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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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  • silverblue - Thursday, May 05, 2011 - link

    Some programs don't work well with non-power-of-2 architectures either, which would harm performance of the X3 and X6 processors (Windows Media Encoder 9), or even worse, cripple things completely (DivX or XviD on VirtualDub uses just one of an X3's cores, so you need to set the affinity to two cores). I suppose logically, overstressing a hyperthreaded CPU would mean that the its execution units are fully utilised and, as such, logical cores won't actually make any difference, so it would be in these situations where the X6 could perhaps close the gap a little. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    It also gives them an opportunity to remove millions of wasted cpu cycles. Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    Man this is some boring news. I would prefer to get some more inside or backgroud info from AMD, Intel or Arm country, even if it takes years compared to this. But i guess this is better business :) Reply
  • greenguy - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I keep checking here looking for the inevitable Llano review, but it's not here yet. How long do we have to wait? Reply
  • Action_Parsnip - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    It appears you would like to marry Francois Piednoel? Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Who is Francois Pedofile?

    Never heard of him.
    Reply
  • 529th - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    I don't see this mentioned in the review nor the benchmarks, someone correct me if I am wrong but when those benches are made, are they made with Turbo disabled? If not, I don't see it as a fair comparison if you are running stock speeds when comparing a 3.3Ghz i7 2500K vs a 3.33Ghz i7 975 You have games that make use of all cores, and some that use only a few.. so you may get a higher turbo on a Sandy Bridge chip. This is not exact science but making the GHz speed into an exact comparison without Turbo enabled gives a little more insight into the product..

    just sayin
    Reply
  • PubFiction - Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - link

    This is just a final release to cap off Phenom 2 they know they were beat they are just giving a little speed boost to it for more value. If this was bulldozer then ya it would be bad but we already know what phenom 2 has to offer why is there so much discussion around a final revision chip. They are just throwing out what may be the most speed they can with that core until BD arrives. Reply
  • Casper42 - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    "AMD originally introduced the Phenom II architecture over two years ago to compete with Intel's Core 2 lineup. Intel has since been through one major microarchitecture revision (Sandy Bridge) and Phenom II is beginning to show its age."

    Am I missing something or just not counting properly.

    Phenom II introduced to compete with Core 2
    Intel then Introduces Nehalem/Westmere
    Intel then Introduces Sandy Bridge

    So wouldn't Intel have been through 2 major architecture revisions?
    Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, May 04, 2011 - link

    Phenom II came to market after Nehalem. Yes, it wasn't exactly meant to compete with it, and was more about sorting out what Phenom did wrong, but the unfortunate truth is that the i7 beat it to market.

    529th - I think the issue would be that you would be disabling a feature and thus not showing accurate performance, however that in itself would show the difference given by having Turbo in the first place. Doing the same with Thuban would be interesting.

    Zosma would've made more sense than continuing on with Deneb, however AMD quickly shelved that idea.
    Reply

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