A very smart man once told me that absolute performance doesn’t matter, it’s performance at a given price point that makes a product successful. While AMD hasn’t held the absolute performance crown for several years now, that doesn’t mean the company’s products haven’t been successful.

During the days of the original Phenom, AMD started the trend of offering more cores than Intel at a given price point. Intel had the Core 2 Duo, AMD responded with the triple core Phenom X3. As AMD’s products got more competitive, the more-for-less approach didn’t change. Today AMD will sell you three or four cores for the price of two from Intel.

In some situations, this works to AMD’s benefit. The Athlon II X3 and X4 deliver better performance in highly threaded applications than the Intel alternatives. While Intel has better performance per clock, you can’t argue with more cores/threads for applications that can use them.

When Intel announced its first 6-core desktop processor, the Core i7 980X at $999, we knew a cheaper AMD alternative was coming. Today we get that alternative, this is the Phenom II X6 based on AMD’s new Thuban core:

It’s still a 45nm chip but thanks to architecture and process tweaks, the new Phenom II X6 still fits in the same power envelope as last year’s Phenom II X4 processors: 125W.

Update: AMD tells us that it gave us the wrong pricing on the 1090T. The part sells for $295, not $285, in 1000 unit quantities.

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Clock Speed Max Turbo L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $295
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $199
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W/140W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $165
AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 95W $155
AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 95W $145

You also don’t give up much clock speed. The fastest Phenom II X6 runs at 3.2GHz, just 200MHz shy of the fastest X4.

When Intel added two cores to Nehalem it also increased the L3 cache of the chip by 50%. The Phenom II X6 does no such thing. The 6 cores have to share the same 6MB L3 cache as the quad-core version.


The Phenom II X6 die. Monolithic, hexa-core

There’s also the issue of memory bandwidth. Intel’s Core i7 980X is paired with a triple channel DDR3 memory controller, more than enough for four cores under normal use and enough for a six core beast. In order to maintain backwards compatibility, the Phenom II X6 is still limited to the same dual channel memory controller as its quad-core predecessor.

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Codename Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Thuban 45nm 6 904M 346mm2
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Deneb 45nm 4 758M 258mm2
Intel Core i7 980X Gulftown 32nm 6 1.17B 240mm2
Intel Core i7 975 Bloomfield 45nm 4 731M 263mm2
Intel Core i7 870 Lynnfield 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Core i5 670 Clarkdale 32nm 2 384M 81mm2
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Deneb 45nm 4 758M 258mm2

The limitations are nitpicks in the grand scheme of things. While the 980X retails for $999, AMD’s most expensive 6-core processor will only set you back $285 and you can use them in all existing AM2+ and AM3 motherboards with a BIOS update. You're getting nearly 1 billion transistors for $200 - $300. Like I said earlier, it’s not about absolute performance, but performance at a given price point.

AMD 2010 Roadmap
CPU Clock Speed Max Turbo (<= 3 cores) L3 Cache TDP Release
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 6MB 125W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 6MB 125W Q3
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 6MB 125W/95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1035T 2.6GHz 3.1GHz 6MB 95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X4 960T 3.0GHz 3.4GHz 6MB 95W Q2

We'll soon see more flavors of the Phenom II X6 as well as a quad-core derivative with 2 of these cores disabled. As a result, motherboard manufacturers are already talking about Phenom II X4 to X6 unlocking tools.

The new Phenom II X6 processors are aimed squarely at Intel’s 45nm Lynnfield CPUs. Both based on a 45nm process, AMD simply offers you more cores for roughly the same price. Instead of a quad-core Core i7 860, AMD will sell you a six-core 1090T. Oh and the T stands for AMD’s Turbo Core technology.

AMD’s Turbo: It Works
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  • Lolimaster - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Other reviews that are worth to see.

    www.bit-tech.net/hardware/cpus/2010/04/27/amd-phenom-ii-x6-1090t-black-edition/4
    www.hexus.net/content/item.php?item=24332&page=8

    Seems that only anand put Thubies as so so cpu.
    Reply
  • Calin - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    From Bit-tech review:
    Conclusion
    Despite being an astonishing £600 cheaper than the exorbitantly-priced Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition, the X6 1090T BE still isn’t a very good buy
    Reply
  • sciwizam - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    TigerDirect seems to have $50 rebate on the 1055T.

    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTool...

    If Bing Cashback is applicable, there's another 12% off.
    Reply
  • sciwizam - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Correction: Bing Cashback site says 8-10% for TigerDirect. Reply
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    There are two ways you can get cashback with Tiger direct

    1) If you look under cashback stores you get a lower cashback.
    2) If you use the search bar and type in a key term you will get a different cashback, with TD the key term is "Tigerdirect" with this trick you will get 12.3% cashback
    Reply
  • Roland00 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Tigerdirect now has a $50 dollar mail in rebate on the 1090T BE, making the total 249 After Rebate
    http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTool...

    If you do bing cashback and actually search for tigerdirect you get 12.3% bing cash back.
    $299.99-$36.89 (12.3% Bing Cash Back)-$50.00 (Mail in Rebate)=$213.10 after rebates and bing cash back
    Reply
  • max347 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Usually AT is my go to hw reviews, but I have to say the overclocking section doesnt even look like any effort was put into it. Its a BE part, and you dont review how well it tweaks? Other reviews on the net have this at 4ghz+, and do all the charts with the oc and non oc included.

    I think most people who by the BE part will not keep the stock cooler. I use a TRUE cu, though I realize mainstream might be something a little less. At least throw a zalman 9xxx on there and see what it can do with that. Benched at 4ghz, the 1090T is competitive right up to the 980x (stock), which I think gives people a little more info on how high they can "reach" with this cpu.

    I am in no way an AMD fanboy, but the $300 price tag for this performance seems like a leap for AMD. It has always been in my mind price/performance rather than work/clock cycle or the like.

    Anyway, Thanks for the review!
    Reply
  • pjconoso - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    In addition to the price, keeping the processor in the same socket is another plus to this processor. Reply
  • ViRGE - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Are those other reviews using a 32bit OS or a 64bit OS? The last time I checked, the Phenom/Athlon II series was still poorly overclocking in 64bit mode. If it's still happening then any overclocking results would vary wildly depending on the OS used. Reply
  • yankeeDDL - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    I understand (and substantially agree with) the comments and conclusions regarding how the 6-cores Phenom compares against 2 and 4 core CPUs from Intel.
    I wonder though if these benchmarks are capturing the real benefits of 6 cores.
    In my 'daily' use I have several programs running in background: virus-scan, instant messaging, music players, email clients, browsers (that regularly update RSS feeds) and sometimes also torrent clients. These all consume some CPU cycles, obviously.
    With all these running in background, I wonder if the difference between a 2-core and a 6-core CPU will be more pronounced.
    In other words: does it make sense to compare two multi-core CPU by running a single application at the time (albeit, possibly, a multi-threaded one)?
    Reply

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