Articles: CPU

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AMD continues launching new processors on their 45nm Deneb core. And today they are announcing several new models for the mainstream price segment. It means that the Phenom II X4 940 and 920 models we have already reviewed before remain the top offerings in the new AMD product lineup. Now, however, the company’s positions will be strengthened with a few additional processors manufactured using more advanced production process. To be more exact, today AMD announces three 45nm quad-core Phenom II X4 processors - 910, 810 and 805 models, and two similar triple-core CPUs – Phenom II X3 720 and 710. However, the major intrigue of the today’s launch is not the availability of a few new solutions with very attractive price-to-performance ratio. The much more interesting thing about these models is that all of them are designed in new Socket AM3 form-factor.

I would like tore mind you that the main reason for the transition of AMD processors to new Socket AM3 platform is the support of more up-to-date higher-speed DDR3 SDRAM. However, these Socket AM3 processors remain compatible with the existing Socket AM2+ infrastructure. So, it turns out that the new Phenom II models have a universal memory controller that can work with DDR2 as well as DDR3 SDRAM depending on the mainboard it is installed in. In fact, it is not surprising at all: we all remember very well how easy it was for the mainboard makers to roll out solutions supporting DDR2 SDRAM but based on X-series LGA775 chipsets designed for DDR3 SDRAM. Continuity of standards explains why DDR2 and DDR3 protocols are so similar on the logical level. As a result, engineers have the ability to implement support of both standards at a minimal cost.

AMD, however, does everything possible to convince us that we shouldn’t expect too much from the new processor socket and DDR3 SDRAM. Yes, DDR3 SDRAM does work at higher frequencies; however, it also has increased latencies, which are known to have serious effect on AMD platforms performance. I believe that is why AMD decided not to transfer top Phenom II processors to the new Socket AM3 platform just yet: they are still available exclusively for Socket AM2+. So, at this time only mainstream models can boast being compatible with the new Socket AM3 form-factor. And frankly speaking, the ability to work with faster and more expensive memory is not that crucial for them.

Besides the absence of any significant performance improvement, there must be some very good reasons for the Phenom II X4 940 and 920 processors launched only a month ago to be incompatible with the new Socket AM3 platform. And the reasons actually become evident once you take a closer look at the specifications of the new processor models announced today. The thing is that when AMD started moving over to a new processor socket form-factor, they also decided to give their solutions more competitive TDP. All new processors launching today have 95W TDP instead of 125W TDP as the top Phenom II models. All quad-core Intel processors from the Core 2 Quad family have the same TDP. However, it looks like this TDP parity between LGA775 and Socket AM3 will not last long. Within the next two-three months AMD is going to launch several new processor models that will be faster though less economical than Phenom II X4 810 and 910.

All this indicates that the new CPU owners will barely benefit from the combination of Socket AM3 and DDR3 memory support. The just announced new mainstream processors will most likely end up in the Socket AM2+ infrastructure and will work with widely spread inexpensive DDR2 SDRAM. At this time AMD doesn’t offer any high-performance Phenom II CPU modifications that could be really interesting to use in the new Socket AM3 platform. Nevertheless, it will not discourage us from checking out the new promising platform, so it is going to be the topic of our today’s article. We are going to discuss the peculiarities of the new processor socket and test one of the new Socket AM3 CPUs – Phenom II X4 810.

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