Conclusion - AMD's Phenom 9600 Can't Beat Intel's Q6600
Our review sample of AMD's Phenom 9600 Black Edition offered overclocking potential of 17%, but to achieve this, we had to set the core voltage quite high, at a level we would not recommend for long-term use. We achieved the most sensible overclock at a clock speed increase of 13%, allowing the Phenom 9600 to run in a stable manner even at its default core voltage. Like AMD's first Black Edition model, the Athlon 64 X2 6400+, the overclocking potential is so low that the unlocked multiplier is almost not worthwhile. This calls the entire concept of the Black Edition in general into question. The single exception is the Athlon 64 X2 5000+, which we found to offer rather good overclocking potential. You can read a more detailed analysis here.
Even when overclocked, our sample of the AMD Phenom was unable to beat Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600
Also, the Phenom's power consumption is much too high - our measurements point to a thermal problem in Cool'n'Quiet mode. When the Phenom 9600 Black Edition was overclocked, we measured a thermal dissipation that could only be handled with a very loud air-cooling solution or a water cooler.
For now, AMD's OverDrive utility is unsuitable for overclocking. It's "functionality" ranged from the error message "No AMD CPU found" to crashing our review system. The values determined in the utility do not correspond to those found in the BIOS, and AMD itself does not support the OverDrive tool. The only Black Edition CPU that really benefits from its unlocked multiplier is the old Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition. In the end, we can't really recommend AMD's Phenom 9600 Black Edition, since the CPU draws more power than Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600 while costing the same, offering less overclocking headroom, and thus providing lower performance overall.
The bottom line is that the Phenom 9600 Black Edition offers bad value for money. Based on our benchmark results and the direct comparison with Intel's Q6600, AMD's CPU should cost no more than $220, in our opinion.