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High-End Processors from AMD

Talking about AMD’s top-end processors we have to limit ourselves to the Socket AM3 platform only. Today, AMD supports but one platform and offers CPUs of very different specs and prices for it. This is the reason why all modern processors from AMD have to be equipped with a dual-channel DDR2/DDR3 controller, but that’s okay for the top-end segment we are discussing today.

The problem with AMD’s products is that they are based on the Stars microarchitecture which has a very low IPC parameter by today’s standards (IPC stands for Instructions per Clock). Therefore even those of AMD processors that work at high frequencies prove to be not as fast as their opponents from Intel. Besides, AMD has not yet been able to implement 32nm tech process, which has a negative effect on the power consumption and heat dissipation of its products.

All of this makes AMD’s position in the top-end segment rather weak. There are actually only two CPU models from AMD in this review and both belong to the same series.

Phenom II X6. The six-core CPU series is a rather recent addition to AMD’s product line-up. A special monolithic semiconductor die with improved energy efficiency was developed for it, but the manufacturing process is still 45 nanometers. The clock rates of the senior Phenom II X6 models that fall into the top price segment are 3.0 to 3.2 GHz. They are additionally equipped with Turbo Core technology which can raise the clock rate to 3.5-3.6 GHz if at least three out of the six cores are idle. The rest of the specifications are ordinary enough. Each core has 512 kilobytes of L2 cache. Moreover, each Phenom II X6 has 6 megabytes of shared L3 cache. The integrated memory controller supports DDR2 and DDR3 memory at frequencies up to 1600 MHz. The top-of-the-line model Phenom II X6 1090T is a Black Edition modification and can be overclocked by increasing its frequency multiplier.

It may seem quite natural that the Phenom II X6 series is positioned among expensive CPUs. After all, Intel offers its six-core CPUs in the top price segment, too, and offers them at a much higher price. However, when you take a look at the test results, you realize that the Socket AM3 platform doesn’t have bright perspectives in the top market segment. Therefore it is no wonder that AMD’s six-core processors are quickly getting cheaper under the pressure from Intel. In other words, the Socket AM3 platform may soon leave this market segment altogether. We are only expecting one new model in the Phenom II X6 series and then these CPUs will steadily go down to the mainstream, leaving their place for new products with the Bulldozer microarchitecture which are promised by AMD in the second quarter of the next year.

Anyway, Socket AM3 can be viewed as a top-end platform as yet. There are expensive and feature-rich mainboards for Socket AM3 processors which provide broad opportunities for assembling high-performance computers. For example, there are hardcore gamers oriented Socket AM3 mainboards which allow building graphics subsystems out of three or four graphics cards!

The next table shows the specifications of the few AMD processors that fall into the top-end category and took part in our tests.

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