A very smart man once told me that absolute performance doesn’t matter, it’s performance at a given price point that makes a product successful. While AMD hasn’t held the absolute performance crown for several years now, that doesn’t mean the company’s products haven’t been successful.

During the days of the original Phenom, AMD started the trend of offering more cores than Intel at a given price point. Intel had the Core 2 Duo, AMD responded with the triple core Phenom X3. As AMD’s products got more competitive, the more-for-less approach didn’t change. Today AMD will sell you three or four cores for the price of two from Intel.

In some situations, this works to AMD’s benefit. The Athlon II X3 and X4 deliver better performance in highly threaded applications than the Intel alternatives. While Intel has better performance per clock, you can’t argue with more cores/threads for applications that can use them.

When Intel announced its first 6-core desktop processor, the Core i7 980X at $999, we knew a cheaper AMD alternative was coming. Today we get that alternative, this is the Phenom II X6 based on AMD’s new Thuban core:

It’s still a 45nm chip but thanks to architecture and process tweaks, the new Phenom II X6 still fits in the same power envelope as last year’s Phenom II X4 processors: 125W.

Update: AMD tells us that it gave us the wrong pricing on the 1090T. The part sells for $295, not $285, in 1000 unit quantities.

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Clock Speed Max Turbo L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $295
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $199
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W/140W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $165
AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 95W $155
AMD Phenom II X4 925 2.8GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 95W $145

You also don’t give up much clock speed. The fastest Phenom II X6 runs at 3.2GHz, just 200MHz shy of the fastest X4.

When Intel added two cores to Nehalem it also increased the L3 cache of the chip by 50%. The Phenom II X6 does no such thing. The 6 cores have to share the same 6MB L3 cache as the quad-core version.

The Phenom II X6 die. Monolithic, hexa-core

There’s also the issue of memory bandwidth. Intel’s Core i7 980X is paired with a triple channel DDR3 memory controller, more than enough for four cores under normal use and enough for a six core beast. In order to maintain backwards compatibility, the Phenom II X6 is still limited to the same dual channel memory controller as its quad-core predecessor.

CPU Specification Comparison
CPU Codename Manufacturing Process Cores Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Thuban 45nm 6 904M 346mm2
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Deneb 45nm 4 758M 258mm2
Intel Core i7 980X Gulftown 32nm 6 1.17B 240mm2
Intel Core i7 975 Bloomfield 45nm 4 731M 263mm2
Intel Core i7 870 Lynnfield 45nm 4 774M 296mm2
Intel Core i5 670 Clarkdale 32nm 2 384M 81mm2
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Deneb 45nm 4 758M 258mm2

The limitations are nitpicks in the grand scheme of things. While the 980X retails for $999, AMD’s most expensive 6-core processor will only set you back $285 and you can use them in all existing AM2+ and AM3 motherboards with a BIOS update. You're getting nearly 1 billion transistors for $200 - $300. Like I said earlier, it’s not about absolute performance, but performance at a given price point.

AMD 2010 Roadmap
CPU Clock Speed Max Turbo (<= 3 cores) L3 Cache TDP Release
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 6MB 125W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 6MB 125W Q3
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 6MB 125W/95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X6 1035T 2.6GHz 3.1GHz 6MB 95W Q2
AMD Phenom II X4 960T 3.0GHz 3.4GHz 6MB 95W Q2

We'll soon see more flavors of the Phenom II X6 as well as a quad-core derivative with 2 of these cores disabled. As a result, motherboard manufacturers are already talking about Phenom II X4 to X6 unlocking tools.

The new Phenom II X6 processors are aimed squarely at Intel’s 45nm Lynnfield CPUs. Both based on a 45nm process, AMD simply offers you more cores for roughly the same price. Instead of a quad-core Core i7 860, AMD will sell you a six-core 1090T. Oh and the T stands for AMD’s Turbo Core technology.

AMD’s Turbo: It Works
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  • Viditor - Thursday, May 6, 2010 - link

    There appears to be a disparity...
    In the forums, the guys who have the 1055Ts are getting 4.1GHz on 1.42v, and are doing a lot of very stable benching. It appears to be more of the rule than the exception...could you have gotten either a bad board or a bad chip?
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - link

    Has anyone here bought a 1090T? How did you find it? Particularly interested in those using
    their systems for video encoding and/or animation rendering.

  • xXChronoXx - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    I have been jumping back and forth on this issue while trying to decide if I should go with AMD or Intel for a gaming machine. Until the point where I read this article I was almost completely swayed to the side of Intel however when reading the specs of gaming performance I was somewhat surprised by just how close AMDs chip actually came on most points. I understand that the 1090T got the tar kicked out of it a lot during this comparison. However, I have to consider the fact that upgrading to a Quad Core now will almost certainly result in me having to change motherboards down the road when ( not if ) Intel decides that they no longer want to support their chipset. It makes the idea of buying a second gen chip seem like a bad choice even if it has a slightly higher performance.

    The only comparison that made me cringe was Dawn of War II and possibly Dragon Age: Origins (but only because the core i7 980x had an impressive 170fps). With the exception of Dawn of War II these framerates seem so high (and in most cases close together ) that I can't really imagine there being a noticeable difference. So my question would be this: If you're running two or more high end graphics cards in CrossfireX on the 1090T are you really going to notice any difference on a consistent basis compared to a Quad Core or are we just splitting hairs at this point?
  • lisk - Monday, July 5, 2010 - link

    I'm a chess player. I use deep rybka 4 SSE42/SSE4A based engine.
    And I find 1090T is faster than i7-930\920\870\860. And i7-965/975/980 is too expensive, so 1090T is my best choice here.
  • jsimonetti - Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - link

    Do you know if the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T will fit in my m3n-ht deluxe?
  • papalazaru - Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - link

    Price of a 1055T platform : £350
    Price of a i7 860 platform : £550
    Price of a i5 750 platform : £450

    Also there is talk of the AM3 support for the new AMD processors (Bulldozer, 8 core 28nm).

    Personally, I have no complain against my 1055T. Runs very cool and quiet (Corsair H-50), and I have good perforamnce coupled with a HD5850, copes with anything. It's a decent mid-high spec system.

    The Intel / Nvidia board is also an excellent gaming platform, especially with the arrival of the new GTX 460, that can compete directly with the HD5850 at a lower price point (which will no doubt be reduced at some point).
  • kznny - Thursday, August 19, 2010 - link

    I was think about updating my E6850 so I could play better games. Looking at your review, I clearly see the chip is not the bottleneck but the video cards are, I can go with a new SLI configuration and really rock. Saved me a lot of money - thank you!
  • pacmankiller - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    get your i5 or i7 to 4.5 hahahahaha put your 3d mark up the amd 1090t is the second best cpu hands down..................................................................................
  • Alaskagram - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    I purchased an ASUS CG1330 with a Phenom II X6 1035T/2.6 GHZ.No where do they mention the turbo function.Is this something I can turn on or is an automatic feature?I bought this after having a Gateway 6840 which over 10 days died.When it requested that I insert the restore disk I realized that the optical drive did not have a physical eject button,consequently I could not insert the restore disc,can you say"catch 22".I bought it at cosco who does not offer on site tech help,so I had to return it,the last one of course ,and go to Best Buy.Lessons learned,support,support!
  • kenupcmac - Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - link

    should i get amd X6 1055T or intel i7 9XX for 3dmax and CAD
    i do alot of vray and lighting effect

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