AMD releases Quad and Triple core Phenom processors

Today AMD announce the expansion of the CPU lineup by officially releasing quad-core and triple-core Phenom processors. How best to sum up this new lineup? I guess it’s a case where that old phrase “something for everyone” actually fits the bill pretty well. We have processors aimed at both the high-end enthusiast who wants to squeeze as much power out of their components as well as processors aimed at the budget-conscious. We also see a revolutionary new energy efficient processor aimed at home theater enthusiasts who want quad-core power without having to put up with large PC cases in their living rooms or the noise generated by extravagant fans.

[UPDATE: Are triple-core Phenom processors just failed quad-core units?  I've been asked this question several times today and to get a definitive answer I approached Scott Carroll, AMD Public Relations, for an official response. 

Me:  "Scott, are triple-core Phenom processors just failed quad-core units?"

Scott: "No -- AMD Phenom X3 processors are NOT quad-cores with a defective core shut-off! AMD Phenom processors with three cores are an example of AMD's design leadership and manufacturing strategy. AMD strives to obtain maximum value out of its manufacturing processes in order to provide customers with the best products and value to meet their varying needs. AMD's Direct Connect Architecture and true native multi-core design allow for direct communication between cores, integrated memory controller, and I/O - reducing unnecessary bottlenecks. This unique approach enables AMD to deliver varying core configurations - including dual, triple and quad - to meet customer needs."

Today AMD announce the expansion of the CPU lineup by officially releasing quad-core and triple-core Phenom processors.

AMD logo

How best to sum up this new lineup? I guess it’s a case where that old phrase “something for everyone” actually fits the bill pretty well. We have processors aimed at both the high-end enthusiast who wants to squeeze as much power out of their components as well as processors aimed at the budget-conscious. We also see a revolutionary new energy efficient processor aimed at home theater enthusiasts who want quad-core power without having to put up with large PC cases in their living rooms or the noise generated by extravagant fans.

So, finally, some cool stuff to drool over from AMD. Let’s take a closer look starting with the tech specs.

Here are the new processors, seven in all, five quad-core processors and two triple-core units:

AMD Phenom - Quad-core
AMD Phenom X4 Quad-core - Socket AM2+

  • X4 9850 Black Edition (unlocked multiplier) - 2.5GHz - 125W TDP
  • X4 9750 - 2.4GHz - 125W / 95W TDP
  • X4 9650 - 2.3GHz - 95W TDP
  • X4 9550 - 2.2GHz - 95W TDP

Some of the highlights of this lineup include:

  • Up to 20% faster than previous models
  • B3 revision (TLB bug free)
  • 2MB L2 cache
  • 2MB L3 cache
  • DDR2-1066 support
  • 65nm process technology
  • Integrated Memory Controller
  • Fast HyperTransport 3.0 technology
  • Cool & Quiet v2.0

Also added to the quad-core lineup is a new energy efficient unit:

  • X4 9100e - 1.8GHz - 65W TDP

Some of the X4 9100e energy-efficient features include:

  • Cool’n’Quiet 2.0 technology, which helps users achieve more efficient performance by dynamically activating or turning off parts of the processor as needed
  • Independent Dynamic Core Technology, a fully independent frequency control per processor core that can reduce processor energy consumption by adjusting power usage according to core utilization
  • Dual Dynamic Power Management, which splits power plane design, allowing independent voltage planes for processor and memory controller for greater control over performance based on system demands
  • AMD Wideband Frequency Control, that simplifies performance state transitions to reduce power consumption, latency and software overhead of performance states changes
  • Multi-Point Thermal Control, featuring multiple sensors across processor silicon designed to automatically reduce speed and heat when temperature exceeds pre-defined limits

AMD Phenom - Triple-core
AMD Phenom X3 Triple-core - Socket AM2+

  • X3 8600 - 2.3GHz - 95W TDP
  • X3 8400 - 2.1GHz - 95W TDP

Some of the highlights of this lineup include:

  • B2 revision (the significance of this is that the TLB bug is present and fixed via a BIOS patch)
  • 1.5MB L2 cache
  • 2MB L3 cache
  • DDR2-1066 support
  • 65nm process technology
  • Integrated Memory Controller
  • Fast HyperTransport 3.0 technology
  • Cool & Quiet v2.0

Note: All these units are compatible with AMD Overdrive when used on a 7-series chipset motherboard.

Pricing

AMD Phenom 9850 - Black Edition

I have some tray pricing (OEM prices per 1000) for some of the triple and quad-core Phenom units (I'll update the pricing information later):

  • X4 9850 - $235
  • X4 9750 - $215
  • X4 9650 - $215
  • X4 9100e - approx $200
  • X3 8400 - approx $152

As for system prices, a Cartwheel-based system (that's a system running a triple-core Phenom on a 780G chipset board - the board which has integrated graphics) will retail at around the $650 - $850 mark.

Processors will be available OEM and retail with the exception of the 9100e.

As to where you can pick up a system based on these processors, all AMD would say is that all the "usual suspects" have picked up on these CPUs.

AMD has also partnered with ZT Systems to premiere the first system featuring the new Phenom X3 triple-core processor on QVC during the Computer Shop broadcast, which is scheduled to air March 31 at 10 p.m. EDT.

Perspective

Well finally, some cool stuff for AMD fans to drool over.

I've had some concerns as to how AMD was going to be able to position and market the Phenom processors, but to be I have to admit that I think that AMD has that figured out.

The main concern that I'd had about Phenom was how AMD could carve out a market for triple-core processors in a market already being catered for very well by the cheap Intel Q6600 quad-core. Well, it seems to come down to price and performance benefits. For dual-core users (who form the majority) AMD are clear to outline the benefits of going from two cores to three cores and then to four cores. According to AMD data, the performance uplift of upgrading from dual to triple to quad for highly threaded multimedia applications is as follows:

  • Dual to Triple - 30% uplift
  • Triple to Quad - 20% uplift
Phenom X4

So, the message here to the budget conscious is that triple-core offers more bang for the bucks that quad-core processors do - and since only AMD has triple-core units for sale, Intel is shut out of the game.

AMD is also very keen to stress the importance of looking not at the performance of individual products but at the price and performance benefits of AMD-based "Spider" platforms. For example, in a demo I saw two $1,200 systems put head to head. One system was based on the Intel Q6600 quad-core process on an X38 chipset board and fitted with a Radeon HD 3450 graphics card. The other system was based on the 9850 Phenom on a 790 chipset board and fitted with a Radeon HD 3850 graphics card. Both systems ran a pre-recorded section from Half Life 2, Episode 2 and the difference in frame rates was staggering. The AMD system was capable of pulling 60 to 70 frames per second, while the Intel system was barely able to hit 20 frames per second. The message here from AMD is clear - the Q6600 might be more powerful, but dollar for dollar, AMD gives you more frames per second for your dollars.

Another platform advantage that AMD is keen to stress is ease of upgrading. A triple-core system can be given a performance boost by adding more GPUs to the system, while further down the line the triple-core process can be upgraded to a quad-core unit. Small steps.

AMD 780G chipset

AMD also ran a demonstration of the performance advantages of Hybrid CrossFire offered by the 780G platform. For example, a system equipped with a Radeon HD 3450 graphics card achieved a 3DMark06 score of around 1800, but with the addition of Hybrid CrossFire this score was boosted to approximately 2700.

The energy-efficient 9100e is also worth a mention. While at 1.8GHz this processor isn't going to break any speed records, the fact that it has a TDP of 65W, the low thermal output of this processor makes it ideally suited to home theater and media center systems where a small form factor and quiet cooling is desired.

What missing?

Here are a few omissions form the announcement:

  • No 2.6GHz Phenom 9950 (some had expected this to be announced at the same time given how late in the quarter this announcement was made)
  • No energy-efficient triple-core Phenoms

What I'm waiting to see

As yet I haven't had any hands on time with any of this kit, so here's what I'm waiting to see:

  • First, some samples to fall into my lap so I can carry out some real-world testing.
  • Broad set of gaming and real-world tests, looking at multimedia applications and file compression/decompression.
  • Examining platform benefits, especially scalability.

More information:

Reviews:

Thoughts?