Final Words

With the latest introduction of the Phenom II 955BE and the Phenom II 945 AMD now owns the midrange of computer performance - at least for today. The 955BE is the best performing midrange processor and as we showed in the launch article Phenom II is now the midrange processor of choice if you are building a new computer system. Across the board AMD has is now outperforming Core 2 Duo and Quad with their Phenom II line. That may change tomorrow with new pricing or the introduction of the upcoming Intel I5, but if you are building a midrange computer today, AMD is the best choice. It's also worth mentioning that socket AM3 should be around for a while yet, but we can't say the same for socket 775.

With that reality, we listed four typical Phenom II builds in this guide. At the low end the budget PC featured the cheapest Phenom II X3 710 - a 2.6GHz processor now selling for just $120. The budget system was built for just over $400 for the basic computer and around $750 for a complete system with keyboard, mouse, speakers, and Vista Home Premium. You could reduce costs even further by going with a cheaper combo case/PSU and/or using a free OS like Ubuntu. It is also worth mentioning that while the budget Phenom II was built around DDR2 it could have been built just about as reasonably around an AM3 board and DDR3 memory. Components would be the same except for motherboard and memory since the AM3 Phenom II processors feature dual memory controllers supporting either DDR2 or DDR3.

In the Phenom II value segment, we featured two builds. First was a DDR3 build around the unlocked 720BE X3 CPU, followed by a DDR2 build using the former top-of-the-line 940BE which is now being closed out at bargain prices. The cheap price of the 940BE is reason enough to build a DDR2 box; owning a lot of good fast DDR2 memory is another reason to build the value DDR2 box.

Both value systems were paired with components that almost beg to be overclocked. The base box for either the DDR3 or DDR2 value systems came in at less than $800 including 4GB of high speed memory, high-performance heatsink/fan, a 1TB hard drive, Blu-ray payer/DVD burner, and ATI Radeon 4850 graphics. The complete systems added a nominal 24" 1080p monitor, gaming mouse and keyboard, Vista OS, and a 5.1 powered Logitech Speaker system for a total system price of just over $1200.

Finally, the Phenom II performance system was built around the latest, greatest, and most overclockable 3.2GHz Phenom II 955BE. This DDR3 system features DDR3-1800 memory, an HSF for serious overclocking, ATI 4890 OC graphics card, a Blu-ray player/DVD burner, and an upgraded 1TB hard drive for $1100 for the base box, and around $1675 for a complete system with a 26" 1920x1200 monitor, Logitech G51 powered speakers, Vista Home Premium, mouse and keyboard.

You can easily push the performance system to 3.8GHz or higher with an accompanying increase in performance. In fact our testing shows you might reach 3.9GHz at stock voltage and perhaps as high as 4.2GHz at higher voltage. Of course not all 955BE processors will do this, and overclocking is never a given. However, the 955BE we tested were screaming overclockers and you will likely find the same among the 955BE in the market place based on the updated Phenom II core. In other words, YMMV; also, we had issues breaking 4GHz with 64-bit Vista on our test CPU.

All of this takes nothing away from Intel, which produces the best performing processors you can buy right now in the Core i7. The only problem is Core i7 is basically high-end only. The cheapest Core i7 920 CPU is around $300, with two more models going for up to $1010. In addition, Core i7 uses a new socket and supports the first triple-channel DDR3 memory configuration. Both the socket and memory are unique right now to the higher priced Core i7, which keeps i7 supporting component prices high. Leaving all other components the same, a Core i7 920 build adds about $175 to the price of our Phenom II performance system.

Below the very top is Phenom II, and as you have seen in this Phenom II Buyers' Guide you can build a lot of Phenom II system for a pretty reasonable amount of money. Competition between Phenom II and Core 2 Duo and Quad have driven prices in this segment down and value up. In fact we can't remember a time where so much computer power could be purchased for so little money.

While we have said that a lot lately, the bang-for-the-buck in today's systems continues to impress us. That's certainly a good thing in a worldwide economy that is struggling. Computers are really a necessity in our plugged-in world and it's very good you can get a lot of computer today for very little money. Competition makes the buyer the winner and keeps margins low. Competition also drives the innovations that fuel growth in the computer market around the world.

Phenom II Performance


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  • ccd - Monday, May 18, 2009 - link

    I am building a system using the mobo and heatsink fan. This is not a good combo for overclocking. The reason is the the Xigmatek is so big, that it blocks the use of one of the yellow RAM slots that the Asus manual states are best for over clocking.

    Just a word of caution.
  • ccd - Monday, June 15, 2009 - link

    I built the system using the components I previously mentioned and you are absolutely correct: the Xigmatek is so big, it does extend over one of the yellow memory slots and this board recommends the yellow slots for overclocking. It might me possible to squeeze memory in the slot under the Xigmatek, but I would worry about it touching the Xigmatek and getting too hot.

    The other issue with this mobo is the location of the connections for the front of your case. The front case connectors for my Lian Li case are too short as the Asus connections are located at the furtheset possible spot from the connectors.

    Other than those two issues, I am happy with this build. The PC turned on and I had no problems once I realized that graphics cards now need to be directly connected to the PS.

    I'm thinking of adding a second graphics card and upgrading the PS.
  • ccd - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 - link

    I'd love to hear any comments from more experienced systems builders on the components I plan to use. This is my second build. The first build did not go well. The PC would not turn on and I had no idea where the problem lay. Then I had the extraordinarily bad luck of getting two bad mobos and compatibiity problems between the mobo that finally worked and my PVR card. It cost me $400 to have someone troubleshoot the PC to get it working.

    With the build, I want to use as many parts from the previous build as possible to save on costs and because I know these parts work. That means I am using my case, a Seasonic 400W PS, a graphics card and sound card. The new parts are:

    ASUS M4A79 Deluxe
    AMD Phenon II X4 940 BE 3.0GHz
    Xigmatek Dark Knight 51283V 120 MM
    Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) 240 Pin DDR2 SDRAM 1066 (PC@ 8500)
    WD Caviar Green WD6400AACS 7200

    The choice of boards is based on this guide and comments at Newegg. Seems like a board that has cause very few problems for the majority of people. Also Newegg has a bundle with the AMD chip for a $35 savings.

    The HDD choice is to make sure my 400PS can handle the new system

    Any thoughts?
  • bmuell - Wednesday, April 29, 2009 - link

    Does anyone know what Gigabyte's official response is to using dimm slots 3 & 4 instead of 1 & 2 (since reapers won't fit under the Xigmatek)? The manual recommends slots 1 & 2 for dual channel. I'm surprised Anandtech selected these parts (with or without the knowledge) given the compatibility issue... I have to decide whether or not to exchange my heatsink, my memory, or use slots 3 & 4. Reply
  • SHANE44 - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Whats with all the AMD hate. From reading this article it sounds like AMD has a winner. I personally use intel cpu's and nvidia gpu's but I understand that AMD plays a vital role in both industries. Without AMD who's gonna keep intel and nvidia honest. AMD forces both companies to keep advancing technologically and keep competitive prices. Who knows maybe a few more advances from AMD in the cpu department and my next system might be an AMD. I personally hope the best for AMD in the future. Thanks to Anandtech for the great reviews. I find this to be the most informative sight for all current computer news. Reply
  • Hamlet2000 - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Does anyone know if the Xigmatek heatsink on the CPU will conflict with the heatsinks on the OCZ Reaper memory?

    I'm looking at putting together a system based off the performance specs and I'm concerned about spacing issues.
  • Summer - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - link

    Depends on how far your slots are from your CPU but I'm almost certain that the first dimm set (row 1 & 2) of most motherboards will be blocked by the Xigmatek heatsink if you plan to use OCZ reaper memory. I have two boards (Asrock AOD790/Gigabyte MA790XT) with s-1283v heatsinks and the OCZ Reaper memory kit will not clear on the dimm set closest to the CPU on either board. However, IMO the S-1283 line is one of the best and affordable air-cooler series out there especially if your case can handle the size.

  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    I haven't had any issues with memory and the Xigmatek, as the fin assembly is raised up a bit on the heatpipes before it can potentially overhang the memory slots. However, I haven't really tried it with the Reaper memory, which was selected because of its fast timings (6-6-6) and effective heatpipe cooling. As you saw in the 955BE launch article, the Phenom II worked better with fast memory timings than it did with higher memory speeds in our OC tests.

    After your question I measured some Reaper samples here and the first slots may be a question mark with the Xigmatek. To be safe you could select:

    1 - Crucial Ballistix 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model BL2KIT25664BA1336 with 6-6-6 tings at $68

    2 - OCZ Platinum 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ3P13334GK with 7-7-7 tings at $60

    3 - OCZ Intel Extreme Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model OCZ3X16004GK at 7-7-7 timings at $53 after $30 rebate.

    These are all standard profile dimms and they snuggle underneath the Xigmatek cooler just fine. The important thing for the Phenom II memory controller is to shop for the tightest timings you can afford with speed of at least DDR1333. For Intel we would probably look for even faster speed, but higher speed does not help that much on Phenom II's memory controller.

  • Hamlet2000 - Sunday, April 26, 2009 - link

    Great, thanks for the reply. It's great that you read the comments and respond. I was looking at OCZ Gold memory at 8-8-8-24 since the price was $44 after the rebate, but I'm reconsidering now . . .

    Thanks again.
  • The Sly Syl - Monday, April 27, 2009 - link

    I'm using the Xigmatek Dark Knight on my FoxConn A7DA-S motherboard with 4 sticks of ram. They all fit fine, Even the Reaper memory with the overly large cooler would fit into 3 of the slots, its only the slot closest to the CPU that might have clearance issues.

    The lower end of the fins are considerably higher than I'd imagine any regular sized stick of ram would ever have to worry about.

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