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Meet Zosma: AMD's Quad-Core Phenom II X4 960T Gets Unlocked

Turning Zosma Into Thuban

Preliminary information on Zosma is still scarce, and since we didn’t get this processor from AMD, pricing data isn’t available. What we do know is that the Phenom II X4 960T runs at a stock 3 GHz clock rate and supports Turbo CORE technology. It also sports a 95W TDP, down from the 125W of AMD’s Phenom II X6 1090T flagship (naturally, that changes when you start turning on cores, overclocking, and upping voltages).

Now, you might have thought that core unlocking as a feature was dead, since AMD pulled ACC out of its SB850 southbridge. And for a while there, it was looking like the most visible motherboard vendors wouldn’t pursue core unlocking in the 8-series chipsets. Asus was the first to break rank, though, and others have since followed suit, enabling unlocking via a number of mechanisms.

On ASRock’s 890FX Deluxe3, you can either turn on core overclocking through a BIOS switch called ASRock UCC or by simply hitting the ‘x’ key during POST (subsequently pressing ‘d’ during POST turns off UCC). Naturally, our Phenom II X4 960T was chosen for its ability to unlock reliably. Temper your enthusiasm, though. Our sources at ASRock tell us that, out of 16 samples the company has tested, six are able to unlock to six cores. That's a 37% chance in a fairly small sample size.

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Four cores, 3.9 GHz

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Six cores, 3.6 GHz

Do Unlocked Cores Hurt Overclocking?

If we assume that at least a percentage of locked cores are marginal compared to the four cores AMD leaves enabled, then turning those two disabled cores on risks system stability, increases power consumption, and very likely hurts your chances to hit as aggressive of an overclock.

We tested this out a bit using our Phenom II X4 960T sample and found that hitting 3.9 GHz was not a problem for this 3 GHz chip using a 1.425V BIOS setting. Turning on the two locked cores forced us down to 3.6 GHz to avoid crashing as Windows loaded up, and the extra heat forced a voltage reduction to 1.4V.

The moral of the story is (and this should be no surprise) turning on disabled cores will likely cap your maximum overclock on conventional air cooling, even if those cores are determined to be “good.” Weighing the pluses and minuses of pursuing parallelism or frequency will likely be a matter of evaluating the software you’re running. An extra 900 MHz from a 3 GHz quad-core chip on air is impressive. Those are the numbers we’d expect from an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU, so it’s good to see AMD’s improved 45 nm process yielding additional scalability.

  • Personally, I think it would be interesting to see some benchmarks for Adobe's Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5. Given that there are more 6 core CPU offerings on the market now. Anyways, thanks for the article.
    Reply
  • requiemsallure
    the hex core thuban had some problems with gaming for one reason or another, i wonder if in its quad core form the zosma will have the same problems, and if not i wonder if you unlock it, will it receive the same problems?

    this is all speculation since the zosma is based off of the thuban, its making me very excited for some benchmarks and a review.
    Reply
  • HalfHuman
    power consumption?
    Reply
  • Poisoner
    Wow, AMD kicked a dead horse and put some life into K10.
    Reply
  • IronRyan21
    requiemsallurethe hex core thuban had some problems with gaming for one reason or another, i wonder if in its quad core form the zosma will have the same problems, and if not i wonder if you unlock it, will it receive the same problems? this is all speculation since the zosma is based off of the thuban, its making me very excited for some benchmarks and a review.
    Um Thuban didn't have any problems with gaming? It was only a lil behind deneb cause deneb was clocked higher (965BE). Theres just no reason for thuban to do better since, more cores != better gaming performance.
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  • drowned
    I know I'm going to get thumbed down a million times for this but I gotta get it out. Why are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD? Yes I know AMD's prices are great, but tons of applications still only support 1 core where these clock to clock comparisons and overclock-ability are critical.

    No I'm not saying Intel is the greatest company in the world blah blah because I remember when AMD was handing their ass to them pre-Core2, but I'm struggling to root for AMD when they're handed the mid and high range to Intel and barely have a pulse in the low range against the last-gen core2's and i3's.
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  • ta152h
    The strangest thing is the performance of the i7 920 vis-a-vis the i7 930. The i7 975 seems to benefit from clock speed, as do AMD processors, but in most applications there is no difference between the 920 and 930, and in some cases the 920 is slightly faster (probably falling into the range of statistical scatter, though).

    Still, it's odd the performance is essentially the same. You'd expect to see something, especially since 200 MHz for AMD processors shows up pretty clearly.
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  • liquidsnake718
    I wish this was the case with unlocking intel processors!
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  • killerclick
    drownedWhy are we cheering for AMD when they require 2 extra cores and 400 mhz more clock speed just to beat Intel while Intel also maintains 2x the overclocking headroom as AMD?
    Because AMD is the underdog and only jerks don't cheer for the underdog. Also, performance per dollar is on AMD's side right up to the $200 price point. Also, AMD wasn't the company that was fined for bribing and blackmailing retailers to market only their own processors. Also, Intel's 6 core CPU costs $999 and they can go to hell.
    Reply
  • falchard
    This review tells me 1 thing. AMD can probably get away with selling the 1060T for $500.
    Reply