The new, improved AMD Phenom

As expected, AMD announced its updated quad-core Phenom processor lineup, and made the new triple-core version official. Despite performance improvements, the Phenom X4 processors--and certainly the X3 chips--remain a value play.
Written by John Morris, Contributor

As expected, AMD announced its updated quad-core Phenom processor lineup, and made the new triple-core version official.

The expanded Phenom X4 line includes four chips: the 2.2GHz 9550, 2.3GHz 9650, 2.4GHz 9750, and 2.5GHz 9850 Black Edition. AMD also released a low-power version of the quad-core, the 1.8GHz Phenom X4 9100e, which has a TDP of 65W. The triple-core chips, which I've written about previously, include the 2.1GHz Phenom X3 8400 and 2.3GHz Phenom X3 8600.

The quad-core chips with model numbers ending with "-50" are the latest version, the B3 stepping, that corrects the cache problem in the original design and effectively improves performance. The triple-core chips, however, are not the B3 stepping. AMD said they will be replaced by the 2.1GHz 8450, the 2.3GHz 8650, and 2.4GHz 8750.

Several sites have posted reviews of the new chips. The links are below if you want all the ugly details. The short version: The B3 stepping corrects the cache problem and improves performance, and faster clock speeds make the Phenom X4 more competitive (previously the fastest version was the 2.3Ghz Phenom 9600). But even the 2.5GHz Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition can't match the performance of Intel's mainstream quad-core chip, the 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600, which was released more than a year ago. Meanwhile, the newer--and much more costly--Intel Yorkfield quad-core chips are starting to ship. Ars Technica concludes that AMD would have to push the Phenom X4 to at least 2.7GHz just to match the Q6600, and lately the company has been talking a lot about 45nm transition, but hasn't said much about further ramping clock speeds on the existing 65nm Barcelona processors later this year.

That means for now AMD Phenom X4 processors, and certainly the X3 chips, will be a value play. Despite the performance improvement, the new versions will be a bit cheaper than the original Phenoms:

New processors:

  • Phenom X4 9850 (125W): $235
  • Phenom X4 9750 (125W and 95W versions): $215
  • Phenom X4 9650 (95W): $215
  • Phenom X4 9550 (95W): $209

Old processors:

  • Phenom 9600 (95W): $251
  • Phenom 9500 (95W): $209

The pricing of the Phenom X3s was not in AMD's press materials (and still isn't on the company's price list), but clearly they need to be well below $200 and the fact that they'll be making their debut in systems on QVC is an indication of the target audience. Other reports indicate that they will be priced between $160 and $180.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. AMD says typical mainstream desktops using multi-core Phenoms and its new 7890G chipset will cost $600 to $800, which should make them very attractive. But for now Intel retains its solid lead on desktop performance.

AMD Phenom B3 reviews coverage:

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