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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  • ViRGE - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Uhh, did you even read the article? AnandTech didn't review that processor, the fastest processor AT used was a Penryn clocked at 2.66ghz (the improvised Q9450). Reply
  • AssBall - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Oh, this must NOT be a 3.2 Intel ghz review then.....">
  • ViRGE - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Good point, somehow I missed that on the front page. My bad. Reply
  • MrKaz - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Good point.

    Why preview something that will not be out soon?
    I wonder if Intel also send Prescott’s for preview months earlier to everyone knowing that it would suck.
  • gochichi - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Have you ever played monopoly and had too good of luck for your own good at the beginning? Then your opponents start making ridiculous deals amongst each other to bring you down? I'll trade you Park Place and Board Walk in exchange for Water Works and $50. What should Nvidia do?

    AMD has really managed to slow progress down this year. We're still talking about beating an 8800GTX, and can't seem to find a better deal than a Q6600 for miles to come.

    AMD's products aren't really terrible, but they just can't compete with the very best. I think we can talk about Intel/Nvidia b/c though they are different companies, they are run the same way... faster, leaner, more agile, more desirable.

    It's interesting to look at the AMD roadmap, and see that they expect there to be an integrated GPU on the CPU by 2009. Is this why they merged? Do they really think Intel and Nvidia wouldn't cooperate if they had to on a competing product? When AMD was successful, NVIDIA was a big part of that success. Now NVIDIA has to buddy up with Intel and nobody could fault either Nvidia nor INtel for "monopolistic practices" for giving each other preferential treatment. Amd needs to choose it's opponent... is it Intel? Or is it Nvidia? Cause at this rate it's going to loose to both. They need to make sure to treat NVIDIA right when it comes to their CPU business. It has nothing to gain from buddying up with Intel... but maybe cooperating on a chipset with NVIDIA that allowed for SLI or crossfire at the same time would be good.

    Anyhow, hopefully AMD can continue on until they come up with something good. CPU wise I think they're handily more screwed than graphics wise. Just to think, if Intel were under pressure it could sell a 3.0Ghz quad for $215.00 without breaking a sweat... it could do so within a month's notice. Intel is going to start releasing it's next generation because it absolutely has to in order to survive... they can't wait much longer ... and it's not about drowning AMD. It's about the fact that Intel has to compete with the Intel chips it sold last year and the year before that. Cause CPUs keep ticking for decades, and that's a huge part of the competition (paid for chips that are 80% as good as new ones, are going to beat pricey new chips, that's all there is to it).

  • Aenslead - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    Well, we where all kind of waiting for something like this.

    Lets see if the comercial value of a new line of CPUs helps AMD at all.
  • leidegre - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    I'm currently wondering how much of the cache diff between AMD and Intel is performance related, Intel is shipping CPUs with ~12MB cache, AMD today, still ship 2MB/512K, I'm wondering how much of the gap between AMD and Intel is due to cache sizes?

    Because if you take away this diff what happens then? I strongly believe that AMD has a good architecture once again, but Intel has a superior manufacturing process, and this makes it possible for both higher clock speeds and larger chace levels, and that is one reason why Intel is faster (amoung some things)
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - link

    intel designs their cache structure around their manufacturing strengths. AMD designs their cache structure around their manufacturing weaknessess. That's what you get with 2 totally different sized companies. Reply
  • sdmock - Monday, November 19, 2007 - link

    The difference cache sizes (between Phenom and Penryn) really doesn't make a significant difference in performance. They both have pretty large caches, and increasing the cache will only decrease the misrate by so much. Their caches are so big that most programs probably don't suffer from capacity misses, or misses from limited space in the cache. Making the L2 cache too big would increase the hit time by too much, so I think this is partly why they're using a L3 cache now.

    I think the main reason Intel makes its cache so big is for marketing purposes. They've got more transistors than they know what to do with so they just put them in the cache. I think AMD was smart to reduce its cache sizes (I think in K8?) from 1MB to 512KB because it probably didn't make a significant performance difference (don't know for sure though) and it saved them money. Of course it's important to remember that each architecture will use the cache differently.
  • erikejw - Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - link

    Cache makes a larger difference for Intel due to not having an internal memory controller hence the large differences in cache sizes.


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