Taken on its own, the new revision of AMD's Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition isn't particularly notable, but it was never meant to be. Taken in context, however, the chip plays its part in AMD's larger strategy of enabling an upgradable family of CPUs and socket interfaces. In fact, the Athlon II/Phenom II platform flexibility is a strategy that we find very attractive, and is probably the best thing AMD can do in its present circumstances.
The upcoming game-changer, of course, is Intel's upcoming Core i5 and Core i3 models, all sharing the same LGA 1156 socket used by today's Lynnfield-based Core i5 and i7 CPUs. Once these new processor arrive, Intel may be able to offer a platform with very similar upgrade characteristics as AMD's AM2+/AM3 solution, but with even more performance potential on the higher end of the spectrum.
The big question is, if the upcoming low-cost Core i3 and i5 models are dual-core CPUs able to handle two-threads per core, how well will they stand up against AMD's Athlon II and Phenom II X2, X3, and X4 models with up to four physical cores? Will these new Intel processors perform well enough to force further Phenom II price drops, or will the new models perform in the same ballpark, allowing AMD to keep its low-cost story intact?
Without a crystal ball, it's impossible to answer these questions. In the meantime, AMD needs to capitalize on its low-cost CPU dominance as much as possible to get consumers into the AMD upgrade path.