by February 1, 2009 0 comments

When AMD first launched the Phenom line of processors a couple of years ago,
it couldn’t manage to gain too much attention. It was re-launched the following
year in 2008 with a slightly better reception, but not enough to make people
switch from Intel. Now, Phenom II is the latest addition in the family and an
updated brand name for AMD’s 45nm multicore central processing units.

Previous desktop class processors from AMD were manufactured on a 65nm
process while Intel was out with their 45nm ones. But this time, alongside a new
CPU with smaller transistor elements, this release introduces some brand-new
technology. With it’s launch, the new processor also gives birth to a new
platform which is gaining attention rapidly in the world of enthusiasts for its
overclocking capabilities.

The new platform is called the Dragon and it consists of the Phenom II and
the latest Radeon HD 4800-series graphics cards. We got the X4 940 Processor for
review. Let’s now have a look at some of the features that these new AMD engines
boast of.

Higher clock rates
As the die shrinks, the voltage needed to drive Phenom II is down significantly.
The new smaller size in combination with an improved micro-architecture gave AMD
a chance to increase the clock rates. Whereas the first-generation Phenoms
topped out at 2.6 GHz, the latest Phenom IIs starts at 2.8 and goes as high as
up to 3.0 GHz.

6 MB of L3 cache
It just wasn’t an option for AMD simply to arm the first-generation Phenom with
a larger L3 cache. The power requirements of those 65 nm transistors would have
undoubtedly boosted consumption past the 140 W mark. But current draw was
sufficiently reduced in switching to 45 nm technology to enable AMD to augment
the L3 cache size from 2 MB to 6 MB. In any case, the separate 512 KB caches
provided for each individual core did not change with this redesign, nor did the
64 KB L1 instruction and data cache areas.

Price: Rs 12,285 + tax (3 year warranty)
Meant For: Desktop PCs
Key Specs: clock speed @ 3.0 GHz, AM2 and AM2+ socket compatibilty
Pros: Performance and price
Cons: None
Contact: AMD India, Bangalore
Phone: 1800 4256664

SMS Buy 130268 to 56677

Cold bug removed
The ‘Cold Bug’ as it is known is a physical phenomenon which causes the
processors to cease functioning below a certain temperature. As weird as it may
sound, the problem is serious for extreme overclockers. The bug prevents the use
of extreme cooling methods such as Liquid Nitrogen or Dry Ice. With the
elimination of the bug, the CPUs are expected to give overclocking a whole new

Compatible and cost efficient
AMD has always taken great pains to stress their backward compatibility as a
selling point. For a consumer, upgrading the processor should not always mean
buying a new motherboard and RAM. Now true to it’s promises, AMDs new line of
processors are compatible with earlier AM2 as well as the AM2+ sockets.
Motherboard vendors have already published compatibility lists, and using them
to provide information about which of their motherboards will work with the
Phenom II,

Power management: A better Cool’n’Quiet
Due to performance drops when Cool’n’Quite was enabled, the feature was not used
much often. The new Phenom ll introduces a better Cool’n’Quiet. If one specific
core needs to work on full frequency, CPU doesn’t allow independent change of
frequency of other cores. Then all 4 cores are operating at full speed
(frequency). With Cool’n’Quiet enabled performance drop is minimal and is much
lower than on a 65nm Phenom.

The benefit
Though the Intel Core i7 965 is the fastest processor available in the market,
it is also insanely expensive. The Phenom ll has been competitively priced near
the Intel’s Core 2 Quad range of processors but has a better performance. Though
the price of the Phenom ll X4 940 and the cheapest of the Core i7 family have a
similar price, the Phenom has an advantage. Core i7 can only work with a new
motherboard, one which has the X58 chipset. Plus it only supports the triple
channel DDR3 memory which is still quite expensive as compared to the affordable
DDR2 which the Phenom lls use.The Phenom ll 940 enjoys a performance level in
between the Core 2 Quad and the Core i7 at an affordable price. At least till
the time Intel cuts prices and DDR3 memory is cheaper.

How we tested?
We compared the processor against the Core 2 Quad 6700, the Core i7 920 and Core
i7 965. The test bed used for running the X4 940 was similar to the other two
processors. We used a J&W 790GX Extreme Motherboard coupled with 4GBs of DDR2
RAM and a Hitachi 500GB HDD. First we tested the processor capabilities with the
on board graphics from ATI{ATI 3300}, and then with an entry level dedicated
graphics card (Nvidia Geforce 9600GTX). PC Mark 05, Cinebench R10 and POV Ray
were the benchmarks used and they were run on Windows XP 32 bit.

Performance results
It had been awhile since we saw a promising product from AMD in the processor
arena. But after testing the X4 940 that no more holds true, at least for some
time. The performance on all the benchmarks was better than the Core 2 Quad
processor that we compared it with. Though Core i7 is better in terms of
performance, but looking at the costs of X58 motherboards and DDR3 RAM building
a system based on it is an expensive deal. What caught our attention was the new
processors extremely low power consumption.

When compared to AMD’s first quad core processor, the Phenom 2 is a great leap
forward. The successor to the Phenom lines of processors offers great
improvements, especially in its power consumption which is better than both Core
2 Quad and the Core i7.

Bottomline: Priced competitively, the Phenom ll is a
great option with performance in between the Core 2 Quads and the Core i7.

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