Is Phenom Really Faster Than Athlon?
AMD removed the core count suffix X2, X3 and X4 from the logo and changed its nomenclature instead: 9000 models have four cores, while the upcoming triple cores have a 7000 model number.
AMD has had a difficult year. Not only did the long anticipated Phenom processor arrive at considerably lower clock speeds than expected (2.3 GHz instead of 3 GHz), but the current stepping of the so-called Barcelona core is afflicted with a nasty bug. While there are workarounds for it, only an updated stepping will allow AMD to resume quad core processor deliveries in the server segment. The fact that the quad core doesn't deliver sufficient performance to attack Intel at the high-end doesn't help either. As a consequence of these problems, AMD has had to readjust its product strategy, and position the processor together with the new Spider platform in the mainstream. Despite all of the issues, though, Phenom isn't as bad as it may appear, as our comparison between the Phenom and the Athlon 64 X2 shows. Compare Prices on AMD Phenom Processors
In fact, AMD has a pretty significant advantage over Intel when it comes to upgrading existing systems with a quad core processor. While Intel has been quick with launching new platforms for each and every new processor generation due to modified requirements, AMD has not changed the specifications for Socket AM2 at all. As a consequence, it is technically possible to deploy a quad core Phenom processor into a Socket AM2 motherboard that has been running an Athlon 64 or Athlon 64 X2 - all you need is a BIOS update. This doesn't work in every case - some motherboards may not be able to handle the Phenoms' power requirements of 95 or 125 W - but most enthusiast motherboards can be upgraded from a single or dual core to a quad core processor easily.
The upgrade situation definitely requires some attention, as both AMD and Intel are roughly half a year away from the next significant technology update. AMD will introduce Socket AM3, which will bring with it DDR3 memory, while Intel's next-generation Nehalem will finally integrate the memory controller with the processor. Knowing this, even the upcoming Core 2 Duo E8000 or Core 2 Quad Q9000 series have to be seen as interim products on the way to the next generation, despite the certainty that these will outperform the existing Core 2 products by roughly 10%.