I think that anyone who was hoping to see Bulldozer-based Zambezi processors hit store shelves in conjunction with this year's Computex show in Taipei is going to be disappointed by AMD’s 990FX platform. It’s 890FX, with a new name to show forthcoming AM3+-based processors will work right out of the box.
There’s nothing wrong with that, though. In fact, I’m glad AMD came up with a way to show its customers how to get the most out of an upcoming processor without complicating the upgrade process. Enthusiasts who actually can be troubled to do their homework know that 890FX/990FX and AM3/AM3+ share mechanical compatibility, though it’ll take 990FX and AM3+ to exploit Zambezi’s power/frequency management features. No doubt 800-series boards will start becoming scarcer as the industry gears up to support AM3+.
As we all wait to see what the company’s torch-bearing architecture can do, motherboard manufacturers are throwing us a little bone by licensing Nvidia’s SLI technology for use on 990FX-based platforms. Is the capability worth ditching your old 890FX board and buying an upgrade?
That depends on how loyal you are to Nvidia. Now that AMD’s CrossFire performance is much-improved, there’s no real reason to shy away from multi-card configs from either vendor unless your trepidation comes from multi-card configs themselves.
What concerns us, though, is that in a direct comparison to a similarly-priced platform based on Core i5-2400 and Z68 Express, the Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition hit performance ceilings in a number of benchmarks where the GeForce GTX 570s in SLI still had performance left to offer. Intel’s higher frame rates proved that the graphics cards weren’t to blame.
To that end, I really don’t see a reason to buy 990FX right now. If your priority is top performance in multi-card configurations, you’re buying an Intel-based platform. And if you’re in the market for a fast AMD machine, you’d be doing yourself an injustice by not waiting however long it takes for the Bulldozer-based Zambezi to materialize.
We’re definitely hopeful that the licensing of SLI means AMD’s Scorpius platform will perform well. Now’s not really a good time to build a new gaming machine on Phenom II, though. So, today’s 990FX launch ends up being a bit of a tease. We know what’s coming; we just want it to get here already.