Final Words

If you were looking for a changing of the guard today it's just not going to happen. Phenom is, clock for clock, slower than Core 2 and the chips aren't yet yielding well enough to boost clock speeds above what Intel is capable of. While AMD just introduced its first 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz quad-core CPUs today, Intel previewed its first 3.2GHz quad-core chips. We were expecting Intel to retain the high end performance crown, but also expected AMD to chip away at the lower end of the quad-core market - today's launch confirms that Intel is still the king of the quad-core market.

As we've seen from our mainstream CPU comparisons however, all of this could change with some clever pricing - something AMD seems to have forgone with its Phenom launch.

Phenom manages to fill a major gap in AMD's desktop CPU product lineup: the company can now offer quad-core CPUs. And with the needed updates to the K8 architecture AMD is now competitive in some areas that it sorely needed improving in. Windows Media and x264 encoding are both strong points of the Phenom architecture, making it on par with Intel's quad-core offerings. The same can be said about some games, but at the same time Intel really pulls ahead in our DivX and other game tests.

Inevitably some of these Phenoms will sell, even though Intel is currently faster and offers better overall price-performance (does anyone else feel weird reading that?). Honestly the only reason we can see to purchase a Phenom is if you currently own a Socket-AM2 motherboard; you may not get the same performance as a Core 2 Quad, but it won't cost as much since you should be able to just drop in a Phenom if you have BIOS support.

If you ask AMD, this is platform story; after all, who wouldn't want to combine a Phenom with the 790FX chipset and a pair of Radeon 3850 graphics cards. The problem is that you can pair up 3850s on an Intel chipset just as easily, leaving the biggest benefit to 790FX the ability to run 3 or 4 3850s, which we're not even sure is a good idea yet. There are some auto-overclocking features, but talking about Phenom's overclocking isn't really accenting one of its strong points. 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, and from what we've heard, that will happen in Q1. From what we've seen, AMD needs to be at least 200MHz ahead of Intel in order to remain competitive - that means bringing out a Phenom 9900 that's cheaper than the Q6600, at least. If AMD can do that, it's quite possible that in early 2008 we'll have the first sub-$200 quad-core part as the 9500 drops in price.

Oh and just in case AMD is listening: the Phenom 9600 has no business being here, the extra 100MHz only clutters up the product line. Once the 9700 and 9900 are out let's try and stick to 200MHz increments shall we?

Here's what really frightens us: the way AMD has priced Phenom leaves Intel with a great opportunity to increase prices with Penryn without losing the leadership position. Intel could very well introduce the Core 2 Quad Q9300 (2.33GHz) at $269 and still remain quite competitive with Phenom, moving the Q9450 into more expensive waters. Intel has't announced what it's doing with Penryn pricing in Q1, but our fear is that a weak showing from Phenom could result in an upward trend in processor prices. And this is exactly why we needed AMD to be more competitive with Phenom.

It's tough to believe that what we're looking at here is a farewell to the K8. When AMD first released the Athlon 64, its performance was absolutely mind blowing. It kept us from recommending Intel processors for at least 3 years; Phenom's arrival, however, is far more somber. Phenom has a difficult job to do, it needs to keep AMD afloat for the next year. Phenom is much like the solemn relative, visiting during a time of great sorrow within the family; let's hope for AMD's sake that it can lift spirits in the New Year.

Power Consumption
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  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    quote:

    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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/oct07/5553/2">herehear
    Reply
  • sdmock - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Link to the http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/oct07/5553">first page... Reply
  • opterondo - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    C'mon guys I get blank images in this article and others, ads load just fine. IE loads just fine ..

    Been doing this for awhile just haven't registered till now.
    Reply
  • crimson117 - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    I have no problem seeing images in anandtech reviews in Opera:

    http://img509.imageshack.us/my.php?image=atimageso...">http://img509.imageshack.us/my.php?image=atimageso...
    Reply

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