The benchmarks make it clear that our initial assessment was right-on: the Phenom II X4 965 BE is an incremental update to a strong mid- to upper-range processor family. An extra 200 MHz for the same $245 sweetens AMD’s platform story, which is already strong (and looking to get better, once ATI unveils its upcoming next-generation graphics cards).
We only saw one real issue here. Priced at $245, the Phenom II X4 965 BE is smack dab between Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q9550 ($219) and Core i7-920 ($279). We’d actually recommend against the fastest Core 2 Quad Q9650, which runs at 3 GHz, but costs $320.
AMD knows the performance of its flagship sticks it between some tough competition. The i7-920 is routinely faster, while the Core 2 Quad and Phenom II trade blows in our benchmark suite. In order to get a little scrappier with Core 2 Quad, AMD is planning processor/motherboard bundles with several online vendors at launch, including Newegg, TigerDirect, ZipZoomFly, NCIX, and Mwave. Buying a bundle is expected to take prices on both components down a combined $40 or so. We’ll update this page with links to Newegg when the official launch hits, verifying the total savings of these bundles.
Update: It has been less than two hours since the Phenom II X4 965 officially launched, and it looks like Newegg has already posted more than a page of different bundle deals on the CPU, ranging from operating systems to motherboards to graphics cards. The best deal isn't quite as aggressive as AMD alluded: the 965 plus Asus' M4A79T Deluxe motherboard for $412, a $25 discount. For more of Newegg's bundles, click this product link, then click 'view all' under the combo deals.
Hit It, Or Hold Up?
The Phenom II X4 965 BE is a capable performer able to drop into very affordable Socket AM3 motherboards and deliver exceptional value in almost any discipline. At any other time, that’d be cause for recommendation.
We’re less than a month away from Intel’s LGA 1156 Core i5/i7 launch, though, and AMD’s willingness to discount CPUs and motherboards is perhaps indicative of the potential impact the new platform might have. AMD wants to sell as many processors as it can between now and then—before competitive pressure compels it to possibly engage in a pricing battle.
If you’re faithful to AMD hardware, today’s launch makes for a great opportunity to pick up a processor and motherboard at a discounted price. Given its performance versus Intel’s Core 2 Quad and complementary low-priced platforms, we certainly see no fault in the latest Phenom II X4 flagship.
Otherwise, our simulated Core i5 tests suggest that careful comparison shoppers would be better served waiting a few weeks to see if retail Core i5s can really stand up against Core 2 Quad/Phenom II processors at lower price points. Thus far, all signs point to “yes, yes it can.”