Our goal here is to provide a first look into the potential gains of unlocking AMD’s upcoming Phenom II X4 960T, but our early benchmarks are more telling than that.
In light of the fact that pricing data isn’t yet available for AMD’s upcoming creation, we’re left to a bit of guessing. Very consistently, the X4 960T falls behind the previous quad-core flagship, the X4 965 Black Edition. That part is currently priced at $185 on Newegg. The X4 955 comes in at $159. I’d expect AMD to debut its Zosma-based X4 960T somewhere in between.
At that price, and with a bit of overclocking, an unlocked 960T would be quite a value versus the Phenom II X6 1090T at $310. Just remember, if you plan to try your hand at unlocking, you’ll need a board that explicitly supports this feature, like ASRock’s 890FX Deluxe3. Because the SB850 southbridge doesn’t expose ACC functionality, it’s now up to the motherboard vendors to enable core unlocking.
As we’ve observed in the past, I can’t imagine that AMD likes the fact that power users are able to turn on disabled cores. But it can’t ignore the fact that core unlocking, unlocked multipliers, aggressive memory profiles that overclock northbridge frequencies, and low prices are what has helped earn the company accolades amongst enthusiasts, despite the fact that Intel sells faster CPUs.
Of course, while it’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to buy an unlockable 960T, it currently looks like there’s a better than 50% chance of not getting a successful core unlock. With that said, it’s hard to ignore the Phenom II X6 1055T priced at $205, which should consistently outrun Intel’s Core i5-750 in threaded workloads. If you aren't feeling adventurous enough to risk money on a quad-core processor that might actually be an undercover hexa-core champ, go the safe route and overclock AMD's Phenom II X6 1055T.
Update: I just got off the phone with AMD to discuss this part. As it turns out, the Phenom II X4 960T may never see the light of day. This actually happened a while back with a part called the Phenom II X3 740; AMD simply decided that the processor wasn't something that fit well in its product stack. And truth be told, the company has a point, especially in this case. There are already compelling quad-core CPUs in its lineup, so why launch an expensive six-core-cut-down-to-four-core chip to compete against those? "To recover at least some of its investment into the Thuban die with dysfunctional cores" would be one suggestion, but it remains to be seen if there are enough of these to warrant a new SKU.
It might come to pass that Phenom II X4 960T emerges as an OEM component. But as it stands right now, don't expect this one to become a retail part.