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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Calin - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Unfortunately in my experience, antivirus seems hard-drive limited even on Conroe dual core processors.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    I would agree. Going to an SSD will probably make more difference than adding more cores, when it comes to everyday multitasking.
  • KaarlisK - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    You're lucky, both MSE and AVG usually hit 100% of one core both for my 1.8 and 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duos.
  • Taft12 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Frankly, the list of apps you provide would run just fine on a single-core CPU.
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    yep, like on my netbook with a z520 atom. AVG + utorrent + FF or chrome no issue (unless of course hd flash movies but that's another story).

    On my desktop (which is also a pretty old and crappy e4300) i also have seti@home. so basically i'm always at 100% cpu but still feel the hdd is limiting.
  • Scali - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - link

    Yes it makes sense... things like browsers, IM, email don't take a lot of CPU. They can easily be juggled by the OS on just a single core (or with hardware, using HT).
    More processes don't necessarily require more cores.
    I mean, I am currently running two instances of Visual Studio, a browser with 10 tabs open, Skype, Spark, Notepad++, Outlook and a few other small things in the tray or background, and my dualcore still is at 1% CPU usage, according to Task Manager, and that 1% CPU is Task Manager itself. So why would I want 4 cores, let alone 6?
    It really doesn't matter.
  • eekamouse - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    I think there is something really good that could be tested here, the performance of these chips running virtual machines especially with hypervisor technology..

    Any possibility of testing these chips running either xen or vmware and seeing how 4 virtual machines react on each and how 6 react ? is the performance stable etc ? The reason I ask this is for the price point if it can run 6 virtual machines all running off of their own core or sharing cores and can maintain a good performance, it would be really worthwhile investing in these for cheap virtualisation servers..
  • rickcain2320 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    That's all you need to know. Time to ditch my Q6600.
  • fitten - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Well... we haven't seen the consumer priced hex-core Intel parts yet... Everybody is comparing this to the high-end Intel parts (i7-980X is a high-end part). I'll wait to see what Intel's response is before removing them from the table.
  • formulav8 - Tuesday, April 27, 2010 - link

    Enjoy! the waiting game... I still doubt Intel would lower prices near AMD's 6 core do to the fact that they will be ruining their much more profitable mainstream parts.


Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now