AMD's Phenom II X4 955 Black Editionby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 23, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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It has taken AMD more than long enough, but the company is finally in a situation where its processors are competitive in the performance mainstream market segment. The Phenom II X4 955, 945/940 and the Phenom II X3 720 are all very competitive at their price points. Compared to the Core 2 Quad Q9550 the new X4 955 generally comes out ahead.
From a longevity standpoint, the AM3 platform is much wiser to invest in than LGA-775. Intel has already shown all of its cards there, and there aren't going to be any faster Core 2 Quads - just cheaper ones. By the end of this year Intel will begin transitioning to LGA-1156 and 775 will start fading away. By contrast, AMD's Socket-AM3 is going to be the flagship for the company for all of 2009 and it'll continue to live on into 2010. If you're choosing between Socket-AM3 and LGA-775, AMD has made that choice very easy - Phenom II is the way to go if you're concerned about a long term upgrade path, not to mention that the chips are generally cheaper than their Intel equivalents.
Where the situation gets tougher is when you look at the $245 Phenom II 955 vs. Intel's $284 Core i7-920. The i7 route costs you another ~$40 on the CPU and another $10 - $70 on the motherboard depending on what AM3 board you get for the 955. For around $100 extra you can go with an i7-920, which is anywhere from 0 - 40% faster than the Phenom II X4 955 depending on what application you're looking at. Now if you're budget constrained then the i7 isn't really an option, but as applications and workloads become more threaded the i7 could be a wiser long-term purchase.
The cheaper Phenom II parts, especially once you get down to the X3 720, don't really even touch the i7's price points so the comparison isn't really valid there. But the 955 is getting dangerously close to the cost of an entry level i7 platform, and if you don't already have an AM2+ motherboard the i7 may be worth considering. Especially now that DDR2 and DDR3 are much closer in price.