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Closer Look at Model Lineup

Today AMD announces two new processors from the Phenom II X4 family: CPUs with 920 and 940 model names. They differ from one another by their clock frequencies, as you can clearly see from the technical specification table below:

As you see, AMD not only transferred their quad-core processors manufacturing to a finer 45nm technological process, but also changes the processor rating system one more time. Now AMD CPU model numbers look very similar to the model numbers of Intel Core i7 CPUs. We believe this is not a simple coincidence, although in February already the analogy will be ruined by the launch of 45nm Socket AM3 processors with smaller L3 cache and tree CPU cores.

In about a month Phenom II family will be expanded with another 6 models:

The upcoming transition to a new processor socket will not only allow using more contemporary memory types, but will also help lower the typical TDP. Therefore, top CPUs in the family are being launched today; they have higher operational frequencies and higher power consumption. Moreover, the top model in the lineup - Phenom II X4 940 – belongs to the Black Edition series, i.e. has an unlocked multiplier. The triple-core Phenom II X3 720 will also be from the same series.

In terms of exterior looks, only the marking makes the new 45nm Socket AM2+ processors different from the predecessors. It is the Socket AM3 CPUs that will differ more evidently: they will have 2 pins less to match the new socket form-factor.

Diagnostic utilities recognize the new Deneb processors just fine:

As you can see from the screenshot, our Phenom II X4 940 has C2 core stepping. Note that it has relatively high core voltage of 1.35V.

The maximum Vcore is set at 1.5V and the CPU package temperature in this case is claimed not to exceed 62°C. This means that Phenom II X4 processors can work at higher voltage settings than their predecessors, however, their heat dissipation and power consumption will remain within the predefined limits. This is peculiar of 45nm Deneb cores: they allow much more aggressive voltage increase than their 65nm predecessors thus determining higher frequency potential.

AMD promised that the new Phenom II X4 processors launching today would be fully compatible with the existing Socket AM2+ mainboards. However, you will need to reflash the BIOS to ensure that the new CPUs work correctly. So, if you are going to upgrade your existing system with a new 45nm quad-core AMD solution, make sure you check there is a corresponding BIOS update with Deneb support for your particular mainboard. In fact, new Phenom II X4 processors can also work with older Socket AM2 mainboards with a few allowances, such as lower HyperTransport bus frequency and no individual core voltage control. However, most mainboard makers do not hurry to update the BIOS of their older platforms with the necessary code. So, in reality only a few Asus Socket AM2 solutions currently support the new Phenom II X4 CPUs.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t prevent AMD from using the continuity of platforms concept that makes Phenom II X4 an attractive upgrade choice. However, AMD seems to be forced to use this argument. The promised 20% performance boost is too small to ensure that the new quad-core processors will compete successfully against Intel Core i7. On the other hand, Phenom II X4 may be a good economical choice: these processors are compatible with many inexpensive Socket AM2+ mainboards and still work with very affordable DDR2 SDRAM. So, even though the price of the top Phenom II X4 CPU is close to that of Core i7-920, the complete platform on the new AMD Phenom processor will cost you $250 less.

Therefore, new 45nm CPUs first of all compete against Core 2 Quad, i.e. offer very attractive price-to-performance ratio in the inexpensive quad-core segment. And if the previous-generation Phenom X4 could only be regarded as a value quad-core CPU, the new Phenom II X4 intend to take some of the market away from Intel solutions.

In order to better understand how the new Phenom II X4 processors can cope with the goals set in front of them, we have to get over to the actual tests.

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