AMD has hardly kept quiet on the CPU front these past several months. At the beginning of the year AMD put the nail in Atom's netbook coffin with the Brazos platform, and last month it announced the first shipments of Llano APUs to OEMs. Expect an official launch of Llano to follow sometime in the next two months.

AMD's focus on the mainstream echoes to a certain extent its GPU strategy: focus on the bulk of the customers first, then address the smaller high end of the market. Despite an overly controlling stance on overclocking and issues with B2 stepping 6-series chipsets, Intel's Sandy Bridge (Core ix-2xxx) dominates the high end. AMD will make a go for that market later this year with its Bulldozer architecture. It's still too early for an accurate preview of Bulldozer performance, although the time for such a thing is quickly approaching.

Until Bulldozer's unveiling, the Phenom II remains as AMD's high end platform. Today, that very platform gets a little boost.

The Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition release marks a speed bump and a price drop for the quad-core Phenom II family. The 980 assumes the $195 price point, with everything else stepping down a notch in pricing:

CPU Specification Comparison
Processor Clock Speed Max Turbo L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T 3.3GHz 3.7GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $239
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 3.2GHz 3.6GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $205
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3.5GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $195
AMD Phenom II X6 1065T 2.9GHz 3.4GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3.3GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $175
AMD Phenom II X4 980 BE 3.7GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 975 BE 3.6GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $175
AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE 3.5GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $155
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz N/A 2MB 6MB 125W $135

Architecturally there are no surprises here. The 980 comes with a 6MB L3 cache shared by all of its cores and 512KB private L2s per core. The chip is built on Global Foundries' 45nm process with a 258mm^2 die size and around 758M transistors. TDP remains at 125W and the chip should work in all Socket-AM3 motherboards.

Don't expect any performance surprises here. The 980's closest competitor is Intel's Core i5 2400 a four core, four thread offering clocked at 3.1GHz by default with a 3.4GHz max turbo. Single threaded performance is clearly a win for the Core i5 2400:

Cinebench R10 - Single Threaded Test

Multithreaded performance ranges from equal between the two:

7-Zip Benchmark another win for the Core i5 2400:

x264 HD 3.03 Benchmark - 2nd Pass

Typically the Core i5 2400 wins across the board. Load power consumption is also an advantage:

Load Power Consumption

The only advantage AMD offers is a fully unlocked CPU that can be overclocked as far as physics will allow. On our sample that meant 4.2GHz with the stock cooler. Given enough voltage hitting 4GHz+ on air isn't a problem:

Unfortunately even while overclocked the Phenom II X4 980 can't muster enough performance to put a stock Core i5 2400 to shame:

x264 HD 3.03 Benchmark - 2nd Pass

At 4.2GHz the 980 is fast enough to equal the 2400 in our x264 test and perhaps slightly surpass it in a benchmark that favors AMD's Phenom II architecture. But for the most part, even overclocked, the Phenom II X4 980 won't be worth it over Sandy Bridge.

SYSMark 2007 & Adobe Photoshop Performance
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  • DMisner - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    Part of me hopes BD gets delayed so AMD will release a Phenom II X4 @ 4GHz
  • tipoo - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    ...But why? It would just look good on paper, BD is where their real performance aspirations are.
  • DMisner - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    for the sheer novelty of it. Thats all.
  • Belard - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    There is no novelty to these issues. Its business. Buy any AMD X4 965+ and OC to 4Ghz.... thats the Novelty part.

    Having ALL your best products - even those costing almost $300 that is slower than the competitions $200 lower-end CPUs is not fun.

    I have a #2 desktop that is rendering videos daily (converting my OLD VHS) - and I'll need to upgrade its mobo/CPU to speed up the process. A NEW CPU will speed things up at lest 4-6x. (Its an OLD AMD X2).

    The Intel's use less power, there is that odd-ball combination that allows the GPU of the intel be used to help render video faster.

    So yeah, when looking at a $150~200 CPU, its performance that counts - not MHz.

    Still, for most people - any $75~100 CPU will DO just fine. Including gaming.
  • GullLars - Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - link

    With a $20-30 aftermarket cooler, you can hit 4GHz while undervolting a x50+ Phenom II. I haven't tried Athlon II's, but i'll be upgrading my father's Athlon X2 7550 to an Athlon II x4 645 and donate my old 1066 CL5 DDR2 sticks to it, so i guess i'll try hitting 4GHz on that too just for fun with a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus.
    My 1090T runs F@H smoothly at 4GHz with stock volt (Noctua NH-D14 cooler).
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, May 5, 2011 - link

    I agree.

    Considering that the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T is only $54 more and beats the new chip in most benchmarks while using less power under load (using max turbo @ 3.7, same clocks as the new 980 BE) I'd say that this new 4 core is a poor value comparatively.
  • JumpingJack - Sunday, September 21, 2014 - link

    Hindsight is 20/20, it didn't work out quite as people wanted....
  • StrangerGuy - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    I'm sure the PhII is already stuck at 3.8GHz at reasonable voltages and has been this way for a long time.

    I wonder how AMD feels when the mobile i7-2820QM is just as fast as their 4.2GHz OCed Phenom II X4. Bulldozer single-threaded performance and power consumption has to be at least the same as Nehalem to stand a fighting chance.
  • khimera2000 - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    probably the same way Intel feels about AMD's video cards.
  • Belard - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - link

    You ARE kidding, right?!

    You can already OC to 4Ghz. And it will STILL be slower than i5-2400 ($190) which runs at 3.1Ghz.

    Clock Speed doesn't mean then end-all. Remember the says of AMD64 vs P4? Even at 3~4Ghz, the $1000 P4 Extreme Editions were still SLOWER than AMD's 2.0~2.4Ghz $200~300 CPUs.

    The performance wouldn't be so much an issue *IF* that i5-2400 was selling for $400, but its not. Its selling at the same price with a actual performance benefits.

    The i3-2100 (I hate these stupid intel model numbers) = $125 and puts it on par with the AMD-PII 955 ($140) - which is an upper end AMD part... going against an intel bottom end Core X CPU.

    Bulldozer needs to be OUT NOW. AMD makes great products, but they are late to the party.

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