AMD officially launched its quad-core Phenom processors over four months ago. At that time, we surmised that AMD's quad-core performance was, on balance, a little slower than an equivalently-clocked Intel Core 2 Quad - a processor launched numerous months beforehand.
AMD clearly had issues in ensuring adequate clock-speeds, too, and the launch-date saw the Phenom 9500 (2.2GHz) and Phenom 9600 (2.3GHz) available in limited quantities and with pricing at comparable levels to Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600.
Intel held dominance at higher clock-speeds, as well, with the 65nm quad-core processors scaling to 3.0GHz in July; a speed that was matched by the first 45nm Yorkfield-derived model, the QX9650, in October 2007.
Widespread, successful adoption of AMD's Phenom quad-core processors would have required the one-two punch of lower pricing and higher clock-speeds, to better compete with Intel's range, we reckoned.
January 2008, though, saw Intel leap ahead and introduce a slew of 45nm Yorkfield-based Core 2 Quad and Wolfdale-based Core 2 Duo processors, headlined by the Extreme Edition CPUs.
AMD's task became more difficult when its Phenom line's inability to scale was compounded with the now-famous erratum 298, which, frankly, was left to blow out of proportion by the mishandling of the situation by AMD itself. Its global PR representatives were, seemingly, left by the powers that be without a distinct enough message to clearly communicate the company's position and the relative irrelevance of what was, in effect, much of a non-issue; a matter exploited by the scurrilous reporting of some elements in the press.
Today, AMD is officially announcing the imminent release of three new Phenom quad-core processors, based on the B3 spin, that alleviate the widely-reported-but-barely-seen erratum problem and promise higher clock-speeds in the very near future. We've already seen the Phenom X4 9750 last week, so what else is new?
|Processors||Clock speed||L2 cache (total)||L3 cache||Memory-controller speed||Voltage||TDP||Per-tray pricing|
|AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition||2.5GHz||2MiB||2MiB||2.0GHz||1.2-1.3V||125W||$235 (£150?)|
|AMD Phenom X4 9750||2.4GHz||2MiB||2MiB||1.8GHz||1.2-1.3V||125W||$215 (£140?)|
|AMD Phenom X4 9650*||2.3GHz||2MiB||2MiB||1.8GHz||1.2-1.3V||95W||$205? (£135?)|
|AMD Phenom X4 9550||2.2GHz||2MiB||2MiB||1.8GHz||1.2V||95W||$195 (£130?)
* Shipping date unknown
Looking at the table, what's changed, you might say? After all, the 2.6GHz-clocked Phenom 9900 was previewed back in December 2007. Firstly, AMD is bringing back the 'X'. Quad-core processors will be referenced as Phenom X4; tri-core models as Phenom X3; and dual-core as Athlon X2. Whoopee do!
AMD is now promising (relatively) bug-free processors, in volume, to the channel. Whilst the company's representatives are talking of significant overclocking potential with the new stepping, hinting at 3GHz, the very fact that the fastest processor on relaunch day, operating at just 2.5GHz, tells a different story. We're sure that AMD would love to release 2.6GHz- and 2.7GHz-clocked Phenom X4s right now and charge a healthy premium for them, but it simply can't do that in volume.
The new, improved B3-based processors are differentiated by the -50 suffix, so expect to see all non-50s massively reduced in pricing. You're very unlikely to encounter any stability-related problems and the price-cut, in light of the -50s, should provide quad-core lovin' for sub-£100.
Talking about pricing, there seems to be little to differentiate the three speed-grades, really. The fastest processor is dubbed the Black Edition, denoting that it's multiplier-unlocked.
The new processors will, most likely, require the supporting motherboard's BIOS to be upgraded before working optimally, we were told.
A cursory look at US online pricing shows the hard-to-find-in-stock Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300, also clocked at 2.5GHz but with 6MiB of L2 cache instread of the usual 12MiB, retailing for around $290 (£180 in the UK) - significantly higher than AMD's tentative pricing. The volume-selling 65nm Q6600, clocked in at 2.4GHz, is available for around $249 (£150 in the UK), however.
A total of four new AMD quad-core processors that should have been hard-launched in November 2007, as far as we're concerned. Availability of the three new SKUs (X4 9650 excepted) is slated to be within a week of this announcement, and we'll check to see if this proclamation holds up.
AMD's quad-core ship is finally ready to set sail, and we'll be pitting the Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition against the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 and Core 2 Quad Q6600 processors. Stay tuned for that.