Final Words

Overall, the conclusion here isn't too much different from the Phenom re-launch and the X3 reviews: AMD's CPU division is finally competitive again. The return to competition isn't because of an increase in performance or architectural changes, it's simply through very aggressive pricing.

The Phenom X4 9950 BE and 9850 BE are reasonably competitive with the Q9300 and Q6600, although we would still opt for the Intel solutions thanks to lower power consumption and significantly better overclocking potential.  Gaming performance continues to be a strength of Intel's as well.

The Phenom X4 9550 is the sweet spot of AMD's product line and it does do well against Intel's dual-core E8400, as do the X3 8650/8450 against Intel's E7200. As we've shown in the past however, take overclocking or power consumption into consideration and Intel is the clear choice. Unlike AMD's GPU strategy however, AMD does not have a higher end CPU strategy; get beyond the Q9300 and AMD no longer has an answer to Intel's quad-core lineup.

Now it's time to talk about the new energy-efficient quad core chips. While AMD likes to talk about the 9350e and 9150e as both being things that Intel doesn't have (65W quad-core), the two just aren't worth it. Based on the price cuts, AMD's Phenom X4 9350e makes absolutely no sense. You can get nearly the same system power consumption using an underclocked, undervolted Phenom X4 9550 and save $20. The same goes for the 9150e, you can achieve the same thing using a 9550 and the two cost the same amount. The new "e" processors appear to be nothing more than a way of rebadging AMD's leftovers, the 9350e and 9150e just aren't worth the premium.

It's also worth addressing the issues we've encountered with motherboards in the testing for this article. With AMD pushing TDPs of over 100W on many of its Phenom processors, we definitely need better quality components on even mainstream motherboards. As we saw in our testing, even without overclocking the 9850BE caused us some problems on our 780G test platform.

Then there's the business angle.  It's quite possible that a user would want to put a very high end CPU in a motherboard with integrated graphics, if they have no desire to play 3D games.  The problems we've encountered with both AMD and NVIDIA based IGP Socket-AM2+ motherboards have shown us that such a combination isn't always reliable.  The problem gets worse when you realize that many of these motherboards are certified for use with 125W TDP chips, although they are unable to guarantee 100% reliability with them.

Even enabling support for the 140W 9950BE gave us some problems on our 790FX test platform, although not nearly as much as getting a 125W chip to work on our 780G board.

Furthermore it's very tough to say what will come of the Cool'n'Quiet issues we've outlined here today. Even as I write these lines, Derek is sitting next to me and encountering similarly erratic Phenom performance with CnQ. We will continue to work with AMD on figuring out what's going on with CnQ, but until then it's tough to draw any real conclusions.

In the end, overclocking and CnQ issues aside, AMD's latest price cuts do ensure that the Phenom is a viable second choice alternative to Intel's Core 2 Duo and Quad lines. Unfortunately unlike AMD's successes on the graphics side, it's not enough to dethrone the king. We want a Radeon HD 4800 from the CPU division, but instead we've gotten something more along the lines of a 3800. It's good, but not good enough.

Power Consumption
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  • Gikaseixas - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    Other sites tested it already and could hit 3.2 - 3.6 speeds. Hopefully Anandtech will be able to overclock a Phenom to it's limits this time around. Reply
  • Googer - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    Missing from the benchmarks is the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Yorkfield 2.83GHz 12MB. How would this chip stack up against all others tested?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • RamarC - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    the q9550 isn't in the same price range as the other processors so that's why it wasn't included. as for performance, either subtract or add 10% to the q9450's figures. Reply
  • DanD85 - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    Are you absolutely sure about that? As hothardware thinks differently:
    "By altering its multiplier and increasing the CPU voltage to 1.45v, we were able to take our Phenom X4 9950 to an respectable 3.1GHz using nothing but a stock AMD PIB cooler. Higher frequencies were possible, but we couldn't keep the system 100% stable, so we backed things down to 3.1GHz. While running at that speed, we re-ran some tests and also monitored core temperatures and found that the chip never broke the 60ºC mark, and hovered around 58ºC under load - at least according to AMD's Overdrive software. That is one heck of an overclock and relatively cool temperatures for a Phenom in our opinion. If the majority of chips have the same amount of headroom as ours, we suspect the 9950 Black Edition will be appealing to AMD CPU enthusiasts looking for the best the company has to offer."
    http://www.hothardware.com/Articles/AMD_Phenom_X4_...">http://www.hothardware.com/Articles/AMD...nom_X4_9...
    Reply
  • KaarlisK - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    Maybe by setting affinity for Photoshop's threads to a certain core, it would be possible to verify whether Vista's thread management is part of the cause? Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    I know its a novel concept, but what about running some benches in XP to see if it's another Vista issue? Reply
  • Rhoxed - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    Increasing the NB core (IMC) clock (in Phenom it runs async from the Core Speed unlike Athlon which is Sync) drops latencies (especially L3) and increases memory performance/throughput, which in turn improves system performance. The Phenom starts to come to life when you hit a 2.6GHz core speed with a NB core clock at 2200MHz+. Depending on the application and CPU, increasing NB core speeds (getting up to 2200MHz+) can result in performance differences from 3%~12% in most cases.

    Upping my NB/HT to 2400MHz over the stock 2000 at the same clockspeed (2800) i net a 15%~ increase (on a 9850BE)
    Reply
  • RamarC - Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - link

    i'm a developer and want to upgrade my win2k3/ss2k5 server to a quad core. since it currently has a 3.4ghz p4d, a phenom 9x50 would be a big step-up (even though i don't have any performance issues). but the p4d has been very reliable and i don't want to have to deal with flaky hardware issues when i'm pushing code out the door. should i just bite the bullet and shell out the extra cash for a p45+q9450? Reply
  • Calin - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    I have an AMD based PC at home, and I look forward to another AMD-based pc (780G and Phenom X3 or X4).
    These being said, I think for a server you really really should go for an Intel configuration. Also, at 3.4 GHz a P4D probably is one hell of a power draw.
    Compared to your current server, and based on what I think you need, I don't think a quad core would help you - a dual core would probably be enough, and Intel has those aplenty.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, July 2, 2008 - link

    From the article, it seems like sticking to the cheaper, sub 100W TDP cpus and not overclocking is the way to go. Reply

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