AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition Review


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.”

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • XD_dued
    Hmmm...i hope the rest of the OC better. I also hope that AMD won't have to price cut too much to compete with i5. Either way, AMD really needs something new and fast....Hopefully they'll do well with the dx11 cards.
  • AMDnoob
    ugh... i want to love AMD but I'm not sure this cuts it. I mean, if you get an AMD Phenom II 955 and the 965, they're completely identical except for multiplier. And you can get both processors to 3.8Ghz most of the time. So really whats new???? The 965 has just got a faster stock frequency. But anybody who buys a 955 or 965 is prolly an enthusiast that will end up OCing them to ~3.8Ghz. So just go for the cheaper 955. The 965 sounds like AMD is trying to make something "new", but it's just another Phenom II 45nm chip w/ the same 6mb cache, etc. They need to release a new line for these up coming Intel chips.
  • hunter315
    Excellent timing, i was just wondering when i was going to see a performance review for the new 965. Though i would like to see a benchmark comparing the overclocking potential of the 955 to the 965, im curious if its just a higher binned processor or the same one just clocked higher.
  • megamanx00
    I better pick up the 955 BE before they are all gone. Doesn't seem like the 965 has any advantage other than the stock clock, and of course I don't plan on leaving it at stock :D.
  • chaohsiangchen
    Good article! Judging from what AMD did with 65nm Phenom, they would perhaps release 125W version in early 2010. However, that's pure projection. I will probably get this one and wait for AMD 32nm. Somebody got to support the underdog. Unfortunately, this is the same situation AMD faced during mid 2006 all over again. Intel 32nm is going to be awesome, and it seems that AMD is going to be left without an answer in H1 2010 until they can upgrade production for 32nm.
  • anonymous x
    but that Q9550 can overclock well, to the level of the phenom II 965 here and beyond, and clock for clock it is faster than phenom II.
    Can't wait for a AM3 vs LGA 1156 battle soon!
  • Raidur
    AMD has a looong way to go. :(
  • steel_icon
    Will this run on an old AsuS Crosshair NV590A-SLI motherboard? I surely do hope so...
  • bk420
    Pleasant surprise. I love you AMD!
  • Nogard
    wow, those are some pretty ordinary results for AMD.