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AMD Phenom II X4: 45nm Benchmarked

Dragon Platform And Socket AM2+

Compatible And Cost-Efficient: Sockets AM2 And AM2+

When presenting its first Phenom processors next to the Spider platform in November 2007, AMD took great pains to stress their backward compatibility as a selling point. From today’s vantage point, AMD has been true to its promises. The Phenom II will also work in AM2 and AM2+ motherboards, at least as far as the underlying BIOS will allow. For those who want to equip their PCs with a Phenom II, this would ideally require no added costs for a new motherboard or RAM. Various motherboard vendors—most notably, Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte—have already published compatibility lists, and use them to provide information about which of their motherboards will work with the Phenom II, and which BIOS versions are needed for each.

New Platforms: From Spider Comes Dragon

AMD launched the first-generation Phenom in tandem with its Spider platform. In order to use the Spider logo in labeling and system branding, vendors were required to include a graphics card from the Radeon HD 3800-series, a motherboard with a 700-series chipset, and of course, a Phenom processor.

AMD introduced its new Dragon platform with the Phenom II processor. As the graphic to the left illustrates, this branding program requires a 4800-series graphics card, a motherboard with an AMD 790-series chipset, and a Phenom II processor to qualify. Note that the required platform could include a mid-range board based on 790GX or a higher-end motherboard armed with 790FX. We've tested both, and appreciate that the790FX/SB750 combination is being given a new lease on life.

With the old Spider combination, a favorite chipset series anchored the program; because the Phenom II can be used in a Socket AM2 motherboard rig, we can only presume that AMD wanted to prevent Dragon branding on systems with older motherboards or chipsets--remember, AM2+ enables faster HyperTransport speeds and a dual-power plane. Only the inclusion of all three of these components is sufficient to permit a vendor to brand its offerings as Dragon-compatible.

ComponentsSpider PlatformDragon Platform
CPUAMD PhenomAMD Phenom II
ChipsetAMD 7xx SeriesAMD 790-series
Graphic CardsRadeon HD 3000-seriesRadeon HD 4000-series