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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  • strikeback03 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link


    and the company was committed to delivering Phenom before the holiday buying season

    Good idea, but didn't they pick the wrong parts to focus on? I doubt many of these quad-cores are going to find their way into budget systems, which is where they might see significant sales volume. Unless AMD is hoping hype from the Phenom launch will turn into better sales of Athlon X2 systems, it is odd to focus on parts which are high-end for your current line but not in the greater market.
  • MrKaz - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Well I have seen reports that AMD is expecting o release higher clock speed up to 3.0Ghz.

    Now when Intel releases the X6800 at 2.93Ghz it was already obvious the CPU at max would do 3.06Ghz with model 6900.

    Now AMD with the 9900 at 2.6Ghz, 9800 at 2.5GHz, 9700 at 2.4GHz, ...
    Tell me what model name will AMD use with the 2.7GHz part?
    At least Intel with the 6800 still had the 7xxx, 8xxx, 9xxx.
    Since this is a new product isn’t it strange, unless AMD will kill it soon with Phenom 2, but then again why not release it as Athlon X4?

    I understand the needs of AMD to match the future Intel model numbers, but however it fails miserably since its higher model number fails to meet the performance expectations.
  • gunnyjoe - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    What gives? This was a LOUSY review, something I don't expect from Anadtech. If you want a THOROUGH review, try Tom's Hardware. Anand, please remove your lips from Intel's stinking rear end long enough to actually review the competition's products.
    For those of you switching to Intel, I hope you enjoy replacing your entire platform AGAIN next year, since Intel is clearly unable to upgrade their products without requiring a new socket every year.
  • Tarindel - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Tom's Hardware review is more thorough, but it's also WRONG. They made a huge mistake that completely invalidates their conclusions, which are arguably the most important part of the article. The problem is they state the price of the Q6600 as being $329 (on page 20 of the article), when in fact it's readily available at $279 (or less). Consequently, when they conclude that the Phenom offers equal _value_ to Intel, it's not true -- the Intel chip offers ~15% more performance at the same price as the Phenom, which means Intel beats AMD in both performance AND value. Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Wow.... the only word I can think of right now is.... n00b.

    I do agree that Anand's review could have included more tests, (and preferably some older Dual Core C2D's and X2's to see where the new chips stack up). However I also realize that Anand will most likely post a follow up in the very near future with a much more detailed analysis of the chip and its various caveats.

    Tom's Hardware has a TON of testing information... however You have to take into account that Tom's tests were done under the direct supervision of AMD, on a system AMD specifically built for testers. Anand's tests, while perhaps not as plentiful, were at least conducted in the same lab environment as every other chip they've tested creating a level playing field.

    I myself an let down, as I was hoping to have a nice upgrade route for my X2 6000+ in the near future, but it looks like I'll be holding onto this CPU for at least another year now. Like it or not, Intel has the best CPU's presently. Trust me, an admitted AMD fanboi, I don't like it myself, but thats just the way things are at this point in computer history.
  • strikeback03 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    umm, 775 has been around for how long? longer than AM2.

    Nevermind that most people don't upgrade systems every year, so whatever new socked comes out with Nehalem won't matter until they upgrade. And those who do upgrade every year are probably already on Core 2 and know it is expensive to constantly upgrade.
  • crimson117 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link


    The platform sell is a great one to an OEM, but it's simply not compelling enough to the end user - if Phenom were more attractive, things would be different.

    To make the CPU more attractive AMD desperately needs to drop the price

    I disagree. When an average Dell customer (who probably doesn't read anandtech CPU reviews) goes to Dell, he thinks more expensive = more performance. He'll never know that in a controlled benchmark, the $269 Core2 edges out the $289 Phenom. He'll just see that one config costs more than the other, and if he wants to pay for the "upgrade" he will.

    This isn't as relevant since the Intel models are separated from the AMD models, and Intel has much more expensive parts available if that's what you're after.

    But I think it's important to note that being attractive to enthusiasts is not the same thing as being attractive to OEMs and their customers, so one conclusion can't be shared with another.
  • Genx87 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    I have been recommending Core 2 Duo machines to friends since its inception. With this latest round from AMD it wont change. I cant justify buying a product that is so much slower than the competition.

    At the very least they could have lowered its power consumption. Slower and more power consuming is bad news imo.
  • sdmock - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    I'm not surprised that Intel's chip uses significantly less power (although its curious that the QX9770 runs significantly hotter than the QX9650). Believe Intel's marketing or not, they have made a breakthrough in reducing transistor gate leakage which has recently been a huge source of power consumption in these high performance procs. Intel is now using "high-k dielectric (hafnium based) plus metal gate transistors" as they call them, as opposed to the SiO2 gate insulator and polysilicon gate.

    More on this">herehear
  • sdmock - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Link to the">first page... Reply

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