Final Words

If you were looking for a changing of the guard today it's just not going to happen. Phenom is, clock for clock, slower than Core 2 and the chips aren't yet yielding well enough to boost clock speeds above what Intel is capable of. While AMD just introduced its first 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz quad-core CPUs today, Intel previewed its first 3.2GHz quad-core chips. We were expecting Intel to retain the high end performance crown, but also expected AMD to chip away at the lower end of the quad-core market - today's launch confirms that Intel is still the king of the quad-core market.

As we've seen from our mainstream CPU comparisons however, all of this could change with some clever pricing - something AMD seems to have forgone with its Phenom launch.

Phenom manages to fill a major gap in AMD's desktop CPU product lineup: the company can now offer quad-core CPUs. And with the needed updates to the K8 architecture AMD is now competitive in some areas that it sorely needed improving in. Windows Media and x264 encoding are both strong points of the Phenom architecture, making it on par with Intel's quad-core offerings. The same can be said about some games, but at the same time Intel really pulls ahead in our DivX and other game tests.

Inevitably some of these Phenoms will sell, even though Intel is currently faster and offers better overall price-performance (does anyone else feel weird reading that?). Honestly the only reason we can see to purchase a Phenom is if you currently own a Socket-AM2 motherboard; you may not get the same performance as a Core 2 Quad, but it won't cost as much since you should be able to just drop in a Phenom if you have BIOS support.

If you ask AMD, this is platform story; after all, who wouldn't want to combine a Phenom with the 790FX chipset and a pair of Radeon 3850 graphics cards. The problem is that you can pair up 3850s on an Intel chipset just as easily, leaving the biggest benefit to 790FX the ability to run 3 or 4 3850s, which we're not even sure is a good idea yet. There are some auto-overclocking features, but talking about Phenom's overclocking isn't really accenting one of its strong points. The platform sell is a great one to an OEM, but it's simply not compelling enough to the end user - if Phenom were more attractive, things would be different.

To make the CPU more attractive AMD desperately needs to drop the price, and from what we've heard, that will happen in Q1. From what we've seen, AMD needs to be at least 200MHz ahead of Intel in order to remain competitive - that means bringing out a Phenom 9900 that's cheaper than the Q6600, at least. If AMD can do that, it's quite possible that in early 2008 we'll have the first sub-$200 quad-core part as the 9500 drops in price.

Oh and just in case AMD is listening: the Phenom 9600 has no business being here, the extra 100MHz only clutters up the product line. Once the 9700 and 9900 are out let's try and stick to 200MHz increments shall we?

Here's what really frightens us: the way AMD has priced Phenom leaves Intel with a great opportunity to increase prices with Penryn without losing the leadership position. Intel could very well introduce the Core 2 Quad Q9300 (2.33GHz) at $269 and still remain quite competitive with Phenom, moving the Q9450 into more expensive waters. Intel has't announced what it's doing with Penryn pricing in Q1, but our fear is that a weak showing from Phenom could result in an upward trend in processor prices. And this is exactly why we needed AMD to be more competitive with Phenom.

It's tough to believe that what we're looking at here is a farewell to the K8. When AMD first released the Athlon 64, its performance was absolutely mind blowing. It kept us from recommending Intel processors for at least 3 years; Phenom's arrival, however, is far more somber. Phenom has a difficult job to do, it needs to keep AMD afloat for the next year. Phenom is much like the solemn relative, visiting during a time of great sorrow within the family; let's hope for AMD's sake that it can lift spirits in the New Year.

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  • agello24 - Saturday, February 16, 2008 - link

    im still not ready to switch to intel. ill be buying my phenom shortly. Reply
  • GenoR32 - Tuesday, February 05, 2008 - link

    I 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.

    Greetings
    Reply
  • JumpingJack - Sunday, September 21, 2014 - link

    Are you still waiting? Reply
  • TheCatOfWar - Monday, April 23, 2018 - link

    Not for the last year, ha Reply
  • Thatguy97 - Thursday, May 05, 2016 - link

    Can't believe socket am3 is still around Reply
  • eye smite - Monday, January 07, 2008 - link

    I 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. Reply
  • JumpingJack - Sunday, September 21, 2014 - link

    There 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. Reply
  • Hellrazor0628 - Thursday, January 03, 2008 - link

    Well I think that intel got the processing but i realy dont think at the first place that the phenom is ready they need time and money to be able to get rev. in good working and debuged intel had that money and time they realy took their time befor shoing up with core2 wonld say tow years almost. Amd had already a small part of the market enven whene they give the best performance for the price even compaired to the best intel. To say it I realy was hoping the truth native quad core phenom would be better proccesing too but in ther other hand there are a lot of technogie that need to be looking at about amd that poeple sould take a look at about the phenom that is key to all amd cpu that people are too stupid to look at and understand. like power comp. wtf man there is a bus and a memory controler my nvidie chip set coul burn and egg and it only have to run the pci and pci-x. Reply
  • hoelder - Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - link

    I remember to have to save food of my mouth to buy the first ill conceived Pentium or the 486. How Intel set those prices evades me. They maximized their profits with no competition. Yes I know Intel produces a faster chip, if faster is the right word. However, when it comes down to competition and the markets, AMD is the strategically right choice. Unless of course you think that the Walmart buy cheap toys from China idea is your consumer ideology then you should stick with Intel, that actually is going like Nixon to China or you believe in the consumer choices should keep competition open. Reply
  • mpholland - Friday, November 30, 2007 - link

    Maybe AMD just had to release these early to make a little capital this year. Personally I think that it is good that AMD let people know SOMETHING is close. I am hoping that with a little tweaking AMD and some MB partners can get performance up a little and be competitive with Intel sometime in 2008. I have seen just simple driver tweaks work wonders on other hardware, maybe just a little more time can help. Reply

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