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AMD Phenom II review

AMD Phenom II review

It’s been a little over a year since the original launch of the AMD Phenom processor. We really do wish that we can say “It took the market by storm” when it was released back in November of 2007, but unfortunately, we can’t. The original Phenom launch was quite a mess to be frank. AMD wasn’t able to get clock speeds to surpass 2.5GHz for the launch and to make matters worse, a TLB bug and performance impeding BIOS patches were released at the last minute.

However bleak the picture appeared at launch, we were very pleased to see some significant improvements made to the Phenom die in AMD’s B3 revision four months after the launch. The TLB issue was fixed, clock speeds were increased and AMD managed to keep pricing competitive with Intel’s entry level quad core processors. AMD also made a rather bold move against Intel’s very potent E series dual core processors with the release of the world’s first triple core CPU; the Phenom X3.

phenom2_pr1

As improved as the B3 revision Phenom was, it really only got Phenom where it should have been at launch day. Four months after launch, Phenom was still not able to stand up against the raw computational power of Intel’s Q9000 series processors. Fast forward to today – about eight months since the B3 release – and a lot has changed. Intel’s Penryn is no longer the top dog, but the new i7 Nehalem based processors with a completely revised architecture. Phenom’s only real feature advantages over the Core2, such as an integrated memory controller and a high speed bus are no longer exclusive to AMD; they’ve become a staple feature. To put it simply, AMD needed a new contender and needed it quickly. Enter the Phenom II.

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Comments

  1. QCH
    QCH Very nice review... It's a shame that the Phenom II didn't do better but I am encouraged that AMD/ATI are back on the right path.

    Oh, and INTEL... Get Icrontic some review items!!!
  2. Winfrey
    Winfrey srsly Intel ^^
  3. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle Seems like a viable upgrade for someone like me with an older system and not a lot of money lying around. I wonder how long it'll be before i7 prices drop, though?
  4. Zuntar
    Zuntar Nice review Mike!

    I'm still gonna wait for the next round of fighters to hit the ring.
  5. Khaos
    Khaos Excellent review, Mike. Very informative.

    I sure wish that AMD's FPU performance was better. That's what is really killing them in the benchmarks, synthetic or otherwise.

    The memory bandwidth on both the i7/X58 and Phenom II platforms is more than adequate for today's applications.
  6. lemonlime
    lemonlime Thanks all. Just got some updates from AMD:

    Immediate OEM availability from: Dell, Cyber Power and Vigor

    Immediate part availability from: NewEgg, NCIX, mwave, zipzoomfly, Amazon and Tiger Direct.
  7. Komete
    Komete Great review, I'm still reading it. I finally see an Amd upgrade path for me. There is only one thing I wish you guys could have done in your review if you would have had the time. That is, if you could have posted max over clock performance of the AMD chips in with all the benchmarks. I notice, no one does this anymore.

    Now back to more reading :)
  8. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Mike's still working on the OC. ;)
  9. Komete
    Komete After reading through, I have to say one of these chips would be more than enough for me (with a little ocing involved). I wonder if the Phenom II x3's and x2's will overclock well when they come out. Would be nice.

    Once the prices drop some I may have to snatch one up. Great review fellas! Way to go Lemon lime!
  10. Mt_Goat
    Mt_Goat Excellent review Mike! Intel may still hold the lead in overall performance. But I think the Phenom II is still a very viable platform when price is brought into the picture. For most folks this is more power then they would ever need and comes at a much better price point.
  11. DrLiam
    DrLiam Great review and I agree this is a step in the right direction for AMD. A few aces up their sleeves would be nice though.
  12. James
    James I observed that the comparisons were made with a 2Ghz quad core Phenom II. A retailer near me sells the Phenom II Quad core at a 3Ghz clock speed. Would that mean that I could add another 33% to the benchmarks for AMD and say that it is a better choice than the i7?
    I can't wait until AMD blows Intel out of the water as far as multithreading with their release of the 12 core processor I read about last year.
  13. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm 12 cores is no better than 4 in today's software environment, really. There's such a tiny proportion of software that's prepared for parallel processing that it'll make no difference in the near future.
  14. Thrax
    Thrax Unfortunately not. The Core i7 is simply a superior chip in virtually every regard. AMD has improved their standings with the Phenom II, but as the conclusion notes it's a feat that is a day late and a dollar short.

    By the time AMD releases a 12 core chip, Intel will be well on their way to 8 core chips with hyperthreading to support 16 threads at a time. Anyone who wants AMD to succeed must wait for the Bulldozer in 2010.
    James said:
    I observed that the comparisons were made with a 2Ghz quad core Phenom II. A retailer near me sells the Phenom II Quad core at a 3Ghz clock speed. Would that mean that I could add another 33% to the benchmarks for AMD and say that it is a better choice than the i7?
    I can't wait until AMD blows Intel out of the water as far as multithreading with their release of the 12 core processor I read about last year.
  15. primesuspect
    primesuspect Xtremesystems had a party at CES that we sadly had to miss (well, Fatcat and Pseudonym made it), but anyways - they hit 6.4ghz last I heard. Liquid helium.
  16. BuddyJ
    BuddyJ They say you can't polish a turd ... but apparently if you cool it well enough, you can overclock it enough to blow the competition away. I'm all for the Phenom II.
  17. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Liquid helium? High rollers.
  18. Thrax
    Thrax It doesn't work? Make it colder.
  19. Komete
    Komete That is true untill you factor in what you pay for performance. For the next 6 months to get into a core I7 setup will cost you about 700. 300 for the chip, 200+ for the mobo ( the lowest priced now), and around another 200 for memory. And that'll get you the low end offerings of I7. And as along as the q series quad cores are around, I don't see intel dropping the prices anytime soon.

    To get into the best of Phenom2, which by no means is a slouch, will be less than 400. 200 for the chip, 100 for the mobo, and 50 or so for the memory. The prices on the Phenom 2's will drop, making it even better deal a little later on.

    Grant it, I didn't include harddrives etc... But for the average shmo, and that includes me, core I7 is unattainable. However, I can get close to I7 performance, and even beat some of the lower offerings be going with the best of the Phenom 2 at nearly half the cost.

    If I go quad core, I really don't see an option other than phenom 2. There are the q cpu's series but all the worth wile motherboards are around 200. Killing the deal for me.

    Thrax said:
    Unfortunately not. The Core i7 is simply a superior chip in virtually every regard. AMD has improved their standings with the Phenom II, but as the conclusion notes it's a feat that is a day late and a dollar short.

    By the time AMD releases a 12 core chip, Intel will be well on their way to 8 core chips with hyperthreading to support 16 threads at a time. Anyone who wants AMD to succeed must wait for the Bulldozer in 2010.
  20. Thrax
    Thrax All the worthwhile motherboards are around $200? Hardly. The DFI BloodIron is an exceptional motherboard and hovers around $100. Even the world's best boards from DFI aren't much more than $140.
  21. Leonardo
    Leonardo
    they hit 6.4ghz last I heard. Liquid helium
    You can strap a parachute on a pig, pitch it out an airplane, and then say it flies. Intel or AMD, I find the liquid nitrogen/helium/fartgas demonstrations to be completely useless apart from entertainment. So what!!

    Komete, you can get a Q6600/motherboard combo EASILY for about $250 that will keep up with a Phenom II combo. Look, AMD is starting to go forward again (thank Heavens!), but they've merely transitioned from big disappointment, to yawn, to 'OK' we aren't crippled anymore.

    No, I'm not a Fanboy of any stupid brand or manufacturer. They are all just corporations, differing mainly in the letters that spell out their names. I'd buy Via if they had top performance at good prices. (AMD is Formula 1 and Rock 'n Roll compared to humble VIA.)
  22. Komete
    Komete You guys are both right. When you factor in the Q series quad cores there are some deals to be had. I've been mulling over what's out there. For me, if I were to go with a quad, it have to be a p45 motherboard. And looking at what's available, the prices start at around 150 for what I would accept. Pairing a quad core with a 3 generation old chip set just doesn't seem right to me.

    All that aside, Most likely my next pc will a highly overclocked e5200. Even my intel hating self can't pass that one up. That and the aps I use benefit more from a higher clock speeds than multi cores.

    Leonardo, I think the Fanboy stuff is nearly over. But I still wear my AMD opteron T-shirt every now and then.lol
    Thrax said:
    All the worthwhile motherboards are around $200? Hardly. The DFI BloodIron is an exceptional motherboard and hovers around $100. Even the world's best boards from DFI aren't much more than $140.
    Leonardo said:
    You can strap a parachute on a pig, pitch it out an airplane, and then say it flies. Intel or AMD, I find the liquid nitrogen/helium/fartgas demonstrations to be completely useless apart from entertainment. So what!!

    Komete, you can get a Q6600/motherboard combo EASILY for about $250 that will keep up with a Phenom II combo. Look, AMD is starting to go forward again (thank Heavens!), but they've merely transitioned from big disappointment, to yawn, to 'OK' we aren't crippled anymore.

    No, I'm not a Fanboy of any stupid brand or manufacturer. They are all just corporations, differing mainly in the letters that spell out their names. I'd buy Via if they had top performance at good prices. (AMD is Formula 1 and Rock 'n Roll compared to humble VIA.)
  23. fatcat
    fatcat
    primesuspect said:
    Xtremesystems had a party at CES that we sadly had to miss (well, Fatcat and Pseudonym made it), but anyways - they hit 6.4ghz last I heard. Liquid helium.
    Ok lets get some facts out about the PhenomII at the Xtremesystems party.

    It was on liquid helium. They got WCPUID of 6.5ghz. The were able to do 3DMark05 @ 6.3ghz with 2 cores lower clocked to 6.0ghz and running @ -240c (thats not a typo)

    The best we saw the "Sekrit i7 975" that intel was using was 5.3ghz on LN2.
  24. primesuspect
    primesuspect They broke the world record for 3Dmark05, right?
  25. BuddyJ
    BuddyJ Extreme Liquid Rainbow Frozen Gypsy Tear cooling helps show us what a chip's limits are, and those limits translate into the performance numbers we see using mid-high end air cooling and water. We're now seeing one chip that may be slower clock-for-clock, but offers a higher performance ceiling going up against a chip that's faster out of the box but can only go so high. Which one do you pick?
  26. Leonardo
    Leonardo
    You guys are both right. When you factor in the Q series quad cores there are some deals to be had. I've been mulling over what's out there. For me, if I were to go with a quad, it have to be a p45 motherboard.
    The hard decision is not with price/performance ratios and manufacturer selection. You can get an outstanding performing machine from a combo based on either manufacturers' current technology. The hard decision is deciding what your time horizon is and rolling the dice for the best projected 'upgradeability' path. I have no answer for that!

    I'm sitting on Q6600-Socket 775 platforms. In my case, it turned out to be excellent. They are over a year old and still top performers, overclocked as they are. Were I having to pick a new platform today, ugh, I'd have to start the research all over again. A year ago, for top performance in multi-tasking the choice was obvious. Now that AMD has finally fallen out of bed and is awake, answers aren't so simple.
  27. fatcat
    fatcat
    primesuspect said:
    They broke the world record for 3Dmark05, right?
    yes they set the 3DMark05 record saturday night.
  28. Monster Gamer
    Monster Gamer Anybody looking to upgrade or just build a brand new computer, AMD's Phenom II would be the way to go IMO. In terms of cost, I wanted to go i7 but good motherboards cost more than $300 along with another $500 for the cheapest i7. That is just outrageously overpriced not to mention the ridiculously overpriced DDR3 memory kits they have out.

    AMD has a winner with the new Phenom II X4's and the AM3 based versions are going to have Dual DDR2/3 memory controllers which will only certify your AM2+ motherboard's longevity and cheaply priced DDR2 memory.

    I've ordered my Phenom II 940.
  29. Tushon
    Tushon I've been trying to decide between saving up and going i7 or getting a Phenom II 920/940 and this article + comments definitely made me go for AMD. Spending ~2x the money isnt worth it to me. I don't need ridiculously top of the line stuff but the Phenom II will definitely meet my needs. At least it will let me more fully utilize my PNY 9800 GTX+. Athlon 64 3500+ just isnt cutting it lol.
  30. Sledgehammer70
    Sledgehammer70 So I ran 3DMark06 at stock clocks on my new Phenom II 940 :) got some scores right around yours. Looks like my CPU score etched out the Q6600's but that could be for many reasons.

    CPU: 4574
    Score: 16452
  31. lee
    lee why did they have a overclocked 6600 and NOt an overclocked phenom II is ridiculous why they did this!
  32. Thrax
    Thrax It's simple. The 940 is 3.0GHz, and an overclocked Q6600 is 3.0GHz. This allows for apples/apples comparison of the Phenom II against what is currently the most prevalent quad core. It answers the question, "is it worth upgrading away from my Q6600?"

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