few weeks back to compare the energy efficiency of various AMD processors ranging from the Sempron and the Athlon 64 X2 to the Phenom.

Test System
CPU New AMD Phenom 9000 (65 nm; 2400 MHz, 2 MB L2 and 2 MB L3 Cache, B3-Stepping)
Motherboard MSI K9GA2 Platinum, Rev: 1.0
Chipset: AMD 790FX, BIOS 1.3 (2008-01-24)
RAM OCZ Reaper PC2-8500 OCZ2RPR1066GK
2x 1024 MB DDR2-1066 (CL 5-5-5-15 2T) for Phenom
Hard Drive Western Digital WD5000AAKS
500 GB, 7.200 rpm, 16 MB Cache, SATA/300
DVD-ROM Samsung SH-S183
Graphics Card Gigabyte GV-RX385512H
GPU: Radeon HD 3850 (670 MHz)
RAM: 512 MB GDDR3 (830 MHz)
Audio On-Board
PSU Coolermaster RS850-EMBA
ATX 12V 2.2, 850 W
Software & Drivers
OS Windows XP Professional 5.10.2600, Service Pack 2
DirectX Version 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
AMD Platform Driver Version 5.10.1000.7
ATI Graphics Driver Catalyst 7.12

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    Anonymous , June 16, 2008 12:45 PM
    I just would like to comment that a BIOS upgrade for my eyes improved the performance of my CPU.

    I have the same configuration you guys have on your test machine and after I upgraded to the 1.4 Bios i noticed a considerable raise in performance. I started with bios 1.3 on a phenom 9600 BE, I felt a little dissapointed. Later upgraded to bios 1.4 and noticed a big difference, now I got a 9850 phenom and another k9a2 platinum at bios 1.3 and again felt disapointed. After the upgrade the machine is acting VERY different!

    If you go to MSI website and go to the k9a2 platinum site, it has a CPU unit compatibility and it shows that the new B3 processors must use Bios 1.4 for full compatibility.

    Just a comment, probably you guys already knew that but... just to remind.

    Paulo Basseto.