Phenom vs. Phenom II - Clock for Clock

Before we get to how fast this thing is, it's important to look at how much faster we are compared to the original Phenom. Clock speed alone should be able to deliver a good 5 - 15% performance improvement, but the larger L3 cache and other fixes included in the chip should account for more.

In order to find out how much more performance the L3 changes bring, I performed a very simple experiment: I took a Phenom 9950BE and overclocked it to 2.8GHz. I then compared it to a Phenom II X4 920, also running at 2.8GHz. I chose a subset of the test suite I ran for today's review, but it should be enough to give you an indication of what the more balanced cache hierarchy does for performance:

Processor Excel Monte Carlo (lower is better) Adobe Photoshop CS4 (lower is better) x264 Pass 2 3dsmax 9 Cinebench WinRAR (lower is better) Left 4 Dead FarCry 2
AMD Phenom II X4 920 (2.8GHz) 31.3s 25.8s 16.6 fps 10.2 11440 123s 110.2 fps 43.3 fps
AMD Phenom @ 2.8GHz 43.4s 27.9s 15.9 fps 9.6 10948 144s 99.8 fps 42.1 fps
% Improvement 27.9% 7.5% 4.4% 6.3% 4.5% 14.6% 10.2% 2.9%

The performance improvements here are good - very good. At the high-end we see a nearly 30% gain at the same clock speed and at the low end a 2.9% increase at 2.8GHz.

These applications span the gamut, including everything from a high-end financial model simulation with the Excel test, to basic file compression with WinRAR. Phenom II offers real world benefits over the original, largely due to its more balanced cache structure. With enough L3 cache for all cores to be fed, no one is left hungry.

We see the potential for real performance improvements in gaming as compared to the original Phenom, which could restore AMD's competitiveness in an area where it has been forced to rely on also having a strong GPU for quite some time now. All in all, the performance improvements and changes to cache structure we've been talking about over the past few pages are real - Phenom II is better than the original. But is it good enough?

Socket-AM2, AM2+ and AM3: Backwards Compatibility Hooray, AMD is Overclockable Again
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  • ViRGE - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    Those numbers are all correct, mate. I'm not sure why you'd be getting something different. Reply
  • Finally - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    Seriously guys, you should check out the new hard disk technology by Seagate. New density record, already available. Reply
  • kknd1967 - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    I thought Q9450 should be better with larger cache? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    In some of the tests the two will swap places simply because they run at the same clock speed and the added cache doesn't always help performance. In those cases if the Q9450 is behind it's most likely due to normal variation between test runs.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Goty - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    If I didn't have a 5000+ BE sitting in a K9A2 in my rig right now I probably wouldn't consider this CPU, but seeing as I do, it looks like I've found my next upgrade. Reply
  • kmmatney - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    I was on a plane flying back from Taiwan (I work in the Fab industry) and I happened to sit next to an Intel employee who had traveled to Asia for the Core i7 launch. I asked him about the small L2 cache, and he explained that these run about 300 test applications, and chose the cache amounts based on a compromise between performance (and latency) and die size. We talked a bit and he asked me how I knew so much about computer hardware, and I mentioned I'm an avid Anandtech reader. He recognized the name, and mentioned that he saw Anand argue with one of his coworkers for quite some time about the L2 cache size! Reply
  • Zaitsev - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    That's a great story! I would love to see anand duking it out with some intel employees! LOL Reply
  • slayerized - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    AMD has indeed made some notable improvements with Phenom II and their 45nm. Reviews keep mentioning about how there is an upgrade option with Phenom II being AM2 compatible; however, what next (this is probably their last product with AM2 compatibility)? Shouldn't the reviews consider the upgrade options for Core i7/X58 with Westmere in a couple of years too? For someone who is considering a fresh build, I think that is something that should be analyzed too imo. Great review otherwise as always; the playing field if not leveled is at least starting to look competitive in a few segments!! Reply
  • Griswold - Friday, January 9, 2009 - link

    No. Facts and "might turn out that way in a few years" arent the same thing. Reply
  • san1s - Thursday, January 8, 2009 - link

    still slower than core 2?
    Reply

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