AMD Phenom II X4 920 and 940 review test -
Final Words & Conclusion
AMD is back on track for sure. Now before we really dig into the conclusion, let's get one thing out of the way first. Make no mistake, AMD is still a step behind Intel. Intel recently introduced Core i7 and we've shown it throughout this review, among that processor series is the Core i7 920 processor, priced close to today's tested Phenom II X4 940. And again; make no mistake, the Intel Core i7 920 processor on average is simply faster. Especially in most desktop applications, hyper-threading kicks in hard for Core i7. It's however also a much more expensive upgrade.
See, when you place things in perspective, the $278 Phenom II X4 940 is here and there getting in close vicinity of that Core i7 920 processor. But let's compare to the Core 2 series for a moment. One thing we can definitely state is that Phenom II's performance is now comparable to the mid- to more high-end Core 2 Quad performance levels.
Allow me to make a weird cliché: if say AMD was three steps behind Intel, now it's merely one step. On the uber-high-end processor performance level (Core i7 965) there's nothing that can get close though. One step lower... that Phenom II X4 940 is showing some pretty dazzling performance.
The real thing you need to be aware of however is price versus performance. Though that Intel Core i7 920 processor (299 USD) might be priced roughly the same, you are forced to buy a X58 motherboard starting at 250+ USD. Next to that you are forced to purchase DDR3 memory (3GB 150 USD). And that totals up to nearly 700 USD easily.
When we take a nice AMD 790 chipset based motherboard (125 USD), add the Phenom II X4 940 processor (278 USD) and pop in 2 or 4 GB DDR2 (69 USD) we end up at near 475 USD. So that's over 200 USD in your pocket right there, which could mean you could get a nice graphics card for the money you just saved. Then of course on the other side, you could also stick to a matching Core 2 Quad processor and DDR2 memory. So yeah, that is a very extensive discussion all by itself.
But granted, this is the reality where we are at, and that's a great position to be in. Phenom II offers very nice performance, but is one step behind Core i7. Compared towards Intel's Core 2 Quad processor we've seen the Phenom II X4 940 offering performance pretty close to a Core 2 Quad QX9770 Extreme processor. And by today's standards, that's a truckload of computing power.
If you'd take it down one notch, have a look at the AMD Phenom II X4 920 at $236, that's the shining star here price performance wise. Today's release is all about the infrastructure versus price, and it makes sense when you think about it. Not so much the Phenom II processor all by itself is what this is all about. AMD wanted to put emphasis on the combination of processor, motherboard and graphics card compared to their relative price which makes it very competitive. This is why over the next few weeks that new marketing phrase "Dragon platform" will reach your ears here and there.
Value for money, that's what you need to remember, and the Dragon combo CPU/Mobo/GPU without doubt offers that. Also, and I just have to mention this, a pleasant surprise was the level of overclocking. If you make sure you have a decent cooler (we used the OCZ Vendetta 2 btw), it should be fairly easy to reach 3.7 - 3.8 GHz clock frequencies. Likely with decent water-cooling we'd end up at 4.0 GHz. So there's definitely some overclocking headroom as well. And most definitely more headroom to work with compared to the previous generation products.
Power consumption then. We definitely liked what we have seen. When we look purely at the processor and leave out the GPU, our system during idle consumed 89 Watts. With four CPU cores stressed we ended up at 189 Watts. With a decent modern dedicated graphics card you should add 25~50 Watts to these numbers, so that's still fairly nice.
Alright, let me wrap thing up: with the release of the Phenom II processor AMD took a good step forward. It's not everyday that a processor is smacked down on the table and brings 25-30% more performance while remaining very affordable. Soon we'll see Socket AM3 with DDR3 support, and rough estimates lead us to believe that we'll again see 5% to 10% more performance making the Phenom II series even more competitive to it's competition. It's not a Core i7 competitor, but will likely be fighting Core i5 (or whatever Intel's mid-range chip going to be called).
AMD is getting back in the saddle, and we can't wait to see what 2009 will bring them, and us. Good stuff, very stable, nice , affordable and fast. What's not to like?
We test three AMD processors today, the Phenom II X6 1075T, Phenom II X4 970BE and Athlon II X4 645. They are part of the AMD Q4 processor product line update, arming their processor lineup with more value and higher performing CPUs.
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