Articles: CPU

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The recent IDF has given a lot of information to discuss Intel’s upcoming Sandy Bridge processor series. The promised enhancements in the microarchitecture are expected to push the performance bar of Core i3/i5/i7 processors to a whole new level while improving their energy efficiency. In other words, the Sandy Bridge family is a highly appealing offer, especially as it will be available in a wide price range. With this fact in mind, what might entice a user to prefer an alternative? Well, there is one substantial reason. The Sandy Bridge series does not sell yet. It is only going to be introduced in the first days of 2011 and won’t take part in the Christmas sales competition. So, if you are planning an upgrade or a purchase of a new computer before the next year, you have to choose from what CPUs are available now.

Considering this situation, the CPU makers have made some corrections to their price lists and issued new and faster modifications of their older products. For example, we have recently published a review of the new quad-core Intel Core i5-760 processor which is quite able to attract some user’s interest.

AMD is even more active than Intel in this respect. They are unlikely to offer a worthy alternative to the top-end and midrange models of the Sandy Bridge series when the latter comes out, so it is most important for the company to improve its market standing right now when the situation is not yet out of control. Today, AMD’s Phenom II and Athlon II series are not among the fastest, but do have a highly enticing price/performance ratio.

AMD carries out its aggressive market attack with all means available, the recent price cuts having been but the beginning. Now we witness the second phase during which AMD increases the clock rates of nearly all of its CPU series. The 45nm tech process used for Phenom II and Athlon II having matured, the clock rates can be lifted up without provoking a noticeable increase in power dissipation, so the new models can be quite competitive in their price categories. Besides, AMD attracts customers not only by offering products with good consumer properties but also by developing unique affordable processors like the six-core Phenom II X6 priced at below $300. Intel does not offer a direct opponent to such six-core CPUs, so AMD quite naturally extends this series further.

To be more specific, AMD announces as many as six new processors (and three more energy-efficient models are going to be distributed through OEMs) in different product series:

  • Phenom II X6 1075T (3.0 GHz, Turbo Core up to 3.5 GHz) at $239
  • Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition  (3.5 GHz) at $179
  • Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition  (3.3 GHz) at $99
  • Athlon II X4 645 (3.1 GHz) at $119
  • Athlon II X3 450 (3.2 GHz) at $84
  • Athlon II X2 265 (3.3 GHz) at $74

Thus, AMD’s desktop CPU families have the following structure now:

As you can see, AMD has tried to uniformly cover the entire price range from $50 to $300, offering as many different affordable CPUs as possible. This is reasonable since Intel’s CPUs do not have such a uniform coverage, leaving gaps both in the low and midrange price segments. AMD has always followed a highly flexible price policy, though.

We can also see that AMD has focused mostly on developing its Phenom II X4 series whose clock rates differ greatly from those of the other series. Well, Phenom II X4 processors do fill in the most popular market segment, so there is nothing surprising about that. And we guess that the clock rate of 3.5 GHz is not the limit and expect AMD to release a Phenom II X4 975 with a clock rate of 3.6 GHz later on.

In this review we are going to talk about the most exciting (and expensive) of the new products from AMD that hail from the Phenom II X6, Phenom II X4 and Phenom II X2 series. To remind you, the key distinguishing feature of Phenom II processors from their Athlon II counterparts is that they have 6 megabytes of shared L3 cache. Besides, they are more appealing for enthusiasts since most of them are Black Edition and have an unlocked frequency multiplier for easy overclocking experiments.

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