Some performance junkies are waiting for the new Bulldozer platform to arrive, but AMD devotees who are looking to a upgrade their system now have a new processor option in the quad-core Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition.
The new Phenom is AMD's fastest quad-core to date, with a stock clock speed of 3.7GHz. It also comes with 6MB of L3 cache and thermal design power (TDP) of 125 watts. The Black Edition label means that the CPU's multiplier is unlocked, which eases overclocking.
The verdict from the first reviews of the Phenom II X4 980 is hardly shocking: It performs slightly better than its quad-core Phenom predecessors, but it can't hang with a new Intel Sandy Bridge processor like the Core i5-2500, even when overclocked to 4.2GHz (with air cooling).
Considering that the new AMD quad-core is priced at $195 and the Core i5-2500 is a mere $15 more (and the overclock-friendly Core i5-2500K is $30 more), there doesn't seem to be much reason to build a new desktop around the Phenom II X4 980, though you might consider it if you want to upgrade an existing socket AM2+ or AM3 system. AMD fanboys may just want to keep saving their pennies for the forthcoming Bulldozer processors instead.