It's surreal isn't it? Is this how you pictured it? With forty-three days left in the year, AMD is finally letting us publish benchmarks of its long awaited Phenom microprocessor. The successor to K8, AMD's most successful micro-architecture to date, and the cornerstone of AMD's desktop microprocessor business for 2008: Phenom is here.

But shouldn't there be fireworks? Where's the catchy title? The Star Wars references were bound to continue right? Why were there no benchmarks before today, why are the next several pages going to be such a surprise?

AMD had been doing such a great job of opening the kimono as its employees liked to say, giving us a great amount of detail on Barcelona, Phenom and even the company's plans for 2008 - 2009. The closer we got to Phenom's official launch however, the quieter AMD got.

We were beginning to worry, and for a while there it seemed like Phenom wouldn't even come out this year. At the last minute, plans solidified, and we received our first Socket-AM2+ motherboard, with our first official Phenom sample. What a beautiful sight it was:

These chips are launching today, with availability promised by the end of the week. Phenom today is going to be all quad-core only, you'll see dual and triple-core parts in 2008 but for now this is what we get.

The architecture remains mostly unchanged from what we've reported on in the past. This is an evolutionary upgrade to K8 and we've already dedicated many pages to explaining exactly what's new. If you need a refresher, we suggest heading back to our older articles on the topic.

The Long Road to Phenom

Ever wonder why we didn't have an early look at Phenom like we did for every Core 2 processor before the embargo lifted? Not only are CPUs scarce, but AMD itself didn't really know what would be launching until the last moment.

At first Phenom was going to launch at either 2.8GHz or 2.6GHz; then we got word that it would be either 2.6GHz or 2.4GHz. A week ago the story was 2.4GHz and lower, then a few days ago we got the final launch frequencies: 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz.

Then there's the pricing; at 2.2GHz the Phenom 9500 will set you back $251, and at 2.3GHz you'd have to part with $283 (that extra 100MHz is pricey but tastes oh so good).

The problem is, and I hate to ruin the surprise here, Phenom isn't faster than Intel's Core 2 Quad clock for clock. In other words, a 2.3GHz Phenom 9600 will set you back at least $283 and it's slower than a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Quad Q6600, which will only cost you $269. And you were wondering why this review wasn't called The Return of the Jedi.

AMD couldn't simply get enough quantities of the Phenom at 2.4GHz to have a sizable launch this year (not to mention a late discovery of a TLB error in the chips), and the company was committed to delivering Phenom before the holiday buying season as these are tough times and simply waiting to introduce its first quad-core desktop parts was just not an option. Rather than paper launch a 2.4GHz part, AMD chose to go with more modest frequencies, promising faster, more competitive chips in Q1 2008. It's not the best PR story in the world, but it's the honest truth.

Two more quad-core Phenoms will come out in Q1: the 9900 and 9700, clocked at 2.6GHz and 2.4GHz respectively. The Phenom 9900 will be priced below $350 while the 9700 will be a sub-$300 part. As you can probably guess, the introduction of those two will push down the pricing of the 9600 and 9500, which will help Phenom be a bit more competitive.

It's worth mentioning that in the 11th hour AMD decided to introduce a multiplier-unlocked version of the Phenom 9600 sometime this year that will be priced at the same $283 mark. Whether or not it's called a Black Edition is yet to be determined.

Intel Responds with...really?


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  • Regs - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Why wait? Why on earth would you want to wait? Read Anand's rant, which I agree completely with. AMD has become it's own worst competitor. It's bending to pressure and they're steering away from their own customers and focusing in how to "compromise" their competitor.

    They didn't even know what they were going to launch until the last minute. So why on earth would you want to wait for more broken promises and disappointment? Maybe we should all take a trip to Tahoe. And while we're there, we can take every upper level manager out for a evening of electro-shock therapy.

    How can such a customer-centric company, after making a block buster product called the K8, collapse so quickly from pressure? They had a golden hand and folded it. Granted a CEO has to take risks to progress the growth of the company, but what he cannot do is ignore what they were successful at. Like in any business SWOT analysis, starting with strengths and weaknesses, you improve your strengths and risk the weaknesses. For the past 4-5 years, AMD has been risking the strengths and improving their weaknesses.

    I've never seen such a failure of upper management since Audigy made the blunder of completely focusing on their strengths and ignoring everything else. AMD has completely lost their competitive edge. Without it, well, you can see with all the red ink AMD has to share with their shareholders.

    R&D and it's efficiency is only the tip of the ice burg they'll have to improve. What they have to worry about now is finding a new target market for their processors which by keeping manufacturing prices down could of helped however they completely ignored from day one. They also need to offer better platform support because their major weakness is their manufacturing. To why on earth AMD's marketing department are trying to sell things their manufacturing and partnered chip makers can't deliver is beyond any explanation I can give. They're obviously not setting any real obtainable goals for themselves. They failed every goal this year. The only goal I can see they obtained this year was merging with ATi and doing so just for the sake of growth. Oh yes, and they did shrink to 65nm after all ready switching to DDR2, which made everybody who owned a 90nm DDR2 K8 so enthusiastic to upgrading. (SARCASM).
  • DrMrLordX - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Honestly the only reason to wait is if you're looking to upgrade an existing AM2 system. Reply
  • Tesselator - Monday, November 26, 2007 - link

    I wonder if it means anything that there is no such thing as LightWave 9.5


    The highest version is 9.3.1 and it JUST became available 11-20-2007 and there are no "special", "early", or "advanced" releases from NewTek for anyone in any way shape or form. Oh well, it"s good for a chuckle at NewTek I guess. :)

  • TechLuster - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    I'm surprised, but happy, that I'm apparently not the only one who remembers the title of Anand's Core 2 review. Reply

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