Frankly speaking we were hoping to finish our today’s review in an optimistic way. It is very sad to realize that over the past few years the competition in the CPU market has practically disappeared. Especially since this situation is hardly good for the end-users: they have no other choice but to decide between the CPUs from one single manufacturer who can joggle the prices any way they want. Besides, the absence of healthy competition slows down the overall technological progress: the lack of high-performance AMD processors inevitably slows down the introduction of new technologies and performance increase in the Intel camp. Therefore, we were hoping until the very last moment that new Phenom II X4 CPUs will start the renaissance era for AMD.
And our expectations came partially true. At least we can say with all certainty that new 45nm manufacturing process proved much better than the previous 65nm technology. The old 65nm process didn’t let different AMD processor families increase their clock speeds for several years. By simply transferring their Stars (K10) based processors to new manufacturing technology, AMD managed to immediately increase their clock speeds by 400MHz – up to 3.0GHz. And this is definitely far not the end of it. We expect AMD to increase their clock frequencies even more over the next few months.
The new manufacturing process also allowed AMD engineers introduce a few improvements in their processors on Stars (K10) microarchitecture: increase their L3 cache memory and make a few changes inside the computational cores. This paid back right away. Our tests showed that the performance of top quad-core AMD processors improved by the good 20%. A few other characteristics of the new Phenom II X4 processors have also improved. Their power consumption lowered and their overclocking frequency potential increased.
However, all the changes in the AMD quad-core processor lineup seem significant enough only when compared against the previous generation Phenom X4, and not against their competitors. It took AMD way too long to switch to 45nm manufacturing technology and launch their Phenom II X4. They missed the window of opportunity and the launch of Phenom II X4 doesn't have the desired effect on the market. The new Phenom II X4 doesn’t look too impressive against the background of contemporary Core 2 Quad and especially Core i7 CPUs. The results of our tests show that the top Phenom II X4 processors can only be worthy rivals to the Core 2 Quad CPUs from the “junior” Q8000 series. Unfortunately, Phenom II X4 cannot yet do better than that.
However, let’s not make any final conclusions at this time. Remember that in February we should see new AMD Socket AM3 processors that will support DDR3 SDRAM. Moreover, we hope that advanced manufacturing process will soon let AMD manufacture faster, more power-efficient and more overclockable processors than the current Phenom II X4 940. So far AMD has proven that they still have hidden reserves to improve the consumer qualities of their solutions on Stars (K10) microarchitecture. And we sincerely hope that these reserves haven’t been exhausted just yet.