The Phenom Plug-In Upgrade Doesn't Work
Our Phenom launch article showed clearly that AMD's new quad core cannot compete with Intel's high end processors - despite being clearly faster when comparing individual cores including the entire cache hierarchy. Hence AMD adjusted its product strategy and points at the value of the Phenom processor together with the AMD790 chipset (Spider platform) as well as Phenom being an excellent upgrade option for the majority of socket AM2 systems on the market. Such an upgrade scenario is very likely, so we grabbed nine different socket AM2 motherboards to see if Phenom would really work with them Compare Prices on AMD Phenom Processors.
In theory, a motherboard should provide a suitable core voltage to a processor automatically, and since the HyperTransport interface hasn't changes as well (with the exception that Phenom supports the faster HT 3.0), chances are that a Phenom processor could boot on a compatible motherboard even without having updated the BIOS. We've seen this in the past when AMD released faster Athlon 64 X2 models or stepping upgrades. Some motherboards would boot and display generic processor information together with a clock speed. Though this is not ideal due to missing support for processor features and probably improper processor settings together with missing micro code updates, it can help to check whether compatibility is there. We don't recommend to run a system with a processor not officially supported by the motherboard.
The more reliable approach is to look for a BIOS update on the website of your motherboard manufacturer. We've compiled a list of links to the download pages of the most popular motherboard manufacturers; you'll find it at the end of this article. Make sure that your desired processor is supported once you find an updated BIOS version for your motherboard. The BIOS update process depends on the motherboard, as there are multiple approaches to flash the firmware. We will discuss the upgrade options first and have a look at the nine socket AM2 motherboard, which we tried to upgrade with a Phenom 9600.
As this article deals with Phenom as an upgrade option, please note that the motherboards we used are somewhat aged and mostly end of life product. We wanted to know if and how well Phenom would work with existing products and will look at current socket AM2+ in the near future.