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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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  • gevorg - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    How many times does AMD wants to win the worst power consumption crown? Reply
  • mattgmann - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Amazing that Amd's Phenom II is still clock for clock on par with the old q6600. It might have a few more refinements in coding, and a higher clock speeds, but it's raw horsepower is still on par with a 5 year old chip.

    AMD is two gens behind intel in performance, I don't see how BD can reasonably expect to be in the same ballpark as sandy bridge. I'm sure they'll compete in a budget based scenario, but the high end is a moon shot. With Intel's x58 replacement is in the que I just don't see AMD even sniffing a piece of the high end action.
    Reply
  • abhaxus - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    You know, I am with you. But who believed that AMD would ever have released the Athlon and beaten Intel for as long as they did? I have hope, and we all should, for our own wallet's sake. AMD's inability to beat intel is the reason my Q6600 is still a fast CPU (granted, overclocked to 3.2ghz, it isn't exactly stock).

    Nothing would make me happier than a fast AMD cpu to make me consider upgrading.
    Reply
  • LancerVI - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I admit that I'm an Intel man. But I've got to say. I hope AMD pulls BD out and comes out guns blazing. My wallet could use the help!!!

    Intel has been able to charge whatever for quite sometime now. It needs some furious competition to help drive prices down.

    ...at least I hope.
    Reply
  • mattgmann - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if AMD were neck and neck with intel. Competition helps my wallet and keeps high end gear in my beige box.

    It's just at this point in the game, BD cannot logically advance far enough past their last generation to compete with Intel's lineup. I'm sure that BD will be priced competitively and give some trouble to the low end sandy bridge chips. It won't be because their more advanced though, it'll be because the AMD chip will be a power hoggin, quad+ core with unlocked multipliers up against a lean locked down intel dual core.
    Reply
  • DMisner - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    They COULD be the high end.. if they made the move to ARM.

    Still though, I have faith in AMD.
    Reply
  • aegisofrime - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Make the move to ARM, and abandon the x86 software market? Not a wise move.

    Unless they used some sort of dynamic translator a la Transmeta Crusoe.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    All they need to do is add a couple ARM cores to their existing bobcat design. Then they need to get in bed with microsoft and make sure that windows 8 properly implements schedulers that can seamlessly integrate ARM and x86 code. If AMD and microsoft both execute correctly, an 18 watt brazos chip is all we'd need for a desktop OS once the windows kernel is all ARM. Office would follow in a year. Antivirus and photo/video editing would go to the SIMDs. The x86 cores would only handle our legacy apps. Reply
  • extide - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Why would you EVER want to do that? Then you would have developers having to build apps that have to run on two architectures at the same time? If you want to do fixed function stuff do something like Intels Quick Sync for video, and then leave an x86 chip as an x86 chip. Reply
  • JKflipflop98 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    ARM gets CRUSHED on the desktop by x86. Reply

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