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AMD Hardware

45nm Phenom II Matches Core 2 Quad, Trails Core i7 234

Posted by kdawson
from the still-in-the-game dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AMD recently debuted its 45nm Phenom II processors, and The Tech Report has already run them through a complete suite of benchmarks to see how they perform compared to Intel's latest and greatest. The new 2.8GHz and 3GHz Phenom IIs are in a dead heat with like-priced Core 2 Quads, but they generally fall well behind Intel's new Core i7 chips. TR concludes that AMD's future doesn't look as bleak as some say, and future Phenom IIs could compete favorably with more affordable Core i7 derivatives."
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45nm Phenom II Matches Core 2 Quad, Trails Core i7

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2009 @11:29AM (#26386831)

    But it could have been if I had a Core i7!

  • Good... but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CajunArson (465943) on Friday January 09, 2009 @11:36AM (#26386933) Journal

    The main problem is that AMD is doing the exact same thing Intel did when the P4 was out: they went to a smaller litho process, slapped on cache, and cranked up the clockspeed. If you read the review carefully you'll note that while the new Phenoms are faster than some Core 2 quads, they are not faster on a clock-for-clock basis. Remember back when AMD was leading in that category and it was such a big deal?
        As of right now the Phenoms are a good deal IF you already own an AM2+ mobo... otherwise they are not a good deal for 2 reasons: 1. AMD is coming out with the incompatible AM3 socket that will use DDR3 memory in the next few months, so these current chips will have a very short shelf life; 2. Intel doesn't have to do any innovation at all to beat these chips, all it has to do is drop the prices on current Core 2 quads like the 9550 that outperform the Phenoms but are currently priced higher... dropping prices ain't rocket science and there are rumors these cuts could be coming by the end of the month.
          As for the Core i7, sure it is more expensive, but even the 920 model appears to wail on these chips, and there is a whole lot more future-proofness in buying a low-end i7 right now. Interestingly, the review mentions the new Phenoms have 758 million transistors which means they have about 27 million more transistors than Nehalem... but Nehalem at 2.66 Ghz is easily beating a Phenom at 3.0Ghz. It looks like what AMD really needs is a new architecture, but that does not appear to be coming any time soon.

    • Re:Good... but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 09, 2009 @11:44AM (#26387063) Homepage Journal

      The Core I7 isn't all that future proof. Intel is going to bring out the consumer version of the I7 with guess what... A new Socket!
      I think that the AM2+ socket will have a good life span. The AM2 sure did.
      The thing really is though is that the Core2 and the X2 really are still "good enough". Most people really are not dieing for a faster PC.
      The Atom is the right now the most interesting CPU around. I think AMD should produce a two core version of the PhenomII or a 45nm X2 cpu.
      A very low power use AMD cpu combined with the 780G would be a great product right now.
      The only reason that any QuadCore interests me right now is that I am addicted to FSX.

      • Re:Good... but... (Score:4, Informative)

        by CajunArson (465943) on Friday January 09, 2009 @11:49AM (#26387119) Journal

        There's a major problem with your logic. Intel is coming out with a lower-cost mainstream Nehalem, but it is not discontinuing the current i7 sockets, they will continue as a high-end option and you'll be able to slap 32nm Westmere's in there when the time comes. AM2+ is at the very end of the road. As for the older Core 2 quad socket 775's, they are getting nearer the end of the line, but with some price cuts the current 775 socket systems are still going to outperform anything AMD has until at least 2010... the Core 2's are at the end of the technology ramp-up road, but not at the end of the price-performance road.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Yea but then you will be stuck with only high end stuff. I would wait until the consumer I7 hits unless you are a hard core gamer.
          But as I said I really am not all that interested in the highend. It is just really overkill right now. You can build a good X2 780G system for under $300 right now. Or less than you would spend for just an I7 CPU.
          Core2s are still a little more expensive but your right they are still a good choice.

        • Re:Good... but... (Score:5, Informative)

          by athakur999 (44340) on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:47PM (#26388975) Journal

          The AM3 Phenom II's are supposed to be able to work in an AM2+ motherboard (and utilize DD2 memory). TechReport's review of the chip has some more details on this:

          http://techreport.com/articles.x/16147 [techreport.com]

          In one of the neater tricks we've seen along these lines, Socket AM3-capable Phenom II processors will, happily, be backward compatible with current Socket AM2+ motherboards and DDR2 memory.

          So AM2+ is still a viable socket for the future since AM3 processors will fit in. I wonder if the backwards compatability will work both ways - could an AM2+ processor be used in an AM3 motherboard?

      • The thing really is though is that the Core2 and the X2 really are still "good enough". Most people really are not dieing for a faster PC.

        I'd love to play supcom and not lag =/
        Something tells me I need more than an I7 to do that, however...

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by KDR_11k (778916)

          If you can't get fast enough hardware, try faster software [clan-sy.com].

      • Re:Good... but... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:24PM (#26387619) Homepage

        The thing really is though is that the Core2 and the X2 really are still "good enough". Most people really are not dieing for a faster PC. The Atom is the right now the most interesting CPU around.

        Yeah, I've been thinking about that. For most businesses and individuals I talk to (and/or support), do you know what they use their computer for? Checking e-mail, surfing the web, writing papers/letters, holding their music collection and loading their iPods, and storing their digital pictures. They don't do much else.

        Now how fast of a processor do you need to do that? I'll give you a hint-- a lot of them are doing it on computers that are >5 years old, and they aren't complaining about speed unless they're loaded down with malware.

        I wonder where the computing industry is going next, because I feel like it's been a while since anyone came up with a new use for PCs that the masses were clamoring for. MP3s were the last one, and IIRC that's been commonplace for almost a decade now.

        It seems like where computers are going is not to be bigger/better/faster, but rather smaller/cheaper/more energy efficient. Something might break that trend, but until it does, I wonder how important it will actually be to be the "performance king".

        • Re:Good... but... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:51PM (#26388051) Homepage Journal

          The one thing that takes more speed than a five year old PC and that is digital video. HD-digital camcorders are now under $200. Transcoding video to put onto DVDs may become popular. If Blu Ray recordable disks become cheap then people may start making those at home.

          But even that may not need a fast CPU. I think you will see more and more video work off loaded to the GPU.

          • Oh, I'm not denying that there are applications out there that can make good use of extra processing power, but only that they aren't really what most people use their computers for. I know some pretty young and tech-savvy people, and almost none of them do anything with video on their computers beyond occasional Netflix streaming.

            Camcorders aren't by any means rare, but they aren't all that incredibly common either that I'd expect it to drive the mass market. And that opinion isn't formed from any thoug

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by LWATCDR (28044)

              You may be right. The thing is that the flip camcorder is so cheap that they may soon be everywhere.
              Just wait until cellphones come with HD video.
              But yes cheap, simpler, and lower power use going to be the way of the future.

              • Just wait until cellphones come with HD video.

                Yeah, I know... but then again, of all the people with cameras in their phones today, I don't know many who actually make much use of them. There are people who take lots of pictures, but it always seems to me like the vast majority take a few pictures when they fist get their phone, mostly forget about them after a couple weeks, and remember they have a camera in their phone long enough to take a couple pictures every few months.

                And even then, they don't go home and do anything with those pictures. They

          • by Fweeky (41046)

            ATI have a free GPU-accelerated video encoder [amd.com] which supports a range of formats. nVidia have one too [badaboomit.com], but it only supports H.264 and with a smaller range of options even for that, and it's not even free to use.

        • Man, have you tried to use a recent build of Firefox on a 5-year-old machine lately? It's barely usable unless you have at least 512mb of RAM and a fairly fast CPU.

          • No doubt new machines are more responsive, but I know plenty of still people working on 256 MB of RAM without complaining too much. But 512 MB wasn't that rare in 2003.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BikeHelmet (1437881)

          Not even games require a great CPU, anymore. Some of the most innovative ones(Like World of Goo or Left4Dead) will run on old systems, like a 2ghz Athlon XP from 2002/2003. :P Faster CPUs are for... bragging rights? Encoding stuff?

          More memory is for multitasking - you can never have enough memory! I'm amazed that I can hit 1GB memory usage when my OS and background software only consumes ~150MB. A year ago that wasn't the case, but now I just have more stuff running...

          I think the next must have computer har

      • by naasking (94116)

        The Atom is the right now the most interesting CPU around.

        I disagree. The Via Nano is far more interesting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lockblade (1367083)

        ...The Atom is the right now the most interesting CPU around...

        I really have to disagree with you there. I think the VIA Nano is a bit more interesting, as it basically beats the Atom into the ground with almost everything [hardocp.com]. Back on topic, I think that the above post was right; most people don't need a high-end computer. Even some of the mid-range to low-end computers might be a little much for some people. AMD should really go for the cheap side, making cheap, low-power processors to tide them over while they redesign their high-end chips to compete with I7.

      • by Simulant (528590)

        The thing really is though is that the Core2 and the X2 really are still "good enough". Most people really are not dieing for a faster PC

        Hear hear...

        There's no such thing as "future proof". Something better will always come along but right now, there's very little software aimed at consumers that doesn't run acceptably well on on ANY 2-3 Ghz CPU.
        If you care about future competition in the CPU market, you should be recommending AMD to your family and friends. They are cheaper and more than adequate.

        I recently picked up a 65nm, 3.1 Ghz Athlon X2 + Mobo for $166.00. I can run every FPS on the market at 1920x1200, most

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        Meh. Atom.

        The biggest detractor to the Atom right now is the integrated Intel video. It has never, ever worked well - or at least since i810 came around. By "well" I don't mean "good performance" I mean "works without glitches, consistently" - on either Windows or Linux.

        And then the fact that the latest Intel graphics are slow as tar and work all that well - IE, not even as well as a 5+year-old Nvidia mid-range graphic card (ti4200).

        The most evident performance increase I've seen in Desktops, when the perfo

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wild_berry (448019) *

      The price cut is the clincher. I disagree that the compatibility with motherboards is an issue: all the reviews I've read describe an AM2+/AM3 hybrid part that supports both DDR2 and DDR3 which will allow you to upgrade the MB and RAM and keep the processor.

      AMD needing a new architecture is a myth: Changing the microarchitecture underneath the AMD64 set isn't going to yield enough improvement to make it totally worthwhile. Their pipeline length and IPC count are comparable to Intel, but AMD's smaller rese

      • However, changing the game to incorporate Radeon-style parallel pipelines is a different story.

        Bingo! What AMD really needs is a Radeon co-processor that sits in an AM3 socket and talks to the rest of the system over HyperTransport. I sure as heck would go buy me a dual-socket board for that, and a Phenom 2 to go with it!

    • Re:Good... but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Atriqus (826899) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:18PM (#26387553) Homepage
      Except that AM3 is compatible with many AM2+ boards; I know mine is [biostar-usa.com]. AM3 has both a DDR2 and DDR3 memory controller.
    • Re:Good... but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:29PM (#26387695)

      Actually you are looking at this in the wrong way. The entire problem is that you are looking at the Phenom as though it's the critical portion of AMD design, which it's not. The Phenom II is part of the Dragon platform, which includes the 4000 series graphics and the 7 series chipset. When combined, the system can be configured for less than $500 or just under $700 with very high end parts. Once together, the AMD system can use Overdrive to hit 4ghz on air with very little effort. Tests have put them at 3.8ghz with the automated performance boosts. Now, not only does Intel not have a platform to match, but their chipset and graphics departments are still playing catchup. Once the AM3 systems hit the market Intel will be in a considerable amount of trouble staying competitive.... especially with the current voltage problems (DDR3 performance memory can burn up i7 chips).

      Also, do not forget, AMD manufacturing costs are dropping while Intel's are increasing. This is not a good trend to have when attempting to compete on prices. New i7 CPUs are entering the market at equal prices and staying high, while the very best AMD chip enters market at the lowest Intel price point and drops. It becomes very hard to justify spending several times more on an Intel system for a tiny performance difference, knowing that it might not even be DDR3 compatible.

      • Once the AM3 systems hit the market Intel will be in a considerable amount of trouble staying competitive.... especially with the current voltage problems (DDR3 performance memory can burn up i7 chips).

        I'm fairly sure there's no problem if your DDR3 memory actually follows the DDR3 standard.

    • Cache size is an area where AMD has considerably lagged Intel for quite some time. I'd consider AMD's bumping up of cache size on the 45nm parts to be moreso evening out a competitive disadvantage they had for 2 years, rather than a desperate attempt to make a non-competitive product compete with an obviously superior one (a la P4 vs. K8).

      The Core 2 Quads have large amounts of beyond-L1 cache: 2 x 4M of L2 (or something 2 x 6M), so 8-12M total plus some inter-die communcation latency between the two L2s if

      • Intel slapped tons of cache on their P4s and Core 2s because it was an effective way of masking the poor memory access speeds (due to the lack of an integrated memory controller). For AMD, the extra cache made basically no difference in performance, so it was a waste to add it. Go back and compare the original Athlon X2 4200+ (2.2 Ghz, 512K L2 cache per core) with the 4400+ (2.2 Ghz, 1M L2 cache per core), you'll notice there's basically no performance difference, and the 1M cache models were promptly dropp

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rwa2 (4391) *

      I bought an AM2+ motherboard recently with a near bottom-of-the-line Athlon 64 X2 dual core. This is exactly the news I've been waiting for. In a few years I'll be able to double my cores and maybe modestly increase my CPU clockspeed from 2.2Ghz to maybe 2.8Ghz, hopefully while not increasing the TDP beyond 85W. Oh, and it would have been cheaper (and eventually faster) than buying a top of the line system now.

      AMD is perfect for the people like me who love saving a couple hundred bucks every few years by


    • Interestingly, the review mentions the new Phenoms have 758 million transistors which means they have about 27 million more transistors than Nehalem... but Nehalem at 2.66 Ghz is easily beating a Phenom at 3.0Ghz.

      The other obvious problem is that pretty much every compiler on the market [especially the Intel C/C++ compiler] is optimized for the Intel circuitry as opposed to the AMD circuitry - i.e. most compilers probably aren't even aware of the functionality of those excess 27 million transistors.

      I c
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Targon (17348)

      The Phenom 2 is faster clock for clock compared to the Phenom 1.

      Phenom 2 when the socket AM3 version is released will be compatible with both socket AM2+ as well as socket AM3 motherboards. Obviously, the older Phenom and this first set of Phenom 2 processors will be DDR2 only parts, so putting them in an environment where DDR3 memory will be used just will not work.

      As far as prices go, the current pricing is on the initial batch, and going forward, AMD has at least a bit more room to increase clock speed

    • Intel doesn't have to do any innovation at all to beat these chips, all it has to do is drop the prices on current Core 2 quads

      And what makes you think only Intel can drop prices ? The numerous price wars of the past prove that the 2 processor manufactures tend to be very reactive to each other's price changes.

      Also, while it is true that Core 2 is overall somewhat faster than Phenom II on a per-clock basis, as of today Phenom II is faster than Core 2 on a per-dollar basis for CPUs under $300. That's the

  • Since I'd hate to go back to the bad old days, before the megahertz wars, when processors were expensive. For desktop/low-end workstation use, the phenom IIs seem to be merely ok, price competitive with the chips intel currently has down there; but not in a position to beat the i7s. Where these new cores will be quite interesting, though, is in 4 socket and higher configurations. Even with substantially inferior core designs, AMD has been stomping Intel in the 4+ socket area, since hypertransport is markedly superior. With actually competitive cores, AMD should find 4+ sockets to be a party, at least until Intel gets quickpath stuff ramped up.
    • by aliquis (678370)

      For desktop/low-end workstation use, the phenom IIs seem to be merely ok

      I don't get such comparisons, for really low-end stuff like that wouldn't a P3 1 GHz be enough to?

      If we are speaking the web with multiple tabs I guess not since browsers kill my C2D 2.2 GHz 4 GB ram MBP.

      • I don't get such comparisons, for really low-end stuff like that wouldn't a P3 1 GHz be enough to?

        For the past 2 years, I would consider the purchase of any single-core CPUs to be "penny-wise pound-foolish". Typically, you can get a dual-core CPU for only a few dollars more, and you end up with a much more responsive machine.

        Our low-end work desktops have all been dual-core X2s, usually a 45W design where possible. The power savings alone from the energy efficient X2s pays for the extra CPU cost. Th
  • Does anybody know if there are plans for 95 watt Phenom IIs? It looks like the first models are 125 watt only (and I just got a AM2+ motherboard that only supports the 95W Phenoms).
    • Re:125 watt only? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Atriqus (826899) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:27PM (#26387657) Homepage
      The later AM3s will have 95w x4's in feburary. Check your board's product page if they plan on supporting it for that model.
    • I'm hoping more for a quad-core CPU that is a 45W TDP and is under $100. All of the current quad-core CPUs out there are 95-125W (including Intel's) and are $130-$200.
      • Me too. I'm waiting for the rumored Athlon X4 at 45W TDP. It's supposed to come out in the 2nd qtr of this year. I think it would make a perfect upgrade for my Athlon X2 4850e. As for the price tag, the 65W 9350e has been sitting on Newegg at about the same price as the 125W 9950, so it might take a while before the 45W X4 hit the $100 mark.

  • Power Consumption (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoeSixpack00 (1327135) on Friday January 09, 2009 @12:30PM (#26387699)
    If AMD wants to improve sales they should do what they did for the X2 line: lower power consumption. I don't care what any of the "experts" say - the moment I saw the whopping 130w listed next to the i7 920 I immediately decided I didn't want one. The Athlon 4850e already has the crown on the dual core front, so if they can manage a respectable 95w quad core, AMD could corner the efficiency market. I know they had to release this chip to generate revenue, but I'd hoping that low power quad is in their future plans.

    On another note, it's quite funny to see such high power requirements for the new intels. Am I the only person who remembers AMD getting ridiculed about the Phenoms power consumption? Now that intel has finally released a true quad core chip, their power consumption is the same or more than AMDs. Granted that does nothing about the performance gap, but at least it quiets the power critics.
    • by steveha (103154)

      the moment I saw the whopping 130w listed next to the i7 920 I immediately decided I didn't want one.

      And don't forget -- this is an Intel power rating, which means "typical use". I have a computer with an AMD Phenom 9850, and that's rated at 120W, but that's worst case, not typical. In actual use the computer has been quiet and cool. (I ought to try recompiling the Linux kernel on all four cores or something.)

      http://www.silentpcreview.com/article169-page3.html [silentpcreview.com]

      AMD could corner the efficiency market.

      Intel

    • If AMD wants to improve sales they should do what they did for the X2 line: lower power consumption. I don't care what any of the "experts" say - the moment I saw the whopping 130w listed next to the i7 920 I immediately decided I didn't want one. The Athlon 4850e already has the crown on the dual core front, so if they can manage a respectable 95w quad core, AMD could corner the efficiency market. I know they had to release this chip to generate revenue, but I'd hoping that low power quad is in their futur

    • It should be kept in mind that
      \
      A) AMD rates its TDW differently, a 125 AMD rating, and a 95 intel rating, are close to the same power consumption.

      B) AMD shaves power off the system board, since the memory controller is on the chip.

  • What is "port one"?
  • Well, I just built a new system and looked all this crap up the other day, so I feel qualified to comment.

    Yes, the new chips finally just about match equally priced Intel chips - at stock.

    The problem is they only go down to $250 or so. Not down to $200 or under, where the lowest-priced Core 2 Quad lives: the Q6600. And the thing about the Q6600 is, it can be trivially overclocked well past 3GHz on stock cooling with no enthusiast messing about. Just bump up the FSB speed and you're good. So for $200 or less

  • by Pyroja (616376) on Friday January 09, 2009 @03:13PM (#26390269) Homepage

    ... "AMD finally on par with Intel tech from two years ago."

    Seriously. I love AMD. I've been using AMD chips since my very first system of my own, which had a mighty K6-166.

    This past Novemeber, I finally bit the bullet, sold my Athlon X2 system, and upgraded... To a Q6600-based rig. Some may scoff that it's only a 2.4ghz chip, but I'm running it at 3.4ghz right now, and I'm fairly sure I'll reach 3.6ghz with a bit more work.

    To be sure, those who don't overclock, but want a powerful AMD-based system will find this chip worthwhile. I would expect those to be people who already have AM2+ systems looking for an upgrade (I have a good friend that wanted an ultra cheap upgrade for her desktop a few months back... I built her an AM2+ X2 setup. Guess what? Now she can upgrade to something worthwhile. Yay!).

    However, for the enthusiast, the hardware tweaker, the overclocker... The Phenom II is a disappointment. It has been said it can overclock to as high as 3.8ghz with good air cooling, maybe even 4ghz if you go with water. Awesome. C2Q can clock every bit as high, and you'll get more performance per clock out of it as well. I paid $180 for my Q6600. At 3.4ghz, it'll out-pace the top-end Phenom II. That Phenom II cost $275. Which is about the same price as... A low-end Core i7 chip that will overclock to 4ghz and beyond. With the i5 chips coming down the line, what's stopping Intel from slashing Core 2 prices?

    All-in-all, the Phenom II is a powerful chip, and would serve well as the heart of an AMD rig, delivering worthy performance for almost anything. The problem is, a Core 2 Quad will do ya one better every time, for the same cost or less, and has been doing so for the past two years.

    I'm anxiously waiting for AMD to bring back the glory days when they actually tried to compete with Intel, not just chase their taillights.

    • by mr_stinky_britches (926212) on Friday January 09, 2009 @06:13PM (#26392663) Homepage Journal

      One of the problems is that Intel has practically unlimited amounts of capital that they can dump into R&D, whereas AMD does not have such deep pockets. So, Intel is far ahead, and AMD will inevitably take a long time to catch up. Combine that with Intel's continually underhanded marketing and business practices, and things begin to look bleak for the underdog we are all cheering for..

    • glory days (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)

      Not to take away from some impressive stuff AMD has done, but AMD's glory days were also helped out by Intel shooting themselves in the foot. Back when AMD had the top-end x86s, invented AMD64, etc., Intel's 900-pound-gorilla R&D machine was off working on Itanium, running their x86 line mostly on autopilot. Once they mostly gave up on Itanium and swung their resources back to x86, AMD, as you might expect, has had a much harder time.

  • The first thing that came to my mind when I looked at the pic of their test system was, "can I have some motherboard to go with my heat sink please?" How much longer before people are trying to squeeze components into some kind of massive rectangular radiator instead of a case?

    Anyway. I'm glad AMD was able to get to .45 I knew that was the reason they weren't performing on par with the Intel Duo chips.

  • Most gamers are better off spending under $200 on a CPU, and most consumers won't tell the difference.

    People who buy quad core processors nowadays either want extremely performance for multithreaded tasks and are willing to pay (a lot!) or they're total dumbasses, in either case they'll buy an i7.

    If AMD wants to catch up they need to cut these things down to duals like they did the original Phenom to 7750+.

    • I agree. I generally don't spend much on the CPU. I'd rather have fast memory and a nice GPU. I'm seriously considering dropping as much as $250 for one of the AM3 variants and getting some DDR3, but I need to see what the cost of the motherboard and memory is going to be as well.

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