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Efficiency: Optimizing The Clock Rate Of AMD's Phenom II X6

Efficiency: Optimizing The Clock Rate Of AMD's Phenom II X6
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AMD’s six-core CPU is affordable (at least, compared to Intel's Core i7-980X). We're overclocking the Thuban design to see if its efficiency improves from faster clock rates. Comparisons to other quad- and hexa-core processors provide some perspective.

The new Thuban-based six-core Phenom II X6 processor is available in two different flavors: 2.8 GHz and 3.2 GHz. Both come with the new Turbo CORE feature that dynamically increases the clock rate of up to three cores. However, the Phenom II X6 doesn’t necessarily run at maximum efficiency when it's operated at stock speeds. In fact, a reasonable overclock provides a solid increase in performance per watt.

Today we determine the ideal clock speed and look at the maximum overclocking speeds using air cooling, because this is where you want justification for spending those extra dollars compared to quad-core processors.

AMD is Back

The new Phenom II X6 processor could be a turning point for AMD, helping the company back into the performance segment, despite the fact that it still trails Intel's Core i7 CPUs by a measurable margin. Intel still has a major advantage in overall performance thanks to higher performance per clock, and it also maintains the lead when it comes to power use due to its efficient Nehalem architecture. Some of the company's newest CPUs employ 32 nm  manufacturing, which serves to extend Intel's lead in efficiency. If you're looking for a definitive statement to describe the state of desktop processing, Intel is technically superior. Period.

However, Intel’s benefits don’t come cheaply. The flagship Core i7 CPUs cost roughly four times more than AMD’s six-core Phenom II. And you certainly don't get four times more performance, either. It's more like a quarter or a third more. Hence, these products are only attractive to professional users and the lucky ones with loose budgets.

The six-core Phenom II X6 is much more affordable, though it can’t pull away from solid quad-core offerings when it comes to gaming and single-threaded threaded applications.

Mainstream price points are probably more relevant for most of us. You could either say that Intel is gouging because it can or that AMD is more aggressive on pricing because it has to be, but our overall experience tells us that you get more value in the AMD portfolio. AMD just refreshed this unwritten law by positioning the six-core CPU at around $300. You can argue that this equals a 50% cost increase compared to the Phenom II X4, or decide between a mainstream Intel quad-core and AMD hexa-core CPU instead.

Optimizing Thuban

The six-core AMD portfolio is still very young and so far includes two models: the Phenom II X6 1090T at 3.2 GHz (up to 3.6 GHz Turbo CORE speed) and the Phenom II X6 1055T at 2.8 GHz (3.3 GHz max). The latter only costs $199, which makes the six-core story much more appealing for mainstream users with scalable workloads in their daily routine. We took the 3.2 GHz 1090T and overclocked it in 200 MHz increments to see how fast it can really go. From this, we determined the clock speed that delivers the highest performance per watt.

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    The Greater Good , June 14, 2010 8:00 AM
    FTFA:
    Quote:
    Adding a dual-core Core i5 processor would probably have been appropriate from a pricing standpoint, but we doubt that the comparison would be very relevant.


    I disagree. If I had 200 dollars to spend on a CPU, why do I need to know how a 1000 dollar CPU stacks up to a 200 dollar CPU? It's clearly out of my price rage. Showing a side-by-side comparison of what Intel offers and what AMD offer at the same price-point would be very relevant.
  • 17 Hide
    welshmousepk , June 14, 2010 8:49 AM
    really wish they had included the 1055t in this article.

    is it worth spending the extra 100 dollars when overclocking is taken into account?
  • 13 Hide
    wintermint , June 14, 2010 6:13 AM
    I hope Intel Fan go away because I don't want to hear about $1000 CPU when you can have these for 1/5 the price... affordable and efficient
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    wintermint , June 14, 2010 6:13 AM
    I hope Intel Fan go away because I don't want to hear about $1000 CPU when you can have these for 1/5 the price... affordable and efficient
  • 11 Hide
    darkpower45 , June 14, 2010 6:20 AM
    if only intel would bring out a 32nm quad core already...
  • 8 Hide
    HansVonOhain , June 14, 2010 6:20 AM
    Great article. Need to do these article on more processors that are affordable to the masses.
  • 12 Hide
    duk3 , June 14, 2010 6:21 AM
    Interesting article.
    I am interested in seeing Bulldozer released.
  • -2 Hide
    Stardude82 , June 14, 2010 6:40 AM
    Wow...AMD's silicon is pretty awesome and a hexa-core is a great thing to compete on the desktop, but when you look at the new i7 875K ($320), all arguments about platform aside, I don't think AMD's value lead here is all that clear. This doesn't even include your previous analysis the10-20% efficiency increase which overclocking the Lynnfields can yield.
  • 10 Hide
    lonepasserby , June 14, 2010 7:38 AM
    How long will AMD make us wait for Bulldozer? Serious fans would probably be suffocating right now by holding their breath for its release.
  • 2 Hide
    DjEaZy , June 14, 2010 7:50 AM
    ... i bookmark this one... when i get my 1090T, this article will be usefull...
  • 20 Hide
    The Greater Good , June 14, 2010 8:00 AM
    FTFA:
    Quote:
    Adding a dual-core Core i5 processor would probably have been appropriate from a pricing standpoint, but we doubt that the comparison would be very relevant.


    I disagree. If I had 200 dollars to spend on a CPU, why do I need to know how a 1000 dollar CPU stacks up to a 200 dollar CPU? It's clearly out of my price rage. Showing a side-by-side comparison of what Intel offers and what AMD offer at the same price-point would be very relevant.
  • 0 Hide
    lothdk , June 14, 2010 8:39 AM
    What I would have found more interesting is a comparison between an overclocked 1090T and an overclocked i7 930 which costs approximately the same (unless you have access to microcenter and can get the i7 for $200).
  • 11 Hide
    joytech22 , June 14, 2010 8:40 AM
    dragonfang18ok... AMD 3.4Ghz for $300... Intel I7 920 $280 at 3.6Ghz.


    You forgot to mention the i7 isn't stock..
  • 17 Hide
    welshmousepk , June 14, 2010 8:49 AM
    really wish they had included the 1055t in this article.

    is it worth spending the extra 100 dollars when overclocking is taken into account?
  • 10 Hide
    zaodrze244 , June 14, 2010 9:06 AM
    why not theres no tests results in games like GTA IV or Flight Simulator X, where the cores are heavily used. without this article is useless
  • 0 Hide
    _SirO_ , June 14, 2010 9:07 AM
    Could have added a performance / power chart with frequency increase
  • 0 Hide
    Lmeow , June 14, 2010 9:16 AM
    welshmousepkreally wish they had included the 1055t in this article. is it worth spending the extra 100 dollars when overclocking is taken into account?


    Probably not, but then some would argue the 1090T Black Edition might be higher binned and would be easier to overclock because of the unlocked multiplier.
  • 5 Hide
    Arock , June 14, 2010 11:15 AM
    Should include the 1055T...Can it same efficiency at 3.4Ghz like 1090T..?Then we can judge its efficiency & performance also..Y spend xtra 100$ if that performance we in 200$???
  • 0 Hide
    Reynod , June 14, 2010 12:12 PM
    What a great article.

    I am stunned.
  • 4 Hide
    lukeeu , June 14, 2010 12:20 PM
    So running a CPU at 400W isn't stable huh?
    I'd like to add that if you upgrade your AMD rig you don't have to spend extra 120$ on mobo and 150$ on new ram and Intel already announced that next cpu after i7 will have a new socket. I've found benchmarks that show phenom x2 gets only 2% performance hit while running on ddr2. Does anyone know the figures for X6?
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , June 14, 2010 12:29 PM
    This article tells me that the 1090T performs very well if you overclock it even a little; and that it has to be overclocked to do well. Great; if I buy one there's no way now that I won't overclock it. Now, please take an equivalently-priced Intel CPU+motherboard+RAM combo and overclock it to the same [non-extreme] degree. Then compare the performance and the value. Any possible fanboy differences aside, that will tell me which CPU to buy. Thank you.
  • 3 Hide
    COLGeek , June 14, 2010 1:33 PM
    I have had a 1090T BE for several weeks now and while I am not an overclocker, generally, I have been tinkering with this CPU. This article confirms the performance I have been seeing as I tweak the processor. Video rendering (as I convert 20+ years of VHS and Digital 8MM to DVD) has been phenomonal (no pun intended) and getting better as I refine my settings.

    While I am a long time AMD Fanboy (going back to my first AMD, a 386-DX 40, in 1992), one must be impressed with how much processor you can get for the money.

    Get one for your self, you won't be sorry. HOOAH!!!
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