AMD's Phenom Unveiled: A Somber Farewell to K8by Anand Lal Shimpi on November 19, 2007 1:25 AM EST
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It's surreal isn't it? Is this how you pictured it? With forty-three days left in the year, AMD is finally letting us publish benchmarks of its long awaited Phenom microprocessor. The successor to K8, AMD's most successful micro-architecture to date, and the cornerstone of AMD's desktop microprocessor business for 2008: Phenom is here.
But shouldn't there be fireworks? Where's the catchy title? The Star Wars references were bound to continue right? Why were there no benchmarks before today, why are the next several pages going to be such a surprise?
AMD had been doing such a great job of opening the kimono as its employees liked to say, giving us a great amount of detail on Barcelona, Phenom and even the company's plans for 2008 - 2009. The closer we got to Phenom's official launch however, the quieter AMD got.
We were beginning to worry, and for a while there it seemed like Phenom wouldn't even come out this year. At the last minute, plans solidified, and we received our first Socket-AM2+ motherboard, with our first official Phenom sample. What a beautiful sight it was:
These chips are launching today, with availability promised by the end of the week. Phenom today is going to be all quad-core only, you'll see dual and triple-core parts in 2008 but for now this is what we get.
The architecture remains mostly unchanged from what we've reported on in the past. This is an evolutionary upgrade to K8 and we've already dedicated many pages to explaining exactly what's new. If you need a refresher, we suggest heading back to our older articles on the topic.
The Long Road to Phenom
Ever wonder why we didn't have an early look at Phenom like we did for every Core 2 processor before the embargo lifted? Not only are CPUs scarce, but AMD itself didn't really know what would be launching until the last moment.
At first Phenom was going to launch at either 2.8GHz or 2.6GHz; then we got word that it would be either 2.6GHz or 2.4GHz. A week ago the story was 2.4GHz and lower, then a few days ago we got the final launch frequencies: 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz.
Then there's the pricing; at 2.2GHz the Phenom 9500 will set you back $251, and at 2.3GHz you'd have to part with $283 (that extra 100MHz is pricey but tastes oh so good).
The problem is, and I hate to ruin the surprise here, Phenom isn't faster than Intel's Core 2 Quad clock for clock. In other words, a 2.3GHz Phenom 9600 will set you back at least $283 and it's slower than a 2.4Ghz Core 2 Quad Q6600, which will only cost you $269. And you were wondering why this review wasn't called The Return of the Jedi.
AMD couldn't simply get enough quantities of the Phenom at 2.4GHz to have a sizable launch this year (not to mention a late discovery of a TLB error in the chips), and the company was committed to delivering Phenom before the holiday buying season as these are tough times and simply waiting to introduce its first quad-core desktop parts was just not an option. Rather than paper launch a 2.4GHz part, AMD chose to go with more modest frequencies, promising faster, more competitive chips in Q1 2008. It's not the best PR story in the world, but it's the honest truth.
Two more quad-core Phenoms will come out in Q1: the 9900 and 9700, clocked at 2.6GHz and 2.4GHz respectively. The Phenom 9900 will be priced below $350 while the 9700 will be a sub-$300 part. As you can probably guess, the introduction of those two will push down the pricing of the 9600 and 9500, which will help Phenom be a bit more competitive.
It's worth mentioning that in the 11th hour AMD decided to introduce a multiplier-unlocked version of the Phenom 9600 sometime this year that will be priced at the same $283 mark. Whether or not it's called a Black Edition is yet to be determined.
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agello24 - Saturday, February 16, 2008 - linkim still not ready to switch to intel. ill be buying my phenom shortly.
PeterCollier - Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - linkHow's that TLB cold bug working out for you?
Verygood - Friday, January 8, 2021 - linkI’ve been in a coma for 13 years what happened
GenoR32 - Tuesday, February 5, 2008 - linkI still believe in AMD, and i know they will release a nice product line-up in the coming months, or probably 2009... i have a Core2 PC now b/c i cant deny the fact that they are really strong CPU's... but my DDR3 upgrade will be on an AM3 system... i think they will be really competitive.
JumpingJack - Sunday, September 21, 2014 - linkAre you still waiting?
TheCatOfWar - Monday, April 23, 2018 - linkNot for the last year, ha
Thatguy97 - Thursday, May 5, 2016 - linkCan't believe socket am3 is still around
ruxandy - Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - linkWell... that took a while, but it's finally happening in 2020.
eye smite - Monday, January 7, 2008 - linkI didn't comment on this review when it first came out cause I didn't want to read the whole thing. It reads more like a rant on a blog than a review, he didn't want to go to Cali, so what. In the time since this article the phenom has proved to be a good cpu, I noticed in the last week that HP and Gateway have started selling systems in Best Buy and Circuit City with phenoms. This cpu was rushed out and it will take a bit of time to mature. It's the same thing we saw with the athlon64 from 2k3, had it been as developed as it needed to be, they would not have gone from socket 753 to 939 to am2 and so on. Amd should have made the smaller leaps to a quad core athlon64 til phenom was ready, but they have bad decision makers these days it seems.
JumpingJack - Sunday, September 21, 2014 - linkThere was no rant in this article, there was a stern condemnation of an attempt by AMD to control the benchmarking and review process, to influence what should be independent and transparent review of a product to the marketplace.