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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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  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

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

    Price is a function of demand. AMD HAS to sell them this cheap to move them at all. They do not sell them as cheap as they do because they are more cost effective to produce, so your comment in this context is completely irrelevant ..
    Reply
  • Action_Parsnip - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    You misunderstand his point. Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Yep. I've bought at least 10 cpu+MB combos for $99 at Microcenter over the last year, for clients, friends, and family. Fast enough for most purposes, and you are GPU limited in most games, and so better off spending the cost savings on a better video card. For $300, for can get a much better performing AMD system, versus Intel. Maybe not good for AMD, but good for me. Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, May 05, 2011 - link

    But it doesn't. There's plenty of benchmarks around to show that a comparative Phenom II X4 gets a few wins, especially in encoding. Aside of a few very strong Intel-optimised situations, there's really very little in it, and anyway, if you ignore the very high price of the upper Core 2 Quads, you can get a faster Phenom II X4 or X6 for less. Reply
  • Targon - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    AMD has a new platform on the way, and that is where the focus has been. For now, any new Athlon 2 or Phenom 2 processor will just be a bit more of the same with a higher clock rate, but still has the same exact design as previous chips. Bulldozer on the other hand is the big push to get back to being competitive.

    The big problem is, and remains the lack of a 32nm fab process which Intel has had for a long time now.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    thanks for the compilation benchmark. finaly something usable for the Linux folks :-) linux kernel compilation (or open office) would be better, but this is not a bad start ;-) Reply
  • macky_r - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I knew from the beginning that AMD wants to milk more performance out of it's Deneb architecture. I wasn't surprise when I saw this item on this website that I visit from time to time.

    I currently own one of the first Deneb CPUs (PH II 965 BE) w/ a clock of 3.4 GHz rated at 140W! I didn't even bother OCing this regretful purchased CPU of mine. How I wish I waited for the cooler versions, but I was in a hurry to build a PC that I can use at home for my Networking classes

    I will buy the 1100T soon. I will be be OCing it at 3.7 GHz w/ turbo core disabled.

    I don't wanna be negative, but I know for a fact that Bulldozer will not beat Intel's upcoming LGA 2011 CPUs. Maybe Bulldozer is meant to compete with Sandy-Bridge.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Yea, you know for a fact... Reply
  • BSMonitor - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    "I don't wanna be negative, but I know for a fact that Bulldozer will not beat Intel's upcoming LGA 2011 CPUs. Maybe Bulldozer is meant to compete with Sandy-Bridge"

    Exactly. Even if. Look at the turbo boost scenarios from the Intel SNB processors. There is so much headroom on these processors. Intel is already holding back performance because of lack of competition.

    Intel has silicon running stock air-cooled 4GHz and beyond in house, guaranteed.
    Reply
  • Action_Parsnip - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    "I don't wanna be negative, but I know for a fact that Bulldozer will not beat Intel's upcoming LGA 2011 CPUs. Maybe Bulldozer is meant to compete with Sandy-Bridge"

    Unless you've seen the prototypes you do not know for a fact. PERIOD.

    "Intel has silicon running stock air-cooled 4GHz and beyond in house, guaranteed."

    Unless you've been 'in-house' you cannot guarantee that. PERIOD.
    Reply

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