We've been calling it Barcelona or Agena for several months now, but AMD has finally named its next-generation desktop processors; and the new name is Phenom. Not quite as odd sounding as the Athlon was when it was launched, but still very much an AMD product name. The new AMD line up is as follows:

At the top of the product lineup we have the Phenom FX processors (codenamed Agena FX). These processors will be quad-core only and run at the highest clock speeds in AMD's lineup, much like the current Athlon 64 FX. At the Quad FX introduction, AMD indicated that FX processors would be Socket-1207 only, simplifying its product lineup. Unfortunately, AMD has once again reversed its decision and Phenom FX processors will be available in both Socket-1207 and Socket-AM2 flavors.

The Phenom X4 and X2 processors are the sensible versions of the Phenom, these are the ones we will most likely be recommending out of AMD's lineup if history holds true. The X4 and X2 will be Socket-AM2/AM2+ only and are 100% backwards compatible with current AM2 motherboards.

The current Athlon 64 X2 has been renamed to the Athlon X2; given that both AMD and Intel offer 64-bit processors, dropping the 64 from the name makes sense. At the bottom of the list is AMD's Sempron, which is the only single core brand in the product lineup.

AMD hasn't updated us on other details for Phenom, which is a bit odd given how much more forthcoming AMD has been privately about other aspects of its microprocessor plans. Either AMD is doing its best to hide a rough ramp of Phenom or it is sitting on a very powerful weapon to combat Intel with, and we can't get any indication of which it is.

Architecturally, we've already said all there is to say about Phenom. The core is an evolution of the current K8 architecture, with a lot of attention placed on SSE performance and other general IPC enhancements. Phenom will also be the first monolithic quad-core x86 processor to hit the market, which does have some technical advantages but we're not sold on whether or not we'll see any tangible real world benefits over Intel's multiple die approach (e.g. we didn't see any benefit with monolithic dual core vs. multi-die dual core).

Phenom will work in current Socket-AM2/Socket-1207 motherboards with a BIOS update, but it loses the ability to run its Northbridge and CPU cores at separate voltages/clock frequencies. If you buy a new Socket-AM2+/Socket-1207+ motherboard, then the CPU cores and Northbridge can run at separate voltages/frequencies. The benefit of doing this is not only power savings, but AMD has indicated that it can actually run the Northbridge faster than the CPU cores (by 200 - 400MHz) which will improve performance. The L3 cache happens to run on the same voltage plane and at the same frequency as the Northbridge, compounding the performance benefits of using a new "plus-socket" motherboard (Socket-AM2+/Socket-1207+).

The memory hierarchy of Phenom has been improved over the current K8 architecture; there's now an L3 cache shared by all cores and a higher efficiency DDR2 memory controller, which is needed given that there are now more cores vying for the same amount of bandwidth.

AMD has officially confirmed that Phenom will support up to DDR2-1066, reasserting AMD's commitment to the memory technology it switched to a year ago.

What about DDR3?
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  • kleinwl - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    I call B.S.

    Where are the new processors for 939? When I go to Newegg, they only have a few models available. This is more like support of 939 through 2006... and oh maybe you can find some more on Ebay through 2007.
  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The number of people that actually upgrade their processors without upgrading their motherboard is phenonemally small (on pun intended) and the fact that AMD goes out of their way to keep these folks happy at all is shocking to me.

    I much prefer Intel's approach, since I don't at all understand the point of upgrading to a new processor without a new motherboard, since they are so cheap. The impact on the end user is statistically insignificant, although if I were a motherboard maker I'd be pretty annoyed with Intel. But, luckily for Intel, they can afford to annoy motherboard makers since they are arguably the best at making them (maybe Supermicro is as good or better) and they don't need them.

    That AMD is offering support for obsolete motherboards like AM2 that will run their processors slightly degraded shows a big commitment on their part to this small segment, or more likely to their motherboard making partners. It's a tiny, tiny market, so just be grateful they even make an effort.
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    you dont understand why you would because you either: A, buy a higher end cpu, B, wait a while/too long, C, are unimaginative and lemming like. I could put a 185 opteron in my 939 and get only slightly less performance over a C2D 6600.

    unless you spent 350+ dollars on your non oem xp pro instal disk, you will see the obvious benefit of going with a new processor vs new board.

    people dont consider anything besides their own situation in their posts.

  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Actually, I buy a new motherboard because ...

    A) I can afford it.
    B) CPUs outlast motherboards by a lot.
    C) The new features of new motherboards normally warrant the small incremental cost.
    D) I don't throw away the old machine if the motherboard still works, I just add another one. I'd rather give away my old machine than mutilate because I was too cheap to upgrade the motherboard. Most of the high end stuff you buy a few years ago isn't worth much.

    And, talk about someone that doesn't see anything but their situation, the market for this is extremely small. You are the one that doesn't see the bigger picture. The market doesn't ask for this, just be grateful AMD makes some effort to placate the small number of people that do rather than be angry that they don't offer a huge selection for obsolete equipment.
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - link

    IMO, the CPU typically is outdated long before the motherboard. Whether it will physically last longer is irrelevant, unless you need a bunch of computers for reading e-mail. And how is adding a different processor mutilating a computer? I installed the first one, another would be no different.

    I typically wait long enough between upgrades (2.5-3 years) that buying a new motherboard also makes sense for me. I believe the complaint was not as much with whether or not AMD supports 939, but that they state they support it through 2007, when in fact it seems they are simply selling off the leftovers. Selling off leftovers is fine, just don't call it support.
  • NiteCloak - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Its probably short for 'Phenom'inally. As in "It runs phenominally hot!" Like all their processors.
  • GlassHouse69 - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    um. yeah. for 6 years amd's processors had more power and half the wattage of intels. now the wattage favors intel by about a 15% lead, thats if you put 90nm am2 against 65nm c2d. put a 3600 brisbane against a low level c2d, brisbane wins price/perfomance. such comments are irritating.

  • Gul Westfale - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    as a long time AMD customer (been rolling my own for 7 years now) i think tha there are both positives and negatives here:

    - new stuff, even if it is just a rewarmed K8 core with some extra dressing, is good. AMD needs better performance and hopefully this will help put them back on top, otherwise i might have to jump ship and join the evil empire :)

    - they retain semprons and athlon X2s which shows that they will have a product in every price segment of the market. this can only help.

    - compatibility with AM2 boards is a blessing for a lot of us. thank you AMD.

    - if the y retain athlon X2 to be sold alongside similarly clocked phenom chips they must believe that the phenoms significantly outperforms the athlon X2. otherwise they would have to cut the AX2s price yet again... either way it's good for customers.


    - using two sockets yet again. it would have been simpler to use AM2+ for consumer chips and 1207 for pro chips (opterons), but noooooo.... hector has to make it complicated again.... why? seriously? i don't get it. those who have the cash and really want an 8-core could buy an opteron system, no?

    - still no performance numbers revealed...

    i think that's about it. i will bitch more when benchmarks have been released :)
  • hirschma - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    The question that everyone wants to know: when will an AMD quad proc, of any kind, be available for sale?
  • TA152H - Monday, May 14, 2007 - link

    Not everyone, I couldn't care less.

    Uses more power, requires more cooling and is more expensive than a dual-core, and I don't need it and can't use it. Why would I want it? Two processors is more than enough for the vast majority of people, maybe too much. Some people clearly will want quads, but far more will have absolutely no use for it.

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