When Phenom launched it was slow, later plagued by a performance-hindering TLB bug and priced entirely out of the realm of rational thought. It's a new year and while I'd like to say that AMD has learned from all of its mistakes and will be back to a fully competitive state, that's only mostly true. There are still significant struggles within the company but at least this launch is a step in the right direction.

Today's launch is actually much bigger than Phenom's original debut, encompassing a total of seven new processors:


  Cores Stepping Clock Speed TDP L2 Cache L3 Cache 1 Ku Price
AMD Phenom X4 9850 4 B3 2.5GHz 125W 2MB 2MB $235
AMD Phenom X4 9750 4 B3 2.4GHz 125W 2MB 2MB $215
AMD Phenom X4 9750* 4 B3 2.4GHz 95W 2MB 2MB $???
AMD Phenom X4 9650* 4 B3 2.3GHz 95W 2MB 2MB $???
AMD Phenom X4 9550 4 B3 2.2GHz 95W 2MB 2MB $195
AMD Phenom X4 9100e* 4 B2 1.8GHz 65W 2MB 2MB ~$200
AMD Phenom X3 8600* 3 B2 2.3GHz 95W 1.5MB 2MB ~$175
AMD Phenom X3 8400* 3 B2 2.1GHz 95W 1.5MB 2MB ~$150
*Denotes OEM Only

Ok, let's see if we can make sense of this. There are three new CPUs that you'll see at places like Newegg: the Phenom X4 9850, Phenom X4 9750 and Phenom X4 9550 running at 2.5GHz, 2.4GHz and 2.2GHz respectively. The 50 at the end of the model number means that these CPUs are based on the new B3 stepping, which includes the fix for the TLB erratum - in other words, these are the CPUs you want. The prices are also pretty reasonable, they are all finally cheaper than Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600.

The Phenom X4 9850 is a "Black Edition" part, meaning it ships with its clock multiplier unlocked. It is also the first Phenom to run its L3 cache/North Bridge/memory controller at 2.0GHz and not 1.8GHz like the rest of the Phenom lineup.

Here's where it gets complicated. AMD needed something to do with all of its B2 stepping Phenoms, so it's selling those to OEMs who don't really seem to care about the TLB bug. The CPUs with a * next to them are OEM only; although that doesn't mean that they won't appear in retail, they aren't intended for end user purchase.

The Phenom X4 9100e is AMD's first 65W TDP quad core CPU thanks to a relatively low operating frequency of 1.8GHz. Unfortunately it's plagued by the TLB bug since it's a B2 stepping core, so you have to take into account that its performance may suffer because of it. The same applies to the two new triple-core parts; the Phenom X3 8600 and 8400 are both quad core B2 stepping CPUs with one of the cores disabled. AMD doesn't have any plans to introduce a new, smaller triple-core die because the costs would be too great. Instead AMD wants to focus on getting its 45nm transition started before the end of the year.

AMD's plan is quite ingenious, keep the TLB bug CPUs out of the hands of the enthusiasts who will complain and use them to keep OEMs happy as well as use them for the first triple-core CPUs.

The OEMs don't completely get the shaft as there are two 50-series CPUs they get that we don't. First off there's a 95W TDP Phenom X4 9750 (most likely a lower yielding 9750 that just runs a bit cooler, hence the lower TDP) and next there's a Phenom X4 9650.

Within the next month or so, AMD will be releasing B3 versions of all of the remaining CPUs, so you'll see a Phenom X4 9150e, Phenom X3 8650 and Phenom X3 8400. In general, AMD told us to expect around a $50 price difference at the same clock speed between triple and quad core. Given that most applications still don't benefit tremendously from four cores, tri-core may be a nice way for AMD to compete with Intel's higher performing dual core options. As soon as there are B3 Phenom X3s available for review, we'll let you know how they stack up.

3.0GHz: Where Are You?
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  • aju - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    Ok, the fastest Phenom is still not quite as fast as the Q6600. The problem is that the cost issues is really much larger than it is made to seem in the article. The review does not really figure the total system price into the equation. The exact parts listed in the review for the test AMD system with an Phenom X4 9850 would cost $864.97. The exact parts listed for the Intel system with a Core2Quad Q6600 would cost $1273.96. Were talking about a difference of $405.99 here. For that price difference, you could forgo the 8800GT and put in 4 Radeon HD 3870s in its place and have quad CrossFire for a total of $1314.94. That MSI board supports 4 PCI Express 2.0 slots. Then we would be comparing systems at a similar price point. I wonder if the Intel system could keep up on the games then. Reply
  • coldpower27 - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    The situation would not change dramatically if Intel was changed back to DDR2-800. Intel processors don't benefit significantly if at all from the extra memroy bandwidth.

    This is a performance of the processor without limitation of other components, not a price/performance article.
    Reply
  • IvanAndreevich - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    Can we have a bench with the Q6600 running the same FSB and clockspeed as the Q9300? Would be an interesting comparison. Reply
  • Schugy - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    Seems like q'n'q 2.0 still isn't working as good as the specs on paper tell us. Reply
  • Nihility - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    I'm really disappointed by Intel's 45 nm Q9300.
    Doesn't overclock as well, less cache and only marginally better performance over the Q6600.
    Intel is obviously holding back because AMD can't deliver. I am not amused.
    The updated phenoms are nice and all but as an overclocker I'll have to pass on this entire generation from BOTH manufacturers. That and WOW does AMD get owned at the gaming benchmarks.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    From an overclockers perspective yes, but what's not to like if your buying this product for stock performance, faster then the Q6600 with less cache, and much more efficient energy wise.

    The only chips that AMD and Intel sell that are geared toward overclocking in mind are AMD's Black Series, and Intel's Extreme Series..

    They have no obligation to sell you cheap overclockable processors. If they do it's just very well a bonus.
    Reply
  • Nihility - Friday, March 28, 2008 - link

    From a stock perspective, it's more expensive than a Q9300 but offers marginal performance gains.
    I don't like marginal processor upgrades. It's a bad sign when a year later you get sold the same speed processors instead of something that is 50% faster. They could obviously be releasing these processors with much higher clock rates but they choose not to so they have that option to crank performance up another useless 5% if they feel like it.
    I don't like being toyed with, can you blame me?
    Reply
  • nubie - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    Hot Damn! Now I am torn between a 45nm Intel and a Tri/Quad AMD.

    I guess I can afford to sit back and wait, but this is just awesome news, it seems for professional apps the AMD is actually a better value (well duh), I think the Opteron line will be in high demand, and it will probably be very competitive.

    Finally, something that is nearly clock-for-clock competitive with Intel. Now if AMD can only get Dual-core models out in 45nm, then they might be able to compete on level ground in the mainstream segment.

    I just don't know which to buy, I hope that the promised AM2 compatibility will finally be here, if not there will be a lot of unhappy motherboard owners (my DFI Infinity M2 sorely needs one of these.)
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    umm, they aren't really clock-for-clock competitive, and no one said they were. Depending on pricing they may be price competitive, but the Q9300 seems to hold a decent performance advantage over the 9850 in most tests shown. Reply
  • mczak - Thursday, March 27, 2008 - link

    What was the stepping of the Q6600 core used here? IIRC G0 had significantly lower idle power consumption, and somewhat lower load power consumption than B3. Reply

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