Skip to main content

AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE: Same Speed, Less Power

Introduction

It's no secret that AMD has its work cut out for it right now. The company's top-of-the-line flagship Phenom II X4 965 isn't in the same league as Intel's premium Core i7. Even Intel's mid-range Core i5-750 CPU is a powerful adversary for the similarly-priced Phenom II X4 965, and while it puts up a decent fight, AMD's champion is bested far more often than not.

AMD will answer the high-performance challenge with the "Thuban" six-core CPU in 2010, a processor based on the already-released hexa-core Opteron. The consumer version of this processor is likely to be called the Phenom II X6, we have to guess.

While Thuban will compete more readily against Intel's Core i7, there are two looming problems with this plan. First, it probably won't happen until close to the middle of 2010 (a virtual eternity in the tech sector), and by that time Intel will likely be ready to launch the six-core "Gulftown" processor (purportedly Core i9). In 2011, we can see some game-changers in AMD's plans, such as a new high-end platform and the fruition of the "Fusion" processor featuring a graphics processor on-die. But at least until then, it looks like AMD will have an uphill battle in the high-end consumer space.

Faced with these facts, AMD is cleverly playing up the longevity strategy that served it so well in the Socket A days. In other words, keep the new CPUs backward-compatible with established sockets. On the other hand, platform longevity is something Intel has never expressed much of an interest in extending. While Intel jumped sockets from the Pentium III to Pentium 4, AMD stayed with Socket A all the way from the original 600 MHz Duron to the newest Athlon XP 3200+. Fast forward to today, and Intel offers the LGA 775 Core 2 Duo, LGA 1156 Core i5, and LGA 1366 Core i7 processors; all current models with different socket interfaces.

Contrast that with AMD's new AM3 Athlon II and Phenom II processors, all of which will work on older AM2+/DDR2 motherboards as well as new AM3/DDR3 platforms. The significance of this is compelling when you realize the upgrade path that exists for AMD's customers. Someone who purchased an AM2+/Athlon 64 X4 combo last year can upgrade not only to a faster Athlon II X2/X3/X4 processor, but also a formidable Phenom II X2/X3/X4. There is even a good possibility that their current motherboard might work with the upcoming Phenom II X6 when those CPUs arrive next year (assuming a similar maximum TDP). All of these upgrades are possible without changing a single component, except the processor.

All of this plays into AMD's strength in the entry-level space, with very compelling low-cost platforms and CPUs in a segment that Intel hasn't yet really fought to control. Right now, a budget buyer can get an Athlon II X3 435 for under $90 and a decent motherboard for under $100. When the time comes for an upgrade, is that user going to start over and build a Core i5 system from the ground-up, or are they more likely to buy a Phenom II X4 processor and realize similar performance without having to change platforms? When we look at things from this perspective, we see AMD can offer huge upgrade advantages over Intel products, despite the performance disparity with the new Core i5 and i7 processors.

While AMD's flagship Phenom II X4 965 has recently come down in price to $195 ($5 less than Intel's new Core i5-750), it isn't an ideal upgrader's CPU for many AM2+/AM3 motherboards because of its 140 watt maximum TDP, as many motherboards limit their support to 125 watt CPUs. It is because of this that some upgraders may be interested in the new revision of Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition sporting a maximum 125 watt TDP, among other refinements.

  • Every little bit of clockspeed and efficiency help out. I'm sure when Intel were testing their I7s they had to do some tweaking as well and later revisions had changes invoked. Hopefully we'll see phenom x6 soon and possibly a more refined architecture in future steppings.
    Reply
  • Silmarunya
    I'd like to see its power consumption being put against the i5's. They are both more than good enough for gaming, yet in Europe the price difference between a 965 and an i5 is far larger than in the US. So I'd like to know about other factors like power consumption and motherboard quality. An idea for a new article perhaps?
    Reply
  • In the year 2012 we shall see AMD challenging Intel in high-end category, by then Global Foundries Fab 2 should be in full-scale production . Also as times goes by Global Foundries will purchase more Semiconductor firms (they recently purchased Chartered Semiconductor).

    Reply
  • butcher
    a change for the better is always good

    its a bigger change than say the step from C0 to D0 with the 1366 I7's
    Reply
  • osse
    Well i kinda liked that on 1920x1080 the phII 965 beats the I7-940 at stock in 2 of 4 games, tie one, looses one with the 5870 at guru 3d review of phii 965.

    Its not like im a normal AMD fanboy, i just dont like monopolistisk tendenses, so as a builder i do have to know when i can tell u get the best rig with AMD or do u have to go to Intel.

    I still hope Toms and preferabel Cleave comes with a review when a cpu bottelneck 5850 and 5870 at best grapic settings. Hilbert shows us that the AThlon II 435 do bottelneck a 5870, but since 5850 is round 15% slower than 5870, even the athlII 435 at stock should be close to take advantage of a radeon 5850.
    Reply
  • cyberkuberiah
    Amd is trying hard , and we appreciate the efforts .
    Reply
  • osse
    Well my regular job is in economic, and not in laguage, as u can tell of my english skills, in order to give Intel real competion AMD need round 30-35 of the marked, why u can ask.

    Intels R&d last yr was as big as AMDs total sale, take in account that thay also fight Nvidia, so then u maybe understand why AMD is not best. If AMD drops farther down, what are we nerds left with, the answear should be clear to anyone that can think, we are left with only Intel.

    I do build riggs, guess round 100 over 18 yr, for friends and stuff, i do refuse to build Intel riggs, why ?, becouse of the marked situation, we lost cyris as a cpu vendor, if we loose AMD to, then my fellow nerds, we are in troubel. I do however never recomend an AMD built if Intel is clearly supperiour, therefor we builder need to know the limits. AS toms has stated in severual test, AMD is good at budget riggs, but how far up can an Athl II 435, an Phii 720 suppurt a grapfic card, well even the phii955 is dirt cheap here.
    Reply
  • Silmarunya
    True... AMD is going down too fast for my liking. However, ATI is performing quite well afaik, and AMD is showing hopeful signs. R&D is profitable and Global Foundries is nearly out of the red digits. They'll probably be the first to deliver affordable 6 cores as well, since Gulftown's prices will be through the roof I think.

    Still, that doesn't solve my issue as another potential builder: since AMD and Intel now make equally well performing CPU's (for gaming purposes, that is), is there a reason not to pick the cheaper AMD? Higher power consumption, or less well performing motherboards, or something along these lines?
    Reply
  • raptor550
    Nice use of a 1200watt PSU. Good to see that you really thought out this article by using a PSU so overpowered that it wouldn't be efficient. That is especially important when measuring total system efficiency.

    Try harder next time.
    Reply
  • cyberkuberiah
    Don WoligroskiWithout a crystal ball, it's impossible to answer these questions ...
    for speculation , in apps/games that really use 4 cores (x264/gta4), it would not be up to phenom II X4's and even Phenom II X3's .

    in apps/games that dont use more than two cores , it would take out every amd offering . although it would be "in line' upgrade for anyone with a core 2 duo , quads are getting more and more important . i also hope that the rumors of very high clock speeds/practical everyday use overclockability are true . lets all wait now !
    Reply