Meet Zosma: AMD's Quad-Core Phenom II X4 960T Gets Unlocked

Turning Zosma Into Thuban

Preliminary information on Zosma is still scarce, and since we didn’t get this processor from AMD, pricing data isn’t available. What we do know is that the Phenom II X4 960T runs at a stock 3 GHz clock rate and supports Turbo CORE technology. It also sports a 95W TDP, down from the 125W of AMD’s Phenom II X6 1090T flagship (naturally, that changes when you start turning on cores, overclocking, and upping voltages).

Now, you might have thought that core unlocking as a feature was dead, since AMD pulled ACC out of its SB850 southbridge. And for a while there, it was looking like the most visible motherboard vendors wouldn’t pursue core unlocking in the 8-series chipsets. Asus was the first to break rank, though, and others have since followed suit, enabling unlocking via a number of mechanisms.

On ASRock’s 890FX Deluxe3, you can either turn on core overclocking through a BIOS switch called ASRock UCC or by simply hitting the ‘x’ key during POST (subsequently pressing ‘d’ during POST turns off UCC). Naturally, our Phenom II X4 960T was chosen for its ability to unlock reliably. Temper your enthusiasm, though. Our sources at ASRock tell us that, out of 16 samples the company has tested, six are able to unlock to six cores. That's a 37% chance in a fairly small sample size.

Four cores, 3.9 GHzFour cores, 3.9 GHzSix cores, 3.6 GHzSix cores, 3.6 GHz

Do Unlocked Cores Hurt Overclocking?

If we assume that at least a percentage of locked cores are marginal compared to the four cores AMD leaves enabled, then turning those two disabled cores on risks system stability, increases power consumption, and very likely hurts your chances to hit as aggressive of an overclock.

We tested this out a bit using our Phenom II X4 960T sample and found that hitting 3.9 GHz was not a problem for this 3 GHz chip using a 1.425V BIOS setting. Turning on the two locked cores forced us down to 3.6 GHz to avoid crashing as Windows loaded up, and the extra heat forced a voltage reduction to 1.4V.

The moral of the story is (and this should be no surprise) turning on disabled cores will likely cap your maximum overclock on conventional air cooling, even if those cores are determined to be “good.” Weighing the pluses and minuses of pursuing parallelism or frequency will likely be a matter of evaluating the software you’re running. An extra 900 MHz from a 3 GHz quad-core chip on air is impressive. Those are the numbers we’d expect from an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, so it’s good to see AMD’s improved 45 nm process yielding additional scalability.

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  • drownedWhy are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD?


    Because AMD is the underdog and only jerks don't cheer for the underdog. Also, performance per dollar is on AMD's side right up to the $200 price point. Also, AMD wasn't the company that was fined for bribing and blackmailing retailers to market only their own processors. Also, Intel's 6 core CPU costs $999 and they can go to hell.
    33
  • drownedI know I'm going to get thumbed down a million times for this but I gotta get it out. Why are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD? Yes I know AMD's prices are great, but tons of applications still only support 1 core where these clock to clock comparisons and overclock-ability are critical.No I'm not saying Intel is the greatest company in the world blah blah because I remember when AMD was handing their ....to them pre-Core2, but I'm struggling to root for AMD when they're handed the mid and high range to Intel and barely have a pulse in the low range against the last-gen core2's and i3's.


    Simply because AMD kicks.... bang for buck. I doubt the majority are going to be able to tell the difference between five and six minutes in rendering time or ~10-20 FPS in games. I hope you know that if AMD goes down, apart from anti-monopoly laws or similar rules, there's nothing much to stop Intel from selling Core i3s for $500.
    16
  • requiemsallurethe hex core thuban had some problems with gaming for one reason or another, i wonder if in its quad core form the zosma will have the same problems, and if not i wonder if you unlock it, will it receive the same problems? this is all speculation since the zosma is based off of the thuban, its making me very excited for some benchmarks and a review.


    Um Thuban didn't have any problems with gaming? It was only a lil behind deneb cause deneb was clocked higher (965BE). Theres just no reason for thuban to do better since, more cores != better gaming performance.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • Personally, I think it would be interesting to see some benchmarks for Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5. Given that there are more 6 core CPU offerings on the market now. Anyways, thanks for the article.
    9
  • the hex core thuban had some problems with gaming for one reason or another, i wonder if in its quad core form the zosma will have the same problems, and if not i wonder if you unlock it, will it receive the same problems?

    this is all speculation since the zosma is based off of the thuban, its making me very excited for some benchmarks and a review.
    -11
  • power consumption?
    6
  • Wow, AMD kicked a dead horse and put some life into K10.
    -18
  • requiemsallurethe hex core thuban had some problems with gaming for one reason or another, i wonder if in its quad core form the zosma will have the same problems, and if not i wonder if you unlock it, will it receive the same problems? this is all speculation since the zosma is based off of the thuban, its making me very excited for some benchmarks and a review.


    Um Thuban didn't have any problems with gaming? It was only a lil behind deneb cause deneb was clocked higher (965BE). Theres just no reason for thuban to do better since, more cores != better gaming performance.
    11
  • I know I'm going to get thumbed down a million times for this but I gotta get it out. Why are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD? Yes I know AMD's prices are great, but tons of applications still only support 1 core where these clock to clock comparisons and overclock-ability are critical.

    No I'm not saying Intel is the greatest company in the world blah blah because I remember when AMD was handing their ass to them pre-Core2, but I'm struggling to root for AMD when they're handed the mid and high range to Intel and barely have a pulse in the low range against the last-gen core2's and i3's.
    -20
  • The strangest thing is the performance of the i7 920 vis-a-vis the i7 930. The i7 975 seems to benefit from clock speed, as do AMD processors, but in most applications there is no difference between the 920 and 930, and in some cases the 920 is slightly faster (probably falling into the range of statistical scatter, though).

    Still, it's odd the performance is essentially the same. You'd expect to see something, especially since 200 MHz for AMD processors shows up pretty clearly.
    0
  • I wish this was the case with unlocking intel processors!
    -4
  • drownedWhy are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD?


    Because AMD is the underdog and only jerks don't cheer for the underdog. Also, performance per dollar is on AMD's side right up to the $200 price point. Also, AMD wasn't the company that was fined for bribing and blackmailing retailers to market only their own processors. Also, Intel's 6 core CPU costs $999 and they can go to hell.
    33
  • This review tells me 1 thing. AMD can probably get away with selling the 1060T for $500.
    -6
  • Cool.
    Though, I'm curious, will 2P/4P platforms ever become popular for enthusiasts without raping their wallets?
    I actually considered a 2P LGA 1366 setup, but it was going to be quite pricey.

    However, four $100 quad cores on a $250 4P board and RAM going to a reasonable price again (at the lowest I noticed, I was seeing 4GB DDR3 kits for $35 CAD, now the cheapest 2x2 DDR3 kit on newegg is $100) would be pretty awesome.
    Come on AMD, you're the only one who could do this affordably. :)

    ...
    Can we have >$10/GB DDR3 back please also? I would hate paying more for RAM than a CPU (I paid $300 for the i7, and $100 for my DDR3 1600 3x2 kit).
    4
  • Doh!!! I just bought a 1090t. Zosma 6c performs like a freaking champ and even on close to the 1090t at times. :( I guess it works out either way for me... I know have 6 stable cores- to the least.
    1
  • The biggest thing Thiban did was it took the same process, added more cores and stayed at the same clock speed while having the same TDP.

    SO why in the blue hell is there not a power consumption test to see if this helped it with 2 less cores?
    8
  • drownedI know I'm going to get thumbed down a million times for this but I gotta get it out. Why are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD? Yes I know AMD's prices are great, but tons of applications still only support 1 core where these clock to clock comparisons and overclock-ability are critical.No I'm not saying Intel is the greatest company in the world blah blah because I remember when AMD was handing their ....to them pre-Core2, but I'm struggling to root for AMD when they're handed the mid and high range to Intel and barely have a pulse in the low range against the last-gen core2's and i3's.


    Simply because AMD kicks.... bang for buck. I doubt the majority are going to be able to tell the difference between five and six minutes in rendering time or ~10-20 FPS in games. I hope you know that if AMD goes down, apart from anti-monopoly laws or similar rules, there's nothing much to stop Intel from selling Core i3s for $500.
    16
  • drownedI know I'm going to get thumbed down a million times for this but I gotta get it out. Why are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD? Yes I know AMD's prices are great, but tons of applications still only support 1 core where these clock to clock comparisons and overclock-ability are critical.No I'm not saying Intel is the greatest company in the world blah blah because I remember when AMD was handing their ....to them pre-Core2, but I'm struggling to root for AMD when they're handed the mid and high range to Intel and barely have a pulse in the low range against the last-gen core2's and i3's.

    Who cares about how many cores or how much MHz are there anymore? Core i7 975 3 times more expensive for the same performance as a PII x6 1090T.
    10
  • ohimWho cares about how many cores or how much MHz are there anymore? Core i7 975 3 times more expensive for the same performance as a PII x6 1090T.


    Yes I agree that the 975 is a ridiculous waste of money, but just look at the benchmarks. You could take a i5-750, which costs $100 less than the 1090T, overclock it to 4.4 ghz with a good air cooler, and dominate the 1090T in practically every productivity and gaming benchmark out there. There's not many places where the 1090's extra 2 cores are going to help.

    For ex, back in the core2 days I built a gaming rig where I had the choice between a dual core setup vs a quad core setup. I went with the dual core simply because I would very rarely ever benefit from having 4 cores and would more benefit from having faster individual cores. It seems like the argument is repeating itself again except this time it's brand vs brand and not model vs model and it's 4 cores vs 6 cores instead of 2 vs 4.
    -6
  • Yes, you are gonna get thumbed a million times because you already know that what you've said is rubbish. Claiming that AMD today can barely perform on par with your stated core2/I3...... yeah right.

    AMD 6core chips today are performing on par with the i7 range. Not in everything, but also not in nothing either. Also, non of Intel's chips AFAIK have unlockable cores. Correct me if I'm wrong. But this article is about unlockable AMD cores. I don't know what boat you've fallen out of.
    8
  • anamaniacCool.Though, I'm curious, will 2P/4P platforms ever become popular for enthusiasts without raping their wallets?


    Yes and no. Some 2P decent setups can be had pretty inexpensively for what they are. However, it's a redux of the desktop situation- AMD offers the parts mere mortals can afford, while Intel isn't really competitive until the prices get toward the top end. Two 2.0 GHz, 8-core Opteron 6134s can be had for about $560 for both and a suitable 2P board is $400-450. A dual LGA1366 setup can be had for about the same amount, but for the price the two Opterons and their board run, you'd either be looking at two E5520s (2.27 GHz, 8M L3, HT, Turbo, $775 per pair) on a bottom-end dual LGA1366 board or two E5507s (2.27 GHz, 4M L3, no HT, no Turbo, $540 per pair) on a nice dual LGA1366 board.

    4P is doable with Opteron 6100s as well as you can get four 6128s for a little over a grand. 4P G34 boards run from a little under $800 to a little over $900. The killer here is the minimum of 16 sticks of DDR3 RAM you will need to get full performance. Intel's cheapest 4P-capable Xeon 7500 CPU sells for about a thousand bucks and it's only a quad-core unit. A good Xeon 7500 series CPU like the 8-core X7560 is nearly $4000. That's for one, not for four of them. They also need a bunch of RAM for full performance. Also, don't forget that 4P motherboards are huge, generally measuring 16.something" by 13", which dwarfs typical 12"x13" EATX DP boards and even the unusually EVGA SR-2 dual 1366 unit. You need a very large and very special case to fit those beastly boards unless you're great with metal-working tools and are willing to slice and dice a full-tower EATX case.

    You also hit the nail on the head as far as RAM prices go, they suck at the present.
    0
  • Chris did you have turbo enabled on the Zos, or did the mobo not support it?

    The benchies compared to the PhenomII quad just didn't show much difference ... I'd have though the 200Mhz gap vs the respin would bave edged the Zos a bit closer ... or better with turbo enabled.

    A good review nevertheless Chris !!
    2
  • the 1055t failed me... so does the 960 now... i was hoping to buy either one of them over the i5 750... seems i'll have to go with intel again..
    -6