Introduction

In January, AMD launched their new quad-core Phenom II processors that were compatible with existing AM2+ motherboards and DDR2 memory. The new Phenom II processors were the first truly competitive AMD CPUs since Intel's introduction of the Core 2. The Phenom II 940 and 920, priced at $275 and $235, performed better than the equivalently priced Intel Q9400 and the Q8200. Now AMD has filled out the Phenom II line with five new models with integrated DDR3 and DDR2 support.

Intel responded quickly with Core 2 price cuts as we discussed, and AMD countered quickly with price adjustments that placed the Phenom II processors at price points where they compete very well with similarly priced Intel Core 2 processors. With the new Phenom II models just recently introduced, we now have a complete line of AMD Phenom II processors.

AMD Phenom Processors
Model Clock Speed HT Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE 3.0GHz 1.8GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $225
AMD Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz 1.8GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $195
AMD Phenom II X4 910 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 6MB 95W OEM
AMD Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 4MB 95W $175
AMD Phenom II X4 805 2.5GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 4MB 95W OEM
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE 2.8GHz 2.0GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $145
AMD Phenom II X3 710 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $125
AMD Phenom 9950 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 2MB 140W $149

The new Phenom II processors are truly important introductions for AMD. In testing the new 45nm CPUs are competitive with the latest Intel Core II Quad (Penryn) processors. They are also the first AMD processors in over two years that can also compete with Intel processors in overclocking. In our own tests we were able to overclock to the 3.8GHz range with some Phenom II samples. The new Phenom II does exactly what AMD needs it to do to compete through the midrange.


The first Phenom II processors, the 940 and 920, feature a DDR2-only controller and an uncore bus of 1.8GHz. These two models will be phased out over time and replaced with the 945 and 925, which should begin shipping in April. The 945/925 will run a 2GHz uncore speed and will feature the dual DDR2/DDR3 controller used on the rest of the newest Phenom II processors. This will matter to some but it is a moot point from a performance perspective, since we have not found any real performance difference in DDR2 and DDR3 on Phenom IIs that support both memories.

Intel's latest Core i7 is still as much as 30% faster in some applications than the Core 2 Quad/Phenom II processors, so AMD did not reclaim the ultimate performance crown. However, Core i7 is at present a high-end CPU, with prices starting at $300 and extending to over $1000 just for the CPU.

With AMD competitive again through the midrange of the CPU space, it is time to take a closer look at putting together systems with the new Phenom II processors. With a broad CPU price range of around $120 to $230, there are quite a few choices in processors for a Phenom II system.

This Phenom II Buyers' Guide looks at three different builds that you might be considering. For builders who want a Phenom II system for as little money as possible we put together a Phenom II Entry system. The goal was simple - build a competent and balanced Phenom II system for as little money as possible.

Another typical buyer is attracted to the Phenom II because of the tremendous overclocking potential of the processor - something AMD fans have really missed for the last two years or so. As discussed in our overclocking analysis of the latest Phenom II, AnandTech reached 3.31GHz at stock voltage on the 2.8Ghz Phenom II 720 BE and 3.81GHz on the same CPU by increasing voltage and tweaking BIOS settings. That 36% overclock is something we often see with Intel Core 2 processors, but it is the best overclocking we have seen with an AMD CPU in a very long time.

Finally, there is the full-blown or performance Phenom II system. We hesitate to call this a High-End System, since the most expensive Phenom II is just $225. This is a very midrange CPU price. Our system components for the full-blown Phenom II are more upper midrange than high-end. That means we will not be pairing the Phenom II with a $1200 30" LCD monitor for 2560x1600 gaming. However, the CPU power is there if you aspire for more. You could definitely use a high-end graphics card and 30" monitor on a Phenom II 940 or 945 if you choose, and you would achieve superb performance.

Phenom II Entry
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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, March 03, 2009 - link

    Just to throw it out:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">3x2GB DDR3-1600 for $100

    With other price corrections and a less expensive X58 motherboard, Core i7 really isn't *that* much more than Phenom II, assuming you're buying the whole setup. If you're reusing some existing components, particularly RAM or motherboard, Phenom II has a lot more going for it. Head to head I have to agree that personally there's no way I'm spending upwards of $1000 without giving a real serious look at Core i7 platforms.

    That said, I'm quite happy with my aging Core 2 Quad systems. I've got a 975X with a QX6700 (@3.2GHz) and an X38 with Q6600 (@3.30GHz). I really have no serious need for anything faster right now.
    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    I can only be jealous of those prices as NewEgg Canada sure as hell doesn't offer remotely similiar deals. Best price I can find on 6Gig kit is thru NCIX. A GSkill PC1333 Cas9 Kit @ $135.00+taxes.

    The boards though.. no deals there at $289 for the lowest and the cpu's start at $379.00. So for a total of $803 that gets you into the cheapest I7 build (ram mb cpu) you can find. Plus I'd bet it don't get any better in other countries either.

    I am actually surprised that we were able to get 6gig kits for that price.. it's only been recently that those prices have come down below $200... so that's a bonus. Tuff for most on Motherboards though as some of the really good ones are upward of $400 here and god only knows what they'd sell that recently reviewed Evga one you guys had in the test labs .. Probably around $600.


    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Is Western Digital the only manufacture offering 5 year warranties these days (on their Caviar Black and Raptor drives)? Reply
  • Gary Key - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Seagate continues to offers five year warranties on their enterprise SATA drives but have switched to three years on the rest of their SATA lineup now. So yes, WD is the only one offering a five year warranty on a consumer level (Black Series) SATA drive. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Thanks for listing the "base system" price this time, easier to look at from a system replacement standpoint.

    Regarding the MSI rebates, they are the most picky company I have ever dealt with on rebates, make sure if ordering from Newegg to print the invoice and send that, not the order confirmation you get when you place the order. They might have other dumb restrictions as well.

    Can't wait for the SSD review, that is something I might actually buy soon.
    Reply
  • poohbear - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    jebus u guys read my mind by coming up w/ this article!!!! now that everyone is considering phenomII as viable upgrade option w/ the release of those fantasticly priced X3 710/720, this is a very timely article indeed! cheers for this.:) Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    You're welcome. We like the new Phenom II CPUs a lot and they provide very good value. Reply
  • mmntech - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    Yep, good article. The entry level one would be great for an HTPC. Just a small note though. I don't know where you got the $80 price for the ASRock A780GXE, but it's $95 at Newegg. Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, March 04, 2009 - link

    The ASRock A780GXE has been selling fro $79.99 for the past 3 months. While it was up to $95 when this article published on Monday, it is back to $79.99 today as you can see by clicking the link in the Entry Components table or going to http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8.... Reply
  • Goty - Monday, March 02, 2009 - link

    I don't have time to check all of them, but there are certainly some issues with the pictures and links in the article. First, the link for the M4A79T-E takes you to a DFI X58 motherboard, and secondly, the picture on the Performance System page for the video card of obviously of a Sapphire video card. Reply

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