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AMD Phenom II X4: 45nm Benchmarked

AMD Phenom II X4: 45nm Benchmarked
By , Frank Voelkel

It's way past high-time that AMD launched a counter-strike to the flurry of compelling Intel CPUs that've been launched since Phenom first got off of the ground. The switch over to 45 nm manufacturing seemingly took a lot longer than the company originally planned, but alongside a new CPU with smaller transistor elements, this release introduces some brand-new technology.

The improvements are manifest in a revised transistor count. Phenom II boasts roughly 758 million transistors, up from right around 450 million. As with its predecessor, the original Phenom, Phenom II drops into nearly every Socket AM2 motherboard. This gives the Phenom II broad appeal to the upgrade crowd, many of whom have long sought improved performance for their AMD systems.

How do Phenom II configurations look to the enthusiast crowd? As it happens, the Phenom II starts right where the previous generation left off. The incoming flagship—the Phenom II X4 940—employs a naming convention that goes straight after the company's principle competitor, running at 3.0 GHz. The fastest Phenom, the X4 9950 Black Edition, was set to operate with a 2.6 GHz clock. Overclockers soon learned that this also represented something near the upper limit of the chips range, and could only get more out of it with the introduction of Advanced Clock Calibration (ACC) on the SB750 southbridge, which helped extend scalability up another few hundred megahertz. The Phenom II represents an end to such limits: even at 3 GHz this chip still has lots of headroom, as we will show with the results from our Munich lab.

AMD fired its first 45 nm salvo a few weeks back with its server-oriented Opteron models, which enjoy a much larger market share than the company’s desktop processors. In the interim, 45 nm chip yields have increased enough to permit AMD to supply the desktop market as well. With is new, smaller core re-design  (code-named "Deneb"), AMD not only pulled off a die-shrink maneuver, but it also achieved some drastic improvements in energy consumption and module switching tactics.

Since the introduction of the first-generation Phenoms (alongside the Spider platform), graphics card performance has also experienced a sharp spike upwards. The platform AMD is replacing Spider with consists of the Phenom II and the latest Radeon HD 4800-series graphics cards. The mascot for the so-called “Dragon” platform is, naturally, an aggressive-looking, red-eyed silver dragon.

The original Phenom processors quickly ran into performance limitations because of high energy consumption. Simply by switching from 65 nm to 45 nm, energy consumption at the individual transistor level decreases sharply. To pump a first-generation 2.5 GHz Phenom up to 2.6 GHz, AMD also had to raise its maximum power consumption rating from 125 W (TDP) to 140 W. By itself, this was enough to disqualify that chip from use in many favorite AM2 motherboards. But with its 45 nm technology, AMD gives Phenom II a fresh start and bolsters the chip's attractiveness with improvements in several other important areas. Here’s the bottom line: in terms of speed, energy consumption, clock rates and overclockability, AMD has taken a huge step with the Phenom II.

Model
Clock Speed
L3 Cache
Code Name
Manufacturing Node
Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition
3.00 GHz
6 MB
Deneb
45 nm
Phenom II X4 920
2.80 GHz
6 MB
Deneb
45 nm
Phenom  X4 9950 Black Edition
2.60 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition
2.50 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9850
2.50 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9750
2.40 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9650
2.30 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9550
2.20 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm
Phenom X4 9350
2.00 GHz
2 MB
Agena
65 nm


To start, AMD is offering two 45 nm Desktop CPUs: the Phenom II X4 920 at 2.8 GHz, and the Phenom II X4 940 at 3.0 GHz.

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Top Comments
  • 31 Hide
    Cuddles , January 8, 2009 7:57 AM
    "Who will buy it?"
    I have two AM2+ MB Computers. In about 6 to 9 months I'll upgrade them with the most current CPU and call it good for the next 3 years. This will allow me to concentrate on Graphics Cards. Which means that for at least the next few years I won't have to worry about upgrading and when I do I could just buy a AM3 MB and make the transition one step at a time. Intel does have the better CPU's but you do pay for it and you have to pay for it all at once. I am looking at making an Intel HTPC/Home Automation/Gaming Computer and I'll probably use a DFI MB. Intel isn't a very nice to the middle class tech company while I would say AMD is. You spend more on Intel and you spend it all at once while with AMD you spend less and it's over a period of time. With Intel you start off super strong and over a period of time you grow weaker then you replace everything. With AMD you stay average and you upgrade to stay current.
    If I had the cash I would go Intel but I don't and thus AMD fits that bill. I can stay current with the times, at all times, and it never costs me more than a couple hundred a year. Still, once in a while I really get that hunger for an Intel chip but alas I have four other mouths to feed.
  • 20 Hide
    kirvinb , January 8, 2009 5:10 AM
    I'm so happy to see Intel has some competetion. While these new processors are not mind blowing, they offer some decent performance at the price given. I am sure this will lower the price of the q9400 and q9550, which is exactly what I want to see. Maybe even the i7s price will lower and maybe we will be back in the good days..where intel and amd flipped sides of the powerhouse like every 6 months..!! Good Write Up..
  • 20 Hide
    V3NOM , January 8, 2009 4:14 AM
    who cares about performance/watt? PRICE/PERFORMANCE is the big deal
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    firedogevan , January 8, 2009 3:29 AM
    why focus on the q6600... wouldn't the q9550 or 9650 be a more accurate comparison given their respective locations in the product lineup?
  • 16 Hide
    dechy , January 8, 2009 3:40 AM
    Yeah, the price comparison table should of included a Q9550, which costs same as i7 920 but with the lower mobo/ram combo price.

    Ends up being the same price as the AMD bundle, but with a good more performance... there goes the whole "AMD price/performance" aspect of this chip.
  • 7 Hide
    one-shot , January 8, 2009 3:41 AM
    Great review. Maybe some overclocking later? There were some pretty high claims about its overclocking potential. I'll wait for AM3 before I retire my E6750.
  • 7 Hide
    cangelini , January 8, 2009 3:59 AM
    Coming up soon one-shot--I was working on that one =)
  • 20 Hide
    V3NOM , January 8, 2009 4:14 AM
    who cares about performance/watt? PRICE/PERFORMANCE is the big deal
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , January 8, 2009 4:30 AM
    The Q9xxx series would trump the PhenomII in all the categories listed above. THG, it was downright *criminal* to have not included the Yorkfield chips in your performance per dollar and performance per watt analysis.
  • 1 Hide
    nashville , January 8, 2009 4:33 AM
    hey bert/tom's:
    good write up: thought id comment on i7 watts:
    "we measured the power consumption directly from the 12 volt rail that supplied the CPU", i read somewhere the only i7 core logic gets power from 12v rail, the uncore/cache part somewhere else. if this is true, you going to do another measurements?
  • 20 Hide
    kirvinb , January 8, 2009 5:10 AM
    I'm so happy to see Intel has some competetion. While these new processors are not mind blowing, they offer some decent performance at the price given. I am sure this will lower the price of the q9400 and q9550, which is exactly what I want to see. Maybe even the i7s price will lower and maybe we will be back in the good days..where intel and amd flipped sides of the powerhouse like every 6 months..!! Good Write Up..
  • 2 Hide
    jj463rd , January 8, 2009 5:21 AM
    On the forums someone mentioned "why did they use DDR2-800 RAM when DDR2-1066 would give better performance for the Phenom II".Wouldn't this skew the benchmarks by a little bit (perhaps 2 to 3%)?
  • 13 Hide
    tomc100 , January 8, 2009 5:39 AM
    I'm glad AMD has provided some competition to Intel. Lack of thereof would result in Intel price gouging customers just like Nvidia did last year.
  • 3 Hide
    kirvinb , January 8, 2009 5:50 AM
    oh god!! tell me about it!!! the 8880 Ultra was like 800 even 1000 bucks online!! What the hell!! that was ridiculous!! The 4870x2 is the fastest card on the planet(currently released) and you kind find it for less than 500..! 2007 was a bad year indeed
  • 3 Hide
    that_aznpride101 , January 8, 2009 6:05 AM
    i think this confirms this is what my next upgrade will be. can't wait for the AM3 platform. =)
  • 16 Hide
    xx12amanxx , January 8, 2009 6:16 AM
    Time to ditch the ole x2 6000+ Phenom 2 here i come!
  • 8 Hide
    ravenware , January 8, 2009 6:26 AM
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103471

    newegg is listing $US 275.

    Based on on the performance numbers here and the overclocking benches from firing squad this release looks to be very promising for AMD.

    Can't wait to see how well the AM3 platform performs especially if you can use an integrated 48xx chip in xFire mode.
  • 10 Hide
    zodiacfml , January 8, 2009 6:59 AM
    the conclusion is a bit rushed.
    how come it became a recommended buy, who will but it?

    i see it a recommended buy for those who have am2 boards wanting core2quad like performance especially those like me which have an athlon x2 processor now.
    anyways, if i will build a box soon based on amd,
    i have to say wait for am3 boards.

    nice addition of nero recode8 but it favors intel procs. now i know why my single core intel celeron m laptop works well in recode 8.
  • 4 Hide
    BartG , January 8, 2009 7:26 AM
    mmm, was it wrong to expect a bit more?
    Even thought the intel costs more, the performance is also better... all in all, I would think only AMD folks are slipping of there chairs but not many Intel fans will change brands.

    Me, im sticking to wanting to get a X58 board when the hype is gone and the prices drop...

    Nice effort AMD, keep it up so we get even stronger competition!
  • -4 Hide
    PCfreak15 , January 8, 2009 7:34 AM
    WOW, AMD finally has a cpu that can compete with my Q6700 box, too bad that processor is almost two years old now. Pat on the back to the guys in green.
  • 3 Hide
    ahslan , January 8, 2009 7:35 AM
    well i wonder how long my x2 6000+ is gonna last now...now imma be tempted to just stick a new Phenom II into my rig...but i think Ill wait till prices drop a lil...
  • 31 Hide
    Cuddles , January 8, 2009 7:57 AM
    "Who will buy it?"
    I have two AM2+ MB Computers. In about 6 to 9 months I'll upgrade them with the most current CPU and call it good for the next 3 years. This will allow me to concentrate on Graphics Cards. Which means that for at least the next few years I won't have to worry about upgrading and when I do I could just buy a AM3 MB and make the transition one step at a time. Intel does have the better CPU's but you do pay for it and you have to pay for it all at once. I am looking at making an Intel HTPC/Home Automation/Gaming Computer and I'll probably use a DFI MB. Intel isn't a very nice to the middle class tech company while I would say AMD is. You spend more on Intel and you spend it all at once while with AMD you spend less and it's over a period of time. With Intel you start off super strong and over a period of time you grow weaker then you replace everything. With AMD you stay average and you upgrade to stay current.
    If I had the cash I would go Intel but I don't and thus AMD fits that bill. I can stay current with the times, at all times, and it never costs me more than a couple hundred a year. Still, once in a while I really get that hunger for an Intel chip but alas I have four other mouths to feed.
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