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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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  • Orwell - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    What about overclocking the CPU-NB of the chip?

    It has been proved useful in one of the Phenom II X6 reviews (can't find it now though), where performance in HAWX just shot right up bij about 20% I believe when upping from 2GHz to 3GHz.

    It's a shame most if not all reviewers don't overclock their uncores. Or, well, at least, they're not telling you and they don't put a CPU-Z Memory Tab screenshot in the review, showing the Uncore-frequency.

    I know pretty much all hope is lost for this aging design (Deneb), but as an owner of this furnace CPU called the Phenom II X4 C2 (yes, 140W at 3.4GHz), I'd like to know how much faster the Intels are compared to my 3.7GHz/2.4GHz oc.
    Reply
  • Stas - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I haven't had an Intel CPU since P4 Willamette. I've been happy with AMD bang-for-buck, as performance seemed sufficient, and overclock always covered any shortcomings. Nowadays, I see mid-level Intel CPUs beat AMDs top-end offerings every release. And honestly, I'm really bottlenecking in the CPU department, but I don't see AMD offering a solution (running Phenom X3 @x4 3.5Ghz). I've been waiting for 2 years to upgrade the processor, and I'm getting tired of this. Don't make me cross the Sandy Bridge, AMD. Make BD happen. And it better be good. Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I often see the reviews with Intels chips running ahead.

    Then I think "hang on though, the AMD chip gives me 60fps+ and costs half the price including the motherboard tax!"

    Then its not so bad.
    Reply
  • starfalcon - Monday, May 09, 2011 - link

    But then Ivy Bridge comes just a few months after BD, so what happens then? Reply
  • raevoxx - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Where I work, AMD still outsells Intel by a factor of.. well... over 20-to-1 if not more. What we always tell customers, is that if price is no object, the Intel platforms are higher performance. But best bang-for-the-buck is AMD, and it's not like we're comparing an i7 to a 486-SX. We try to explain it in best terms, but there's Intel processors in our display case that are actually gathering dust. Which frankly makes an AMD fan like me happy :) But I digress.

    We carry a full line of Intels, from the Celeron cheapies, all the way up to i7. And we finally closed out all of our 1156s and only sell 1155s.

    Like it or not, our customers are amazed that they can pair up a decent mobo, an Athlon II 250, and 4GB of 1333, for less than $160. Most spring for the 1075T for the price, too. Whether or not it's faster than a similarly priced i5, people like the ability to say they have six cores. When they can get 75% the performance of a comparable chip, for less than 50% of the cost... people bite.

    We're quite excited to start carrying Zambezi chips, when we're able to, since they'll be more competitive. But it's always going to be darkest before the dawn, and it's nice that AMD is throwing in a speed bump or two (1100T, etc) before the architecture change. Instead of letting their chips languish until BD.
    Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Must admit I havent ever made an Intel box for a customer, its always AMD.

    I check out the Intel CPU range every now and then and check what price the bottom non Celeron Intel chip is going for, then the cheapest decent brand Intel motherboard and after seeing any profit just vaporise, I roll my eyes and go back to the AMD section.

    Intel isnt worth the extra cost for most ordinary folks. Intel are total overkill. The good old 3GHz dual core Athlon with a mATX MB and 4GB of 1333DDR3 works a charm everytime.

    If a customer came to me and said he wanted to do loads of transcoding and video editing and had £1200 to spend then lets go Intel. But as most come to me with a budget of £4-500 and I need to take my cut, its not going to happen.
    Reply
  • MilwaukeeMike - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    This is exactly how I feel. I've always owned AMD because it's been fast enough and cheaper. If I had to build a PC today I'd choose a Sandy Bridge processor, but i'm not building one because my AMD 955 BE still does everything I need it to. I have tons of windows open on my 22" monitor and play my games on my 23" and have no issues.

    A lot of that Intel performance gain falls into the 'can't even tell' category for many users.
    Reply
  • Peroxyde - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    The saving made by buying AMD, would you pay it back in electricity? Let's say, after 2 years? Just want to see if the higher power consumption would translate somewhere. If any of you have done any comparison in this area, I would appreciate very much if you can give some highlights. Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    It would take longer than the life of the Intel i3 box to make back the £65+ extra the intel box cost me in power savings.

    If the difference was £10 then yes but £65 ($104) is just too great to make back.

    AMD still wins for a standard system cost wise. As these are PCs for Joe User and not overclockers then you can switch on the power saving settings anyway.

    Plus they rarely run at 100% for very long.

    Intel still isnt competative at the increasingly growing low end customer group.

    Most people dont need 4GHz+ leviathan power CPUs anymore. If anything Intels future customers at the top end will be getting a smaller and smaller group.

    How many of us here still demand the top end (or as close to) CPU we can buy? I bet many of us are now happy to make do with a mid-range or less CPU and spend the saving elsewhere.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    I've undervolted my 710. Makes virtually no difference to performance or stability and seemed like a good idea at the time. More people should do it. Reply

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