The Problem at 245

The problem with the $245 price point that AMD’s flagship sells at is one of positioning. It is dangerously close to the $284 price of a Core i7 920, which is generally a faster chip.

CPU Price
Intel Core i7 920 $280
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 $320
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition $245
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 $220
Intel Core i5 750 (Unreleased) $199

The Core 2 Quad Q9650 simply doesn't make any sense, it's a wonder that Intel still sells it. The Q9550 can be had for around $220 and is generally slower than the 965 Black Edition. The i5 750 is the wildcard; if it does debut next month at $199 and is as competitive as we're expecting, it could force AMD to compress its upper end pricing.

Until Lynnfield arrives, the only things AMD has to worry about are the Core 2 Quad at the low end and the i7 at the high end. The more expensive Core 2 Quads don't really seem to matter, the Phenom II dispatches with them fairly easily. To fight off the i7, instead of lowering profit margins, AMD is going to be offering a number of bundles to help reduce total ownership cost.

While AMD wasn’t specific as to what bundles will be available, starting today Newegg, Tiger Direct, ZipZoomFly, NCIX and MWAVE will all be offering bundles on the Phenom II X4 965 and certain motherboards. AMD is estimating the bundles to knock off around $40 from the total combined price. There will also be Corsair memory and AMD GPU bundles, but AMD was even more vague on what we should expect there.

A quick look at Newegg shows that currently you can save about $30 if you’re buying a Phenom II X4 945 and a Gigabyte 790FX motherboard. Unfortunately it looks like the bundles don’t kick in if you’re buying any of the cheaper motherboards. It remains to be seen what sort of 965 bundles will be available.

Pressure from above with the i7 920 is relieved by lower prices, but next month pressure from below with the i5 750 is sure to make things difficult. AMD sweetens the pot by making its flagship part a multiplier unlocked Black Edition. Like the 955 before it, our 965 easily hit 3.8GHz without so much as an added millivolt. We just increased the clock multiplier and off we went.

The Test

Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
MSI DKA790GX Platinum (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H (AMD 790GX)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
AMD 790GX
AMD 790FX
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1010 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR2-800 2 x 2GB (4-4-4-12)
G.Skill DDR2-1066 2 x 2GB (5-5-5-15)
Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Index SYSMark 2007 Performance
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  • GourdFreeMan - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    You are looking too far forward into the future for a product that is going to be used by consumers for the next 2-3 years. Yes, there is a general move among all vendors (AMD, nVIDIA and Intel) towards moving largely parallel computation onto GPUs, however you must keep in mind CUDA has been around for 2.5 years and Brook even longer than that, yet GPGPU has only found commercial consumer application in media encoding and Adobe Photoshop. To expect a sudden shift when DX11 is released as a commercial product as part of Windows 7 later this year is wishful thinking at best. Programmers require time to learn new skills, adopt new methodologies and experiment to determine what works more efficiently and what doesn't. That time will be measured in years, not months.

    If we restrict ourselves to the domain of PC gaming, then Anand's comments are accurate, if a little dated. Programmers have finally adopted multithreaded (CPU) development with a vengeance. Most new games are multithreaded, regardless of whether they are a console port or the rare instance of the dying breed of PC exclusives. The first dual core consumer CPUs were released more than 4 years ago. That should give you some idea of how agile PC games development actually is. We still don't have many titles with 64-bit executables despite how long ago 64-bit CPUs and operating systems were released.

    Finally, there remain open questions of where tasks belong and what to do with unused processing capability on the CPU and GPU. You can put physics on the GPU, but what about AI? Game logic? Branchy scripts written by content creators as opposed to programmers? You can use your unused GPU cycles to do more graphically or at a higher frame rate, but can't you also find more tasks for your CPU that will contribute to gameplay? World simulation and more complicated AI immediately spring to mind.
    Reply
  • ravaneli - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Price: in retail price comparison the 9550 is a little cheaper. Talking about deals, my microcenter had about a hundred of them in stock at $169 each.

    Performance, even at stock 2.83 ghz the 9550 will take on the 965. You can take a look at toms hardware for another set of results. They looked quite humiliating. The 9550 will however overclock to 4ghz even with stick cooler due to really low cpu voltage.

    All AMD did with this chip is change the multiplier for you. And charge you for that. Thank's, but I can do this myself in 2 mins.

    Not to say that 9550 is all that great, but I find the superiority fight with the 965 a quite tough one at least. How did u write it off so quickly and went quickly to comparing to i7. A lot of water will pass under the bridge before we see anything from AMD that competes with i7. Keep you comments about price of platform. It's not like you pay more money for the same product. You pay more for memory BUT YOU DO HAVE FASTER MEMORY, DONT YOU?? And read around, reliable OC motherboards under 200 are not rare any more.
    Reply
  • OblivionLord - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    I dont understand why you people are comparing newer intel chips such as the i5 and i7 to the 955 and 965 when the AMD chips arent even in the same league as the i7/i5. Infact the 955 and 965 has worse power efficiency than Yorksfield chips. To be blunt, Anandtech said that in a 64bit Windows environment the 965 couldn't pass 4ghz. At stock speed the 3.4ghz processor has a stock voltage of 1.4v. That's almost on par with Kentsfield quad power requirement. My 4.0ghz Q9550 oc'ed only needs 1.3625v and that's oc'ed compared to the 965's 1.4v at stock 3.4ghz which is insane. When my chip is at 3.8ghz I set the vcore to 1.3265. That's still 400mhz more than the 965 at stock which needs 1.4v.

    There is nothing that can tell me that Phenom 2 is anywhere comparable with anything past Yorksfield when it simply isn't.

    Reply
  • IKeelU - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Keep in mind that price is what we use to compare one processor to another. I don't think anyone is disputing that the I7 is a more technologically "advanced" microprocessor, but my wallet doesn't really care about that, and neither do OEMs I think. Ultimately, the TDP is something you should take into account when determining the overall cost of ownership. This is something that is difficult to evaluate objectively because everyone has different usage patterns, and the cost of energy varies from place to place. So we must evaluate based on a more spatially-constant cost, which is the purchase price. Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Exactly. It is not Intel's fault that AMD has been asleep at the switch for several years now and reduced to rehashes of previous architectures. I want to see AMD keep Intel on its toes, but nothing from them currently makes me want to give up staying with Intel. And the way the future road map looks from Intel, I don't see that changing any time soon. Reply
  • arbiter378 - Friday, November 06, 2009 - link

    Your wrong, it is intel's fault. http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/ICT/intel....">http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/ICT/intel.... Reply
  • Nfarce - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    Those chips are certainly much more popular than the E8200, which is discontinued now most likely due to low sales. Besides, I think a 3.16GHz or 3.33GHz Wolfdale is more in line with the rest of the upper spectrum chips than one running at 2.66GHz.

    What would really be cool is a mass overclock comparison (on air) for the top 10 chips listed here. That would more in line reflect real world users here as well. Let's go with a head to head AMD vs. Intel overclock comparison!
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    so we have a new top end AMD cpu. the benchmarks are about what I expected them to be.

    AMD is nearing the limit of current Phenom II technology. They should introduce something new and better soon after i5 hits the streets or they are loosing on almost all fronts to Intel.
    Reply
  • brybir - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    I did notice on newegg that AMD is releasing some of its Phenom II's with lower TDP.

    They have a Phenom II 945 that was rated at 125WTDP now with the same processor just rated at 95W TDP.

    I figure they will goose the clock speed a bit more if they can and continue to work on getting their power consumption lowered on the rest of their line so by the time their new processors come out the Phenom II's can pull up low power budget duty.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Thursday, August 13, 2009 - link

    I was going to mention this new part from AMD as well (945 95W edition). Anand you would do well to draw attention to it as well where you talk about AMD's current product lineup. This is a more interesting and notable introduction to me than this 140W behemoth.

    I was surprised to see the 965 only consumes 3W more at load than the 955BE however. Yes it draws the highest power on the chart, but only just barely.
    Reply

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