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Review: AMD Phenom 9900, and the Spider Platform

by Tarinder Sandhu on 7 December 2007, 08:07


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NPRP vs HEXUS Spider

Systems ScienceMark 2.0 memory latency HEXUS.PiFast calculation to 10m places HEXUS WAV encoding (dual-core threaded) HEXUS DivX encode + enhanced multithreading CINEBENCH R10 - 32-bit POV-Ray v3.7.0 Beta 21a - internal benchmark Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts - 1024x768 - DX9 Quake 4 v1.30 - 1024x768 - SMP on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - 1024x768 - SMP off Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - 1680x1050 - 4xAA/16xAF Enemy Territory: Quake Wars - 1680x1050 - 4xAA/16xAF XF
AMD Phenom 9900 - HEXUS 57.94 44.09 139 92 8290 1799 123.98 182.96 75.93 38.47 57.87
AMD Phenom 9900 - NPRP 56.79 49.69 160 98 8255 1813 111.26 165.01 65.43 37.53 45.90

The first row of scores is reflected by the graphs on the previous pages and it's those benchmarks that have been compared against the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 platform - unfavourably in many cases.

The second row of benchmarks detail the NPRP box's with Cool'n'Quiet 2.0 enabled in the BIOS. Note how all bar CINEBENCH, POV-Ray and single-card Enemy Territory go down by a significant degree.

As we explained earlier, the reason lies with the Cool'n'Quiet implementation incorrectly assuming a lack of load and throttling the cores with respect to frequency. You're not getting the full 2.6GHz with, say, HEXUS.PiFast.

What's troubling is the fact that the processors are throttled down in WAV encoding, resulting in an encoding time that's 21 seconds slower than with Cool'n'Quiet disabled, as per the HEXUS platform.

We expect system integrators to ship Spider-based systems with Cool'n'Quiet enabled, so watch out for sub-optimal performance.

Platform costs

We're basing our platform costs under the rather large assumption that Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6700's pricing will drop to Phenom 9900 levels (~£199) by Q1 2008. With that in mind, the dual-card HD 3850 CrossFired setup will cost around £570 for both platforms, comprising of a £199 CPU; £220 for the two graphics cards; £60 for the 2GiB RAM; and £90 for a quality 790FX or P35 motherboard.

We'd give the nod to the Intel-based platform for everything bar CrossFire performance, and we'd have to investigate its performance further to fully understand why it's performing at sub-optimal levels. Indeed, the AMD NPRP box shows poor scaling in CrossFire mode, too.

The same subsystem outlay would buy you, today, an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 4GiB PC1066 RAM; an NVIDIA nForce 680i LT motherboard; and heavily pre-overclocked GeForce 8800 GT 512MiB. You won't enjoy the benefits of PCIe 2.0, sure, but we'd hazard that this combination would offer a better overall experience than the NPRP Spider box, outfitted with an as-yet-unreleased Phenom 9900.