Writing this article covering AMD's Phenom II X2 555 introduction and including Intel's Pentium G6950 (we knew that this would be a hot comparison, pardon the pun) was a humbling experience. This is the first time I've committed processorcide with an overly-aggressive combination of settings, so we'll need to be more careful with voltages on the integration-rich Clarkdale-based CPUs.
As for the results of the Pentium G6950 overclock, yes they were impressive, but don't forget that they're beyond the realm of what this CPU could sustain before succumbing to our aggressive settings. The results are interesting in theory, but not as a solid representation of what our retail sample could do and certainly not at settings we'd recommend. The Phenom II X2 555, on the other hand, is still running cool.
With the knowledge that we're going to have a second try at this in the near future, the data gives us an indication of what to expect. The Phenom II X2 555 is very easy for enthusiasts to work with. Its stock speed is fast enough to provide great performance (for a dual-core CPU), its price is easy to stomach, and its unlocked clock multiplier makes overclocking a simpler affair for enthusiasts.
At stock speeds, the Phenom II X2 555 is clearly superior to Intel's Pentium G6950 in games, and it wins out in a majority of applications we test. It even comes close to the Core i5-750 in graphics-bound games, as high resolutions transfer the performance burden onto today's fastest GPUs. The only downside is that its stock clock rate is already so high as to limit overclockers to less margin than Intel's 45nm and 32nm CPUs. But 4 GHz is nothing to complain about for AMD's 45nm process, and employing cheap air cooling.
So, what about the Pentium G6950 we've been so anxious to test? At its stock clock rate, the gaming price/performance value for this processor is disappointing. Things aren't all bad, though. Application performance is in the same league as AMD's Phenom II X2 555, despite its 2.8 GHz clock. And even though our overclocking results have been invalidated by our retail CPU's untimely death, we must acknowledge that there is potential here. Given Intel's positioning of the Pentium G6950, this is clearly a part the company wants to push in the channel for its sub-$100 price, but not necessarily to power users. How far can the thing reliably go, though? We're going to try to answer that for you in the near future.