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AMD has hardly kept quiet on the CPU front these past several months. At the beginning of the year AMD put the nail in Atom's netbook coffin with the Brazos platform, and last month it announced the first shipments of Llano APUs to OEMs. Expect an official launch of Llano to follow sometime in the next two months.

AMD's focus on the mainstream echoes to a certain extent its GPU strategy: focus on the bulk of the customers first, then address the smaller high end of the market. Despite an overly controlling stance on overclocking and issues with B2 stepping 6-series chipsets, Intel's Sandy Bridge (Core ix-2xxx) dominates the high end. AMD will make a go for that market later this year with its Bulldozer architecture. It's still too early for an accurate preview of Bulldozer performance, although the time for such a thing is quickly approaching.

Until Bulldozer's unveiling, the Phenom II remains as AMD's high end platform. Today, that very platform gets a little boost.

The Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition release marks a speed bump and a price drop for the quad-core Phenom II family. The 980 assumes the $195 price point, with everything else stepping down a notch in pricing:

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Clock Speed Max Turbo L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3.3GHz 3.7GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $239
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $205
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $195
AMD Phenom II X6 1065T 2.9GHz 3.4GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $175
AMD Phenom II X4 980 BE 3.7GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 975 BE 3.6GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $175
AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE 3.5GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $155
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $135

Architecturally there are no surprises here. The 980 comes with a 6MB L3 cache shared by all of its cores and 512KB private L2s per core. The chip is built on Global Foundries' 45nm process with a 258mm^2 die size and around 758M transistors. TDP remains at 125W and the chip should work in all Socket-AM3 motherboards.

Don't expect any performance surprises here. The 980's closest competitor is Intel's Core i5 2400 a four core, four thread offering clocked at 3.1GHz by default with a 3.4GHz max turbo. Single threaded performance is clearly a win for the Core i5 2400:

Cinebench R10 - Single Threaded Test

Multithreaded performance ranges from equal between the two:

7-Zip Benchmark

...to another win for the Core i5 2400:

x264 HD 3.03 Benchmark - 2nd Pass

Typically the Core i5 2400 wins across the board. Load power consumption is also an advantage:

Load Power Consumption

The only advantage AMD offers is a fully unlocked CPU that can be overclocked as far as physics will allow. On our sample that meant 4.2GHz with the stock cooler. Given enough voltage hitting 4GHz+ on air isn't a problem:

Unfortunately even while overclocked the Phenom II X4 980 can't muster enough performance to put a stock Core i5 2400 to shame:

x264 HD 3.03 Benchmark - 2nd Pass

At 4.2GHz the 980 is fast enough to equal the 2400 in our x264 test and perhaps slightly surpass it in a benchmark that favors AMD's Phenom II architecture. But for the most part, even overclocked, the Phenom II X4 980 won't be worth it over Sandy Bridge.

SYSMark 2007 & Adobe Photoshop Performance
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  • JimmiG - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    The Q6600 didn't come at 3.7 GHz or overclock to 4.2 with stock cooling. Performance clock for clock doesn't really mean anything.

    But I'm not disagreeing that the Phenom II is unimpressive. The Phenom II is essentially the same as the Phenom released in 2007, but with more L3 cache. The Phenom itself wasn't all that different from the K8 from 2003, which in itself was just an evolution of the original Athlon.

    You could trace current Intel CPUs back to the Pentium Pro in the same way, but they have gone through many more, radical changes over the years. Hopefully those radical changes will come to AMD's CPU architecture with the release of BD.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Look at it another way and you could say AMD have done an amazing job keeping whats essentialy an 8 year old design in the running.

    When you look at it that way Intel's latest gen chips giving you an extra 10fps isnt that amazing.
    Reply
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    "When you look at it that way Intel's latest gen chips giving you an extra 10fps isnt that amazing."

    FPS are the best case scenario for older/weaker processors as they are ultimately limited by GPU performance....

    "Look at it another way and you could say AMD have done an amazing job keeping whats essentialy an 8 year old design in the running."

    The Core i series can be trace it's origins to the original Core Duo processors that debuted Apple's transition to x86 (5 Years ago) Intel has had 4 extremely impressive architecture changes since, each improving performance from ~20% to ~100% in some cases... AMD has executed 2. The first Phenom was a HUGE disappointment and couldn't compete with Core 2 Duo's let alone Core 2 Quads.. Phenom II, now gaining traction, is still barely competing against those same Core 2 Quads..
    Your same ~10fps difference could be said of my old Core 2 E6600 against your Phenom II x6 in GPU limited scenarios...

    AMD's entire success in surpassing Intel was placing the MCU on the CPU die. With that move, they blew their load. Thanks to the power hungry beast that was the netburst processors, Intel worked on improving caching algorithms, multi-threading, parallel processing, etc The end result is Intel with an extremely efficient CPU(born from it's mistakes) and an integrated MCU, AMD is left with just a so-so CPU and an integrated MCU.
    Reply
  • Action_Parsnip - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    "FPS are the best case scenario for older/weaker processors as they are ultimately limited by GPU performance...."

    This sentence has no meaning.

    "Intel has had 4 extremely impressive architecture changes since"

    I count 3 changes. core 2 -> nehalem wasn't #extremely# impressive, just impressive.

    "AMD's entire success in surpassing Intel was placing the MCU on the CPU die."

    Your a fool and do not know what your talking about.
    Reply
  • MilwaukeeMike - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    "Your a fool and do not know what your talking about. "

    It's you're btw. "Better to remain silent and let others think you're a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt" ;)
    Reply
  • SlyNine1 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    ""FPS are the best case scenario for older/weaker processors as they are ultimately limited by GPU performance...."

    This sentence has no meaning."

    Made perfect sense to me. The rendering of FPS ( Frames per Second) is a best case senario for older/weaker processors as the bottleneck is elsewhere..

    I don't understand how that doesn't make sense, it makes perfect sense.

    And getting on someone for saying extremely impressive instead of just impressive, Facepalm!!
    Reply
  • Action_Parsnip - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    ""FPS are the best case scenario for older/weaker processors as they are ultimately limited by GPU performance...."

    so is he saying the game tests in this review do not show the same trends as the other tests? That is what he is saying in effect. They look perfectly in line with expectations afaik. The sentence on it's own does mean very little if anything. He is either saying this review is doing something wrong or that gaming tests are of little/no worth.

    "nd getting on someone for saying extremely impressive instead of just impressive, Facepalm!!"

    ZOMGWTFBBQ111!!!!!!! LOL!!!11

    Being a native english speaker, I know there is a difference between impressive and extremely impressive.

    Skipping a stone on a lake 20 times is impressive. Walking on the water there is extremely impressive.
    Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    "Thanks to the power hungry beast that was the netburst processors, Intel worked on improving caching algorithms, multi-threading, parallel processing, etc The end result is Intel with an extremely efficient CPU(born from it's mistakes) and an integrated MCU, AMD is left with just a so-so CPU and an integrated MCU. "

    I have said this exact same thing many times before. At this point in time making the P4 helped Intel because they had to optimize the heck out of EVERYTHING in it to even be remotely competitive, and well, now all that work is done.
    Reply
  • Ushio01 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Actually with core/thread/clock being equal 65nm Core2 will beat Phenom II in nearly all benchmarks 45nm Core2 crushes it. Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Now try to make price of CPU + Motherboard equal and compare again. Reply

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