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Review: AMD Phenom X4 9850: Phenom fixed, but not phenomenal

by Parm Mann on 18 April 2008, 08:48

Tags: Phenom X4, Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition, Phenom X4 9600, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Gigabyte (TPE:2376), ASUSTeK (TPE:2357), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), AMD (NYSE:AMD), OCZ (NASDAQ:OCZ), Corsair, FSP Group (TPE:3015), PC

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qamli

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System Setup

System AMD AM2+ system Intel LGA775 system

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition (2.5GHz, 2MiB L2 cache, 2MiB L3 cache, AM2+, quad-core)
AMD Phenom X4 9750 (2.4GHz, 2MiB L2 cache, 2MiB L3 cache, AM2+, quad-core)
AMD Phenom X4 9600 (2.3GHz, 2MiB L2 cache, 2MiB L3 cache, AM2+, quad-core)

Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.40GHz, 8MiB L2 cache, LGA775, quad-core)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-MA790X-DS4 (AMD 790X + SB600) ASUS P5E3 Deluxe WiFi-AP @n (Intel X38 + ICH9R)

4GiB (4 x 1GiB) Corsair PC8500 Dominator EPP

4GiB (4 x 1GiB) Corsair DDR3-1333

Memory timings and speed

4-4-4-12 @ 800MHz

7-7-7-20 2T @ 1069MHz

Graphics card(s) ATI Radeon HD 3870 512MiB
Disk drive(s) Seagate 160GiB SATAII (ST3160812AS)
Optical drive(s) Sony DW-Q30A
BIOS revision F4 (03/04/2008) 0504 (10/09/2007)
Mainboard software Vista pre-installed drivers + AMD AHCI Driver 2.5.1540.47 Intel Inf
Graphics driver Catalyst 7.11 BETA (8.43.1-071028a-055060E-ATI)
Operating system Windows Vista Business 64-bit
PSU FSP Epsilon 600W OCZ GameXStream 700W
Monitor Dell 2405FPW



ScienceMark Memory Latency
Sandra XII Lite Win64 Memory Bandwidth Float Buffered
PiFast calculation to 10M places
HEXUS WAV encoding
HEXUS DivX 6.6.1 + LAME encoding Enhanced Multithreading ON + SSE4 search OFF
CINEBENCH R10 64-bit
POV-Ray 64-bit 3.7.0 BETA 21a
DivX 6.6.1 + LAME encoding Enhanced Multithreading ON + SSE4 Search OFF + QT7.2
DivX 6.6.1 + LAME encoding Enhanced Multithreading ON + SSE4 Search OFF + Quake 4 1.3 1024 SMP ON
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts v2.103 DX9 1024
Quake 4 v1.3 1024 SMP ON
Quake Wars: ET v1.1 1024 SMP OFF

We're comparing the Phenom X4 9850's performance against the 2.4GHz-clocked '9750 and 2.3GHz '9600, which isn't imbued with the new B3 stepping.

Looking at the competition, we've chosen the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 for obvious reasons. It's priced at roughly the same levels as the Phenom X4 9850, albeit a little cheaper in the UK (£142) and around the same in the US ($235).

Intel's 45nm-based Q9300 (2.5GHz, 1,333MHz FSB, 6MiB L2 cache) is currently available for £180/$290, in limited quantities, thereby excluding it from a value-oriented processor-to-processor comparison.

Eagle-eyed readers will note that, taking platform and memory considerations into account, the AMD-based system is fundamentally cheaper than the Intel X38.

We could have, and perhaps should have, used Intel's P35 chipset and the very same memory listed on the AMD platform. Doing so, however, wouldn't, we believe, made a whole heap of difference to the benchmark scores: memory bandwidth and latency from DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12) is actually better than DDR3-1069 (7-7-7-20).

After researching pricing around the web, it transpires that P35 chipset boards tend to be around £5-£10 dearer than their AMD 790X counterparts. As such, the processors' pricing differential is eradicated. AMD's newer chipset features PCIe 2.0 connectivity and full-bandwidth CrossFire support, which Intel's P35 doesn't.

For the same money, then, you can have an AMD Phenom X4 9850 system with a 790X motherboard or an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 with a P35 mobo. The upcoming results, albeit on a non-optimised X38, will be an indication of which is faster.