AMD will give its Dragon desktop platform a boost today with the release of faster Phenom II X4 quad-core chips. The new platform, which also includes the ATI Radeon HD 4890 GPU announced earlier this month and an updated version of its OverDrive utility, is geared toward enthusiast and gamers.
The two new processors are the 3.2GHz Phenom II X4 955 and 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 945. Previously, the fastest chip was the 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 940. In addition, the new processors are what AMD calls socket AM3, which means they work with both DDR3 and DDR2 memory. AMD shipped its first AM3 Phenom II X4s in February but only on slower quad cores (the 2.6GHz Phenom II X4 810) and several triple-core Phenom II X3s. The new processors also have a faster HyperTransport bus.
The Phenom II X4 955 is priced at $245 and the Phenom II X4 945 is $225. With the release of the new chips, it looks like AMD has also lowered prices on the older 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 940, which is now priced at the same $195 as the 2.8GHz Phenom II X4 920. (Here's AMD's processor price list.) That makes the 3.0GHz 940 a very good value for those putting together a DDR2-based gaming rig.
The Radeon 4890 is AMD's top-of-the-line GPU, and cards based on it with 1GB of GDDR5 memory currently start at $250. You should also be able to find plenty of systems that combine the new processors with Radeon HD 4850 or 4870 graphics--also very good GPUs--and use either DDR2 or DDR3 memory.
The Phenom II X4 955 is a "Black Edition" chip, which means it is designed to be over-clocked for higher performance. (AMD says the new chip has been pushed to 6.5GHz using all sorts of exotic cooling methods.) The new version of OverDrive lets you save profiles and has memory profiles so that it can automatically choose the correct settings assuming you are using compatible memory. Intel has similar features in its over-clocking utility. Incidentally, AMD also offers a Black Edition triple-core processor, the 2.8GHz Phenom II X3 720, which the company says has proven to be very popular at $145.
Even the new 3.2GHz processor can't match the performance of Intel's fastest quad-core desktop chips. Instead AMD is positioning the Phenom II X4 955 against the similarly-priced Core i7 920 and older Core 2 Quad Q9550. Here is AMD's take on relative performance: