First Look: AMD Triple Core Phenom

AMD's Phenom Processor Family

You can currently find three different Phenom models on the market: model 9500 runs at 2.2 GHz; model 9600 runs at 2.3 GHz; and the 9600 Black Edition also runs at 2.3 GHz, but comes with unlocked multipliers to facilitate overclocking. According to AMD, pricing of the 9600 and the 9600 BE doesn't differ, but there is a slight difference in stores.

Unlike former Socket AM2 processors, AMD upgraded the HyperTransport protocol to support HT 3.0 link speeds. While HT 2 operated at 1 GHz upstream and downstream (resulting in 2000 MT/s), HT 3.0 runs 1.8 each way (3600 MT/s). Obviously, you need to have a new motherboard with support for Socket AM2+, which is what AMD calls the reworked interface. In theory, the improved bandwidth should provide better performance due to the increased bandwidth requirements among the four cores and their memory, and other system components such as graphics and storage on the system side.

All Phenom processors are rated at a thermal design power of 95 W, which is about as much as the Intel quad core processors for Socket 775. All of them support AMD's Cool'n'Quiet feature, which reduces the CPU clock speed and voltage in idle mode to save power and reduce heat dissipation. However, changing the multiplier (meaning overclocking or underclocking the CPU) will render Cool'n'Quiet useless, or the processor will step back up to its default multiplier when resuming from an energy-efficient operating mode. Intel, on the other hand, still supports SpeedStep even in overclocked or underclocked scenarios.

Faster Phenom models are expected to arrive in Q2, which we anticipate happening with the introduction of the next processor stepping (B3). Until then, we only recommend going for Phenom if you have specific applications that perform better on AMD than with Intel Core 2 Quad CPUs, or if you have other requirements.

Still To Come: Phenom 8000

In this article we will compare Phenom performance with one, two, three and four cores. The triple core is officially code-named Toliman, and is expected to carry the model number 8000. Our benchmark results include Phenom performance at all available core options running at 2.6 GHz, as we used our Phenom 9900 engineering sample that runs at this speed. Note that Phenom 8000 models will most likely not offer clock speeds higher than this speed.