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Review: AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition CPU - fighting back against Sandy Bridge?

by Tarinder Sandhu on 10 January 2011, 10:00 3.0

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa3wa

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Just higher clocks?

While Intel is busy launching new processor architectures at the beginning of 2011, AMD has its sights set on making as much noise as possible for its mobile-orientated Fusion chips. This shift in focus is understandable once you appreciate that AMD won't have a new desktop CPU architecture for a while yet, and this is why the company has been wringing out more performance from the aging Phenom line.

AMD bumped up the frequency for its quad-core Phenom II range in September 2010 through the introduction of the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition processor. Clocked in at 3.5GHz and providing a minor performance improvement over the 965 BE, the lustre was taken away from the chip by the emergence of a number of similarly-priced six-core processors hewn from the Thuban die.

But AMD's at it again with another minor clockspeed bump for the Phenom II X4. This time around, the 975 Black Edition chimes in at 3.6GHz though does without the lovely Turbo Core support available on AMD chips with newer technology.

Adding a lot more spice to the mix is Intel's excellent Sandy Bridge processors, which perform admirably and are priced at sane levels. Here's a table that details the main specifications of mid-to-high-end desktop processors in Q1 2011.

Specifications

Model number Cores
threads
GHz clock Turbo Boost (max)  Process Die size Transistors Cache Interface Memory controller
Official memory support
TDP
Socket Price (as of today)
Phenom II X4 970 BE 4/4 3.50 N/A 45nm (Deneb) 258mm² 758m 2MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,333+ 125W AM3 £146
Phenom II X4 975 BE 4/4 3.60 N/A 45nm (Deneb) 258mm² 758m 2MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,333+ 125W AM3 £155
Phenom II X6 1055T   6/6 2.80 3.30 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 904m 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 95W
125W
AM3 £149
£135
Phenom II X6 1075T  6/6 3.00 3.50 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 904m 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 125W AM3 £160
Phenom II X6 1090T 6/6 3.20 3.60 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 904m 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 125W AM3 £189
Phenom II X6 1100T 6/6 3.30 3.70 45nm (Thuban) 346mm² 904m 3MB L2
6MB L3
HT Dual-channel DDR3-1,600+ 125W AM3 £210
Core i5 2500K 4/4 3.30 3.70 32nm (SB 216mm² 995m 1MB L2
6MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 £170
Core i7 2600K 4/8 3.4 3.80 32nm (SB) 216mm² 995m 1MBL2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1155 £250
Core i5 661 (IGP) 2/4 3.33 3.60 32nm (Clarkdale) 81mm² 382m 512KB L2
4MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 87W LGA1156 £161
Core i5 760 4/4 2.80 3.33 45nm (Lynnfield) 296mm² 774m 1MB L2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 £140
Core i7 870
4/8 2.93 3.60 45nm (Lynnfield) 296mm² 774m 1MB L2
8MB L3
DMI Dual-channel DDR3-1,333 95W LGA1156 £222
Core i7 930 4/8 2.80 3.06 45nm (Bloomfield) 263mm² 731m 1MB L2
8MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £211
Core i7 950 4/8 3.06 3.33 45nm (Bloomfield) 263mm² 731m 1MB L2
8MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £225
Core i7 980X EE 6/12 3.33 3.60 32nm (Westmere) 248mm² 1,170m 1.5MB L2
12MB L3
QPI Triple-channel DDR3-1066 130W LGA1366 £765


Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition

We can see that the new 125W chip is a quad-core part based on 45nm technology. It's a drop-in upgrade for AM3, AM2+, and AM2 motherboards, though you will need AM3 to realise the chip's potential.

Two factors count against the 975 BE from the off. Firstly, AMD is peppering the £125-£200 space with an ever-increasing number of six-core chips that are intrinsically faster. Secondly, Intel's luscious Core i5 2500K - that's an unlocked Sandy Bridge processor in normal parlance - comes in at around £170 and offers excellent performance at this price-point. Indeed, it exerts hegemony over all other chips in the sub-£200 market.

The interesting comparison here is one of generations, as we pit AMD's fastest quad-core chip against an also-four-core, four-thread-capable Sandy Bridge part.

Strap yourself in and let the benchmarks commence.